Speed Mentoring – 2nd Edition

On the 22nd of September, the second edition of Speed Mentoring event was organised by ExpatsTimes. Its main focus was on mentorship and leadership. The partaking audience were young professionals, entrepreneurs and expatriates.

Opening speeches were held by ExpatsTimes’ Prashant Shukla and Johann Stan. Our guest mentors were able to introduce themselves and touch upon their professional and personal experiences. Maurice Zondag, Mohamed Ittidar, Sabyasachi Sengpupta, Milena Alexova and Natalya Nazarevska were all gracious enough to accept our invitation and offered their knowledge and expertise when it came to mentoring the partakers and leading the open floor Q&A sessions.

Topics, such as quick presentation dynamics, as well as professional matters and ambitions were all discussed. With a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the mentoring and thereafter, the networking part of the event was widely valued by the participants. Refreshments and light appetisers rounded off an entertaining Friday evening.

It delights us to say that like our first Speed Mentoring event, also the second edition was an overwhelming success. We are planning a third edition of Speed Mentoring, due to the fact that the first two events were outrageously popular. Watch this space and we hope to see you at our next events.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured on this blog are unpaid.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.

The Hague welcomes MyCleanCity App!

Launch of MyCleanCity App

Young entrepreneur brings a solution for the garbage problem in Den Haag

MyCleanCity app will be launched on the next coming weeks to a wide audience in the Laak area. There will be representatives from The Hague Municipality, Laak municipality and representatives from Savana Solutions.
MyCleanCity App is under the name of Savana Solutions, which is a software development company that offers custom software development services. The Municipality of The Hague has made it possible for their residents to take part in trying to solve major issues which the city faces. One of these was the issue of ORAC bijplaatsingen (also known as waste placed besides underground waste disposal containers). That is why we set out to develop a mobile solution, together with the help of the Municipality and the residents of The Hague, Savana Solutions created the My Clean City app!

MyCleanCity App is different and unique from the other apps in the market. Our team designed this app in order to create social cohesiveness  amongst neighbours. MyCleanCity App offers a reward system, meaning that if a user of MyCleanCity reports an issue with underground waste containers in his neighbourhood, he is rewarded with points which later can be exchanged with coupons, or a tree under his/her name. With MyCleanCity App on your phone you could easily report the issue to those who would deal with it.

You can download the beta version of the app on the following link:

Address:       Savana Solutions, Kalvermarkt 53, 2511CB, Den Haag

Meet Prashant Shukla: the mind behind My clean city app

This time we arranged an interview with the co-founder of Savana solutions, Prashant Shukla. In 2016 he was the winner of the start-up in residence program with his idea to clean The Hague with an app, the My Clean City app. Read the full interview about Prashant Shukla below!

Why did you enter the Startup in Residence Program?

Well, I have been living in The Hague for nearly a decade and I wasn’t planning on staying for such a long period of time, however I fell in love and never left. When I learned about the Start-up in Residence program, I saw it as my chance to give something back to this wonderful city.

How did you come up with the idea of the My Clean City app?

The Start-up in Residence program published 9 challenging problems that the city was facing in 2016, one of them was regarding ‘ORAC bijplaatsingen’. Reading about the topic I realized it was about waste which is placed beside the underground containers by residents. A pile of this waste can attract vermin such as seagulls and rats, this can be a great annoyance for the residents, furthermore it is a hassle for the garbage disposal workers as the steel plate has to be material free for them to empty the container with the help of a crane.

This ‘challenging problem’ is caused by people and I wanted to come up with a solution which would motivate & inform residents to stop placing their waste beside the underground waste containers. Knowing if the ORAC are clogged or full before leaving your house to dispose of your waste, will deter residents from disposing their waste at that time. If a resident has a couch or a child’s bike that they are getting rid of, but it is still in good condition, they can share it with their community, allowing others the chance to come and fetch the goods before throwing them away or disposing the goods beside the containers (or calling 14070).
Moreover, as an added motivational factor, we enable the residents to collect points which they can redeem for themselves or collectively as a community. This can be a green reward (digitally imprinted tree in The Hague) or other.
My motto is, prevention is better than cure.

Why do you think the app will help?

I believe that there currently is somewhat of a gap between the residents and the municipality of The Hague. The My Clean City app will make it easier for the residents to communicate directly with the municipality. During the pilot, we will focus on smaller issues such as waste placed beside the ORAC, the underground waste containers, we will add more features later on.

Do you think my clean city app is also applicable in different cities?

Most definitely it is a scalable solution with a few technical adjustments it can be implemented in many areas.

Can the app be used for different purposes? Can other municipalities make use of the app?

