Why The Expat Experience Makes For Good Entrepreneurs

Here is the secret: starting a new business carries many of the same challenges as uprooting your life and moving to a new country- this is why expat experience is good for entrepreneurs. I believe my own personal experience may shed some light on this question of being familiar with unfamiliarity.

To begin with, moving and immigrating to a new country means starting from scratch: learning an entirely new language, separating from loved ones, figuring out how to navigate in an unfamiliar culture, re-establishing the basics (including shelter, employment & health insurance) and creating a new community.

Therein lies the secret: starting a new business carries many of the same challenges as uprooting your life and moving to a new country. Entrepreneurs need to learn the new “language” of business and finance, navigate the cultural nuances of commerce, industry, effective networking and separate themselves from the crowd in order to seek out new endeavors. In short, both experiences require peak levels of resourcefulness and a persevering spirit to power through non-stop challenges and new territories. In other words, being familiar with unfamiliarity.


So, how can expat entrepreneurs best leverage the experience gained as a “stranger in a strange land” to help in their long, grueling startup journey?




What does it take for expats to be successful in their assignments? This study set out to define the characteristics that make for successful expatriates.

  1. Adventurousnessis defined as the expat’s desire to have exciting and new experiences, both at work and in life outside of work.
  2. Cultural Sensitivityis defined as the expat’s ability to understand the culture in which they are living and working, and to integrate/fit into it.
  3. Curiosityis the expat’s interest in learning about their new culture, environment and job. Being inquisitive and curious was frequently listed as contributing to success.
  4. Flexibilityis the expat’s willingness to try new ways of doing things. As in being flexible on the methodology, while remaining focused on delivering results within the allotted time is essential. Each country and job has a different way of doing things, flexibility is key.
  5. Open Mindednessis the expat’s ability to look at their new environment with a desire to learn and understand it with an interest in seeing things differently. Willingness to try new methods and accepting failure as a means to learn and improve.



While all characteristics were individually seen as important, flexibility and open mindedness were ranked most highly.


So, what are your thoughts on this? You being an expat yourself- how does this all resonate with you?



Gotten curious? Hungry for more?

Great! I collected some great over the Summer reading articles serving as food for thought for you:





Are you up for some out-of-the-box thinking for expatpreneurs?

During the last FIGT – conference, I felt so inspired by Elizabeth Douet‘s speech at her excellent workshop. She really opened my eyes to what is possible in this shared economy. For example, close your eyes and picture yourself living in a lovely house surrounded by lavender and sunflowers in the countryside of Tuscany. Your children are begging you for a treehouse, but where do you find skilled people who won’t charge you outrageous prices? Now, think creatively- you offer them free stay and delicious Italian meals in return for their labour. Clearly, a win-win and maybe even a long lasting friendship.



Great! Now here’s an exercise for you:

Create a list of 10 “out-of-the-box” items by asking yourself things like: What languages do you speak and how can you offer those skills to someone else facing language difficulties? Maybe offer these skills via Face Time, Whatsapp or Skype? How about offering city tours with themes (music, history, scenic, local products) by bike or walking day/night? Why not collect fresh fish on the way and create a lovely home cooked meal? Speaking of cooking, why not prepare meals twice a week?

  1. Pick 1 item
  2. Ask yourself: Where will I be one year from now with this item?


All warmed up now, here are some more to come to really get you going:

  • Trustedhousesitter
  • Jobatticals
  • Workaway
  • Upwork
  • Gocambio
  • Blablacar
  • Goodgym

Now, I’m curious, where is the expatpreneur in you? Please let me know!

So where ever you are, I’m wishing you a playful time exploring your own out-of-the-box thinking and reflecting.


Stay Cool,  Henriëtte



Repatriation Blues: Why you might struggle and how to cope with it?


Expats are good at preparing for their next exciting post, whether it’s in Burundi or Boston, Nice or Nigeria. They’ll study the language, learn about the work ethics of doing business, find the best place to live, the best schools for their children, read up on the local culture, food, the climate. Whether you move individually, as a couple or with their families, you come prepared.


When people land in a new cultural environment, it is common to feel excitement, anticipation and, of course, some shock or disorientation. An optimal outcome is adapting, at least as far so we feel satisfied. Repatriation is just part of the expatriate cycle of global mobility but it works much differently. That’s why it is called the re-entry blues.


A much less known aspect of the expat experience is that repatriation can be much harder than leaving. Let’s take a closer look from the accompanying partner perspective.

“When you go abroad, you expect everything to be new and different,” says Tina Quick, author of “The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition.”  And when you return home, you expect life to be basically the same. “But you have changed, things back home have changed since you’ve been gone and so has your company,” she says.


Many repatriated expats find it hard to connect at home for a number of reasons.

When living abroad the expat life draws people together: “You’re in a circle or tribe with other expats.” But back home, you’re only one in a sea of so many people. Most of them have never left. When sharing your experiences abroad people start looking at you with this blank gaze of indifferent unconnectedness because they cannot relate to your story and frankly speaking don’t have a clue what you are talking about. You cannot blame them. Only it makes you feel like a stranger at home.


Just take a moment to come with me on this imaginary trip to repat land, which is designed so beautifully by Naomi Hattaway

  1. Imagine a place called Circle Country. Everyone who lives inside of its borders are Circle Citizens. The Circle Country has very specific culture, holidays, celebrations, food preferences, a language that is unique to them as well as music, education and political categories.

