Expats in the spotlight
Expats Yean-Sheng Yong and Way-Ying Yip on Dutch directness, cycling and making new friends
From +30 to -10 degrees: when Yean-Sheng Yong arrived in the Netherlands from Malaysia in February 2012 there wasn’t a particularly warm welcome awaiting him, at least in terms of the weather. The Netherlands was in the grips of one of its coldest ever winters. Nevertheless, the harsh winters haven’t put him off staying here. His wife Wai-Ying Yip has now joined him in Enschede. The two of them very much enjoy their new life here.
Having gained his Master’s degree at one of the universities in Kuala Lumpur, Yean-Sheng was keen to gain a PhD abroad. This ambition brought him to the Optical Sciences Group at the University of Twente, where he is conducting research into the interaction of light and matter at the nanoscale. Wai-Ying Yip remained in Kuala Lumpur at that time. “We wanted to be sure that we could really settle in here”, explains Yean-Sheng.
Like a warm bath
Settling in was no problem. Although Yean-Sheng had to get used to the cold, the university environment was like a warm bath. “Everyone on campus was incredibly helpful and hospitable. Studying in the Netherlands is wonderful. Cooperation between various projects is greatly encouraged, and everyone helps each other. The Dutch are very direct. They will tell you straight away if they don’t agree with something or don’t like something. We’re not like that in Malaysia. That took a bit of getting used to, but now I actually value it. You know where you stand with people.”
Expat Center Twente
Wai-Ying now lives with him in Enschede. She found it rather more difficult to find her feet. “I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t studying here, and I had no friends here when I first arrived. I only had my husband. That was a difficult period for me. But then we were invited to a workshop on filling in tax returns by the Expat Center Twente. They help expats in the region learn how things work here. After the workshop, I received an e-mail saying that they were looking for volunteers who were willing to tell others about their experiences as an expat in the Netherlands. I ended up spending two and a half years working as a volunteer at the Expat Center, and made lots of new friends!”
The Expat Center Twente is part of the WTC Twente, which is the main point of contact in the region for international business. The people there have become a kind of second family for Wai-Ying. “WTC Twente has given me great support. It is always nice when people in a foreign country understand you and help you. I wanted other expats to feel just as welcome as I do. When Enschede gained its own branch of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service in 2014 for expats, I decided to do something in return. I soon found myself at the city hall every week, helping newly-arrived expats with my knowledge and experience, from finding language courses to the best way of travelling to Germany. Due to my new job as a lecturer at HAN University of Applied Sciences, I don’t have time to do this at present, but I hope to be able to do it again in the future.”
The couple is not currently considering leaving the Netherlands. Next year, when he’s finished his PhD, Yean-Sheng wants to find work in the Netherlands. “We love it here, and have made lots of friends. We often go cycling in our free time. I sometimes joke to my family in Malaysia that the cycle paths here are wider than the motorways back home. We can better appreciate the weather here now. In Malaysia, it’s always summer. Here, you can see the seasons changing.”
Want to know more about being an expat in the Netherlands and Twente in particular? Read all about it on our special expat page!