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Nurlaila in WonderLimburg. ‘’Never stop dreaming; finding your passion isn’t just about career and money. It’s about finding your authentic self.’’

Interview with Nurlaila Sari Olson, a Criminal Defense Attorney, from Indonesia, living in Maastricht


My Guardian Angels

My name is Nurlaila Sari Olson. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. I grew up in a small town in west Java, with my late and dearest Grandmother and Grandfather. My Grandfather died when I was 14 years old and my Grandmother died 3 years ago. I have a lot of mixed blood, which is not rare in Indonesia. Regarding Indonesia, it is the world’s largest island country with more than thirteen thousand islands. My Father was a pure Javanese man originally from the beautiful city of Jogjakarta and my Mother is of West Javanese, Arabian and Chinese descent. My Mother got this diverse lineage from my Grandparents, the ones that I grew up with.  In fact, my Grandparents were my real parents; my guardian angels.  I lived with my Grandparents (until they died) and my Aunt since my first day of Primary School up until one and half year ago.  This is also quite common in Indonesia, to live with extended members of the family in one house.


Love brings me to Maastricht

I met my American husband in Jakarta during one of his business trips in 2014. We have identical twin sons Luca (18) and Matei (18), and our beautiful daughter Zaskia (11). I moved here to Maastricht because of my husband’s job at Maastricht School of Management. Our sons live in Budapest, Hungary and are still in high school. Our daughter attends Montessori Binnenstad where she is now learning Dutch language and the local culture; her Dutch pronunciation is getting better and better every day!


A high risk job

When I lived in Jakarta, I worked as a Criminal Defense Attorney for 17 years.  The entire time for the same Law Firm. I travelled a lot because of my job, mostly South East Asia, Australia and the Middle East. My job was very intriguing, I was also doing some work as a formidable lobbyist in Jakarta and representing those who were involved in political power. Most of the time I worked as a ‘field’ lawyer. I was conducting investigations about our cases and often visited prison at very unusual times to meet with clients and avoid the media. I received midnight calls many times knowing that one of our clients had been arrested. It was a very high risk job, but intriguing. I miss the excitement sometimes.


Exactly the right place

At times, I have thought to change my career totally, such as pursuing my passion for the fashion industry. But I am Indonesian living here in the Netherlands. As you may know, Indonesia and The Netherlands share a special relationship, embedded in their shared history of colonial interactions for centuries. Most importantly for me, the Law of Indonesia is based on the Dutch Civil Law system, intermixed with customary Law and the Roman Dutch Law. I feel that I am in exactly the right place now.  So I have decided to change my expertise to become a Human Rights Attorney, like my role model Amal Clooney! I also know that opportunities will be greater here because of the European Commission in Brussels and The International Criminal Court in the Hague.


Being punctual and walking at night

My late Grandma always said one thing about Dutch, “they are very strict”. Well, she was very young when colonialism happened. Now I have experienced it myself. It is a good thing for me and it’s not something that stresses me out. I love learning something new. All the systems that I have seen here are a lot better than in my country; everything works on time and without added ‘costs’… if you know what I mean. The public transportation is comfortable, safe and again very on time. It is very safe to walk everywhere in the city, in fact, this is the first time that I have tried being a ‘pedestrian’. I can walk at any time, even when it is very late… something that I could never have done in my country; especially in Jakarta. There are also other very big cultural differences. In Indonesia, people are accustomed to not being on time. This is not just due to the culture, but most importantly, due to the horrible transportation infrastructure, overcrowding and excessive cars, which all results in horrible traffic. The Dutch are much more punctual, again, not just because of the culture, but also because the traffic actually enables them to be on time.


A dream come true and my next plan

 It has been my lifelong dream to live in Europe, and it has now been 1 1/2 years since I moved here to Maastricht. Taking off some time from the very stressful and exciting job that I used to have and to be right here in such a peaceful place is like a dream come true. I am also thrilled that my favorite place in the world, which is recognized as one of the world’s best bookstores (Dominicanen Boekhandel), is here in Maastricht.

Now I am starting to get connected again with my social life and found many amazing and wonderful women through the International Women Club (IWC). I am so glad that I finally decided to join this club. Last year, I have discovered many things and many places and that have made me feel like this is my home. Now I am ready to start concentrating on my career again. My next plan is to get a Masters in Human Rights Law and dive back into the working world.


My Tips for you and enjoy your Limburgse Vlaai!

  • Definitely have a plan. Be a woman who knows what she wants. It does not matter where you are in the world, there are always opportunities if you get outside and find them.
  • Never stop dreaming; finding your passion isn’t just about career and money. It’s about finding your authentic self.
  • Explore this beautiful city. Don’t limit yourself to just Maastricht. Drive around the Heuveland (The Dutch Alps) and find an Ijssalon with a great view. My favorite so far is Wingerbergerhoeve (Vijlen). These weekend drives through the Limburg hills, surprisingly, has inspired me to open a nice, small Bed and Breakfast someday. For now, this is also my dream, and I don’t expect to stop dreaming of it 🙂
  • Last but not least, stop at any terrace or cafe. Drink a cup of coffee or tea and eat a piece of lekker Limburgse Vlaai!



With my husband Orson, our sons: Luca, Matei and our daughter Zaskia

With my daughter Zaskia in Maastricht

Text: © Copyright, 2018. All rights reserved.

Photos: Nurlaila Sari Olson © Copyright, 2018. All rights reserved.


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