Let’s also now talk about Square Society.  Everyone who lives inside of its borders are Square Settlers.  The Square Society also has the culture, holidays, celebrations, food preferences (and on and on) as the Circle Country, but they really are completely different.




  1. One day, a Circle Citizen got on a plane and flew to Square Society.  That Circle landed squarely (pun intended) in the middle of the Square Settlers and their Square Culture.



  1. Circle Citizen now lives in the midst of Square Settlers, and he or she may adapt to a degree, but will never become a truly Square Settler.  At the same time, this Circle Citizen will also start to lose a bit of his/her Circle culture. The normal circle things start to blend together with the new square culture. The major holidays in Circle Country might dissipate a bit to allow for the celebration of Square festivals. Favorite comfort foods that remind her of Circle Country give way to the acceptance of new Square foods.  The Circle culture never quite gives way to the new Square norms and values and at the same time doesn’t go away completely either.



He or she slowly – and seemingly unconsciously – evolves into something completely different. The transformation to a Triangle Tenant begins. Being a Triangle means you have some of your original Circle culture mixed with some of your newly adopted Square culture.

You are no longer 100% Circle, but you’ll never again be 100% Square. You are left – almost hanging – somewhere in the middle.


  1. Now, imagine that after some time, this Triangle Tenant hops on yet another plane and returns to Circle Country.



  1. This Triangle doesn’t revert to the previous Circle status just because repatriation has happened and he has landed home. This Triangle remains forever a Triangle. And this is U. 





 So far, how is your triangle experience?



Some tiny tips:

  • What helped me repatriating is pretending this would just be another expatriate destination. So, starting from scratch with tons of energy to explore the unknown and make new connections.
  • As often times in live: the times we fail are when we learn most. What smoothened the transition was a very negative experience repatriating for the first time a number of years before. At that time, we rented a house in a city we didn’t have any intentions to live. Apart from not being able to adapt there, also we didn’t make an effort to join the local community because we already decided not to stay there for a longer time. It was only much later, by the time we bought a house in another city – off course – that we started to smoothen our transition of repatriating. The second time around my big lesson was to really go for the city and place we ideally would love to stay and get connected with for a longer time. This time we succeeded.
  • How did I manage my career reinvention? While not having- just like you a linear career – what are all the values and skills you have collected during your years abroad? I was only able to raise awareness about my transferable skills when I really started to create my own portfolio of study, international voluntary work experience, education, certifications ect. It was only then that I started to connect all those dots of my past career which laid out the way for my current work.
  • Feeling insecure, vulnerable and finding your career in the shadow of your partners career can lead you to a dark place. This is the place where you are at choice. You also might want to choose to re-invent yourself, honor your unique experiences and acknowledge your resilience.
  • Being a triangle is unique, your experiences are unique. What will you do to have them work for you?


I would love to hear more about your triangle experience,

Fondly, Henriëtte


Some further reading tips:

Such a project, as an international repatriation, can be seen as an adventure equal in scope to the expeditions of great explorers. In this series of excerpts from a presentation, Anne Parker, co-author of The Mobile Life: a new approach to moving anywhere presents a unique approach to relocation that enables internationals to plan, manage and succeed in their mobile assignment. More info on ‘The Mobile Life’.



READ MORE: Writer Alan Paul on Expat Memories and on being a ‘Panda Dad’

READ MORE: Mark Jackson Recalls an Expat Adventure That Still Resonates 

READ MORE: You Can’t Go Home Again: For Expats ‘Home’ Can Be a Confusing Concept


Foreseeing a choice and then making it is not the cruelty of fate in action, but a powerful exercise in free will.


This is why you should watch the film Arrival: the film visually dissects intelligently people transcending barriers to connect to a new culture, a foreign alien one. How do these aliens communicate? What is their language? Interestingly, in the aliens’ world  time does not have a direction. It illustrates a culture in many layers. For some of you who would like to dig deeper into concepts of circular language , please click the links, for others the trailer might be of service as well.


The film Arrival opens as Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) struggles with the death of her teenage daughter, trying to find solace in her daily routine. Banks’ daughter, Hannah, has died of a rare illness. “There are days that define the story of your life, ” Banks says at the film’s downbeat beginning. This process is suddenly interrupted when 12 shells appear on Earth and the U.S. military comes asking for her help. It turns out they’ve been able to establish some minimal contact with the alien creatures in the shells, but their language is unlike anything known to man.



Communication on many levels

Arrival is a versatile, science fiction film that communicates on many levels. It’s about language and cooperation, about people transcending barriers and immersing themselves in a new culture to understand a foreign race.


The aliens arrive in 12 terrifying monolithic space ships, known as heptapods, because of their seven-legged, giant squid appearance. However, they are peaceful and want to help humanity because their own non-linear perception of time tells them they’ll need our help thousands of years from now. Louise’s journey into how the heptapods’ minds work: how the aliens communicate and what that says about how they perceive reality.


The aliens of Arrival make incomprehensible groaning noises. In an attempt to communicate with the aliens, Dr. Louise Banks, learns that their written language is circular and that it doesn’t seem to progress from cause to effect. To the aliens, time does not have a direction.


