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People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Sheba Yu
Country of Origin: China
Study and work: studying Dutch and starting up a business

On a sunny morning we enter DenF coffee, looking around if we see Sheba. After a while we spot her. We are very excited to meet up with her, because she is the first Chinese person who said yes to our interview request. “That’s because they don’t like to be in the spotlight, and maybe are a bit reluctant to tell their story,” tells Sheba. “I worked with a lot of Dutch people in China and I’m married to a Dutchman. I’m used to being around the Dutch.” Sheba comes across as a very vibrant person. “I learned to be much more straightforward with people. In China people usually don’t speak up for themselves. I attended an international job fair here in the Netherlands and a guy was talking negative and making jokes about a lecture on how to keep the spouses of internationals happy. In China I would have stayed quiet and let it pass. Here I confronted him and told him it was not nice what he said and I didn’t like it. We are still acquaintances now, how about that!”

Sheba met her husband in China through mutual friends. He was in the country for his work. “For me it was love at first sight. He needed a bit more signs before he got the hint that I liked him,” Sheba laughs. “When we were together for a year, he wanted to take the next step in his career. He wanted to go back to the Netherlands and wanted me to join him. I worked with a lot of Dutch people for a charity organisation and as a translator for big companies, and I always liked that very much. The Dutch are pleasant to work with. So I was very positive about going to the Netherlands. We wanted to get married, but our families weren’t too excited about that. His family didn’t know me and my family didn’t know him and my family is also very traditional. Eventually, we eloped and told our families months later. In the end, it turned out fine and we are still happily married.”

With all her knowledge on doing business in China and her excellent English, Sheba wants to start her own business as a China consultant for international businesses who want to expand to China. “Or I would like to be employed by a company as their China consultant. I know exactly how things work there and that can make a really big difference in a business deal. That can be in the cultural area but also legal work, like permits. To be even better in my job, I’m also taking a Dutch course with empowerment training on how to start a business. Companies who need my help can contact me.”

Sheba lived in Xian, a city with 12 million inhabitants and famous for its Terracotta Army amongst others. “Yes, Xian is a much larger city compared to Eindhoven, but I can do everything I want to do here. I’m happy here. When my husband said he wanted to move again, I said I wanted to stay in Eindhoven. I want to settle down for a while. The first few weeks here, I was upset sometimes. Making contact was difficult for me. But that didn’t get me down. I tried a lot of different things to get my social life up and running: I went to  The Hub, library, joined Facebook groups. I even went on a pub crawl, but that wasn’t my thing. Now I do things with people who have the same interests. Dutch people are very open and creative and that is something I want to learn too. I love to read and write.”

At the end of our conversation, Sheba tells us she wants to share one more thing with us and it is one of the few negative experiences she had in the Netherlands. “During Kingsday there was a stage in front of my house. Not a huge problem, but when friends come over for dinner, we decided to go to the house of one of my friends because the music was so loud we couldn’t hear each other. My husband was out of town for work at that time. When we left my house there a lot of drunk people in street in front of my house. I had my bicycle with me, and that made it extra difficult to move through the crowd. A big guy sat on the back of my bike, and I think in his mind he thought he was helping me. Another one was in front of my bike. I got really scared. One of my friends pushed them away so I could finally get through. After that awful experience I was on my bike, other strangers were yelling ni hao (hello in Chinese) at me. Why would you do that? They can’t tell if I’m Chinese, Indonesian or Korean. It is offensive. It was my saddest day in the Netherlands. The thing that hurt the most was that some my Dutch friends brushed aside what happened, telling me ‘oh they were drunk and didn’t mean no harm’. I hope I will never experience such a thing again.”

Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel
Read more stories of internationals here.