The app can be applied in the same manner in different municipalities, but it will also be possible to tweak the app a little bit and use different features for different municipalities.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured on this blog are unpaid. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

A fit and healthy lifestyle is easier than you can imagine

Today on Expatstimes, we are pleased to share an interview with Miriam Kuster from MIMI coaching. She is a personal trainer and does life and health coaching with a special approach that fits perfect with each of her clients. In this interview, she gives tips on how to get in shape and help you build a healthier lifestyle.

Who is the woman behind Mimi Coaching?

There are so many words I could use to describe myself. Fitness Coach, Criminologist, Diplomat Kid, Intelligence Analyst, Entrepreneur, etc. However, in the end, I am just a human being who has lived quite a colorful life and loves to help people. The best way I know how to do that is through talking/listening to people and educating them about fitness and nutrition.

Has it always been your goal to be a fitness coach?

When I was a child I wanted to work for the German Federal Police, but only because I knew I would have to pass physical tests in order to get in. I liked the fact that I would have to be fit and highly adaptable. Later on, I lived in Australia and studied Criminology, but at the same time also worked as a Personal Trainer. Then life had another plan for me, and I gravitated more towards the corporate world. After working at ABN AMRO for two years I realised my true passion was fitness, so I decided to make a return.

What has inspired you to become a life coach and fitness instructor?

I just see such big value in living a fit and healthy life. This lifestyle teaches you about commitment, dedication, motivation, self-respect, self-love, and so much more. It also helps you stay focused and true to yourself out of the gym. I also very much like that I was able to learn so much through my many struggles and can now pass on my lessons.

We all have our purpose on this planet I believe that making people feel better through fitness and just listening to them is mine.

What is your routine to stay in shape? Can you give us some nutritional tips?

There are many routines people can follow to meet their fitness goals. Every program should be a little different and based on the individual. In my case, I like to be at the gym 5 times a week, although I have to say that this is not necessary to get or stay in shape. Over these 5 days, I split up my muscle groups. This means on Monday I train legs, Tuesday back, Wednesday I rest, Thursday shoulders, Friday legs, and Saturday arms and abs. Nutrition wise I ensure that I eat a good amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats at the right time of the day.

In your opinion, is it difficult to balance professional, personal and health life?

I used to think that this wasn’t all that difficult. Back then I had never been part of the corporate world. However, after I started working at ABN AMRO I finally began to understand what many of my clients were talking about. Now I have a much better understanding of time-related struggles. This is why I believe in the “work smart, not hard” approach. My workouts are designed to be as efficient as possible with as little time as possible required. I also love to see when my clients actually involve their families and loved ones on this journey.

What is your advice for people who want to start their healthy lifestyle journey?

I would advise people to think in baby steps. Many people shy away from beginning this journey, simply because of all the work they think they have to put in. I like to approach this slowly, make one change at the time. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, eating brown rice instead of white, drinking one beer instead of three are good examples. This method is much easier to apply, and will likely lead to maintainable healthy lifestyle changes. All you have to do is start, and I will be there with you along the way!

Do you want to get in shape? Or change to a healthier lifestyle? Then Mimi has a message for you!

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured on this blog are unpaid. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

Valerie Nayer: psychologists explained

This week we are focusing on mental health and its insurance coverage in The Netherlands. We recently sat down with Valerie Nayer, a psychologist and Belgian expat who has lived in The Hague for more than 10 years. You can make an appointment to visit Valerie at her clinic, which was founded in 2015 and located in Rijswijk.

As a psychologist, please give us your opinion on the health system in The Netherlands

The Dutch healthcare system is often viewed as ambivalent by an expat. In contrast to many other European members, the Dutch health system is based on private insurance rather than on a national system. This public insurance system is based on a risk equalization through a risk equalization pool. To keep it simple: all citizens are required to acquire an insurance from private providers. The government is responsible for the accessibility and equality of the health care system but is not in control of its management. The system encourages competition but is regulated by the risk equalization pool to avoid private insurers from “selecting healthy patients”.
Personally, the commercial aspect of the Dutch health care system remains difficult for me to appreciate. Apart from that, it is effective.

 Is it difficult to be a psychologist in The Netherlands?

Yes and no. The title of a psychologist is not statutorily protected in The Netherlands. It means anybody can use it. However, a psychologist with a Master of Science in Psychology may register with a few organizations which defend the client and the profession against fraud. Amongst others, the BIG-register (Professions in the Healthcare of the Individual) and the NIP (Dutch Institute for Psychologists).
If you have the required diplomas and work accordingly to the Code of Ethics, it is not difficult to work as a psychologist in The Netherlands.

What methods do you use, and what are the reasons a patient might visit you?

I obtained my master in clinical psychology at the ULB (Free University of Brussels) in 2006 and I have been working mostly with adults, according to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy theory. I am specialized in the treatment of anxious and depressive disorders, burnout, paraphilia and clinical sexology. Sometimes I also use art therapy which allows a creative and non-verbal expression of the patient’s issues. It’s a very interesting approach but unfortunately rather unknown to the public.