Unlinear: language shapes the way we think

This is not so odd: On Earth, some cultures conceive of time differently from other people.  Chinese-speakers tend to think of time running from top to bottom, as opposed to English-speakers, who think of time running left to right. To point out that something happened in the past Chinese -speakers point in front of them – because it is visible now; by contrary the future is at their backs – unknown and therefor unseen. This is in contrast to English speakers.



“They use nonlinear orthography,” Banks says. “Do they think like that, too?”



This is our introduction to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which claims that language shapes the way we think. In the 1940s, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf proposed that the structure of a language determines, or at least influences, how we perceive and experience the world.


The theory has been controversial, but there is now some support for it. The movie takes this idea and runs with it. If you learn a new language, your brain gets rewired, we are told. Sure, this happens — especially in bilingual speakers switching between languages. In “Arrival,” we see Banks’s brain getting rewired to an absurd extreme.


There may be some evidence for this selective power of language in putty-nosed monkeys. These are social monkeys that live in Nigeria and have two simple warning calls: A “pyow” means there is a leopard coming, and a “hack” means there is an eagle. But if you put the two together, it means “Let’s move along.” It’s very simple to be sure, but language requires different meanings to be constructed from common syllables, a skill that the monkeys have mastered.


It’s a film that dares us to look ahead, to open ourselves up to vulnerability and sacrifice, and to take chances and engage with the world around us, no matter what dire consequences we fear may be just around the corner. A film that transcends genre, or even medium. It is simply art, and at a time when so many seem intent on walling themselves off, or their countries, it’s exactly what we need.

It’s based on a short novella by one of the greatest living science fiction authors. You probably haven’t heard of Ted Chiang, and that’s a shame. The author of the 1998 short story Story of Your Life, which Arrival is based on, is relatively unknown outside of the science fiction community. Chiang limits the scope of Story of Your Life to a reflection on personal choice.


He says: Foreseeing a choice and then making it is not the cruelty of fate in action, but a powerful exercise in free will.


Instead of treating that message like a superpower to acquire, the film delivers it as a subtle worldview. Hidden under Arrival’s more palatable themes about overcoming cultural differences and uniting as one species is Chiang’s more direct message about learning how to appreciate life’s moments, to live outside the bounds of time. It’s about acceptance, understanding our life’s choices, and living as if any one moment were as valuable or meaningful as the next: “There are days that define the story of your life”

A subtle clue to one of the themes of the film:

Hannah’s name is a palindrome, so it reads the same forward and backward.

Curious to learn about your take on this film!







Dealing with the Dutch

a hilarious comedy by Theatergroup

Are you in for a high speed naturalization course on how to deal with the clumsy, boorish Dutch? Then this theatre performance is right for you! During a hilarious evening you will be taken on a witty, lively trip by the theatre group ‘Plankgas’.

On a drizzling, dreary typical Dutch late November afternoon, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Anna Nicolaï, one of the ‘Plankgas’ actors, and gain a sneak peak of their latest performance: ‘Dealing with the Dutch’.


The take off

The idea for this piece was born approximately two years ago, in collaboration with Camilla van Doorn. Camilla is a British guest actress who is married to a Dutchie and as she has been living in this ‘soggy country’ for quite some time already, has been immersed in the local culture, norms, beliefs…and oddities. Together with actor Mechteld Schelberg the cast was complete and Magali de Frémery generously offered her expertise as director.

Camilla engaged in pretty in depth research among foreigners and expats about their experience of living in the Netherlands, exploring what unexpected situations they came across, what puzzled them and what was mind boggling about the Dutch culture… and you wouldn’t be surprised it turned out that their examples, anecdotes, frustrations and laughter was overwhelming, enough to create many more theatre performances.


The check in

The one-hour highly engaging and lively play allows you to see the Dutch culture through foreigners eyes. As an expat living in the Netherlands, you will find a number of typical scenes very recognizable, just because they also annoy you, you can’t get used to them, or may simply don’t have a clue. By now you might be really curious so here’s a sneak preview.


Quite a trip

Central is the Dutch ‘directheid’; our direct, straightforward, and at times seemingly inconsiderate way of expressing ourselves. Another thing is our thriftiness and ways in which we are bold like going Dutch, splitting the bills. We even have an actual banking app service for this.



Our uniquely Dutch expression: ‘hé, hé’ – pronounced as ‘he’ in hesitante- of which the connotation is not so easy to translate, it comes down to something like, ‘pfff here we are finally and now we easily can sit ( for the rest of the day/evening) and relax.

Oh the Joy of  ‘Pakjesavond’

And then of course a scene about Sinterklaas, is included in the performance.

On December 5th the Dutch celebrate the so called ‘pakjesavond’, when the family has gathered together, possibly around the fire and the children sing songs to call Sinterklaas. One adult family member will invariably get up to get more firewood, use the bathroom or just stretch their legs. This person is always the unlucky one who misses the magical moment.

When the person is gone, a sudden loud knocking or ringing at the front door will disturb the peace of the gathering. A clatter of pepernoten will sound against the window, and when the family dares to go and look, a bag of presents will be standing right outside.

When the loot has been dragged inside, do not expect to just dig out some presents and unwrap them. Each household has its own rules to open the treats in Sinterklaas’ bag. Some presents come in disguise as a so called ‘surprise’ traditionally accompanied together with a ‘poem’.


