Auteur: Erik van den Hurk

On international projects, we always work with our own supervisors. To give you an insight into their experiences while working abroad, we asked our colleague Ad Foolen some questions. Since 2013, Ad has been in Kinshasa (capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo) no less than five times for a variety of projects on a large beer brewery. In total, he spent almost two years there.

Remco Ruimtebouw always works with local workers on international projects. Ad tells that he has built up a permanent team during the time:

DR Congo has hardly any social facilities. No work means no money. Therefore, it’s easy to find people. Still, I try to put together the same team every time. These guys are experienced, and we go all along with each other, but it’s not the same as at home. For example, I don’t have the guys’ mobile numbers. If one of them is ill, I hear it through one of the other guys.

We work from Monday till Saturday, starting at 7.30 in the morning. Starting earlier is impossible. Kinshasa is a city of millions, and they come from all over town. And the infrastructure is not that great. Most of the guys come by bus or moped.

Bad weather is a problem because when it rains hard the roads become impassable and the buses don’t run anymore. Let alone a moped. The weather is always an issue. After 12.00 p.m. the temperature easily rises to 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. Imagine what that feels like on a steel roof. When the biggest heat is over, we continue our work.

How do you deal with different languages?

The official language in DR Congo is French which I didn’t learn at school. When I first came here, it was difficult sometimes. I didn’t have an interpreter standing next to me all day. In the meantime, I have mastered the language quite well.

It wasn’t just the language that I had to get used to, the mentality is also different. In general, Dutch people are quite direct, even if we don’t agree or can’t live up to something. In DR Congo it’s the opposite. Whatever you ask, the answer is always yes. Even if they meant no. Making agreements becomes quite a challenge.

What do you have to consider when working on a project abroad?

For international projects you must be better prepared than projects in the Netherlands. For example, building materials can also be obtained there, but are much harder to find and generally of lesser quality. That’s why we never throw anything away. It can always come in handy later. I now have my own container in which I have built up a nice supply of building material.

Ad met his wife in Kinshasa and they now have small children. He now works alternately on projects in the Netherlands and abroad. He wouldn’t miss the experience for the world.