Boxx

An Expat Kind of Life

The term “expat” has always been an integral part of my identity. Born in the bustling city of Hong Kong to Dutch and Filipino parents, I spent my entire childhood living in and moving to different countries throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America. Every four years or so, we would pack all of our belongings into boxes and move to the new location to which my father was assigned: South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Chile. What I considered to be home and familiar was the anticipation of always moving somewhere new.

Every country to which I moved brought myriad new experiences and cultural changes. I can remember moving from Hong Kong to Chile at age 14 and going to the store in Santiago for the first time. Not only did I have to deal with a sudden language barrier, but after living in fast-paced Asian cities for years, the adjustment to the slower mañana, mañana, pace of life also took some getting used to.

Despite all of the changes, what was always common in each place were the international schools I attended. My peers and the friends that I made at these schools shaped the way I view all individuals to be the same—regardless of nationality, culture, or background. Ultimately, this has influenced the international environment that I love to be in—not only personally but also professionally.

When I finally moved “home” to the Netherlands at age 18, I experienced what I consider to be my first real culture shock. Suddenly, instead of being with individuals from all over the globe who accepted each other’s differences in culture, I felt estranged from the natives of my home country. Ironically, leaving the comfort zone of cultural differences at an international school made me realize for the first time in my life that I was truly creating a new life abroad. Facing the challenges of navigating the formalities and customs of a new country on my own added a deeper understanding of what it means to move to a new place. It is with this background and understanding that I now try to approach my work in immigration, helping employees and clients from all over the world.

Strangely, as I was growing up it never occurred to me all the immense work it must have taken to move a family of four, born and married in different countries, and all the professionals who worked in the background to make these transitions in my life feasible. Becoming an immigration consultant was never a career choice that I considered when I entered the workforce. However, though I came into the profession more by chance, the world of mobility very quickly felt familiar. As an immigration specialist, I have come to realize that being able to assist employees and their families in making their moves as seamless as possible is part of what makes our job successful and so satisfying for me. Each individual comes with a personal story. Understanding their story, meeting the needs of their employers, and ensuring that the local immigration requirements are met continues to be a constant motivation for me.

Claudia Duifhuizen is a senior consultant, immigration, with Boxx global expat solutions in the Netherlands. She can be reached at +31 6 55 34 5617 or claudia@boxx-expat.com.