This year, our colleague Rachelle Visser left for Manchester with international ambitions and a big goal: to set up Workspace 365’s first foreign office in the United Kingdom. How is her experience so far? What’s Manchester like, and is she still happy with her decision? No one better to ask this than Rachelle herself.
Pssst. Would you like to follow Rachelle on her journey? Check out her vlogs on our YouTube channel!
Why did you go to Manchester?
It was necessary for someone from the company to go there to transfer the culture that is here in the Netherlands and to build the team.
It started with Erik (CEO) saying “we are going to England – would you like to go there?” Very quickly I was like, sure, that sounds fun! Another new country and a whole new challenge seemed very cool to me. I have always had the ambition to work internationally.
The next international experience
During my studies in the United States I found out that what I really like a lot; to live in another country, to get to know other people, to experience a completely different culture. I also did that in Mexico and Colombia, and this was the next step I wanted to take.
How did you prepare?
I didn’t really prepare that much. I mostly started reading about the basic things I had to consider. Only one or two weeks before I left, I thought “shit, they have a different kind of socket”.
In the beginning I just wanted to be open to everything. That ultimately ensured that I quickly felt at home there. By realising that things will be different from what I’m used to.
Elements for a new rhythm
But to me, it is also important that I immediately find things in which I feel at home. For example, started exercising right away. I looked up things like that in advance, so that I could immediately build my own life and find my own rhythm.
“Shit, they have a different kind of socket”.
So you flew to Manchester. What happened then?
The first time I flew to Manchester I was with Rick (colleague). We checked into our Airbnb, and went straight into town, by the office and to dinner. The Monday after we immediately went to the office.
Shaping the new office
The first few days were pretty chaotic. There’s a lot coming at you and that’s what you expect, but still a lot still needed to be sorted out. There wasn’t anything in the office yet, so we had to figure out where to put everything and what we still needed to order. But in the end everything came together pretty quickly.
I think that Tuesday I also swam for the first time I was over there. That took some getting used to, because they also swim ‘the other way around’ there. In the Netherlands you swim counter-clockwise, in the UK clockwise.
How was it after the first few days?
The office came together more and more and then not everything was about work anymore. In the beginning I would go to Ikea on the weekends to get stuff for the office. So you’re really busy with work the entire week.
After the first one or two weekends I had my own free time, so I could dive into what I wanted to do and how I was going to shape my life there.
And what were those things?
I went to a few soccer games. The last game was Manchester City playing Paris Saint-Germain, that was really cool. It’s really two of the best clubs playing. The third time I just went by myself, just because I wanted to see a good match.
I also had some people come visit me. Then we went to dinner, or out, or just do fun things. Now there are Christmas markets, which is also great. It gives a nice atmosphere.
So there’s plenty to do in Manchester?
Yes, a lot happens here. It’s a busy city. You have some great buildings with amazing architecture, and really a lot of shops, bars, restaurants, so that’s a lot of fun.
Walking around the city is excellent and it’s great to see how different everything is. Going into one of those typical English taxis is an entertaining experience all on its own, or go to a nice pub. I would also recommend getting Indian food here. That’s really a lot better than you get in the Netherlands.
I also really enjoy the fact that the office is in the middle of the city centre. You can always go get a coffee or grab lunch somewhere.
Also, I always feel safe here because I’m always surrounded by people. I do feel safe pretty much anywhere already, but here it’s extra, because there’s always things happening.
Do you feel at home there now, or still in the Netherlands?
Sometimes I say “I’ll go home then” and mean England. But I also say it the other way around. So I kind of have two homes.
I can sometimes feel like I’m visiting in the Netherlands, but I also feel at home very quickly. So when I spend a day and a half in the office in the Netherlands, it feels like I never left. Although I do need to acclimatise a little. On Fridays I sometimes just go off and bake some pancakes during lunch, so I can be by myself for a bit. While I am a very social person.
Now that I am in the Netherlands (at the time of this interview) I am actually looking forward to going back to the UK. Because I know I’ll have my own rhythm again. That makes me very happy.
Are there things you don’t enjoy about Manchester?
I do miss nature. In the Netherlands I cycle to work, in Manchester I walk through the city. Each have their own charm, but I actually like cycling in nature. That’s something I did miss in the beginning, or maybe still do.
People here don’t say ‘hi’ to each other on the street either. The office building is also shared, and people don’t really say ‘hello’ there to each other. While they are very friendly. Maybe they’re just not used to it. Like: ‘If you don’t know someone, why would you?’ I try to do it, I always want to be cheerful to people.
Do you notice any other cultural differences?
They have a lot more respect for hierarchy in the UK. If they feel that you are “above” someone, they are less likely to go against you. While in the Netherlands it’s all really “flat”, especially at Workspace 365.
Read between the lines
They are also a lot more polite. We Dutch people are very direct. When they want to comment on something, they beat around the bush a bit, to make what they say as friendly as possible. Then the point of criticism is kind of wrapped inside a message, and hopefully you catch it.
This is good to be aware of, both ways. That on one hand you don’t hurt them by being too direct, but that you also try to pay more attention to notice that critical note, and that it may be bigger than you think. That is difficult. It’s easier for me to adapt my behaviour for someone else, I have no problem with that, but translating behaviour the other way around takes a little more effort. It is however interesting to experience.
And also, of course, I keep walking on the wrong side of the stairs.
“I do really feel like I am contributing something. I think that’s a feeling everybody is searching for”
Was it the right choice to go?
I really see the value of me doing this. It is very nice to have someone abroad when you set up a new office there. When I sometimes look at how things go between the two countries, it’s good that there is sort of a translator between them. Language wise, of course, although everyone can speak English, but sometimes you still don’t quite understand what is being said – or what people mean. And it’s also a matter of culture. Because I work with these people every day, I often have a better idea of what they mean than if you just literally translate what they say.
Sometimes it feels a bit like our own start-up here; we also do more than just describe our position. It’s very varied.
I do really feel like I am contributing something. I think that’s a feeling everybody is searching for.
Start your own adventure at Workspace 365!
We are always looking for new talents, in the Netherlands and abroad. Do you also want to contribute to our international growth? Then check jobs.workspace365.net and apply!