Surprise – pronounced surpreesuh

A ‘surprise’ present, pronounced surpreesuh, is a handmade creation in which the real present has been hidden. The receiver must first find the present by tearing open the ‘surprise’. This often proves difficult, as it may include layers of tape, nasty substances to dig through, and other tricks.

One way to go about opening the presents is to take one out, read who it’s for, and hand it to them. They will find a poem on the package, which they can read aloud. These poems generally consist of amusing and teasing anecdotes about the receiver, and sometimes give silly orders they must undertake before opening their present.




Culturally double Dutch




Camilla, the British actress, is featured in this Sinterklaas scene as one who does, not quite get nor like this in her opinion unflattering and shameful tradition. She of course receives a ‘surprise’. So we meet a culture-within-culture scene.

The tears shed might not just be tears of laughter. Vocally, we also will witness the challenging side of being expat as well, especially when moving with children around the world Third Culture Kids, as Pixar’s movie ‘Inside Out’ pictures well.

Insightful for the Dutch actresses to also look at their own country with foreigners eyes, and increasing their awareness of how people in countries all over the world all have their own oddities makes it easier to smile at your own.

Dealing with the Dutch has something for everyone; be you a native cloggie, ex-pat, love-pat or re-pat!

Dealing with the Dutch is English spoken, but is also hilarious for Dutch themselves!

The nicest way to attend a course on the quirks of Dutch culture: Very entertaining, enjoyable.


Feel inspired go get a tickect soon @:

‘Dealing with the Dutch’



Actors Anna Nicolaï, Camilla van Doorn, Mechteld Schelberg

Direction Magali de Frémery

Music Michael Woudstra, Josef Rebbe

Costumes Quirine Bouma



Ushering in the new era: a line in the sand

Upwards and Onwards



Good morning. Welcome to the new era. However and wherever you spent Friday and Saturday, I think today would be a good one to revisit, review, rethink and re-evaluate your resolutions for this year. As you pondered upon them just about less than a month ago at the arbitrary line in the sand that allows us to mark the passage of time in an organized way; today might call you forward to revisit. So how about starting this week with some completion followed by discovering your theme of this year: in which direction do you want to develop?


draw a line in the sand


Do you recognize this feeling: way to often I feel urged, pushed during December months to almost mandatory contemplate and reflect on the year which has almost come to an ending. I notice becoming annoyed, since the last day of the year is just an arbitrary line in the sand that allows us to mark the passage of time in an organized way.

Somehow to me it feels more natural to contemplate and reflect, once the move to a new destination or place gets closer on my real timeline. Being aware that you, yourself, might be on the verge to find out what will be your next place, next ‘home’; or you might be the moving already. Many of my clients are on the move whether it is from Singapore to Europe or from the Netherlands to New Zealand. So I thought it would be nice to share a completion practice with you, followed by a theme practice; to use wherever you are on our globe.


Completion Practice draw your line in the sand

Take some time to consider all of the successes, wins, celebrations, and accomplishments that have come from 2016. What significance do they hold for you? How have they shaped you, and what have you learned from each? Where did you take charge? What was your impact on those around you? What breakthroughs are you celebrating? Consider all failures, disappointments, letdowns, breakdowns, losses. What significance does each hold for you? What aspects were forgotten or left behind?


A line in the sand



What will be your THEME in 2017?

Whether you draw an arbitrary line at the end of 2016 or upon getting prepared for your next move; at any time we can “begin again” and make fresh choices about how we move through our days. We can re-orient our attention to focus on areas of our lives that are more meaningful and make a long awaited decision to let go of habits that are not life affirming, embracing practices that nourish and grow us. A shift or move into a shiny new year does provide us with an opportunity to examine our lives anew.



Inspired by my own school of coaching I started of this year working around a central theme with my clients. As Karen Kimsey -House puts it: “I find that designing a theme for the year creates an organizing context that fosters deeper meaning and provides a foundation of resonance that fuels needed change.”


Theme Practice

What has this year taught you about yourself? How have you transformed? In the context of the broader community, what has been your impact? Where do you need to up your game in 2017?  And how will you make this commitment real in 2017? What will your theme be in 2017?


Wishing you and yours powerful, life changing themes for 2017,


Fondly, Henriëtte




Sometime last March together with my colleague Edmée Schalkx, we decided we wanted to work with coaches who were interested in developing the coaching cultural competency. While designing the programme we realised that not always people see culture around them, embedded in our daily lives, at work in at leisure time; how we are surrounded by culture in our communities, societies and environment.

We then concluded that if we wanted to succeed, our starting point had to be different. It meant taking a couple of steps back, going back to basics, and aiming to create cultural awareness in coaches, managers and organisations, instead of departing from the assumptions our potential students were fully aware of the role of culture in our daily lives.

Our first action in this mission of creating awareness was to offer an 8-day Culture Challenge for managers and organisations where the concept of culture is more accessible. We got great feedback and compliments on how this challenge opened the participants’ eyes to the fact that culture is like the air we breathe: it’s there, but we seem to be unaware of it.

During 2017 we will continue in our aim of raising awareness of how culture impacts people’s life.

Christmas is just around the corner and whether you love Christmas or it brings out the Grinch in you, this celebration makes for an outstanding opportunity to talk about how culture shapes our daily life.

