Running A Dutch Dental Clinic – An Interview With Daniella & Javier

Interview by Ronne Viana Dos Santos

In our series of interviews with dentists who moved to the Netherlands, today we have Daniella and Javier. Daniella is an implantologist and Javier is an endodontist. They graduated from the European University of Madrid, and since 2015 they have been living in the Netherlands together. Now, 3 years later, they talk about their experience: how they made the decision to come to Holland, what their life looks like, and how they eventually even started their own clinic.Getting in touch

Daniella remembers clearly how it all got started: “I found an ad on a job board and I sent in both our resumes just to see what would happen. Not long afterwards, Sebastian wrote us back. So I asked Javier if he wanted to give it a try. The funny thing is that, at the time, I was on vacation in Mexico while Javier was in Spain.” Javier adds: “It all went quite fast. We had a Skype conversation, and a few days later Sebastian, the manager of DPA Dentistry, sent us all the information about the course, work, etc. All went really well and in 2015 we came to the Netherlands.”

While the experience of Javier and Daniella is similar to that of many other dentists who have moved to the Netherlands through DPA, it is also special because they arrived here as a couple. Daniella sees it as an advantage: “When you come together, you support each other in both the good and the bad times. I think that is a positive point.” Javier smiles and agrees. She continues: “In the beginning, we were nervous about this drastic change in our lives. However, we always try to think positively and support each other. We have had a great experience and we met a very nice group of friends during the course in Seefeld.”

Javier: “It was really important to have a good group in Seefeld. Everyone was really nice and prepared to work hard every day, so that was motivating. As for going there as a couple, I guess it gave us more stability and support. Even when one of us was tired, the other was there to say that we have to keep going, and that sort of dynamic helps a lot. After these past three years, we still think this project was a great choice for us.”

Seefeld

Before coming to the Netherlands to start working, all candidates first spend 3 months in the DPA Academy in Seefeld, Austria. There, they learn about the Dutch language, dentistry protocols and relevant cultural information.Daniella tells us how she experienced her time in Austria: “We were very happy when we arrived in Seefeld. It was during the winter season and the hotel hosted lots of people who were there for skiing. We were surpised at how nice the village and the hotel were. During the winter, the village was full of life due to all the tourists and activities. And with all that snow, it looked like a fairytale. We weren’t expecting the hotel to be as good as it was. The room was nice, the place itself was nice, and the staff was very kind to us. We were lucky enough to be there with a great group of people, so it didn’t take long for all of us to become friends. But of course, after 3 months you get fed up with being in a hotel, no matter where it is.”

Coming to the Netherlands

With the course completed 3 months after their arrival in Seefeld, it was time for Javier and Daniella to make the move they had been preparing for all this time: working in a Dutch clinic and settling in the Netherlands. Even with the good preparation they had, such a big change still presents a challenge.

Daniella confirms this by explaining that the first few weeks were rough: “When we went to the city of Delft (near Rotterdam), we asked in advance that we wanted to work together, or at least as close as possible to each other. Javier’s work was perfect as he just had to walk three minutes to reach his clinic, but I worked in a different city, Vlaardingen, so I had to take the train and bus every day. I remember coming home with headaches a lot.”

Javier agrees that this first period in their Dutch careers was not always easy: “You want to integrate, you want to be as clear as possible when communicating with your patients, but these ambitions in themselves can generate stress, or make you forget about other important things in life, such as eating well. After the first months, however, things started clicking into place and it made us both much happier. We were also lucky to be in Delft, which is a small, pretty city that we enjoyed living in during the 2.5 years that we were there.”

Integration

While the process of integrating takes time, Javier and Daniella do think it is important to put in the effort to truly become a part of Dutch society: “It is the only way to make yourself feel at home, and that is required if you want to be happy here. It takes some time, but you are not alone. We feel welcome anywhere, and both our colleagues and patients at work have been open and accepting. Even when a patient didn’t completely understand at first, they still came back wanting to be treated by us, so that feels great. Of course not every single interaction is positive, but the general reception has been very good.”

They also have a tip for their colleagues back home who are thinking about moving to the Netherlands: “Do not compare your country to Holland. There will always be differences, and it is best to just adapt quickly, accept the way things work here and focus on the positive side of things.”

Their very own clinic

While successfully moving to the Netherlands was already a success in itself, the greatest achievement of Javier and Daniella so far is no doubt opening their own clinic: “After having worked for someone else for a while”, says Javier, “we started thinking about doing something for ourselves. When we were in Spain, we did not have this possibility as it would have been very complicated due to the situation of the market there. Having this opportunity was something new for us. After giving it some thought, we decided to do it! Having your own clinic presents you with endless possibilities, and you often catch yourself dreaming about how you want to keep evolving. We are very proud to have our own clinic and we didn’t expect it to grow so fast.”The decision to open their own clinic came after gaining a few years of work experience in the Netherlands, but the idea was already brought up by Sebastian during the language course in Seefeld. Daniella recalls: “Sebastian told us that we were both dentists focused on different fields of dentistry – implantology and endodontics – so why not work on something of our own? Back then we thought, no, no no, first let us get there and then we’ll see.” Javier adds: “After two years, we started to consider this idea, and everything went quite fast from there. Our family was very supportive, and in those 2 years we had gotten a lot more comfortable with the language and the patients, so why not?”

Working in a Dutch clinic

A good preparation and mentality go a long way, but ultimately the key aspect of a successful career abroad is of course the work itself. Javier gives us some insight into what a working day at his clinic looks like: “We start at 8AM, and the first patient comes in 10 minutes later. Until what time we continue depends on the day: on Mondays and Tuesdays we finish at 6PM, while we close at 5PM on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays, we work from 8AM to 4PM. With an average of 30 patients a day, we have a full agenda.” A busy workweek, but Javier doesn’t mind: “It is better like this. In the weekends we are free to spend our time as we want and enjoy life.”

What also helps that dental healthcare in Holland is not too different from what they were used to in Spain: “The techniques and materials we use are mostly the same. However, Dutch dentistry is distinct in that it’s more focused on prevention. Patients come in regularly for check-ups, and a lot of them are used to having their teeth cleaned every 4-6 months. Another difference is the insurance system. Most patients have dental healthcare insurance, so that is a system you have to get used to when you first start working here.”

Pros, cons & quirks

As much as Javier and Daniella like their life in the Netherlands, they do warn that it’s not for everyone: “You have to be willing to learn the language and adapt to the circumstances. Learning the language is a requirement to work here, as it will allow you to integrate, do well in your job and gain confidence. Make your friends here, live your life here – make it your real home. Accept that there will always be differences between Holland and your own country, each having their pros, their cons and their quirks.”

Javier says that he and Daniella do not visit Spain that regularly now that they have settled here: “The first year we went maybe 4 or 5 times in the whole year. Now we go about twice a year, and usually for events like a friend’s wedding. We are happy where we are, this is our home now. So even when we go on vacation, we don’t even go back to Spain – we want to go somewhere else.”“Holland feels like home, and is has been that way for a long time”, concludes Daniella.

Married in 3 languages

Javier and Daniella settling in the Netherlands has also produced some special situations. “Sometimes we speak to each other in 3 languages, with English, Dutch and Spanish words. When we talk about dentistry, it is always in Dutch, which is something we did not expect. This was apparent even at our wedding, we got married in Delft in a service in Dutch and English, and the ceremony in Spain for our family and friends was in Spanish.”

“What is also funny is that, when we are in Spain, we can hear people speak Dutch and we understand them, which they probably would never expect!”

In conclusion, Javier and Daniella say they both feel gratitude for having lived through this experience. “We would not have done anything differently.”

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