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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.

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.

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.

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. https://www.facebook.com/events/1239604042784784/

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.


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.

My favourite shop in the Netherlands..

A place which helped me deal with the feeling of homesickness.

I love the Dutch for being punctual about shutdown time.

“Shall we wind up?” This phrase is absolute music to anyone that is used to working in countries like India and Singapore, where official timings are from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM and unofficially from 10.00 AM to 8.00 PM, if you are lucky and more if you aren’t.

I love the Dutch for being punctual about shutdown time. Whilst my Indian friends and their husbands, eat, sleep and live in their offices, my husband and I are able to bundle up before the TV by 6.00 every evening. Every single evening. Sounds slightly boring, I agree. But that is because there is no place to go to after 7.00 PM. Shops close by that time even in the most ‘happening’ places. In fact, there were times when I was shown out of shops because it was 20 minutes to closing time. Oh, well.

I forgot my homesickness in the bright lights of AH and lost my heart to their spongy muffins. It even served as my guide to basic Dutch.

In a place that practically goes to sleep by 7.00 PM, Albert Heijn is a perfect godsend. No milk for an early morning cuppa? Rush to your nearest AH. Craving a late night desert? AH is your answer. Lonely night? A bottle of two Euro wine is waiting just for you in AH. Emergency tampon? AH again.

I have a special relationship with this chain. It was my first go-to place when I was new to The Hague. I forgot my homesickness in the bright lights of AH and lost my heart to their spongy muffins. It even served as my guide to basic Dutch. Aardbei, tarwe, boterham, roomboter… common everyday things and their names. I learnt to speak a sort of broken Dutch with the help of their labels. Being a chocoholic, there once came a time when I forgot my purse and walked into the chocolate section of AH. While bars of Lindt gleamed at me, I rummaged through my worn jeans to find a Euro. And who do you think saved my day? The AH home brand of hazelnut-choco bar. Of course, an AH chocolate bar isn’t exactly like Lindt, but it is pretty good, especially when you are pining for cocoa and don’t/can’t want to spend much.

That’s when I discovered a whole new world of possibilities. The quality of their products come very close to that of big brands. I have tried their honey, nut  butters, pasta sauces, baking supplies, cleaning products, dairy, olive oil, sanitary products.. you name it, there is a chance that I have used it. In fact, I might well be their PR person. A normal, mid sized store stocks the basics and a little more, while the large ones typically bring in a range of consumables, all including vegan, gluten free and lactose free foods as well as tea straight from the gardens of Sri Lanka and India, decorated with the picture of Ganesh – the elephant god of Indians. Glass noodles with Teriyaki sauce, Kenyan Cassava chips and even Tikka masala with naan breads. These are not very authentic, but would satiate your craving for home like food – sort of. Add to this, a mix of several nationalities popping in and out. Some of them who also care to have a cup of coffee with you, like how an American once did with me, sharing interesting trivia. All this to me, is way beyond impressive. 

Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Den Bosch, Hilversum… terrains and towns change but not AH. It is to Netherlands what Walmart is to USA. Years later, when I move back to my country, the Netherlands will evoke the memories of canals, tulips and white boards with AH written in blue 🙂 

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 appears in this article were featured by our editor Vatsalya Balasubramaniam. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. Our full disclaimer can be found here.


Noomi – Creating light within refugee camps


Suzanne Ros, Derisa Chiu, Emilie Langlois and Roxana Macovei are 3rd year Industrial Design Engineering students at The Hague University with the vision to create light for children in refugee camps. These young and bright minds have developed an egg-shaped product, Noomi,  which stores energy through movement. It enables children to kick and throw the Noomi around and afterwards it can be switched on to function as a light source.

Help them get funded by voting for them through the following link. This competition is held by the municipality of The Hague and has closed.

We had the chance to interview one of the founders of Noomi, Suzanne Ros, read more about Noomi below.

Why did you choose to name your creation as Noomi and how would you describe it to a layman?

Noomi started as a university design project with the topic of bringing renewable energy into refugee camps, which don’t have access to constant electricity. And so, people use kerosene lamps and candles for light which in turn bring risks such as respiratory diseases and fire hazards.

Our answer to these problems is Noomi –  a toy that generates energy through play (thus being user powered), which is stored inside in a battery which can later be used as a light. This serves as an entertainment to children and also as a source of light.

The name for Noomi came through the idea of the moon.  No matter where you are in the world, the moon is always constant and shines.  Because we are designing for another world, we flipped moon, so, ‘noom’. And then the ‘I’ symbolises the individual user; the focus. And so, Noomi!

Why an unconventional design of the toy?

