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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.

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 https://ind.nl/en/other/eu-eea)

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 https://ind.nl/en/other/Pages/Au-pair.aspx

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.

Speed Mentoring -The start of inspiring events

The first ever Speed Mentoring event took place on April 13th in The Hague. Expatstimes organised the event which focused on mentorship and guidance. The participating 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. Rachel Smets, Ajay Sharma, Mohamed Ittidar and Maurice Zondag were all gracious enough to accept our call to help and offered their time and expertise when it came to mentoring the participants and leading the open floor Q&A sessions. 


Topics such as quick presentation dynamics, as well as professional issues and goals were all discussed.
With a relaxed and friendly atmosphere the mentoring, and thereafter, the networking part of the event were widely appreciated and acknowledged by all who attended. Refreshments and light snacks rounded off an enjoyable evening!

It delights us to say the event was an overwhelming success. We are in the throes of planning our next speed mentoring event due to the first one being so outrageously popular! Watch this space and We hope to see you in 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.

Why Speed Mentoring?

Hello and welcome to the information page about the Speed Mentoring event. In this post, I will explain what the event is,  why we brought live to the event and how the speed mentoring event will work.

So why did we want to organize this event? That is a simple question answered by our Co-founder, Prashant Shukla. He said: “a lot of start-ups fail these days due to one reason. They do not get the right mentoring”. He also said “you do not only need one mentor, you need a mentor in different specializations of the market. For example, when I started Savana Solutions I needed a legal person for contracts but I also needed a marketing person to help me with improving my marketing strategy and many other mentors whom could help me in their different specializations. So for a startup, it is important to have the help different people with different specializations. With the speed mentoring events we are trying to make a group of mentors whom are always willing to help start-ups”. And with this event we want to help the start-ups and the mentors to connect and learn from each other.

What is the event exactly? The Speed Mentoring event is an event in which we will invite four or five mentors. They are all professionals in different parts of the market. The event will have up to 30 attendants, they will all have the chance to ask at least one question that they think is really important for a start-up or other part of business. The mentors will then all answer the questions that are in their professional segment as specific as possible. This will help the entrepreneurs to get the most reliable information as possible, so they can implement this information in their new ideas.

How do the mentors answer all the questions in such a short time? We came up with the idea that everyone needs to write their question on a post-it or paper and then place it on a wall. Then the mentors have time to look at the questions and pick out the once that are in their segments of their expertise. Then the mentors will repeat the question in front of everybody and answer it as specific as possible. This way everyone will also get the answer to question they might not have come up with but they still wanted answers on.

For our first event we are happy to announce:

Mohamed Ittidar 

Mohamed Ittidar is a certified coach from Robbins Madanes School of Coaching.  He specializes in guiding expats to add value to their organizations and loved ones by helping them to solve the challenges in personal, family and work-related areas. Mohamed’s international academic background and years of global professional expertise in many industries put him in an outstanding position to contribute to the international community and inspire its residents to make meaningful connections.

Rachel Smets

Rachel is a speaker, lecturer, language instructor, and bestselling author of ‘Awaken Your Confidence: 15 People share their Journey to Success.’  Living and working in several countries for many years, she developed a passion for cultures and languages. Intercultural awareness and conversational languages are her favorite topics to teach online and offline.
She graduated from the University of Maryland (US) with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and achieved her master’s degree in management from the University of St Andrews (UK). Born and raised in Belgium, she currently resides in the Netherlands.Rachel enjoys motivating and inspiring people to awaken their confidence and become the person they want to be.

Maurice Zondag

Maurice Zondag is a self-made man and philanthropist in the etymological sense. He helps people as a personality coach how to find and create your own happiness. He believes that everyone has the right to their happiness as a core necessity in life. From the lessons of his life and the wisdom that comes from every life before us, called history, he now is able to give people the tools so they may find and create their own happiness. He also is a professional public speaker on subjects like happiness, leadership, and communication. In his spare time, he is a theater producer, writer and actor. His enthusiasm is inspiring and motivating to make the change you need in your life.