When we look at the history, Humanity has been celebrating for a long time around the winter solstice (21st December) with food, drinks, dances and exchanges of little presents. In Norway the Yule fest, in Germany they have Oden a “dark“ god and in Ancient Rome the Saturnalia, thanking Saturn, the god of agriculture, for the bounties of the seasons. These feasts were all around the winter solstice, whilst days darkened but with the promise of brighter days to come. The fermentation of wines and beers was completed and the cattle were killed for the long winter ahead. All these feasts had lights, darkness, sharing food and many excesses in common.


In the fourth century, Pope Julius I, declared 25th of December as the day when Jesus was born. In this way the Catholic Church was able to banish a pagan feast and introduce it as a religious celebration. The food orgies, lights and exchange of little presents remained but a visit to the church and acts of kindness for the less fortunate were added. This is the basis of Christmas we celebrate nowadays.

Do you know that Christmas is not only celebrated by Christians? Around the world people with different religions celebrate Christmas as well. Like Jews in the USA, Japanese do too, as well as many other non-Christian cultures. In part each culture has a different reason to do so.

In Japan Christmas is more about spreading happiness and sharing with a loved one (a bit like Valentine’s day). Jews in the USA started celebrating Christmas more to be part of the custom of exchanging card and gift in schools, and among friends and colleagues. Thus creating a sense of belonging and sharing happiness, presents and sweets.

In fact, the evolution of Christmas really illustrates the life cycle of culture! This is a dynamic process because we interact with the environment we live in. Constantly we are influenced by social media, the information shapes our thoughts and opinions. With culture this is the same, our customs keep changing over time, continuously we are adapting and adjusting our norms and what we belief in.

We are looking forward to continue the conversation with all of you. Stay connected and keep learning from each other.

🌟Wishing you a very happy Holiday season!🌟




On the night of December 5th we Dutchies celebrate our traditional “Present Night” – pakjesavond. At this night most of the Dutch children receive their presents  during the “Present Night” celebration (as supposed to other countries like USA, UK- in stockings-, where they receive them on December 25th, Christmas day or Spanish speaking countries where they recieve them on Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages January 6th).  So I thought it would be nice for you to share some of these nostalgic traditions with you and off course I’d like to know how you experience this “Present Night” while living in the Netherlands with your children.


Jan Steen Feast Saint Nicolas Rijksmuseum

Jan Steen Feast Saint Nicolas Rijksmuseum



For those among you who are ” princesses in the kitchen”- which are quite a few- you will find the recipe pepernoten over here. Or for those who really want to be challenged during the days in the special atmosphere before “Present Night” there is more to cook.

For many Dutch families, it is the special atmosphere of “present night” (pakjesavond) that makes Sinterklaas a unique celebration filled with nostalgic traditions.

How to celebrate pakjesavond
Here are some ways to celebrate a traditional Dutch pakjesavond.

› What is pakjesavond?
On pakjesavond, December 5, Sinterklaas mounts his white steed with a bag full of presents in hand, to deliver to the homes of families that are gathered around the fire place, singing songs in his honour.

› Setting a shoe
Setting a shoe (schoentje zetten) is basically an invitation for Sinterklaas. By placing children’s shoes by the fireplace, or another designated spot in a more modern home, Sinterklaas is called to bring candy and small presents.

Don’t be mistaken, this deal goes two ways. In order for the red-robed saint to visit, he requires a carrot or apple for his horse named Amerigo, and preferably also a drawing in his honour to be placed inside the footwear. Also, the shoe-setter has to sing one or more songs to call him, before going to bed.

In earlier years, when children had been bad, they would find a piece of coal, a bag of salt or a rod in their shoe the next morning, instead of candy. Setting the shoe is usually done in the days leading up to pakjesavond, but some households also set them on December 5.



Chocolate Letters

What is typical candy for the Sinterklaas celebration?

Every year, the Dutch are outraged to find seasonal treats that belong solely to the Sinterklaas period in shops too early.

A true Sinterklaas fan will only occasionally indulge in these candies outside of pakjesavond, and go all out when it’s finally December 5:



The most iconic of the Sinterklaas candy is the pepernoten. This word is, in fact, used for two types of candy. The true pepernoot is a chewy little block, made with ingredients like aniseed, rye dough and brown sugar. The kruidnoot, a small drop made from speculaas herbs, is also often called pepernoot.

These small biscuit-y treats used to be thrown around by Sinterklaas and his helpers, to the delight of the little ones. Due to some overly enthusiastic chucking incidents, the pepernoten are now more often handed over rather than thrown.

Chocolate letter
The chocolate letter is another favourite, and it often appears in the set shoe. The massive block of chocolate will either be shaped like an S, for Sinterklaas, a P, for his helper Piet, or the first letter of the receiving child’s name.

Marzipan is definitely a winter candy, sweet, filling and with a strong taste that not everybody likes. This malleable stuff is moulded into all kinds of forms, from fruits and little potatoes to pigs and puppets.

Speculaas is a general favourite in the Dutch biscuit world, made with special speculaas herbs, which includes cinnamon, ginger, cumin, nutmeg and more.

Taai taai
Taai taai is made from similar stuff as the original pepernoot. Whole dolls wearing traditional garb can be made from either taai taai or speculaas, to be presented to children for Sinterklaas.

taai taai

taai taai



Present delivery

On pakjesavond, when the family has gathered around the fire, TV or each other, when the children are singing songs to call Sinterklaas, one adult family member will invariably get up to get more firewood, use the bathroom or just stretch their legs. This person is always the unlucky one who misses the magical moment.


