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“I would certainly love to raise my kids here where children are able to enjoy their childhood.”

My name is Linh. I was born in 1995 in Krong Pa village in Vietnam. I came to the Netherlands in 2018 and to Almere in 2019. Now I’m living in Almere Staatsliedenwijk. This is my story.

I grew up as the last child in a family of 3 children in the mountainous area in Vietnam where it gets its fame for one of the best coffees in the world. Since my parents were busy with their work, our siblings developed as strong independent kids who could take care of themselves, protect each other and play together. That played a big factor in my early life. 

I left home for prestigious high school at the age of 15, which is quite unusual in Vietnam. And at the age of 18, I even moved further south to Saigon / Ho Chi Minh city for university and was staying with my older sister. Even though people might think I am quite distant from my family, who I saw once a year, I do love my parents and siblings and even now, when I am halfway around the world from them, I still keep them in a very important place in my heart.

My life has been quite a long journey. I traveled and learn a lot as I met a lot of people. People might assume I would be extremely extroverted. But having been through a lot makes me more focused on myself. I love to spend time alone enjoying the silent and peaceful night, love reading books, and love the freedom. Yet, at the age of 20, something big happened that changed my life again. I met a colleague, who is also Vietnamese, at my part-time job. We started dating, just 2 months before he left for the Netherlands for his master’s degree. This made everything complicated; we had to make choices whether we would break up or had a long-distance relationship which, who knows when I can meet him again. And yet, we maintained our relationship for 3 years while we only met each other once a year when he visited Vietnam. 

I guess we are either too lazy to find other parties, or we are meant to be. Either way, after I finished my bachelor’s degree, I managed to get my visa to continue my higher education as being at the time with the one I love. It was the third time I went out of my comfort zone to study in a very different place in a strange country.

It was cold on that autumn day I landed in Schiphol. I was both scared and excited, and I would never forget the excitement run through my breath when I saw the snow for the first time. It was so magical, and it was so mesmerizing, especially for a girl coming from a tropical country.  A new journey began like that.

Looking back, my life is a series of choices and its butterfly effect leads me to this day. Back in my university, I studied International Relations, and yet faith was teasing me when I chose to switch my career to business for my master’s degree. For some reason, at a young age, business and working in big corporate were never interesting to me enough. However, now I am an Accountant for one of the Big4 in Accounting.

Even though I am not into any specific religion, I would say life has a very interesting plan for each of us. And every step or decision we make leads us to another surprise. Like the way we chose Almere to live in 2019. At first, we moved here only because we could afford an apartment. But Almere has offered us more than that. This is where I found my interest in badminton from a badminton coach, studied Dutch with the very best teacher, and had a chance to own the very first pet of my life “Muffin” (a lovely cat).

For now. although the bigger part of me is still Vietnamese, the Netherlands has become my second homeland. I guess, with everything right now, I am going to stay in the Netherlands for more years until my next big adventure. During the time I am in this tulip nation, there are several things coming across me.

Everyone is telling how to direct Dutch people are, however, for me, it is a bit contrary. I would say they are more open about their honest opinion and good at expressing themselves. Yet they are never rude to me once. That is something I would love to learn. As an Asian, we tend to hold our thoughts back, and for me, as an introvert, expressing my viewpoint is never easy. Another thing I am envy is the way Dutch families raise their children. I love the fact that kids here have more free time to explore themselves through all kinds of activities besides school such as: trying all kinds of sports, exploring culture and history from numerous museums or having a lot of family time. In Vietnam, kids are more into studying than anything else. This somehow can be good as intellectual skills but we don’t have a full childhood. For now, even though, I have no plan for having kids, If I do, I would certainly love to raise my kids here where children are able to enjoy their childhood.

However, one thing I believe Dutch people would be jealous of Vietnamese is the cuisine. Like many other Asian or Latino countries, Vietnam has a huge amount of cuisines that can appeal to everyone in the world even the toughest audiences. The secret is in the ingredient, the way we marinate the food, and the way we cook it. I am proud to say that cooking in Vietnam is an art. And I guess another reason I chose Almere is it is a diversified community here hence. We have huge supermarkets for foreigners like Toko or Amazing Oriental. They have almost everything I need to prepare my dishes. However, we do love Dutch snacks such as Kibbeling or Stroopwafel.

I used to live in the very center in Utrecht giving me the feeling of living in a historical wonderland. Almere, on contrary, is a young modern city, which reminds me of my hometown with its green spaces. My house is a 5-minute walk to the Beatrixpark where I enjoy riding or walking for several hours, especially in the spring and summertime. I see now there are several housing projects happening, I hope that they won’t destroy the lovely green spaces we have right now in Almere.

And to enjoy the Netherlands even more, I am learning Dutch. I met many international people in Almere who can speak Dutch amazingly and I want to be the same. For me, studying a language is a good start to integrate more into the local life since culture reflects a lot through languages. I want to communicate with my neighbor, and my colleagues in Dutch and makes jokes with them in Dutch. 

My journey in the Netherlands is just beginning. Who knows what comes next. But as long I am here, I want to be a part of it, not just a tourist here.

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Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
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