How to move abroad at 18
Part 1. The netherlands
Growing up in Latvia wasn't easy. Not enough money, jobs, and perspective made me believe that I should try my luck somewhere else. Since high-school, I knew that I want to live abroad, not sure where and how but it will happen so I started doing extra English classes. When I was 17 I started dating a guy from my school who moved to The Hague, Netherlands, he was doing his first year in university. Everything was going pretty serious I visited him there few times, kinda liked it there and we decided that it would be a great idea to move there for a summer and get a job. In Latvia, I started working when I was 15, as my family didn't have much money, so I had to take care of myself. I already had an experience as a presenter, tour guide, kids entertainer and even a concert organizer and spoke average English, so I wasn't scared to start this adult life abroad. I told my boyfriend, that we gonna do it together, no parents help, just two of us against the world, so he also has to find a job!
I came to The Hague to find out that my boyfriend actually lives in a student residence…excuse me what? Every time I was visiting him, we were staying in nice hotels and going to nice restaurants and now we have to share one tiny room between us and this Bulgarian guy (no one even asked him btw if he doesn't mind me, I just moved in). So we spent the next month sharing a single bed for two, queuing for the shower, eating 80 cent pizzas everyday cuz we could afford anything else. I soon realized that it is not possible to find a job in smaller cities like The Hague without speaking Dutch, as only locals live there, so I broadened my search to Amsterdam and I liked that city more anyways.
It is easy to find a job as a waiter in Amsterdam, I had a chance to start working 3 days after I gave in my CV, but still I wanted something more interesting, since I had experience as a tour guide I applied to work in every museum I knew in Amsterdam and got response from Vodka Museum and Diamond Museum, unfortunately Diamond Museum didn't accept me, so I started working as a Vodka tour guide… I had Russian boss who was spying on me 24/7 through a security camera, weird colleagues, no legal contract as I was paid in cash when the boss had money and I was working 12 hours a day 6 days a week with one 30 min break. I was still happy thinking about dem moneyz and what I can afford with that back home in Latvia…
but I only saw my first money over 50 days after I came to NL… here we go, the biggest problem was that train Den Haag- Amsterdam was 18 euros return and I came to the country with around 200€ … So I was going to work and back with an open return ticket and when I wasn't checked I could use it again and when I was, I was crying every time, pretending I don't speak any language I am 12 I need my mom, I want to go home, help, SOS! My drama show was performing really good until one day when I started crying the guy was like… I remember you... from two weeks ago… and I got a 100€ fine…which I still didn't pay… My boyfriend got a job in a hostel in a gay district, so we were not even seeing each other anymore.
Money was about to finish so I decided I want to walk dogs for some extra income. I only saw that in the movies, so wasn't even sure if that is a thing in real world, when I went online I found the only available ad, where a woman needed a help walking her dog. Few calls and meeting later we found out, that this Russian/ American woman was actually looking for someone who would move in to their 3 story mansion to babysit their old dog while they are away in the USA, did I mention they were also paying us 500eur a month to live in this prestigious neighbourhood and all equipped house? I don't have to mention that we moved in, took care of the dog that was running away from us like crazy all the time and we almost lost it 5 times :D and worked and lived there till the end of the summer.
In September I went back to school in LV and my bf came back to uni. It was my last year in school so I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life after that, I knew that staying in my home country wasn't an option but going back to such hard life and finding a job again wasn't really pleasing as well. I don't know what my decision would be if I wouldn't get an email from that Diamond Museum that I was applying to last year. They wanted me, pretty much ASAP… It was April and I was finishing school in the end of May, I packed my bags and without even finishing my school exams moved to NL again. My new job was the dream, they were covering travel, they helped with relocation, paid holidays, staff parties, nice friendly colleagues, growth... like do I even deserve it all. We moved to Amsterdam, with the money we saved from last year, got ourselves a nice apartment in the Red Light District, started traveling a bit, inviting friends over…just living.
The biggest problem of my life is that I am just never satisfied, I mean I have no idea where this is coming from, growing up in such a poor family, a country with no opportunities I should be happy with that, shouldn't be taking this for granted… but already after 4 month I was tired of routine job, of saying the same info, of fake smiles, I didn't like Amsterdam, I was tired of not speaking Dutch but also didn't want to learn it, I was tired of tourists everywhere around, of constant beeping bikes, smell of the weed, so sick of bad rainy weather and specific sense of humour of Dutch people. Something that I was attracted to before just turned into torture and I was ready to leave. I kinda wanted to go to uni but wasn't sure what I want to study. I finished my contract at work and went back home to come up with what I want to do in future…
press play to hear my story
Tips to move abroad
Learn extra languages. On my CV I have 4 languages and it looks really impressive, the job that hired me in Amsterdam only hired me because of my languages!
It is always useful to find your local ethnical communities or groups online. I was part of the Russian community when I first moved in and was getting few part-time jobs from there, people from your ethnical community are always willing to help newcomers to settle down, also I was only hired to Vodka Museum because I was half Russian, so if you are looking for an urgent first job you might as well try to approach people from your own background.
If you don't require a visa and are looking for a summer job, try applying for jobs around a month in advance. I was picking a sector that I was interested in and just googling companies and sending them emails direct. Like for example, I was interested to work as a tour guide, as I had experience and thought that I had chances to be hired, so I emailed every museum in Amsterdam I could find. When people email back do not tell them, that you are just looking to move there and are looking for a job in advance, that will put them off, instead arrange an interview when you are coming to the city and tell them the truth in person. I had over 5 job interviews in Amsterdam and none of my employers knew that I don't live in Amsterdam.
If you don't speak the local language (I spoke no Dutch) do not present it like a disadvantage, try to push on good aspects of your CV, like I spoke Russian and there are a lot of Russian tourists in Amsterdam, try to mention skills that you think not a lot of people have, for example moving abroad at such young age, which definitely means that you are strong and ready to work hard!
Don't be picky about your first job in the city, even if it is a bar or some cleaning job it is still good and will allow you to stay in the city and keep looking for a new one. Don't forget that the most opportunities are coming from human connections, so the more friends you will make, there more chance you will have to get a better job. I know for a fact, that if I will ever decide to come back to Amsterdam I will always have a job, just because of all the friends I made.
Save enough money at least for the first month. Moving abroad with 200eur in your pocket is not the greatest idea and it was really lucky that it all worked out for me. You would need money for the rent, deposit, food, transportation, and visas.