In this article, dentist Félix talks about his experience in moving from Spain to the Netherlands to make a career in Dutch dentistry. His story gives you an unfiltered insight into the experience of one Spanish dentist in working in the Netherlands and working with the people of BGB. Would you like to know more? Contact our recruiter Arjen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With this article, I would like to tell you about my experience since I started this adventure, in 2016.
First, I would like to give you some background information about myself, as it will help you to better understand and picture my experience.
I was born in Las Palmas, on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, but just 8 months after I was born, my family moved to Madrid. I lived there until I finished my education, though I spent every summer in Cádiz for 1-2 months with my family. Currently, my parents and my two sisters all live there.
Everything began over 3 years ago.
I think that everyone will at one point daydream about living abroad, getting to know a new culture, learning a new language, travelling; in short, what which is often called ‘seeing the world’.
To me, these thoughts started to occur to me about 10 years ago, when I was attending University. It was also the first time I searched the internet for possibilities to go abroad after graduating. I had the example of my 2 sisters, who, after finishing their studies, went to a destination that always seems to be on the mind of many: the UK.
The experience of my sisters in the UK was okay, but not perfect (they returned after 2-3 years), so I started looking at other options. As I went over some of these options, I could not help but wonder: which countries remain if I exclude the UK, Ireland, France and Belgium?
I also started thinking about more exotic destinations, such as the US, Australia and Canada. After all, who doesn’t want to live the American Dream? Or surf along Australia’s beaches? Yet, at the end of the day, you also have to be realistic. I live in Europe, so the convenient and–in my view–intelligent thing to do would be to find something closer to home.
So it happened that after a lot of searching, reading and asking, Holland appeared on the radar. Of this small country I knew little outside of the typical, like tulips, coffeeshops and the Red Light District. And that they spoke a language that, to me, seemed to be just German. However, I did have some friends who lived there and were very happy, but on the other hand, I was at the start of my career and would have a long way to go before I could reach that point. Still, this dream of leaving Spain and living and working abroad now started to become a bit more concrete.
Five years later, I graduated from university and I moved from Madrid to Cádiz.
Where I had spent my University years living in the city and spending my summers at the beach, I had now switched to living at the beach and going back to the city like a tourist.
My sister has a clinic that is located about 500 meters from the beach. From an outside perspective, it would seem like an easy future was settled: just work with my sister and remain in the ‘Paradise of the South’ while enjoying the presence of my family, riding a motorbike and surfing at the beach.
But the truth is much different. In the year that I started, I first got in touch with DPA Dentistry, which is what BGB Dentistry was known as, at the time. I went to Barcelona for my first interview. Fortunately, they adviced me to gain more experience as a dentist while also improving my level of English, which wasn’t my strongest point at the time.
I did just that, and continued working two more years in Spain while staying in touch with DPA, and specifically with one great person: Arjen. He tracked my progress, and one day he told me: “Now is the time to do it. You have the experience and English level required, and they’re going to change the law soon, obliging you to pass a Dutch language test before you’ll be able to register as a dentist.” So it happened that I went to Amsterdam, met the team and everything went well.
What occurred next is an anecdote that I will never forget. After meeting in Amsterdam and explaining everything, they gave me the contract when I went back home, to give me time to think about it. Arjen told me that he’d be in Sevilla a few weeks later, which is resulted in me signing the contract in Sevilla with both Arjen and his girlfriend present. The decision was made: I was coming.
Then came the moment for me to tell my family that I was leaving, and that I had already packed my suitcase. I always meant to keep this to myself until I had already made up my mind, so I could make sure that they wouldn’t influence my decision. I knew it was an important and difficult decision, but in spite of being 26 years old at the time, I felt ready to face this challenge.
With lots of emotions, I left, and so it all began…
Seefeld (Sep – Dec 2016)
Then came Seefeld: a luxury, a truly wonderous experience of the kind that you might encounter once in your lifetime. Three months in a great hotel surrounded by a fantastic landscape. Ski pistes of 500 metres, having a view from my hotel room that looked like a painting: it was something to never forget. I also had the fortune of passing these three months with 16 great people, and a mother who took care of us as if we were her children: Josie.
During these months, we made various trips. We went to Oktoberfest, to Salzburg, Verona, and, most memorably, driving through a glacier, seeing all these typical Austrian village, like in the children’s film ‘Heidi’. It is an image that stuck with me, this blue color that the lake had from 2000 meters up high.
We also got to see Seefeld and its mountains during the winter just before winter arrived and it was -15 degrees. During that time, the lake froze over and, by December, it had turned into a giant ice rink. I also have fond memories of all the afternoons we spent in the swimming pool, playing games much like children, when we were taking a break from studying.