Johann Stan

Johann is a patent examiner, speaker, entrepreneur and mentor. Johann has a Ph.D. in computer science and graduated the Insa Lyon engineering school. He worked as consultant for the World Bank, evaluated project proposals for the European Commission and did research for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Over the years he developed a passion for organizing and moderating scientific conferences and various types of events, such as TEDx. Therefore, Johann has gained valuable insight into every detail related to event organization. In his talk, Johann will argue why event management is a useful skill for any expat. He will also share his tips for a successful event, including how to find speakers, how to build a team and how to curate content.

Ajay Sharma

Ajay Sharma is established entrepreneur, International Speaker and does impact innovation investment and holds board positions in corporates. Ajay is also president of Rotary Club The Hague Metropolitan club (First English and international club of Netherlands). Ajay is founder and CEO of ASR ventures (Invest in Impact Innovation), Chief Regulatory, partnerships and Investment officer for TOBLOCKCHAIN (Dutch Blockchain Powerhouse), Global growth Advisor and Director to Sampoorna (Social Impact enterprise), Associate partner in BSS Holland (Defence security solutions).
Ajay is educated engineer (DEI India), MBA from TIAS NIMBAS business school, LLM (Masters in Law in International finance and Banking) from Liverpool, and above all M&A and corporate restructuring studies from Harvard Business school, Boston.
The idea of Expatstimes associated with Speed Mentoring event is to help as many new startups as possible together with the municipality of the Hague. If you have a comment or an idea to improve the event send an e-mail to info@expatstimes.com

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.

An attorney based in The Hague with a clear mission – Elena Deliran

Can my employment contract silently get prolonged? What are my rights as an employee? What are the legal consequences of marriage in the Netherlands? Am I protected as an expat by Dutch law? 

These are questions which Elena is frequently confronted with. Elena is a partner at Hofzicht Advocaten in The Hague. Elena has an international background and assists clients in Dutch, English, Persian and Spanish.

Elena will write expert blogs in which she lays the focus on legal issues expatriates encounters frequently in the Netherlands. We asked her a few questions, read more below.

What is your advice for internationals in The Netherlands?

“I think some basic knowledge of the Dutch Legal system is essential. In my practice, I often encounter clients who have no idea of the legal protection they enjoy. Dutch Law provides much protection to those who are considered to be the most vulnerable contracting party such as employees, tenants, and consumers.”

Elena also includes – “For instance, when working in the Netherlands, you should know the basic employee rights such as the protection from dismissal; what your rights and duties are during illness or pregnancy; that your right to holiday pay and holiday allowance derives from the Minimum Wage and Minimum Holiday Allowance Act and is not dependent on a clause in your employment contract.”

We receive frequent questions about prolonging of employment contracts. Is it possible to silently prolong an employment contract?

“Yes, that is possible even if no new contract is signed. It is important to realize that Dutch Law does not require written employment contracts. Basically, for the conclusion of an employment contract only an offer and its acceptance are required. Written contracts can help proving what was agreed. In the end, the circumstances of the case are decisive. The basic requirements of an employment agreement are that (1) one undertakes to (2) work for another (3) in exchange for remuneration.

There is a distinction between a fixed-term and a permanent employment contract. Employees with a permanent employment contract enjoy dismissal protection while a fixed-term contract expires by operation of law at the agreed end date. It is not uncommon that parties draft a fixed-term employment contract, and after the end date the employee is still being expected to work and gets paid. If this happens, the first contract is deemed to be prolonged under the same conditions, for a maximum of a year.

A fixed-term contract, however, cannot be renewed endlessly. The law provides coercive limitations to that: the so-called “chain ruling” or “Ketenregeling” in Dutch.

In 2015, Dutch employment law was drastically changed. As far as it concerns the chain ruling, one should assess first whether the new law is applicable. Employment relations which started prior to 1 July 2015 between the same parties may be renewed three times for a maximum of 3 years, and a maximum of 3 months may lie between the consecutive contracts before the contract automatically is converted to a permanent one.