The process of Noomi to come to its design and shape is the result of integrating the feedback from user tests and design.  Because Noomi is designed to be more than just a toy, there are features such as the geometric surface for improved grip.  The abstract shape came from a test that we found our target group (age 6-9) like to be challenged, the abstract shape of Noomi brings a challenge in uncertainty in what direction it will bounce.  Some may say that Noomi resembled some sort of dinosaur egg or a pomegranate seed form; this can be seen as a symbol for good hope, new life.

How do you think this will help in the longer run and how do you see yourself take this forward?

Noomi is a simple concept that has the potential to create a big impact.  In the long run, we feel that Noomi can bring psychological benefits for the children, and provide an activity that also has reward.  Eventually, the hope is that Noomi can grow and develop. We want to continue with social design and bring products or services that make a difference in the lives of people and/or the environment.

Tell us a little about your team and how easy or difficult was it to translate thought into action, especially in the Netherlands.

The Noomi team started with the four of us; Suzanne, Roxana, Derisa and Emilie, all coming from all over the world (Netherlands, Romania, Taiwan and Mauritius).

The great thing about The Hague is the international aspect.  English is spoken almost everywhere.  Studying in English and having one Dutch member in the group meant that in all communication areas, there were no issues.

Noomi is currently in a competition organised by the Hague government called the Hague innovators 2017.  Here, Noomi is competing against two other student projects with a prize of €10,000.  On top of this, there is a public prize award for one of the nine teams which has the most votes on the page.  For all readers to come together and support Noomi by voting, liking them on Facebook and even sharing Noomi.  The more people that know about Noomi and support the project is a big step towards success.

If there is anyone who wants to support Noomi further regarding business inquiries or advice/comments, you can contact them through their Facebook page or email.

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 Vatsalya Balasubramaniam. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All images are supplied by Noomi. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

An Indian’s introduction to Holland

Talking double Dutch? Beginning to…

The Dutch speak not with tongues, but with throats propelled by an energy drawn deep from the pits of their stomachs. I have spent two months of my life on this land, yet can only hear winds and gurgling streams from the mouths of those who speak the tongue. Be it a question, a statement or just an exclamation someone expresses to me, the only reply I can give is, “can you speak English?” or play dumb charades. Whilst, some are nice enough to repeat in English, I have come across a few who exasperatedly shake their heads or worse, move their wrists in front of my face ( like swatting a fly) and say ‘never mind’ in the most superior tone one can muster. While this did irk me, I brushed it off (using a few well-chosen names for them in my mother tongue, in the process.)

Back in India, it is difficult to shut me up. I would talk to anyone I come across and when there is no one, I would talk even to the omnipresent crows that feast on the most disgusting things possible, without judging them. Here, irrespective of where I go, I am the sole human being who is oblivious to all that is being said and can’t act until someone stabs me or I see a truck right in front of my face that might run me down in seconds. It starts to seem like people are either studiously ignoring me (which they are) or when they are not, jeering at me in a language I don’t know. In fact, at home, the crack of eggshells, the sizzling oil, the bubbling broth and even the whooshing of hot steam from the shower sound like Dutch to me.

Unable to put up with it anymore, I march to the public library with the wind whispering into my monkey capped ears (in Dutch of course!) in search of any book that would help me regain the use of my vocal chords in public. After about an hour of finding only a Dutch to Dutch beginners book, I approach the authorities for help. While I request the librarian to assist me in my cause, my mind draws up its own imagination of me huffing, gargling and puffing away in Dutch as my husband watches me with a gob smacked expression. “I am afrrrrraid fee do not haf fought you fant,” the librarian peers at me through her thick glasses with absolutely no sign of repentance. ” We only had Dutch to Dutch book,” she says, waving the book in air.

I walk back in the cold, cursing my school for having taught me a fourth and even a fifth language, but no Dutch. On recounting my experience, my cool husband whips up his phone to download Duolingo, an app that teaches Dutch. Duo, the owl its mascot is now my teacher. And I should say, it has started changing my life. I have begun to take baby steps in Dutch and wish my mom a goede morgen (good morning) every day. I learnt the names of vegetables, fruits and animals in Dutch and have now proceeded to learn simple sentences too. My sole competitor is none other than the husband who, I should admit despite having only limited time to learn, comes alarmingly close to my skill level. That’s when I push myself to stay at least a level ahead and show off to my only audience – my mom.

It sure isn’t easy to construct grammatically right sentences with words that use the sounds of every other alphabet but their own (for example, vegetables are groente, pronounced hoonthe), but I think I am getting there. At least I hope I am.

Meanwhile, I have also started to practice pranayama and stomach- muscle strengthening exercises that would help me speak Dutch from my navel.

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