The Man Behind The Mask – Boilermaker Angelo Papageorgiou Shares His Story

Angelo Papageorgiou is a boilermaker by trade. Living in America for 30 years, he completed a 4-year apprenticeship, clocking up over 6,000 qualifying hours. Having spent the previous 3 years living and working in Greece, Angelo arrived in the Netherlands in 2023. Since starting with InAxtion, he’s been able to put his welding skills to use in a variety of projects inside a steel plant. Here’s his story so far.

What’s a boilermaker?

Being a boilermaker is one of those jobs where nobody really knows what you do! Here in the Netherlands, I call myself a welder. I’m trained on industrial and commercial boilers – boilers that service big buildings – apartment blocks and things like that. Most of the time during my career I’ve been in nuclear power plants, coal plants, refineries, and paper mills.

Why work in the Netherlands?

Due to the Greek economy, it felt like the right time to make a move. A lot of people told me the Netherlands had a lot of industrial work – which is true – it does. I found InAxtion on LinkedIn. I answered an ad – and that was it!  

What’s your working day like?

When I first came here, I started with assembly for a company making hydraulic pumps. I really liked my colleagues there, but I knew nothing about hydraulic pumps. We had an honest and open relationship. I knew what I knew, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. They were very patient with me!

Then, once I got my welding certificates – I had to re-do everything from scratch to be able to work here – I was able to do welding projects. Right now, my projects have been in the steel industry. I’m a boilermaker by trade, but here it’s a lot of pipe-fitting work. I work on the pressure vessel itself, and then the fitters do everything around the vessel – mostly the piping. 

From a safety perspective, the Netherlands is very similar to the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the US. Things like tying off 1.8 meters or 6 feet are the same. When you work on any pressurized equipment, you make sure you check with the operator who shut it down. 

Every Thursday we do our toolbox meeting, our safety meetings, and things like that. We have our work permits regularly checked. Every two months or so, we have a gathering – borrels – where we get together and socialize. 

How’s life in the Netherlands?

I’d never heard anyone speak Dutch until I came to the Netherlands. I also didn’t know what some of the food was – like a frikandel or a kroketten. It was a little bit of a culture shock! Aside from the food and everything else, it was an interesting time! 

But to be honest, I like the culture here. As long as you’re in a big city, like Amsterdam, The Hague, or Rotterdam, you can get by on speaking English. Everyone here speaks English on such a fluent level – as long as you can speak English, you’re okay. That said, I’ve been trying to learn Dutch as well. It takes a lot of effort! 

It’s not like some countries where if you ask a question someone’s going to put you down. We walk through things and we take out time. There are no stupid questions here.

How has InAxtion helped you?

For starters, to work here, you need a BSN number!  They helped with that. And you know, just the simple things like where to go shopping – just the daily, everyday stuff. My agent has been very good with me. Very patient. For example, here in the Netherlands, you have to get recertified every 6 months. In other EU nations, it’s every 2 years. Here I have to retake the test, or I’m expired! The standards are very high.

There are a lot of questions for a newcomer in any country. I see a lot of other people that just moved to the Netherlands – other expats – and they’re struggling because they have to do everything themselves. My agent from InAxtion made the transition much easier. They also helped me find accommodation, and eventually I got my own studio apartment – which is great. 

With InAxtion, if they see you want further training or further your career, they will help you – so long as you’re motivated, and you show up to work. InAxtion has been a very positive company for me. 

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