Employment contracts starting after 1 July 2015, fall within the working sphere of the new law and the fixed-term contract may be renewed 3 times within a maximum period of two years, with a maximum of 6 months in between for it to be converted to a permanent contract.

Please note that this rule might not apply to all employment contracts, as there is the possibility to deviate from it by collective agreement for some sectors and for agency workers.”

More about Elena Deliran

Elena is specialized in family law and employment law and she often deals with international cases. Elena grew up in many different countries and is fluent in Dutch, English, Persian and Spanish. Her intercultural background and language skills, together with her experience with international legal matters enable her to assist international clients and cases effectively. In her practice, Elena deals with various aspects of family law such as divorce proceedings, spouse and child alimony, custody and visitation rights and child protection matters. Elena also assists clients with employment issues such as suspension and employment termination proceedings, change of employment conditions, evaluation of employees and sickness.

You can contact Elena at deliran@hofzichtadvocaten.nl

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.

Persistence is the key to success – Amal Ledrhem

My name is Thaisa Macriani and this is my first blog post published for ExpatsTimes. For this first article, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amal Ledrhem. Amal is a local entrepreneur and mother of two with Moroccan roots and is based in The Hague, in 2014 she founded her company specialized in authentic handcrafted handbags. Amal besides a businesswoman is also Malik and Elissa’s mother. Read more about her compelling story below.

How did you take the leap towards entrepreneurship?

Well, I went through a divorce 4 years ago and it got me thinking about what I wanted to do. Questions like “What is my passion? and What do I want to achieve?” ran through my mind.
And then it came to me, during a holiday in
Marrakesh. As my friend and I were admiring all the handcrafted leather goods which surrounded us and I started a chat with the shop owner where he told me, he could make any design I wanted. At that moment, I knew I wanted to start my own company – Amal Design.

You founded your company 4 years ago, do you have a background in fashion?

Yes, I have a fashion degree – MTS Mode & Kleding however, at the time of graduation, I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet and therefore, I started working for the Dutch government.

Are there any entrepreneurs in your family?

No, there are no other entrepreneurs in my family. I am the one who chose to follow this path but my parents have always encouraged me. Especially because they did not have the same opportunities. My parents came to the Netherlands as immigrants, with the idea of returning to their homeland.

How is the process of creating the bags? Where does the inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere and everything. It can be a color that I see and love or a shape in architecture (which I used in the Elissa line). That’s also a reason why I love to travel. Traveling gives me a lot of new perspectives and influences, but you need also an open mindset. When I get an inspiration I immediately write it down or start a sketch. First I started to sell bags that I designed and were handcrafted by the man I met in Marrakesh. Because I wanted to be a brand that would also mean something for society. Unfortunately, our cooperation did not work well and I had to find another supplier. I ended up in China and Portugal, which are still the countries where my designs are being manufactured.

What are the biggest challenges you face in business?

There are several great challenges in my business. First of all, it is to guess the needs and taste of my possible customers. Because as a designer, you design something you love, but your intention is also to sell it. So the crowd you are aiming at has to love it as well. Secondly, to know how to reach your target group. Another great challenge is maintaining the quality of my products, something that I really care about it. And finally, the last challenge for me as a designer is maintaining my creativity and renewing all the time because fashion is very dynamic. So you have to keep up with all the fashion developments.

What would your advice be for someone who is thinking about starting their own business?

My advice to someone who wants to start their own business is to “do it out of passion first” because it costs a lot of time. When you have your own business, then you are working on it 24/7. You can not sustain if your passion is not big enough. You have to know what you are aiming for and what the purpose of your company is. So I would say “yes, go for it” if that is what your passion is, then follow your heart. Just be aware of the steps you are making.

Amal Design store is located at De Herenstraat 136 in Voorburg and you can also buy online.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The company that appeared in this article were interviewed or featured by our editor Thaisa Macriani. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All art featured supplied by Amal-Design and other companies featured.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.