Could you describe Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in more detail?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a present-oriented psychotherapy directed on solving current problems and teaching clients skills to modify dysfunctional thinking and behavior. CBT is based on the cognitive model: our thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected. By changing unhelpful cognitions (thoughts) and/or actions (behavior), CBT aims to improve patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties. CBT has been shown to be an effective way of treating various mental health conditions such as depression and anxious disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, panic disorders and much more.

What are the most common calls for help you receive from your patients?

I often receive requests concerning anxious and depressive disorders and also about sexual issues. What I love most about my job is that each person is unique and carries their own story. So, even though two individuals may come for the same problem, the therapeutic work will be different. It is a very diversified and satisfying job in which you constantly must ask yourself what is best for your patient and maintain a good therapeutic alliance to encourage changes and help them face their reality.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured on this blog are unpaid.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.

The au pair program in The Netherlands

Having decided to become an Au Pair during 2014, I was placed with a family in The Netherlands. It wasn’t an easy decision since I knew that I would be terribly homesick and would miss my family and friends enormously. The benefits outweighed the negatives and I was soon relishing living in a new country, learning a new language and experiencing other cultures and languages too, since The Netherlands is so diverse. We all have different goals when we become an Au Pair, but there must be a common thread behind your decision, that is that you MUST like spending most of your time with children. You will be tested every day that you are with them and you must have patience and empathy when being an Au Pair too.
There are so many things that one could cover about this intense experience, but I have decided to provide a practical checklist for those that are thinking of becoming an Au Pair. Since I’m Brazilian my process was obviously different for those from the EU. You can find the terms and conditions of becoming an Au Pair in The Netherlands here

Where to start

You are able to apply to work as an Au Pair if you are between 18 and 30 years old (30 is the age limit). Sign up with a reputable Au Pair agency, they will be able to help you find your host family and arrange your visa and other necessary documentation. It is very important that you discuss EVERYTHING with your future host family and the agency, this includes your exact working hours, days off, what you are expected to do each day etc. You don’t want any surprises when you start work!

How does the programme work?

The family must provide accommodation and meals, in addition to paying a pocket money of 300 to 340 euros per month (it is not considered salary). These rules are specific to the Netherlands. Several countries offer the Au Pair program and each one has its own rules.

Working hours and free time

In the Netherlands, the weekly working schedule of an au pair must not exceed a total of 30 hours. You must never work more than 8 hours a day or more than 5 days a week. You only perform light domestic work for the host family. You are entitled to a minimum of two days off a per week; however, these days do not have to be consecutive. You are entitled to a minimum of 2 weeks paid annual leave every 12 months. You and your host family must agree when you will take your leave in advance.

Language course/cultural exchange

As an Au pair, you are permitted to attend a language course. Your host family will help you find the most suitable course and must pay 320 euros per year for your course. Since the Au Pair programme is designed to support cultural exchange, your host family will help you experience Dutch culture through various cultural activities.

Health Insurance

Medical insurance is mandatory in The Netherlands. You must be covered throughout the duration of your time in The Netherlands. This required health insurance is called basisverzekering. Dutch health insurance is accessible to all residents and provides general medical care including hospital care, medication, etc. Your host family must pay all of your insurance fees.

Life in The Netherlands

Once you’ve arrived and settled into your new home. There are a few more details that need to be dealt with. You need to open a bank account, register with the town hall etc. Your host family should advise and help you with all of these matters. You then need to get used to your new routine, the weather in The Netherlands is probably wetter and colder to what you are used to, so make sure you have the right clothing. The easiest way to move around town, picking up the children from school, going to the supermarket etc. is by bike, your host family will most probably provide you with one, or help you find a second hand one. Following a Dutch language course will help you adapt to your life in The Netherlands, and will help you communicate with the children better.

Do you have any questions about being an Au Pair in The Netherlands? Leave a message here… and we will answer you as soon as we can.
For more information on becoming or working as an Au Pair, visit this page

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured on this blog are unpaid.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.

Painting and drawing like old masters. Passion for the crafts.

ExpatsTimes is pleased to share our interview with Olga Golubova and Anar Rasulov. The pair are co-owners of the foundation Traditional Art Technique Atelier (TATA) set up in 2016. TATA is dedicated to classical realistic painting and drawing techniques of the old masters.

Traditional Art Technique AtelierOlga Golubova is a PR and communications professional and her partner Anar Rasulov, an artist specialized in painting and drawing techniques of the old masters. Having both lived in The Netherlands for over 15 years, they also share a Russian speaking background. In their classes, hosted in Amsterdam and The Hague, they focus particularly on working with authentic materials and studying traditional oil painting techniques. Read their interview here.

