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Teratai, Singapore

Recently I started my own business as an intercultural trainer. At the moment some of my work is still online, because some customers are from Asia, but I am busy expanding my local network. I specialize in working with highly educated so-called 'trailing partners'. These are mostly women who come to the Netherlands because their husbands got a job here.

Diversity is so beautiful. My job is to be a bridge builder, in this case between the Dutch and another culture. In order to bring people from different backgrounds closer together, you have to be a good listener. It is a slow step-by-step process. You have to have a lot of patience.

I understand very well how complex it can be to live in another country. There are many uncertainties involved. The people you leave behind at home often think it's one big party, because they don't see the challenges. But they are certainly part of it! Not only do you have to adapt to a different culture, but you are also far away from your family. Especially the last couple of years this has been hard for me, because we couldn’t travel back and forth easily.

I was the first in my family to go abroad. My story is different, but no less unique. Since 2009 I was in touch with a Dutch man through an organization for old-fashioned pen pals – no dating app hassle, just writing long letters. A year later, I planned a trip to Europe with some friends from university, but one after the other dropped out. Until I was the only one left.

So when I was only 22-year-old and without telling my mother, I bought a ticket to the Netherlands in good faith to visit my pen pal. The visit was his suggestion. He wanted to show me his country. My mother was immediately concerned when I brought it up. What if he had bad intentions, maybe he was a human trafficker? But I've always been an independent woman and made my own choices, so I went anyway.

One thing led to another. We have been together for twelve years now and I have lived in Leiden for five. I think the Netherlands is a wonderful country to live in and I certainly see my future taking place here. You Dutchies are very direct, so one always knows where you stand! I love that about this culture.


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