I was also lucky enough have my sister and 2 friends visit, and taking them to go ski in Zolden, one of the best pistes of the world.
There is just one small, or rather big BUT, being that five days a week, we were studying Dutch! Sometimes we even spent seven days learning in one week. It was, in truth, quite fun, to see how we were trying to communicate in a language where in the beginning we didn’t even know how to say “Hey, how are you?” (“Hee, hoe gaat het?”)
Now, you may wonder if there are many similarities with English, but don’t be mistaken: Dutch doesn’t resemble English. I am sorry, friends.
In short, it was incredible, or better yet unrepeatable.
Urk (January – June 2017)
After three months, I was informed about a job opportunity for me in a place that I find difficult to even describe, as it is not at all what I was used to up until that point: Urk.
I had the fortune of going there with a friend from the Seefeld course. So off we went, like two newbies.
I knew it would be something temporary, something to start with to improve my level of Dutch and to familiarise myself with the Dutch way of working. A good starting point or, better said, an interesting new step in my adventure. I aways live life trying to enjoy each and every moment, so this was not going to be any different.
As for Urk, I can summarise briefly what’s so different about it: a village with no more than 5000 inhabitants on what used to be an island, full of fisherman, and quite religious in comparison to the rest of the country. Unlike in most of the Netherlands, absolutely everything is closed in Urk on Sundays. And that even included the bus service: it is as if village life just takes an extended pause for a day. To go out on Sundays (and come back), we had to ride the bike for ten kilometres before we reached the next bus station.
The day-to-day work was relatively easy: we worked from Monday to Friday, with each work day starting at 8:30 in the morning and ending at 5:00 in the afternoon. We lived five minutes cycling distance from the clinic. As you’d expect, the first months were quite difficult in terms language, which is why the assistents helped us with the computer systems, the insurance codes and all those tasks.
It happened to be winter, so there was not a whole lot to do. It was mostly from home to work, and then back home again. We’d also have additional Dutch classes and we used to visit local pubs during the weekends.
From this period, I’d like to share an anecdote that I haven’t shared before and will probably never share again. We went to a nearby club, full of locals from Urk. Everyone looked at us, as we might very well have been the first foreigners to have set foot in that establishment. It was a small and dark place where people were smoking even though it’s prohibited. So there I was with my colleague, and when he went to the bathroom, I could hear a firecracker–not a small one either. When he returned, he told me that they had thrown a firecracker into the bathroom, which he assumed was their way of welcoming them, or chasing them out, depending on how you look at it.
During this six-month period I improved my Dutch and got used to working here, so when I felt like I was ready, and I decided to take the opportunity to continue working towards my dream of going to The Hague.
Rotterdam (June 2017 – February 2018)
It was in June that I got a job in Rotterdam and finally moved. It was like I was returning to modern society.
We’re talking the summer of 2017, and I had the luck of having a friend in Wassenaar, a village about ten kilometres away from The Hague. During the three months that I lived there, I started to look for a place in The Hague to turn into a home of my own.
I have a long history with The Hague: in my first interview with DPA, I already told them that I wanted to end up living there, which was not an impossible dream.
Meanwhile, the work in Rotterdam was more like what they told me it would be like at DPA. I earned a higher wage and I worked four days per week, having Tuesdays off.
In September of that year, I moved to The Hague at last. As I knew that this was not just going to be something temporary, I began to settle in. These days I have a rather large group of Spanish friends, like a small family.
I continued to work in Rotterdam, and as my Dutch kept improving each day, so did my possibilities. In December of 2017, I had contact with an orthodontics company for the first time. Ever since I started studying dentistry, I was drawn to orthodontics: I did the Invisalign master in Spain and I knew that eventually I would end up becoming an orthodonist.
This time, however, the process did not move past the initial contact, simply put because it was not attractive at the time from an economic point of view: I had bills to pay.
In January 2018 I also experienced my first conflict, as I had been promised good conditions with the renewal of my contract. But when it came down to it, I did not get what I was promised. From that experience I learned to always put everything on paper, and signed. Or, as they say here, ‘black on white.’
Emergency Dentist (February 2018 – May 2019)
With that experience having left me dissatisfied, I came across a great new opportunity: working as an emergency dentist between Rotterdam and The Hague. The salary was good, but I would have to work in the weekends. I thought about it for a while, and I accepted. And so I started working in my third clinic in less than two years: a better one yet again.
Honestly, the work at this emergency clinic was hard, working until 11 in the evening with no one there but the night porter. But still, it was a good way to pay my bills, and I started saving money. Besides, I knew that I would not be doing this sort of work forever.
