“Be curious” – Toni’s advice for finding a job in the Netherlands

Make it in the North chats with Antoaneta Koteva about what's it like looking for a job in the Netherlands and about life in Groningen in general.

Antoaneta Koteva 3 (1)

What’s your name and where are you from?

Hi! I’m Antoaneta Koteva, but people call me Toni. I’m 22 years old and I’m from Bulgaria. I moved to Groningen in 2020, so around 3 years ago. I’m currently in the 3rd year of my media studies programme.

Why did you decide to study in Groningen?

A couple of friends I knew had already studied here so I thought that by coming here I’d already know some people and that it would feel a bit more familiar. The application process here was also easier than in some other countries. The university course was in English which was also an advantage. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to work as and the media studies programme seemed broad. So I hope to figure out what I want to do after my studies.

How has your working experience been so far?

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I worked in a factory. Last year I was a student assistant. Now I’m working as a bartender. It’s very flexible so I can combine it with my studies and I usually work around 1 day a week.

I decided to go for this job because I liked the bar and the music. I saw they were hiring and I decided to apply. As part of the application process, I also had two unpaid trial days.

Did you face any difficulties while looking for jobs?

I had difficulties since I don’t speak Dutch. That was definitely a thing.

I’ve also noticed that Dutch people tend to stick to other Dutch people. In my experience, the internationals were a bit more open to integrating. Most of my colleagues at work are Dutch and they’re very nice and speak English. Sometimes I do feel a bit left out, however.

Do you have any tips for internationals thinking of moving to Groningen?

Language classes could help, but only if you’re really interested in learning the language rather than because you feel forced to do so.

In terms of finding a job, try things that you’re interested in. Take every opportunity that you have and volunteer at places to meet people. Take into consideration the other colleagues as well at a workplace as it’s not only the hiring manager who you’ll be working with.

Research the company you’re applying for. You can tell quite a lot from their website but try to informally approach them and ask to meet them. Get to know them. This also makes the interview process easier so it feels less like an interrogation.

Overall: Be curious.

What do you think about life in Groningen?

It’s a really pretty city. However, lots of activities are for students and student associations. I’d say there needs to be more cultural events.

Personally, I like going out with friends, sitting in the park, and going for picnics. There is a lot of nature and parks. It’s really pretty and green. Sitting by the canal having a drink is also fun. Or you can rent a boat or go standup paddleboarding (SUP).

One piece of advice I got before moving here which I don’t think applies to me was to go to a smaller city in the Netherlands rather than a big one. I think people in the bigger cities are more open to internationals. It might be easier there to find opportunities.

Any plans for the future?

I do plan on moving because I don’t really feel at home. I haven’t met my people I guess and the fact that I don’t speak Dutch is a big factor. I also really miss home which is probably the biggest reason. However, I might do an internship here after my course which would mean that I’ll be staying longer.

Originally I wanted to do an internship at the Groninger Museum, but it’s only for Dutch people. I don't see a future here if I don't speak Dutch.

MIITN’s series Made it in the North shines the spotlight on the different internationals working in the northern parts of the Netherlands.

Photo: Julia Dumchenko