When the person is gone, a sudden loud knocking or ringing at the front door will disturb the peace of the gathering. A clatter of pepernoten will sound against the window, and when the family dares to go and look, a bag of presents will be standing right outside.

This bag was definitely delivered by Sinterklaas and Piet, and the kids almost saw him. They can tell all about it to the person who sadly wasn’t there when it happened.

› Opening the presents
When the loot has been dragged inside, do not expect to just dig out some presents and unwrap them. Each household has its own rules to open the treats in Sinterklaas’ bag.

One way to go about opening the presents is to take one out, read who it’s for, and hand it to them. They will find a poem on the package, which they can read aloud.

These poems generally consist of amusing and teasing anecdotes about the receiver, and sometimes give silly orders they must undertake before opening their present.




A “surprise”, pronounced surpreesuh, is a handmade contraption in which the real present has been hidden inside. The receiver must first find the present by tearing the “surprise” apart. This often proves difficult, as it may include layers of tape, nasty substances to dig through, and trick presents.

– Sinterklaas games
Finally, some households play Sinterklaas games to decide who gets to keep which presents.

These presents are usually not for one person in particular, and can contain anything. By rolling dice, or with other kinds of game mechanics, a player can, in their turn, either grab, pass or open a present, or get a different assignment altogether, like having to sing a Sinterklaas song.



Last but not least an illustration book on Sinterklaas containing beautiful pictures without any words.

So for all of you currently living in the Netherlands with your families, wishing you a very nice Sinterklaas celebration and if you behave well Sinterklaas won’t put you in his bag taking you with him all the way to Spain.




We are continually adjusting our identity throughout our lives to change our beliefs, our relationships, interests and our accomplishments, as we make new friends, change jobs, move house, grow older…. When we move to a new country, however, there is a sudden and distinctive break with those situations and people who were important to our self-concept. How you are identified by others will, initially, change drastically as a result of the move. When arriving first at your new destination, very few people – if any- will know anything about you other than what they see in the context within which you meet them, how you present yourself and the labels that are attached to you.



Which label is attached to you?

You may be the new vice- president, or ‘the partner of’, ‘the parent of or even ‘neighbor of’. You may never have thought of your nationality as being part of your identity, but suddenly the locals see you as ‘ the person from country x’, ‘the expatriate’, the immigrant’ or simply ‘the foreigner’. You are the ‘new person’. How you see yourself reflected in the eyes of those you meet at your new destination and even in returning to your home country, will affect your self-image.




Benefits of mobility skills

All this -and much more off course – I notice in my work with expat spouses, repats or expat partners. In an attempt to creating a starting point for you, in my previous blog listed 5 tools to uncover your mobility skills. No matter you arrived 7 weeks, 7 month or 7 years ago at your new destination, discover- or uncovering your mobility skills will be beneficial to you at any of these stages.

Now it’s time for the next step: joining network places where you can meet other global citizens who help you cease opportunities to realizing your international career – by this I refer to a job, enrolling in the course you always wanted to attend, finally having the time to do some voluntary work, or maybe even starting your own business.



Hats off

About two weeks ago, I attended a really nice initiative showing how (r)expat partners used their transferable skills to support the marketing strategy for an entrepeneur. From their lively presentation as well as thier engagement it clearly showed how much they had enjoyed collaborating in sharing their knowledge and expertise to co- creating the marketing:

For the expat spouses in Eindhoven, ESI is the door to opportunities and to realizing their potential in an international career. It is the plugin to the network and the means of enriching their lives as global citizens.

For the local community, ESI is a driver of change; a channel for communication and collaboration between the international and local residents of the Eindhoven region.

At ESI Professional Empowerment Program (PEP) we envision a world without borders and a new definition of an international resident of a place. We build communities of empowered people working together to create opportunities for everyone. One way we do this is through Professional Empowerment Program (PEP) teams, designed to connect people who have similar career goals or who want to learn or brush up on similar skills. This year we have successfully facilitated the launch of three PEP teams, driven by the Expat Spouses Initiative Community, for the benefit of our members.

Their goal as a group was to help members acquire or enhance their knowledge and experience in the field of Marketing. The group was connected with, an entrepreneur in their Community, who was looking to improve the marketing strategy for her business, Ecualanda. This entrepreneur was born in Cuenca, a major center of the Panama Hat production in Ecuador, South America. At a young age, she admired the art of weaving toquilla straw hats, which was practiced by people around her. After she moved to the Netherlands, in 2011, she came up with the idea to import Panama Hats. This way Ecualanda helps to maintain the craft, which is part of the national cultural heritage of Ecuador.”

What career do you envision for yourself and where do you need help? Please let us know how we can help you!




Like so many you might also be on the verge of moving to your new destination, or maybe you just landed there. During this rollercoaster time full of exitement, farewells, welcomes and settling, it might well be that your own personal wishlist keeps and continues to be the very last on the ‘to – do list’. By your personal wishlist I mean what you would like to create for yourself in this new place.


Part of what keeps your personal wishlist, last on the list is simply because right now you are far to busy getting the basics up & running; I clearly remember even taking a shower almost coudn’t be squished in before pick up time from school, so crazy busy are those days. So obviously no ‘me’ time.


