•Thank you for accepting our invitation to answer some questions as an international woman of our network! To start with, tell us a little about yourself, the work you do, your hobbies, the most remarkable place you have visited abroad, things like that.
Thank you for choosing me for the interview :)
My professional background is in the environmental sector. I am a hydrogeologist (groundwater expert) by training and work with great passion in sustainable water management. Especially simulating extreme weather events like heavy rain or drought and working with communities for better water management in the future is something that I truly enjoy doing every day. My companies works europeanwide but dutch by origin. And I am working to bring some of the water managment technologies from the Netherlands to Germany and other countries.
During my studies and my first professional years I lived in 8 different countries outside of Europe, since I worked emergency water supply in the international development sector and travelled a lot. One of the most impressive places I have been is definitely being on Top of Mauna Kea, the vulcano in Hawaii and the sureal high mountain areas in Nepal after the earthquake.
After those exciting travelling years, I decided to switch to a more stable sector and stop travelling outside Europe. But of course I still love spending time in nature, especially hiking long distance trails like the Camino Santiago de Compostella or in the mountains. And after a long time I found a way back into making music by playing violin in an orchestra here.
I also developed a passion for the topic of cross-cultural communication and cultural awareness and sharing my experiences how to reflect on your own cultural values to understand better how to interact with different cultural backgrounds. And having a group about that in AIW as well.
• Where do you come from and why did you choose Amsterdam as your new home?
I am from around Cologne in Germany and I am still going home once every month to work with my colleagues there. Amsterdam was a choice for love since I met my boyfriend 3 years ago on new years eve, right before Corona hit. For me having grown up next to the dutch border it was very stressful to experience how easy both countries (Germany and the Netherlands) put up the border again and the regulations to cross were just changing constantly. So after 1,5 years going through constant stress when seeing each other, I was able to work from our Amsterdam office or at home and moved here. And having met so many nice people here, it was definitely a good choice :)
• For how long have you been living here and how is it going with adapting to the multicultural Amsterdam style? Do you see any differences between here and your hometown?
I am 1,5 years in now and even though I thought the differences would not be as big compared to Germany I do still sometimes struggle. The international vibe of Amsterdam makes it very easy though to find a good balance. It came as a surprise to me that you can feel more lost in a culture that is close to your own than e.g. in Tanzania. That's why I started to look more into the topic of cultural awareness and cross cultural communication.
For me the biggest difference was on the good side definitely the digitalisation. Germany is still mostly on paper when it comes to bureaucracy and I was so happy to only have one BSN number here, and not separate ones for any kind of administration. Also the people here is more easy going and not as focused on rules for everything. I do enjoy my freedom and the directness of everyone here. Even though it's sometimes a bit too many stereotype jokes on Germany.
However, I was shocked by the amount of plastic in the supermarket. Working in sustainability makes me potentially a bit more sensitive to those aspects. I am used to get my vegetables without a layer of plastic and milk or joghurt is often in glass containers in Germany. Having volunteered in food saving for a long time, I think the way this topic is handled in the Netherlands - a for me super high level sustainable country - was the most shocking to me.
• Socially: Do you hang out mostly with fellow German girls or is your social life more multi-culturally oriented?
I actually don't have any German friend here. Through my dutch partner, we have a lot of dutch friends but I mostly made international friends from all around the world and enjoyed that very much. And the Amsterdam International Women Network was a great anchor to start with after arriving here with only dutch people around me.
• How did you get to know the Amsterdam International Women and how has been your experience with the network so far?
After the first months, I started to feel lonely and looked into networks to join and found the Amsterdam International Women. I loved the first Brunch get together and got really excited hearing so many individual stories and backgrounds. It gave me a lot of comfort to know, that I am not the only one figuring out everything here. I went out with some of the girls but also made some new friends for going to the Opera and theater and museums but also just for coffee.
Since I heard from a lot of ladies that they were trying to understand the dutch culture, Paula and I are always happy to offer a workshop for cultural awareness if needed or meet up to discuss the topic. Sharing those stories to me is the most important part when adapting and I love that the AIW offers a place for that.