February 23th, 2018 | PEOPLE

【Global People of Yanmar: The Netherlands Series, Volume 2】
Work-life balance in the Netherlands

"Global People of Yanmar: The Netherlands Series, Volume 2" covers the life of a Yanmar employee assigned to a post abroad. This time, Mr. Hironaka, an expatriate employee in the Netherlands, will tell us what it is really like to work in a country with such an advanced work-life balance as the Netherlands! It seems that the Dutch have a rather rational approach to certain things.

Kentaro Hironaka
Affiliated to Yanmar Europe B.V. (Yanmar Europe) and Yanmar Marine International. B.V. (Yanmar Marine International)

Appointed as of May 2017. At Yanmar Europe, he is in charge of supplying service parts for all products handled by Yanmar and at Yanmar Marine International, he is engaged in marketing activities related to components of ship engines.

Table of Contents

  1. What is it really like to work in a country like the Netherlands, with a such a great work-life balance?
  2. The Netherlands, a top bicycle country. Is it ok for runners to run on bicycle paths?!
  3. Having a drink at a Japanese restaurant on the way home from work. Relaxing while speaking one's mind with colleagues.

What is it really like to work in a country like the Netherlands, with a such a great work-life balance?

Left : The famous cheese made in the Netherlands can be found in abundance in supermarkets. Sometimes, dinner only consists of wine and cheese. "Since I have been eating cheese all the time, I get the impression lately that I myself smell (like cheese)" (laughs). Right : "Since cup noodles cost more than 500 Yen here, I always carry all my empty suitcases when going back to Japan so that I can fill them with lots of Japanese food".

Family is very important for Dutch people, which is why most of the local Dutch staff leave work at 5 pm. Sometimes, people work overtime, but it is extremely rare.

We have a flextime arrangement, meaning that if people start work early and finish all their work, some of them go home early. When you have flextime in Japan, there still tend to be certain restrictions regarding the timeframe, but the Dutch are quite rational when it comes to time management and work.

It seems to me that they do not really like to go for drinks after work like the Japanese do. One reason might be that many people live in the suburbs, far away from the workplace but I think that they place a lot of importance on spending time with their families. I do not invite them spontaneously for drinks, either. But that does not mean that all the people go straight home!
If you go to bars in Amsterdam at night, you will find that they are very crowded (laughs).

The hugely popular Dutch beer Heineken is easily available in cafés of the city center as well.

The offices of Yanmar Europe and Yanmar Marine International close at 8 pm, so in terms of time, the way of working is the same as in Japan. When I was living in Japan, my commuting time was about one hour by train, so there was a sense that I had to leave because otherwise I would get home late. Now it takes me about 40 minutes by car. It is quite far, but I think it would take longer by train. But that does not mean that I start work late. Since I can only contact and communicate with people in Japan in the mornings, I start work early.

Left : The expansive break space of the newly completed Yanmar Marine International office. Often, employees have a relaxed brunch here including cheese. Right : To avoid the situation where one of the spouses becomes too busy with work, the concept of work-sharing is widespread in the Netherlands. I heard that men also actively participate in housework and childcare.

The Netherlands, a top bicycle country. Is it ok for runners to run on bicycle paths?!

How do you spend your days off?

On the weekends, I get some exercise by running. One round around the park near my home is about 12 to 13 km, that is where I usually go. Sometimes, when I feel like it, I run all the way to Amsterdam from my home! Since runners are allowed to use the bike paths, running in the city is refreshing, too. I am not sure about the reason why it is accepted, but I guess it is because the speed is about the same as that of a bicycle.

Germany and Belgium are neighboring countries and if you go just a little bit further, France and Italy are close by, too, so sometimes, we go on a trip with the people from the company. You can go there so easily, I could not have imagined that when living in Japan.

Apart from that, there are many sightseeing spots in and around the city such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Dutch National Museum or The Hague or Delft, where one can see typical old townscapes of Europe. You can enjoy yourself just by strolling through the city.

The Tulip Festival on Dam Square. It includes events where tulips are given away for free, so the tulip-loving Dutch seem to enjoy the festival even under the wintry January skies.

People of Amsterdam participating in the Tulip Festival

Having a drink at a Japanese restaurant on the way home from work. Relaxing while speaking one's mind with colleagues.

From the left: Mr. Nomura (*1), Mr. Hironaka and Mr. Kurosa (*2)
They told us what they really thought about life in the Netherlands.

  • *1Hidenori Nomura Affiliated to Yanmar Marine International. B.V. (Yanmar Marine International)
  • *2Kohei Kurosa Affiliated to Yanmar Marine International. B.V. (Yanmar Marine International)

Japan and the Netherlands: Where is it easier to work?

To work in the Netherlands is more enjoyable than to work in Japan. Or perhaps I should say that one can behave more actively. The Netherlands is relatively compact, which allows for more flexibility and fast decision making. Since we are working close to the market, it is of utmost important for us to display a high degree of flexibility in real time.

How do you manage your household budget in an environment where prices are high and where you do not work overtime?

Everyone lives in the suburbs, around an hour away by car, rather than in the center of Amsterdam, where the prices are high. But I do not feel that much pressure to make a living. The Dutch are said to be stingy, but I would rather say that they are economical. For example, they go on holidays by car and even going to Italy from the Netherlands by car is considered natural. In addition, because they take a lot of food with them, they do not have to spend the money at their holiday destination. Maybe they are not that interested in different foods and are not so keen on enjoying local cuisine. I also heard that they enjoyed walking the same course every day with everybody during lunch time.

What is the most delicious food in the Netherlands?

Potatoes, I think. I once saw a TV show in Japan where they said that the Dutch only eat potatoes for dinner, but this certainly not the case (laughs). Apart from that, I often eat frozen croquettes, my freezer at home is stocked up with a lot of them. Mussels are also a must-try! They are said to be harvested in Belgium, but actually, they are harvested in the Netherlands, it is just a place near Belgium. I looked it up (laughs).

From the left: croquettes, rainbow uramaki (report compiled in cooperation with: Orandaya Restaurant)
From the left: yakitori, seafood champon (report compiled in cooperation with: Orandaya Restaurant)

The three of them give their stamp of approval for "the Netherlands as the most livable country in Europe". They hardly feel any inconveniences in their lives and we really felt how much they are enjoying their everyday lives in the Netherlands.

The oasis for the hearts of Japanese expats! This is the Japanese restaurant where we talked to write this article.

Japans Restaurant Orandaya Amsterdam

Lunch 11:30 am - 3 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm)
Dinner 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 10 pm)
Address: Scheldestraat 82, 1078GN, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
TEL: +31-20-672-2100
http://orandaya-amsterdam.com/

Having a rational way of thinking regarding time and placing importance on the family: Just as you would expect from a country with an advanced work-life balance!
It seems that the essence of life in the Netherlands consists in not only having a fulfilling work life but also a fulfilling private life.

【Global People of Yanmar: The Netherlands Series, Volume 3】 will be "The food culture of the Netherlands - not as different from the Japanese food culture as you might think?"

We will introduce many mouth-watering dishes! Dank je wel! Doei!