But the other reason why your personal wishlist, remains comfortably last on the list might be because of lack of confidence of finding a new career. By new career I refer to careers in the broadest sense, this can indeed be a job, but also subscribing to the course you always wanted to attend, finally having time to do some voluntary work – because you never had time before – or maybe this new destination is the place to start your own business.

Don’t worry, alike so many things in life, you’re not the only one lacking confidence. In my blog today I want to make a statement about you being skillfully unaware . In other words, you already perfectly have all the skills you need, you just have to tap into transfering them.



stock photo inca wall manchu picchu peru

5 Proven Tools helping you to uncover your skills

Feel free, you might want to try them all – just for the fun of it, some are really juicy -or just one or two, pick whatever feels right for you in your personal process.


  1. So if your need and desire for a mobile career has arisen based on the progress of your partners career, according to Mary Farmer from Global TMC – and you have a window of time to in which to make this transition, then consider it a gift. What have you always wanted to learn, but never had the time? What are you curious about in your new location and current stage of your life? What opportunities arise for you when moving to this new part of the world, this new location?


Continuing to learn is key to finding and creating opportunities, for staying engaged with life and taking responsibility for your own growth and personal development. It sets the stage for moving in another more desirable direction.


  1. Mary Farmer’s Mobility skills:

These are specific personality traits which are highly desirable in adapting to working and living abroad. They include:

Empathy: also emotional intelligence

Respect: able to value difference

Interest in local culture

Background: language skills, having lived abroad before

Tolerance ( or perhaps ‘ tolerance for ambiguity’)

Flexibility: do you see the big picture or strictly live by the rules?

Initiative: achievement- oriented and independent

Attitude: open mindedness to being exposed to another culture, race and religion

Sociability: willingness to connect with others

Positive self image: valuing your qualities and experience

Team spirit: being able to work with and fit into a culture of the local team



Skillfully unaware


  1. Skills: things you do that make up the tasks or responsibilities you have performed. Think of practice things like: delegating, managing people, organizing, planning, taking charge of event, but also cooking, painting, computer skills. Think of skills in the broadest sense: things you have developed through work, learning,leisure, life experiences. Most of us take many skills we have for granted, often we use them even without thinking. But if you were to look more closely to all activities you do, you start to actually notice how many skills you have. By becoming consciously aware of all your skills again, you will start to notice how they can support you to explore different ways of combining them to discover work options. All tasks and accomplishments of your experiences are made up of underlying set of skills.




What are your transferable skills?

Some skills are task specific and some are transferable to different settings and situations. The Skills Checklist provides many transferable skills, these are most often the skills we tend to overlook. Sometimes these are called ‘soft skills’ as they are related to attitudes and behaviors. They are harder to teach someone and as a result a person will often be selected for work based on their soft skills. Someone can be taught a ‘task specific’ or ‘technical skill’ if they already posses the soft skills. Alongside awareness of your occupations-specific skills, knowing what your

soft skills are, and being able to present them well, will give you a great advantage

when you are looking for opportunities.


Take the inventory of your Skills Checklist : transferable skills are referred to as employability skills since they are key element in your ability to access work opportunities almost everywhere.


How skilled are you?

  • You will likely be surprised when you do the inventory at how many skills you have. You will be surprised to discover how many skills you take for granted. Use the following as a guideline so you are confident you have honestly represented your skills on the checklist:
  • Have you taken a course or some training, read a book or manual, taught yourself or had someone show you in order to develop a skill?
  • Have you used the skill yourself a number of times after learning how to do it? Through practice you have become comfortable using the skills.
  • Have you developed your own way of doing it based on experience? For example, after trying a recipe a few times you times you have made some adjustments in order to better suit your tastes and style.
  • Have you been asked to show how you do that task? This is the highest level of skill acquisition when someone else recognizes your ability and you are able to teach someone else to do the task. Teaching someone to do a task forces you to become consciously aware again of all the steps and skills needed in order to complete the task well.

If you can use a skill based on any of the criteria above, then you have that skill and you can place the corresponding number in the box of the Skills Checklist.


  1. Learn Your Character Strengths. Live Your Potential.

The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a simple self-assessment that takes less than 15 minutes and provides a wealth of information to help you understand your core characteristics. Most personality tests focus on negative and neutral traits, but the VIA Survey focuses on your best qualities.

Created under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of Positive Psychology” and author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, and Dr. Christopher Peterson, distinguished scientist at the University of Michigan and author of A Primer in Positive Psychology, and validated by Robert McGrath, Ph.D.


  1. All different learning styles

We are all different, also we all learn different, so perhaps the first step in learning is to determine what kind of learner you are. Harvard professor Dr. Howard Gardner has identified eight distinct learning styles


Now I have become very curious to learn more about which one felt right for you, please drop me a line!

Fondly,    Henriëtte


There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice and it fosters humor. – George Santayana ‘The Philosophy of Travel’


Culture shock

The term culture shock most commonly associated with difficulties adjusting to a foreign environment.


Or in words of Joseph Shaules – the acclaimed interculturalist –these are the small differences we notice abroad are a sign that our mind is hard at work detecting, interpreting and judging our surroundings. These experiences can have powerful effects, which is one reason moving abroad can be stimulating, stressful and transformative.


Showing up in:

  • Climate
  • Food
  • Language
  • Dress
  • Values
  • Etiquette and behavior


Culture shock for children

Culture shock for children



Stages you go through & your children not quite alike:


I  Parents Preliminary stage: Learning about the host culture, preparing the move, sorting out stuff, organizing fare-well party and actually moving.

