Amsterdam, Macau, to the Rest of the World: An Interview with Chichi

Posted by Helena Trapero • Tuesday, May 24. 2011 • Category: Global Career
I met Chichi in Porvoo, Finland. We were there as Erasmus exchange students. In the beginning I wondered how somebody from Asia can be an Erasmus exchange student. Only later I got to know that Chichi was actually raised in the Netherlands by her Chinese family. Being a Dutch girl of Chinese origins who studied in Europe, lately in Macau, and is now contemplating her next global career destination, she has many interesting insights to share with us.

Chichi together with her parents
(c) by Chichi

KM: Hello Chi! Thank you for finding the time for this interview. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, where your heritage lies (studies, origins of your family, where you were born, grew up, etc)?

Chichi: Thanks for asking me for this interview! My name is Chi-Yim and I was born and raised in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I have also lived in Hong Kong for a short period of time when I was only a few years old. I have an older sister who is 31 years old and a younger sister who is 18, and we seriously don’t look alike! My parents are from Hong Kong and moved to the Netherlands about 30 years ago. Nowadays they live in Scheveningen at the beach together with my younger sister and my dog, Robin.

My parents were owners of Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands (how cheesy right?!), so we moved around quite a lot in The Netherlands until my first internship at KLM as a service agent, for which I moved to Aalsmeer for 6 months. Pretty fun and a great experience, both moving away from home and working for KLM! That time I was studying Tourism Management for a pre-bachelor degree and after graduation I continued my studies at NHTV for which I moved to Breda to study International Tourism Management and Consultancy. Right now I am in my fourth year of ITMC and attending a Double Bachelor Degree program between NHTV and IFT in Macao, when I graduate I obtain both a Bachelor Degree in Science and a Degree in Business. And I will be graduating in 2 months. I am very excited!!

Macau Cityscape
(c) by vince42

I have also travelled for quite a bit these last 2 years. I started with a fieldtrip to Singapore, Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Cambodia. I continued with a 4 weeks language course in Barcelona. I also went on an exchange for 10 months as an Erasmus student to Porvoo, Finland. During the 10 months I went to New York, Stockholm, St.Petersburg, Tallinn, Nerja, Malaga and Lapland. Since I am in Macao, I’ve been doing some travelling. Of course, Hong Kong, a must-see! Christmas holiday I went to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, did some hiking to see the Bromo volcano, and ended in Bali with some friends. I even went to Taiwan with my younger sister and managed to do a few days in Shenzhen, Guangzou, and Zhuhai.

KM: How do you experience living in two worlds, one Asian and one Western?

Chichi: During my childhood I was slightly confused because it was so weird to realize and clearly see that my Dutch friends were different and were raised in a totally different way. First I thought there was something seriously wrong with me and I questioned myself like where do I actually belong? But later I started to understand and most importantly accept that I am both Chinese as well as Dutch. But it isn’t always very easy as there is quite a difference between Chinese and Dutch culture, habits and gestures.

KM: What did you feel when arriving for the very first time to visit your family in Asia?

Chichi: Before coming to Macao for this Double Bachelor Degree program, I have been to Hong Kong three times in total. I don’t remember the time that I lived there, but I do remember the second trip when I went to Hong Kong with my sisters. So we arrived in HK, picked up our luggage and we were greeted by our family like very casually, as if we see each other every day or so. We got a hug and we talked, and at first I thought: damn, they don’t want to have us over or we are not welcome! But that was totally not the thing; it is just that they don’t show that much emotion.

I also remember the moment we left the airport. The door opened and I felt the air going from a cold breeze to warm, humid, sticky, thick air. I was like, what’s wrong with the air-conditioning..?! And then it hit me. This is how Hong Kong feels! I was so shocked at first, like, how is this possible? Aren’t people suffocating here!?

During that holiday I had my first encounter with COCKROACHES… O MY GOD!! They are insanely big. One of the first nights I heard my cousin scream loudly from the bathroom. We ran to to check on her and apparently she stepped on a huge, ugly cockroach. It was all squished between her toes. It’s actually quite disgusting…

Chichi in the Dutch countryside
(c) by Chichi

KM: Why did you decide to study in Asia?

Chichi: I have lived in the Netherlands my whole life, and because of that I feel more Dutch than Chinese. When I heard that NHTV offers a Double Bachelor Degree program in Macao, I knew I wanted to do this, study here. I thought that living here in Asia would help me to develop my Chinese part more, because sometimes I seriously don’t understand my parents and I feel that they are so “far” away from me. Hope this helps me to feel more connected to my parents. And studying abroad is such a great opportunity to meet new people, broaden your life experience and uhm… have loads of fun!

KM: How did you end up going to IFT Macao? How was the application procedure for a European of Asian origin?

Chichi: I hold a Dutch passport and there are no visa requirements for entering but we did need to apply for a student visa in Macao – nothing really troublesome. We needed a statement from the university that we are students, passport (of course) and some passport pictures.

I did have troubles with applying for a China visa though. All the other European students received their China visa with unlimited entries, but mine got declined, because (here it comes) I look Chinese but I hold a Dutch passport, so there must be something wrong… I felt so discriminated!

KM: What did you do to integrate more into the local community? Did you feel like a foreigner?

Chichi: I didn’t really do that much to integrate. I look Chinese although quite many have asked whether I am from Korea… Hm… But Macanese do recognize that I am not local even before I have said anything yet. But once I speak Cantonese, they know for sure that I am not local because I speak Cantonese with an accent (apparently)…

Amsterdam Cityscape
(c) by Jim Bahn

KM: Please tell us a bit about the cultural differences you have noted between Chinese culture and Dutch culture.

Chichi: The Dutch people are very direct and specific whereas in the Chinese culture people tend to talk around the point. Chinese people might say “yes” to whatever you suggest but they could possible mean “no”. Actually it is typical Chinese to not share, show and talk about your emotions, while for Dutch people it is so normal to talk about feelings, problems and all kinds of issues.

And I also think that in the Dutch culture everybody is very individualistic, whereas the Chinese have a stronger sense of interdependence between family and friends. Chinese people rely more on each other.

KM: What are you planning to do after finishing your studies in Macau? Going back to Europe? Staying in Asia for a while?

Chichi: I’m going to leave Macao behind. It has been a great, adventurous and awesome year, but Macao is seriously small and I don’t want to settle here! I will either go to New York or London for a month to obtain a TEFL certificate so I am eligible to teach English abroad, so afterwards I might go to Hong Kong for a few years. I like the exciting environment in Hong Kong and it honestly has something sparkling!

But I would also like to go to Barcelona, Spain for teaching since I love the Spanish language and wish to speak it fluently. The destinations are so different from each other… Hong Kong is such a fast paced environment whereas Barcelona is way more laid back… I can’t seem to decide!

KM: Where do you feel you will be in 4 or 5 years?

Chichi: Like I mentioned before, I hope to be teaching English in either Barcelona or Hong Kong... I can see myself doing this for a few years, but I’m not sure about living in Asia the rest of my life. I may be partially Chinese and look like one, but I was raised in the Netherlands with Dutch norms, values and culture. But who knows where we end up after all, right?

KM: Do you have any tips for other people wanting to go abroad?

Chichi: Stay open-minded; remember that you’re in a different environment where they might have different values and norms. Try to adjust to the culture of the destination, be flexible and respect the other culture. Take every opportunity to travel around and enjoy it to the fullest! Expect the unexpected…

KM: Thank you so much for the great interview!

comment using facebook

0 Trackbacks / PINGBACKS

  1. No Trackbacks


Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
  1. No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.