This month we switch to English for the interview, because we have an expat in the spotlight! Meet Can Altunlu, Research Engineer at Shell and board member of Young Shell. Can tells us all about what it’s like to be an expat in The Hague, his involvement in Young Shell and his plans to collaborate with YoungTheHague.
Who: Can Altunlu
Originally from: Turkey
What: he works and lives in The Hague
Occupation: Research Engineer Wells
Study: Mechanical Engineering in Turkey
PhD: in Applied Mechanics at the University of Twente
How does a Turkish guy and up in The Netherlands?
‘After my studies in Turkey, I wanted to do a PhD in this area. I had four options: the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Scotland. In a PhD interview at the University of Twente, a professor convinced me to choose for the Netherlands. Also a friend of mine was living in Maastricht and told me the Netherlands was a nice place to live.’
What was your first impression of the Netherlands when you started living here?
‘When I first visited the Netherlands in May 2009 the weather was really good, which led me to believe the Dutch weather was very nice. But after experiencing autumn and winter here, I know weather here can change in a heartbeat and winters are rather cold. I also learned that there are many differences between Dutch people from different regions; I was amazed by the amount of different subcultures within the country. Especially since the Netherlands is a rather small country.’
After you received your PhD in 2013, you started working at Shell in The Hague. Why?
‘I heard great stories about Shell, and applied for a job as Team Leader. It was a rather hopeless attempt, since I didn’t have any experience as team leader yet. As expected, I didn’t get the job, but they did offer me another position as Research Engineer in their graduate program. Although my expertise was in gas turbine manufacturing, I choose to work for Shell at R&D for Wells.’
You also became actively involved in Young Shell. In what way?
‘In 2013, a co-worker of mine, who was a board member of Young Shell, said she could use some help organizing social events for Young Shell, so I joined the board. Every year, one of the Dutch Shell sections organizes a conference. I became National Conference Lead, put a team together and took the lead in organizing a Dutch based conference. A short while back they asked me to become board member External Affairs at Young Shell. I accepted and really like this position, since I meet a lot of new people and get to know all the different organisations, communities and networks in The Hague.’
One of those networks is YoungTheHague (YTH), of course. What do you think about YoungTheHague?
‘I like the fact that YTH is more diverse than Young Shell. YTH connects young professionals from the big commercial companies and from the public sector. Also, I like the fact that YTH organizes fun social activities and more serious events, show responsibility for the city of The Hague and gives back to the community. This combination makes it very interesting for me and Young Shell to get more involved in YTH.’
And that’s exactly what’s going to happen, right? I heard rumours about a boardroom meeting Young Shell and YTH will organise together.
‘Haha, you’re right: we are organizing a boardroom meeting with YTH. In that meeting, Shell will present participants with a specific case. The participants will have to work together on that case, and solve it. For now, I can’t say much about the case of the speakers we have at this meeting. More information will follow.’
You’ve been an expat for some time now. Do you have any tips for expats who just started working here?
‘I myself haven’t learned Dutch and I regret that. Although Dutch people are perfectly capable of communicating in English, if you really want to integrate into the daily Dutch community sphere, learning the language is essential. So all starting expats… go and learn Dutch! And if you want to try Dutch food, I would recommend “bitterballen”, “oliebollen”, “andijvie stampot”, “stroopwafels” and Dutch desserts. And since I lived in Enschede for a while, I prefer to drink Grolsch beer. It makes me feel at home.’