Once upon a Time…

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The Netherlands and ACN Europe B.V. Amsterdam – A Review

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by Sanshiru

The Story:
From beginning of December 2007 till end of May 2008 I was working for ACN in Amsterdam.
It started all when they found an old C.V. of mine on Monster and contacted me, asking if I were willing to relocate and start working for them. They offered 1700 Euro pretax as fixed income per month (about 1200 Euro after tax), 6 months accommodation in a company house (the first 2 months were free, 3rd and 4th months I had to pay half the rent (200 Euro) and the last 2 months the full rent, utilities were included, but there was no internet/phone). In addition they paid the flight (you had to pay it first but were reimbursed afterwards) and also offered a voucher for a clothing store where you as employee would get a certain percentage off the price at all times.

Amazed by that offer since I only made a little more than 900 Euro while working 11 hours, 6 days a week, and happy to be able to leave Germany, I accepted the offer and booked the flight. When I arrived I and another German girl were picked up by the HR lady who I had spoken to before via mail and phone. She took us to the house, a large 3 story house in the small town of Diemen, close to Amsterdam. She also handed us a folder containing the contracts and also some more or less useful information about Amsterdam and the Netherlands.

We went inside where we were greeted by a girl from France who also was working for ACN.
We had a nice chat and she already warned us that the HR people are very unreliable and we would be better off taking things in our own hand, specially when it came to obtaining a SoFi number, which is similar to an SSN or NIN. It turned out it was true.

When I left Germany I had canceled my health insurance so it would run out at the end of the year. I told HR about it, since they offered health insurance plans which would cost employees less than others. They kept telling me it’s in progress, just like they did with the appointment at the city hall for the SoFi number. In the end, the new year came and I still had neither health insurance nor a SoFi number. And since it always comes worse than you think it could, I became sick right on New Year’s Eve, having a severe bronchitis (probably something worse, but at the time I was able to go to the doctor it a lot better already).

I was down for 2 weeks and kept calling in at work, asking them when I will finally get the insurance since my health conditions were getting worse by day for the first 1 1/2 weeks.
Again they kept telling me it’s in progress and by chance I talked to my team leader and she told me that I could go to the doctor and they would charge me about 30 Euro for the visit, which I could get back from the health insurance company later on. I hadn’t been aware that that was possible and thought it would cost a few hundreds to see a doctor without insurance. So I was relieved and went to see the doc when I was finally able to stand upright again.

Another 3 weeks would pass until I finally held my insurance in hands and another 1 1/2 months until I would finally get an appointment at the city hall for the SoFi number appointment. In the house things were going upside down. We got another roomie, also a French girl, so the two teamed up after the other German girl had left the house when she had found an own apartment. The two French girls tried to get me out of the house cause I wouldn’t clean up their mess. Instead of helping the HR department just said we have to deal with it like adults. Of course that’s what I did, but how are you dealing with something as adult when the counterparts act like little children?

It even went so far that there were large knives and other cutlery on the stairs which I just discovered cause I turned on the light before I went down the stairs, which I never used to do before. Even when I showed pictures to the HR department of all the mess of those 2 girls they would refuse to help. That wasn’t the only issue in the house though. In my room there was an enormous draft and the it barely got warm due to that. About 2 months after I started living in the Netherlands, I had a hole in the roof so it would rain through. It took them 2 months to fix it and of course the draft was left undealt with.

And not just that! In the Netherlands they deal with sickness in a way, that you do not need a medical certificate from the doctor, but instead if it’s a longer sickness, they send a ‘company doctor’ that checks if you are at home and asks what the sickness is about. When I was down with high fever someone was there, but I didn’t notice since for once the door bell didn’t work (which I also had addressed several times to HR weeks before the incident happened) and due to the fever I was delirious and not even able to get up.

So I got in trouble at work. My team leader seemed to understand me, but the manager and HR just didn’t care. They told me I would have to go and see the ‘company doctors’ and it turned out that it was another company they and other companies had a contract with and that those people aren’t even real doctors. So I went upstairs to HR and asked if they could give me the address so I could look up the way. All the lady said was ‘Oh no don’t worry I prepare everything for you, just come here before you leave for the doctor and I give you a map with all infos.’

Since she wouldn’t give me the address, I didn’t have any way for preparing myself and already had a bad feeling about this. Once more my intuition was right as it turned out that the map I was provided with was wrong. I ran around for 4 hours until I found the place. The doctor wasn’t there anymore so I had to schedule a new appointment.

When I arrived at work again I was furious cause I already saw me getting the first warning for not attending the appointment. Due to that and all the issues in the house which they didn’t help me with, I told my manager that I was going to quit when I met her on the floor.
She was surprised and ordered me in her office where she was waiting for me with the HR person who had given me the map that wasn’t correct.

When I came out of the office again, it was my fault and my fault alone for not preparing myself well enough. After all it would have been my responsibility to look up the address and how to get there to (which I fully agree on, if the HR person wouldn’t have refused giving me the relevant data, or how again do you look up something you of which whereabouts you do not know?). Later on that same day I officially resigned and started looking for new jobs.

A month before I had to leave the department I changed my mind and asked if I could cancel my resignation, but it was refused (what I could understand at that point, but it was worth asking at least).

The Netherlands itself as country is very nice, even though every rainy and windy (however, not as much as Scotland). The people I met not so much though. Most people I met in Amsterdam were very rude and would just push you aside if you are in their way. However, I’ve been told that not all people are like that and it’s only the ones in Amsterdam (even the Dutch people I was friends with agreed on that). The food I found quiet expensive (and very salty for my taste), but the salary is good (if you share an apartment).

When it comes to ACN I can say that the work itself was wonderful there, just like all my co-workers (hence why I had changed my mind and wanted to stay). What made it a very bad experience was the fact that the HR department, which were without exception were Dutch, and very lazy. It is no surprise to me that the HR lady that was responsible for me and the other German girl that had started at the same time than me, was fired 2 months before I left the company.

If I was to go back to the Netherlands I know for sure that things would be different, cause I know how things are run and where I have to go to to get the Sofi number and all the other things.

If you wish to move there to, I recommend that you check for apartments before hand. The average price for an apartment in Amsterdam is 700-1500 Euro. In the outskirts it’s way cheaper: between 300 and 500 Euro. Transportation to and from work is paid by the employers. Either they give you a year ticket for the whole of the Netherlands like ACN did, or like most smaller companies, you buy strippenkaarts (strip cards) which are reimbursed at the end of the month.

In general Dutch people and companies are pretty laid back and appear almost lazy at times. If you wish to get things done then you have to either do it yourself, or keep nagging them until they do it.

© 2010, Sanshiru. http://san.icopyright.com


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