Where did the idea of starting the foundation come from?

Olga: I have worked in various PR and communications functions at Dutch companies before I started my own freelance adventure in 2014. At the time when I met Anar, I was involved in several artistic projects. Soon after we decided to set up a project together and gradually our ideas evolved into a foundation that aims to promote and preserve traditional art techniques and knowledge about authentic materials. Art has always been my hobby, but stayed in the background, and now I can deepen my understanding through our foundation.

Tradition is not to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the flame – G. Mahler.

Anar: The foundation aims to offer a unique knowledge that is not being taught at Dutch art academies anymore. As an artist, I want to contribute to passing on the knowledge about key materials such as oil paint, mediums and pigments. Today there is a lack of insight into materials with which the artists work, so we want to educate people closer to the traditions, spirit and techniques of the old masters. TATA is about going back to the basics: know your materials, study the old masters’ techniques and shed light on the time-tested ways of making things.

schilderen olieverf Amsterdamstilleven schilderen olieverf

In your opinion, what makes the drawing and painting techniques of the old masters unique?

Anar: I am inspired by the craftsmanship and the effective time-proven methods that were used by the great artists of the Golden Age. These techniques are timeless and I strongly believe that they provide the most efficient way to learn realistic drawing and painting. Skills and craftsmanship that had been used by the old masters can give people the tools needed to express their ideas and visions through the medium of realistic painting and drawing.

I have always admired the painting and drawing style of the artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck, for their way of capturing the narrative with the use of certain materials and the story behind it. Also, the visual language that the old masters used differs from the approach in the modern art. We are teaching students about the materials that the great artists of the past have used and how you can apply this knowledge in a modern setting.

Anar Rasulov sketch
Anar’s sketch of a horse with sanguine.
Anar Rasulov oil paintings
Left to right: Detail of Anar’s reconstruction of Frans Hals’ painting “The Lute Player” (1623).
“Imaginary view of Delft”, inspired by the Dutch painter Van Goyen (with handmade oil paint).
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” – a grisaille study.

Do you think visual art is important for the one’s general development? Why?

Anar: I think that visual art gives many useful perspectives in different aspects of life. Through the observation of life and nature around us we can develop a deeper understanding of it and come to see the world more as holistic rather than consisting of separate things. By looking at the nature that we paint or draw we can learn to become one with it. It can also help us understand ourselves and our behavior more. In my opinion, we would be happier and healthier if we paid more attention to developing our mind (skills, knowledge), body, and spirit. Art is a good means to achieving this balance.

drawing class Amsterdam old masters painting class Amsterdam

What is the difference between self-made oil paint and the oil paint from manufacturers?

Anar: Since ready-to-use oil paint from manufacturers is sometimes stored for long periods, stabilizers and preservatives are added to make it last longer. For this reason, some artists who want pure oil paint decide to make it themselves, in order to have total control over the creation process. By using only a few key materials you can make your own oil paint from scratch. It does feel different to paint with handmade oil paint, our students say. It also looks different because of the physical and optical abilities of natural raw materials that we use.
handmade oil paint  pigments oil paint

Is it possible for people who like art but have never tried to paint before, attend classes at TATA?

Anar: Our classes are suited for beginners up to intermediate and advanced artists who want to broaden their possibilities, gain more areas for experimenting and understanding the materials and learn new painting techniques. The classes are kept small to allow a more individual approach. sketching class Amsterdam art class Amsterdam

You also do museum tours and have cross-border cooperations. Can you elaborate further?

Olga: We are currently discussing plans with our partners – a private art school “Practicum”, which is connected to the Classical Art Academy in St. Petersburg (I. Repin). They have a gorgeous studio tailor-built inspired by the 17th-century atelier style. Ideally, we will organize cross-border art related activities, such as intensive tailored art courses and museum visits (e.g. in Amsterdam and St. Petersburg). We will be having a kick-off team meeting in Amsterdam soon, to dive into our plans further.

Studio Artist Atelier  Classical Academic Drawing

Would you like to say something to the people who might be interested in joining the world of art?

Anar: Art can help us experience life in a deeper sense; it means if you want to live fully, you can learn to do so by the means of art. It is also the language that all people can speak and is the medium to connect with the world and ourselves. In the modern world, we are disconnected with the nature and with ourselves. We tend to not see ourselves as part of the bigger picture anymore. This can make people unhappy and cause psychological and physical problems. Art is one of the ways to reconnect yourself, because through observation we understand more about the world.

Traditional Art Technique Atelier will host an introduction oil painting workshop on April 16th in Amsterdam. Feel free to join if you are interested, there are still a couple of places left.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured in this blog are unpaid.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.


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