A new job on a new continent; the South African Marthinus Bosman (27) wasn’t afraid of the challenge. He moved to the Netherlands with his wife last autumn to take on a job at Capgemini. “But I had to get used to the Dutch winter.”

From South Africa’s wine capital of Stellenbosch to the quiet village of Bennekom near the forests of the Veluwe: a bigger contrast was hard to imagine. But senior machine learning specialist Marthinus is a happy man. “I was eager to work in Europe. My first choice was Switzerland, because I’d worked a lot with a company there. But Swiss companies thought that the paperwork for emigration was too much of a burden. That’s when I got a message from Capgemini: would I be willing to come to the Netherlands? Of course! I’d already been to the Netherlands, and I enjoyed my visits. And I have Dutch roots – my last name is Bosman, after all.”

Sneak-peaks of being a tourist in The Netherlands

Dutch lessons

“From arranging a visa to registering with the municipality: emigrating to another continent is a lot of work. Fortunately, Capgemini supported us with that. We took some Dutch lessons in South Africa, to learn the basics. We had twenty lessons to practice speaking and writing in Dutch. Capgemini paid for the lessons, as well as our airplane tickets. We found our house in Bennekom on our own. It’s a nice house in a green neighbourhood, not in the big city. Exactly what we were looking for.”

Pleasant work culture

“I start my day as a typical Dutch commuter. I cycle to the station in the morning, then open my laptop on the train. You need a car to get around in South Africa, but here you can do just fine without one. I didn’t have to get used to working at Capgemini. Thanks to the language lessons Capgemini arranged for me, I can also get by with Dutch for business. That’s handy for e-mails and listening to conversations. Speaking is a bit more difficult, so I’m going to take some extra lessons for that.”

New solutions

“I didn’t just choose for Capgemini because of the location, of course. The position also really appealed to me. As a machine learning specialist, I help companies gain more insight into the possibilities machine learning offers, and how it can improve their processes. I develop the infrastructure and frameworks to make it easy for all employees to make use of machine learning. I work on short projects – usually around a year – so I get a chance to work on a lot of new solutions. I’m impressed by our clients’ modern IT infrastructure, and their enthusiasm about new technologies. A lot of companies are interested in large language models like ChatGPT, for example. Few of them really have a need to build their own model, but there are a lot of other applications for their model architecture.”

AI hackathon

“The focus on sustainability was another important reason for choosing Capgemini. I’m currently participating in the Global Data Science Challenge, a hackathon organised by Capgemini where we work on a real-world AI case. We develop a tool that identifies insects by their sounds. Insects are an important indicator of biodiversity. The greater the variety, the better for the biodiversity.”

Helping each other

“At least 150 expats from South Africa work at Capgemini. The Netherlands is especially popular because of the language. Dutch and Afrikaans are closely related. Capgemini has created a WhatsApp group especially for colleagues from South Africa. We help each other find our way here. From questions about tax declarations or buying a house, to which supermarkets sell certain products; we use it for everything.”

Dutch customs

“My wife and I have already made a lot of friends, both Dutch and South African. I started working at Capgemini at the same time as three other South Africans, and we’ve become good friends. There are some funny differences in how Dutch people and South Africans spend time together. In the Netherlands, you get invited to do something specific, like play board games or have dinner. When the game is over or the meal is done, everyone goes home. In South Africa, we spend more time together, eating and talking.”

Getting used to winter

“The only thing that was a disappointment is the winter. We really underestimated that. And it wasn’t even that cold this year. Fortunately, one of my colleagues told me about vitamin D pills, and they made a big difference in our mood. It was a relief when spring finally arrived. We went back to South Africa for a wedding in May, and when we got back our bare garden was lush and green, like the rest of the country. It was beautiful!”

“We’re still nowhere near bored with the Netherlands, and we plan on staying for a while. We’ve even decided to buy a house. But we do want to go back to South Africa eventually, in part because our family is still there. But we’re not in any hurry. Maybe we’ll stay until we retire.”

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