‘Honestly, what is holding you back? If it turns out working in China is not like you expected it to be, you just come back!’. And just like that, my mom crushed every final element of doubt in my head about making my next move in life: moving to China’s capital Beijing for my very first full time job.
I was twenty-one years old, had just finished my Bachelor’s degree six months earlier, and was barely back from my 3-month trip to China when I decided that life in The Netherlands was just not for me anymore. China had mesmerized me. The opportunities, the food, its challenges, the people, the language and culture, the excitement it gave me to be there… It all acted like a magnet on me. I just had to go back there to dive deeper into life, culture, and business.
So I did. I landed my first gig at Mandarin school and internship provider Hutong School in June 2014, where I worked over one and a half years as a program consultant. Helping people from all over the world find their ways to China was truly wonderful. I saw many youngsters grow so much as a person over such a short period of time, changing into confident individuals in possession of new views on the world, crazy memories and invaluable friendships to take back home. I myself noticed major changes in my way of thinking and communicating – at times I feel like I learned more about myself in those 18 months than in the preceding 21 years in The Netherlands.
Back and Forth
Due to a number of practicalities, I was eventually forced to leave China and decided to head back to The Netherlands to let everything sink in and evaluate my China experience. Despite being happy to have my family, friends, proper cheese and licorice within reach again, I couldn’t find my niche back home. Luckily, after almost a year, my friend and former colleague at Hutong School brought some exciting news: a Chinese entrepreneur had the idea to start a Hutong School franchise in Hangzhou and was looking for someone who knew the school’s programs and operations.
Two months later I was on a plane to Shanghai.
In almost two years time, we built up the Hangzhou branch from scratch. We grew from two to twenty people and made it a renounced Hutong School destination for young professionals, Mandarin students and Chinese culture enthusiasts. Again, I made a huge personal and professional leap which I realized would have been impossible to match in The Netherlands.
After about four years of working in the education management sector, it was time to switch things up. Enter Dashmote. I met Dashmote’s current Head of China and fellow Dutchie Julien on my first day in Hangzhou, where we shared the start-up hustle as one of the few foreigners in Hangzhou, working from the same co-working space. Following several coffees, lunches and occasional cooperation, two years later our professional paths crossed again when Julien became Head of China for Dashmote.
He was looking for people to join his team and help build up the Shanghai office. Curious about this ‘AI meets Marketing’ area Dashmote embodies, the thrilling future prospects of the business and people-focused heart of the company, I decided to to jump on board. And so my China story continues.
Why, after four years, am I still here? Well, for the same reasons I came for in the first place: the language and culture, the excitement, the people, the food, and probably most of all, the opportunities and challenges that this country gives and presents. I struggle to find the words to explain how wonderful this country is, as it goes beyond your imagination. From technological dynamics that make your jaw drop, to endless scenic places to travel to. All surrounded by a warm and rich culture. Living in China has shaped me into the human being I am today. I met a few of the most important people in my life in China and they have built me up, mentored me, taught me different ways to live life. They still do today.
Will I ever leave China? Probably, yes, but I don’t see myself leaving for the full 100%. Part of my memories, stories, and heart will always be here. Want to talk about life in China and/or what it’s like to work at Dashmote – I am happy to chat with you!