Tip at this stage: Your children look backwards while you look forwards

And it’s the big difference between parents and children.

As an adult with some life experience and a global vision, you already know the long term benefits your children will get by moving abroad.

  • Your kids will know how to speak English / another language
  • Your children will be comfortable to travel (take the plane, manage the jetlag)
  • Your children will know how to interact with other cultures in other systems (through schools)

Even if this means sacrificing current gratifications: a good circle of friends, a familiar school, a comfortable routine.

Your children on the other hand can’t tell you what they feel:

  • Because they don’t want to spoil your enthusiasm
  • Because (let’s face it) they know you won’t change your mind anyway
  • Because they don’t know how to express it
  • Because when they open the mouth, they get the dreaded but classical answer:

“You’re taking the plane in business class, you’re visiting places I’d never thought of when I was your age. You’ll speak another language. Think of other children. In many countries, they don’t even have drinking water!


II  Parents Initial Stage of euphoria / ‘culture surprise’: feels like a never ending holiday, some interculturalist call this stage ‘the honeymoon stage’ full of new sensations, exiting local discoveries, everything at biking distance, highly efficient public transportation system, unfamiliar delicious food and lots of new places to be explored. It can be viewed as a cognitive adjustment to a foreign environment: culture surprise.

Tip at this stage: Children don’t start in the new country in the honeymoon stage. They’re in crisis mode! And this is why:

Children don’t like change. And to a certain extent, nobody does.

Even if it’s good for you in the long run.
Because change means getting out of your comfort zone.


Change is scary. Change means facing the unexpected.


“A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” as the popular saying goes.


And what’s the reward? the incentive? the purpose to change?
Why would you leave your friends? Those you belong to. Those you get your identity from.






III  Parents Irritability / ‘culture bumps’ : Then one fine day, you find yourself in a catch22 situation where you can’t get a subcription for your smartphone, because you haven’t managed to get a bankaccount yet. Which is quite a frustrating process because the bankemployee requires you to show your credit history; reason for not having a credit history is because you don’t have any history at all-in this country, you just arrived here.

Labels on products your purchasing at the grocery store, which you can’t read. Just guessing what is in the package you just bought.

Not knowing which bus takes you to the nearest train station, where you are trying to find this specific servicedesk allowing you to use cash to purchase a trainticket – remember you are still not owning a bankcard yet. What’s left of enjoying this highly efficient public transportation system, when going places becomes such a project instead of easy piecy lemon squeezy ….

Tip at this stage: Try to think like a child

Often one of the main problems, especially with very young children, is the difficulty they have comprehending distance and time. They may believe their old friends from their previous home can just pop over for a visit; they may not understand that they aren’t on holiday and that this is their new home now. All you can do is be honest, talk it through, and use plenty of distractions to encourage positivity towards the new home.


IV  Adults Gradual Adjustment : The culture surprise experience contains frayed threads that may start to unravel. The difference that stimulates us at the beginning of the move can start to wear us down.

Currently for a number of my clients passing their drivers licence and being able to ride their bikes here in the Netherlands really is a huge victory. If anyone, two years ago, would have told them about this sense of victory, they problably would have rolled their eyes. The thing is, for all my clients, this victory has an underlying value to it: regaining a sense of freedom and independence in their new situation. With this a sense of control.

Tip at this stage: How to help your children when you arrive


Move forward! The worst thing that you can do for culture shock is to stand still and mourn over the loss of the previous place. The sooner you get out of the house and start exploring, the faster things will start to become familiar. If you have prepared properly, you should have a good idea of where to go to find things. Work through your list and make sure to blend some everyday activities into your exploration. You will be surprised at just how quickly you adapt to the new environment.

It is important to note that moving forward does not mean that you need to ignore any feelings of sadness over the move or trip away. Take advantage of quiet times (bedtime or meals) to ask your child how they are feeling. Are they sad? Do they miss the old house? Tell them that it is okay with be a bit sad and that you also miss your old home. Let them know that their feelings are normal and okay. Then close out the conversation with a discussion of the new things that they have discovered that day. It might be something small like a new park or food or something big like a new friend. Just make sure to end the conversation on a happy note.

Culture shock can be challenging for both parent and child. Study up in advance, do your best to find a new community and keep an open mind about the new place. Before you know it, it will feel like home.


Culture stress is what we feel when our cognitive processes start to get overwhelmed by culture surprise.

  So try to find activities, which you know you like and which give you energy, lift you up and are befinicial to creating and shaping your new life.

This can be:

  • joining a writers club
  • finding hicking buddies
  • signing up for art or work out classes
  • going to study
  • visiting museums or music events

V   Adaptation : By now you have learned how to remain functioning well in your new culture and perhaps even feel a little bit part of it. Embrace its differences and accept what it has to offer. This phase is marked by low anxiety and the increased ability of to interact successfully with members of the host culture and build social relationships. This phase also brings a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and personal growth for having overcome culture shock.


VI   Re-entry phase : Reverse culture shock follows the same phases as cultural shock and similar symptoms.

Now this is why Culture shock actually is good for us:

It keeps the mind nimble and fosters humor

Please bear the above in mind and I’m wishing you and your family a smooth transition to a new destination!