Interview with Chalida Kongmuang about her personal journey from Motherland to Fatherland.
These are the words that one of my friends used to say to me and I completely agree! I never ever thought that I would spend my second half life in The Netherlands because I was born and raised at another site of the world, in Thailand and I lived there for many years! That is why I’m having Thai nationality and Thai name “Chalida Kongmuang”.
Before I relocated to the Netherlands, I worked as “Country HR Manager” at one of the top 5 international IT companies named “Atos” in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. There I met my husband who also worked with Atos but in The Netherlands (he still does). At that time he had to travel to Thailand for business reasons. The funny thing is that my duty is not related with his work at all but one of my Thai colleagues had to host him and he asked me to join a reception dinner. Just on that night we became good friends and kept in contact for almost 10 years before we decided to become life partners and to settle in The Netherlands.
Well! Things happen for some reason, isn’t it? Yes it is. It is my destiny and here I am now in Heerlen, South Limburg. One of the beautiful parts of The Netherlands, Wow!! Unbelievable that I am now living in one of the most beautiful countries which is ranked 6/10 of the most happy countries in the world in 2018. (Source: Forbes)
To quickly integrate “just go with flow”
For Thai people who want to live in The Netherlands, we have to completely transform ourselves hahahaha. To integrate into the Dutch society and my transformation-program began in year 2014.
To integrate and live in The Netherlands, firstly I had to pass the integration-exam called “Inburgering”. Dutch law is very strict in this for Thai people. For me, it was quite difficult because we have a totally different language, pronunciation, culture and life-style. But anyhow it’s doable and I’m happy that I could make it within 1 year J.
Well, I personally like this program because it prepared me on how to integrate into the Dutch society. I have learnt a lot from it i.e. the language, how Dutch people live, work, culture etc. It’s a really useful program.
I also started to go with the flow by joining all kind of activities as much as possible. Thanks to my husband for his support and always involving me with his activities like his Rotary club, cooking club, carnival, charity events, auctions, concerts and more. I got acquainted with the public holidays in The Netherlands as well like e.g. Koningsdag. In my first year in the Netherlands I saw King William Alexander and Queen Maxima in real. They visited Heerlen on the King’s birthday. It was a wonderful and very impressive moment.
My first impressions and my first Dutch sentence
Netherlands is extremely well-organized, caring about the environment (every household separates their garbage), no vagrant dogs on the street and good traffic management. I love the beautiful scenes of the 4 seasons, nice fresh air not humid and no pollution like in Bangkok, Thailand.
And my first Dutch sentence was “ Witte wijn alsjeblieft (white wine please. Thought I must be very thirsty at that time hahahaha).
“You are very impolite”
Oh no!! That is my first culture shock. !!
Even though I used to work with international companies, I passed the integration exam, I read a lot about the Dutch culture, I took part in thousand of activities, in real life it is about the details that make the difference. Here is an example:
I was cooking while my husband talked to me. Of course, I was listening to him but I didn’t stop cooking and looking at him. Suddenly he said “You know! You are very impolite”. I was shocked and stopped cooking and looked at him, asking “why”.
He explained to me that “For the Dutch people, if someone talks to you you have to look at their eyes otherwise it is like you don’t pay attention which is very impolite”. In my country, it’s the contrary. If someone talks to you and you look in their eyes it is like “Why you look at me? Something wrong? do you have a problem? It is sort of an aggressive way”, not really polite (yet you can look at their eyes but not all the time). Especially when you talk with someone who is older than you, more seniority and to teachers, you have to look down, let’s say to the floor to show respect to them.
Thanks to this explanation to me, I remember until today. I like this Dutch culture more. It shows that you pay attention to the one you talk to. This is indeed a respectful manner.
Look like a local but not a local yet
I had the opportunity to visit many places in Limburg. Everywhere I came I had a Wow-feeling! Limburg is such a fantastic area with a beautiful landscape and full of history.
I like Heerlen where I live, the most. It is a friendly city with natural, peaceful and lovely people. Heerlen was a centre for the coal mining industry in the Netherlands in the late 20st century.
Personally I am very interested in history. I love to visit the places where I can learn about the history of Limburg. I give you some examples:
- Valkenburg, a fortify-town which was ruined in during the war. I would recommend visiting “Ruined Castle of Valkenburg”. It is a unique and only castle in the Netherlands built on a hill. The castle is listed in the top hundred of Dutch cultural monuments and has a very interesting cave museum.
- American Cemetery in Margraten, South Limburg. The World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial is a war cemetery.
- Drielandenpunt (The Three Lands Point), Vaals. The highest point of the Netherlands and triangle where borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands come together. Try to go up to watchtower (if you are not afraid of hights), you will see the area of 3 countries and if you look down, you will feel like you’re floating into the air and perhaps get crazy with the phone signal from the 3 countries.
- The capital city of Limburg, a vibrant and popular area for cultural scene, art, museum, beautiful Maas River, famous shopping and hang out area.
At the time that I was learning to know more about the country where I am living now, I felt very excited. I took a photo of every place I went, everything I ate and every single moment I experienced. I did it again and again and posted a lot on Facebook. Sound like crazy hah but true!
Well! When I think back, It felt like I was a tourist, not a local people.
Limburg is my father-land and I got a great job as a “housewife”
Now, after being almost 5 years in The Netherlands I stopped taking photos of everything. When I see a tourist now taking photos, I talk to myself saying “Why did you take a photo, It’s nothing special”. The scenes in our beautiful Limburg become more and more familiar to me. They become routine and part of my daily life.
When I go abroad or even when I go to Thailand, I miss The Netherlands and my great job as a “housewife”. The job which I do with love for my husband. The job I can do all my life long. The job which allows me to play in every role; being the boss, a staff member, team leader, team player, marketing manager, accountant, human resource manager, gardener and many more.
Actually I experienced that it is not easy for an immigrant from Thailand to find a job that is comparable with the jobs I held in Thailand. Therefore I decided to find a job as a volunteer. I am working now as a volunteer with Parc Imstenrade, a private seniority home, doing activities with the elderly people. Next to that I am a volunteer with Arcus College, an education institute. I am supporting the teachers with preparing learning materials. My voluntary jobs give me a lot of satisfaction but none of them allow me to play the various roles that I am holding as a housewife.
Well! Don’t you agree that I have a great job as a “housewife”.
Whilst I am writing this story, I am awaiting my Dutch Nationality which is on process with the government. I expect to get that within the coming months. Once I have the Dutch Nationality, I will be fully integrated in The Netherlands.
Then I have Thailand as my mother-land and Limburg as my fatherland. J
With Jos, Chalida’s husband.
With international friends
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