Ginger bread houses and wedding photography

Passion for storytelling about ginger bread houses and wedding photography

Silvia Falcomer is an Amsterdam based “destination” or travel photographer, Italian by birth and a cultural anthropologist by education. Silvia’s passion for storytelling through photography has caused her to move to The Netherlands a few years ago, and that is how her adventures as an expat began. I met her for a Q&A session, and below you can read more about her story and perhaps get inspired.


Where did your passion for photography start and how did your career begin?

The passion for photography started when I was very little, my mum used to work in a photo lab and both of my parents loved photography. I was playing around with their Minolta camera and the idea of becoming a photographer was always in the back of my mind. It was not easy for me though to make the decision to step into the freelance world, but one day I decided to give my dream a try no matter what and I did it in The Netherlands.

And even though that I’m an impatient person I’ve learned to give time to myself, my work, my life. Everything comes into the right place if you trust your path and you work hard for it.

Can you tell us about your decision to move to Amsterdam?

The love for the city started four years ago when I visited Amsterdam just for a weekend, I rented a bike and got around the city. While biking I was thinking that one day I will be living here in a ginger bread house and I will get around with my own bike. Two years later I made it happen. I developed a passion for the visual storytelling and in weddings I saw the best realization of what I had in mind. I wanted to combine my passion for photography and my love for Amsterdam, so I moved, and after two years I’m still here enjoying my job and my life.

What are the main challenges that you are facing on your path?

The main struggle is being a foreigner, since I communicate only in English and so far I don’t have a knowledge of Dutch and it’s difficult to get approached by locals, because I’m still little known in Holland. I started here from scratch, I didn’t know anyone when I came here. Now my work is growing, and even though that I’m an impatient person I’ve learned to give time to myself, my work, my life. Everything comes into the right place if you trust your path and you work hard for it.


I stopped looking at other photographers or Instagram. I found that it was disturbing and too overwhelming for my creativity.

What are the main differences between working in your home country and The Netherlands?

I see differences in the weddings style of course, due to the different cultures, but working here is basically the same as working in Italy because of the same approach. I actually do both, I shoot weddings in Holland and Italy and sometimes I travel to other international destinations.

What was your photography education: school/workshops/self-taught?

I’m completely self-taught, in the beginning I shot every single day, I was shooting everyone and everything at every time of the day, that way I learned how to handle light and composition.

I’m a cosmopolitan and a gipsy at heart.

Can you tell us what your job means to you? What do you desire to express with your photos?

I studied anthropology and now I see that my studies fit in my actual work. Being a destination wedding photographer allows me to step into different kind of cultures. I like to capture emotions, that’s what my work is all about. I like simplicity, beautiful light but also moody settings.


What is the biggest source of inspiration in your work?

I find inspiration in my travels and in people I meet. But mainly inspiration comes from inside – what makes my heart beat faster. For instance, I stopped looking at other photographers or Instagram. I found that it was disturbing and too overwhelming for my creativity. I’d rather spend more time in the nature, doing things I like.

Please tell us what you like to do when you aren’t shooting?

When I’m not working you can find me exploring Amsterdam or Holland in general. I love drinking coffee with my friends and traveling. Every time I have few days off I book a flight to new destinations, it makes me feel so alive.

Do you have any advice for beginning photographers and other entrepreneurs?

The only advice that I can give it’s to start. You will always think “I’m not ready, I’m not good enough”. We will never be, just start and practice, practice, practice. And love. You must love every single minute of your work, because sometimes it can be pretty hard, but very rewarding in the end.

Where/what is home to you?

There is no single “home” for me, because home is where my heart is and my heart is everywhere. I feel like Amsterdam is home but also my hometown because of my family and friends. I’m a cosmopolitan and a gipsy at heart.

As a destination photographer, what are your favorite locations and where are you looking forward to shooting next?

I’m going to shoot a beautiful wedding in the USA, and cannot wait for it! All the weddings I’m going to shoot are beautiful, different and special on their own. I’m already in love with all my couples.

Silvia’s most up-to-date photography portfolio can be found on her website www.silviafalcomer.com.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies that appear in this article were interviewed or featured by our editor Olga Golubova. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All art featured supplied by www.artona.eu and other companies featured. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

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