Polish national Marysia Bialek came to the Netherlands as a teenager 15 years ago and is now a marketing and communications advisor. She describes herself as a European, feels at home in two cultures and would love to meet John de Mol and Neelie Kroes.
How did you end up in the Netherlands?
My mother’s second husband was Dutch and they decided to leave Poland so I didn’t have a choice. That was 15 years ago. I came to the Netherlands when I was a teenager. It was a difficult time to leave the environment I trusted and all my good friends but I made it and the Netherlands has become my home.
How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc?
I’m a European. I love Europe and the open borders. My home is Poland and the Netherlands. My background allows me to think and act naturally in two cultures. By mixing the Dutch directness with the Polish politeness I seem to have managed to generate interesting business contacts and long-lasting relationships.
How long do you plan to stay and why?
The Netherlands is a friendly country for doing business and allows you to travel all over the world. I will probably stay here for a while longer. We will see.
Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I speak Dutch and Polish equally – I had to learn Dutch at school. But I have a lot of friends who are not trying to learn because everyone speaks English. Please try! If you speak Dutch a lot of doors will open for you. Dutch people appreciate it when you try to speak their language and you will understand all Dutch jokes and the hidden messages in their words.
What’s your favourite Dutch food?
Soesjes – little profiteroles – I can’t live with out them, sooo lekker!
How Dutch have you become?
I think in Dutch and have Dutch friends, making appointments in my agenda and reading Dutch books. But I will always stay a Polish girl.
Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet?
John de Mol is a Dutch media icon. He developed highly popular television programmes and he’s still working on new formats. I just want to see him brainstorming about the show and thinking up programmes people will want to see.
Neelie Kroes is very powerful and influential. What she says matters, and I’d love her to be a special guest at the conference we are organising to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Television presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk has such a rich vocabulary. Every day when I watch his show I learn new words.
What’s your top tourist tip?
If you like nature, visit Oostvaardersplassen between Lelystad and Almere. Years ago you could even ice skate there – really beautiful. Now you can go there for a long walk on a sunny day. Take your binoculars with you to spot a lot of different animals.
Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands.
The Dutch love playing games with their family. Whole families get together to play cards, scrabble, Settlers of Catan or Monopoly. For me it means gezellig. And this is a tradition I will keep with my future family.
If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
Eat patat oorlog (French fries with sate sauce, mayonnaise and raw onion).
Marysia Bialek is one of the organisers of Business Women Congress, a conference for women from central Europe which will take place in The Hague on March 12.