In regard to my personal life, my group of friends kept expanding. We started making plans every weekend. The summer of 2018 came, and it turned out to be the summer of barbecues. We were all together in this great summer, a Spanish-style summer with barbecues every weekend for two months straight. Sometimes there were five of us, other times 20. And although there is so little daylight here during the winters, the flipside is that, during the summer, it doesn’t get dark until 11 in the evening. It was almost dreamlike, definitely one of my best summers.
At the end of the summer, in September, I took another step forward and I enrolled in a public academy that issued free courses. Yes, free and Holland, those are two words that you’d never expect to see together, but it’s real. The course, which I can highly recommend, lasted for eight months. Thanks to my work at the emergency clinic, I had most of the mornings off, so I was able to spend those early hours by going to the gym and then to the course.
And so time went on and the months flew by. In February of 2019, I was approaching 30 and I felt like I had to fulfill that dream I have: going into orthodontics. Even when I took the job as an emergency dentist, I knew that it would be my last job as a general dentist; my last anaesthetics, fillings and extractions…
Orthodontics (May 2018)
As I said earlier, I had already had contact with an orthodontics clinic a year earlier, and I decided to get back in touch with them because I thought it was the right time for me to take this step. I had become financially stable, so I did not mind taking a lower salary in exchange for learning and growing in my profession. So I had another meeting with them and told them about my new situation. These talks went well, and in March the decision was made final, so I could inform my manager at the emergency clinic that I would not be renewing my contract on July 31st.
Then, more trouble came, as my decision did not sit well with my boss. Because of this and other problems, he tried to frustrate the process. And it is in this moment that I need to mention another person who, without being obliged to do so, helped me out immediately.
First, I will describe the situation to give you a better understanding of what was going on. My boss put before me an alleged complaint from a patient that I had seen four months earlier. He told me that it was very bad, that it was all my fault, and that I should stop working there as they were going to investigate. He even told me I could lose my dentistry license, which would make it impossible for me to do my job in any country.
As you can imagine, this shocked me, all the more because in a foreign country, in another language, far from home, it seems you are at a disadvantage in this sort of situation. I feared that my dream, everything I have been fighting for over the past two-and-a-half years, would be taken away from me.
I remember then writing Sebastian, the manager of what had now become BGB Dentistry, who I always had a great relationship with. I will never forget how I wrote him: “Sebastian, can you please call me? I have a personal problem.” Within less than an hour, he called me back. I explained everything to him, and he helped me from minute 1. I felt protected. He did not have to help me, as we no longer had an active contract together, but he did it anyway.
Now, I could write many pages to explain this all in great detail, but what matters in the end is that, even though there were people who did not have good intentions and tried to shock me into making a wrong decision, being a good person and doing good work is what will get you through it.
Moving beyond this theme, I can say that I have begun working in the orthodontics clinic; my salary is currently more that of a well-paid intern, but I learn in exchange. I am happy as I am learning things every single day, all to enable me to work exclusively as an orthodontist in the future. I signed a five-year contract with them. Presently I combine this work with my Master in Orthodontics, and I hope that, within one year, I will stop being a well-paid intern.
As of May, June and July, I am working three days per week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). I am further enjoying this new stage in my life by doing windsurfing every Tuesday after work (which is possible as in the Netherlands work ends at 5 in the afternoon) and in the weekends. I hope this summer will be even better than the previous one.
Now in 2023, I was asked to write a testimonial of my life and career as dentist ánd orthodontist in the Netherlands:
When I finished my degree I always wanted to go abroad, so when I turned 26 I decided to take the plunge and leave Spain.
At first, I hesitated to go to England or Ireland, as the English is easier, but in the end I decided to come here, and I couldn’t be happier to have made that decision.
The course in Seefeld (Austria) can be summed up in a few words: an unforgettable experience.
Not only the time spent learning the language, but the people I met there, and the people I got to know in Seefeld, were unforgettable.
After three intensive months there, I came back to the Netherlands with a lot of enthusiasm, and at first I worked in a small town, until after a while I managed to move to The Hague, which is the city where I still live today.
The hardest thing at the beginning for me is to get used to the way of working and the lack of light, because it is true that the weather is worse than in Spain, especially in the winter… But the quality of life that this country offers me more than makes up for the lack of light. Many friends and family ask me why I don’t go back, why I don’t go back to Spain and the answer is so simple, I’m just happy here.
And talking a bit more about the experience I had with BGB/DPA, I see them as more like friends or colleagues than a boss or an intermediary company.
I still have a very good relationship with several members of the team, like Arjen or Sebastian himself and they make me feel or made me feel that security that you need when you emigrate to a country that is not your own.
So, if I had to come back at the age of 26 and I had to make the decision to come here again, I would go back to the Netherlands 100% for sure.