‘I’m still not Dutch enough to eat herring’

Slovak Viktória Pikovská (24) came to Rotterdam in 2016 as an exchange student and is now CEO of art company Victory Art, helping fellow Eastern European artists find a market for their work in the Netherlands. She’s making good progress with the Dutch language but can’t ever see herself eating herring.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I was a student in Prague studying at the Charles University, but at some point I felt like I needed more challenges in my life, but Prague didn’t offer me that. I made the decision to look for an exchange. My degree was strongly connected with art and I had a few options: Belgium, Norway or Rotterdam. I chose Rotterdam and was supposed to stay there for three months. I extended it to six months and then to nine months.

After that, I couldn’t extend it any more. I really liked the Netherlands so I made the decision to stay in the Netherlands and to finish my degree long-distance, flying back and forth to Prague while I was living in Rotterdam. When I made that decision to stay here, I decided not to just do whatever I could do anyway in Central Europe and back home. So in 2018 I founded Victory Art.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc?
I would definitely say Slavic because I feel that my roots are very strong and I’m a very traditional person. But at the same time, I believe I’m a very international person because I’m always meeting up with different cultures and the majority of the time I’m surrounded by people who are from Asia, America, Africa – all over the world. So I would say I’m an international person with strong Slavik roots.

How long do you plan to stay and why?
I always say that I will stay as long as I have a reason to stay. At the moment, the Victory Art team is here, our clients are here. I’ve built a strong network in the Netherlands that it would be a pity to leave behind, as well as strong friendships. Therefore, at the moment, I do not plan to leave the Netherlands.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I speak a little bit of Dutch – the basics. At the moment I’m working on getting to level B2 by the end of the year. The first month I came here I took Dutch courses. You learn a lot by listening to people. I can understand much better than I speak and I can read without issues. I believe I’ll always have an accent. I also use an amazing app, DutchPod 101. They have great videos, you can start at different levels and there’s a lot of clarity in the learning process.

What’s your favourite Dutch thing and why?
I would definitely say the bike. It’s really nice when it’s sunny and you cycle. I feel this is one of the reasons why Dutch people live so long and live such a fulfilling life. Physical activity is very important, and on the bike you are working out all the time. I’m not such a cardio fan but biking is a nice way of saving time and being super-efficient.

How Dutch have you become and why?
I haven’t become Dutch enough to eat herring, but I’ve become Dutch enough to be very straightforward. In my country, straightforwardness is still not very popular because we’re taught that we have to be very polite and respectful. In Dutch society you can have a certain level of selfishness, which is actually really healthy.

Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet?
Definitely Dutch painters, so Van Gogh because I really admire his life story and how successful he became after he died. He was always lonely, always just by himself. I would ask him how he feels. I would be curious about his mental state. Slavik women have this protective gene, like mothers. At Victory Art, I feel like I have seven children right now, I feel like everyone is my baby.

I would love to meet Mondrian because he shaped the art market so much. I would ask him how he came up with such a simple idea of painting a few squares and how it’s possible that this could make him so incredibly famous.

The last one is Wim Hof, the Dutch athlete and coach. I admire his mindset, how he can control his body and his mind and help other people to grow.

What’s your top tourist tip?
The restaurant Château Neercanne in Maastricht, in the marl caves. I went there three years ago and it was one of the strongest experiences I’ve ever had. They have a cave with champagnes and vintage wine, and when you go inside the cave, there are thousands of candles everywhere – so it’s like the perfect place if you want to get engaged or something. It’s just so romantic, so beautiful!

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands
People have really weird stairs here! Seriously, every single time my mum comes, she just looks at the stairs and she says, ‘How do they climb them?!’

But the most surprising thing is how many things people can carry on the bike. I cycle and I see people with a huge TV on the front; in the back, a chest of drawers or something – and they just act like nothing is happening, you know?

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
I would spend it with my loved ones in Rotterdam in a rooftop bar or restaurant with beautiful views of Rotterdam. The Inntel Hotel Rotterdam Centre is a really beautiful hotel – when you enter, everything is super clean, very designer, very stylish. From the bar you can see the whole of Rotterdam – and it’s just amazing.

To find out more about Victory Art and the artists Viktória is collaborating with, visit their website.

Viktória Pikovská was talking to Deborah Nicholls-Lee.

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