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From the Netherlands to Hong Kong: Being Dutch in Asia

03 November, 2011 10:56  Erin Erin

Roald Dutch Asia pictureHi! My name is Roald, I’m originally from The Netherlands but living and working in Hong Kong since this summer. Although I have lived in The Netherlands for all my life, I have been working as an IT professional on projects in many different countries in Europe and Asia.

1. Why did you move abroad?
Ever since the first day I came to Hong Kong several years ago, I’ve been fascinated with this city. I still remember the first time I arrived here; the high-rises, neon signs, the millions of people, the food. That feeling of excitement only grew stronger during the times that I visited the city for my work again, so when I got the chance to relocate here, I didn’t hesitate for a moment.

2. How do you make a living?
When I was still living in The Netherlands, I worked for an international company that has its headquarters in Hong Kong.  As most of the activities were focused around Asia, it is obvious that a great deal of my time was spent on projects in that part of the world.

Initially my company asked me to stay 3 months in Hong Kong, as I needed to manage several IT Projects in our office. However, as time passed, I discovered that my wish to remain in Hong Kong got stronger and stronger. Therefore I asked my employer if it would be possible to be relocated permanently, as it would be beneficial for both the company too. You can imagine how excited I was when they approved my request!

Even though I have been in Hong Kong many times, working and living here permanently is quite different from being a visitor. The language, the culture difference, the work-life balance, everything is totally different from what I was used to in The Netherlands. For example, things like “who sits where during a meeting” or the “yes does not always mean yes” when you ask for opinions are things I needed to get adjusted to.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I’m keeping in touch on a regular basis with my friends and family through Facebook and Skype. Even though Hong Kong is a city where you easily meet new people, your friends and family at home remain the most important in your life, especially when you are so far away.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Hong Kong?
Simply said: I am living my dream. I always wanted to move here, and now I finally did it, I am enjoying it as much as I can. The life here can be so different and so the same, but every day feels like a discovery. And Hong Kong has so much to offer: Tonight you can have excellent food from every region of the world, tomorrow you can enjoy the incredibly huge shopping malls, this weekend you can go hiking in the mountains and next week you can go to the beach. It’s all there! And the great thing about Hong Kong is the fact that even though Cantonese is the main language, most of the people speak English.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Hong Kong?
The humidity. During the summer sometimes the humidity is unbearable. When you need to go somewhere, you are rushing from air-conditioned area to another air-conditioned area to cool down!

6. What do you miss most?
Being here means I am far away from my family and friends, which whom I miss the most. Besides that, I do miss the typical Dutch food with lots of boiled potatoes and vegetables. Asian food is delicious, but sometimes you want something different than rice or noodles. And who is going to send me some Dutch “stroopwafels” please?

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It’s important to get to know people when you move abroad. I have joined several social groups such as Couchsurfing or Meetup, which organize regular events in Hong Kong which you can join and meet people. Very useful!

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?

I must say that I still cannot get accustomed to the smell of cooked intestines. (Stomach and other parts I can better not disclose) Even though I have a high tolerance of these kind of things, I avoid those restaurants on my way from home to work. How can you eat that? I hope that someday I will be brave enough to try.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Some people think that Hong Kong and China are sort of the same. However when you will visit both, you will understand that both are totally different. As soon as you leave Hong Kong and stay in China for a while, you will notice that there is a big difference in the way people think and act. If you want to experience this difference, go to Shenzhen for example. Shenzhen is a huge city only one hour away from Hong Kong, but in all means very different. I don’t even have to explain. You will understand what I mean.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
When you have a job here, try to learn the local language. Even though most of the people speak quite good English, you will miss out a lot. After the first few weeks, when everybody is polite and speaks English to you, the honeymoon period will be over and you will find yourself at the table at lunch with 10 other people having conversation in Cantonese, while you are staring at the ceiling.

11. When and why did you start your blog?
I started to write my blog in the first week I arrived in Hong Kong, several months ago. The main reason for creating a blog was to inform my friends and family about what is going on in my life.  Besides that, I am hoping that my blog will inspire people that perhaps are thinking of going to Hong Kong, either for a short holiday or as an expat.
 
12.  How has the blog been beneficial?
Roald Dutch Asia
Every culture and country has its own definition of what is “normal”. Being a first time visitor to some far away country, you are amazed by so many things, but once you stay somewhere for a longer period, the things that first were amazing will get normal and you start to forget all your impressions. Keeping my blog certainly helps me keep in memory all that I am experiencing now!

Blog LinkRoald's blog, Being Dutch in Asia

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