What kind of expat are you?
I’m Chloe, aged 37. I love humanity and real encounters with others. That’s why I love travelling and, above all, I love going to live in other countries as an expat to gain a better understanding of a culture and a country.
I like to get to know people deep down and not just on a superficial level. My passion is my profound curiosity about everything and my abounding interest in the world. I have a real leaning towards philosophy, history and literature. Above all, I love the freedom that man has and the ability to make choices.
I love to read, go to the cinema and play games (card games and board games), as well as sport in general (taking part). I also love to party … !!!:))) Well, that’s important, isn’t it? 🙂
Where do you live?
In Amsterdam in Oud Zuid: it’s a spacious district; we live close to some little shops, half way between the museums, the centre and school. It’s perfect! Life here isn’t too busy or overpopulated.
How did you come to be here?
I followed my husband here as part of his professional career change and this was our second move as expats.
Had you already lived abroad?
I spent my college years in Casablanca, Morocco. I lived in Miami for 6 months (2003), 6 months in Benin (2003) and 5 years in Mexico (Mexico City) just before I came to Amsterdam.
How long have you been living as an expat in Amsterdam?
I’ve been living in Amsterdam for 18 months (since September 2016). I came here with my 3 young boys who are now aged six and a half (Marcel), five (Gaspard) and two and a half (Zadig). As I hadn’t moved before with such a large troupe, I allowed myself 3 months to move everyone over, rebalance family life and find our “niche”. We adapted very quickly, especially the children who are still incredible adaptable.
You’ve set up your own business in cultural exchanges. Where did you get the idea for this?
I got the idea for this venture in 2015 while I was living in Mexico. I’d just finished my 2 years doing a Master’s degree in Humanities (Art, Literature, History and Philosophy) and I finished writing my thesis in philosophy. It was about the new era in the 21 st Century and the concept of instantaneity – how our time has distorted the real, eternal moment, true communication and the search for truth.
I’m a really curious person and I could be a student all my life. I feel like an orphan now I’m not picking up quality knowledge from impassioned professors on a weekly basis. Equally, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the way we communicate, the way we talk to one another and make ‘poor’ use of every moment. We don’t know how to transcend this (the dangers of hyper-connectivity with Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.).
So, without wanting to be out of sync with the magnificent opportunities that technology brings us, I had an idea about the way we’re connected and access others, using the virtual to recreate what is real, sharing qualitative moments, learning, communication and sharing. However, this must always be enjoyable (over a drink! – doing things that bring us together) while taking everyone’s limitations into account, especially mine! It’s a hot topic!
I really wanted to meet my own expectations of frequent cultural and learning experiences but in a simple way that’s also fun and accessible.
How do you organise your projects around your personal life?
It isn’t always easy but I’ve found some good ways of arranging childcare 4 days a week until 6.00pm, which means I benefit from full working days. The children attend after-school sports classes and go to the childminder and are pretty happy with the way their days are planned. I’ve kept Wednesday as a day for spending time with them. This recent solution where I can work freely and intensively for 4 days a week as opposed to 2 days has helped me a lot and has eased my frustrations. I’m much more readily available when I collect the children now and spend far more quality time with them.
So, you’re a very busy “Mompreneur“?
It’s very intense during the week and I welcome the weekends. Also, my husband travels away for his work, which takes a lot of organising. I need to prepare lunch and snacks the day before for everyone, the “bakfiets” bike is always
on the move and the week flies by. However, this is more my impression rather than theirs as they don’t feel like they’re constantly rushing around. I’ve got a great collection of childminders who come to my aid me if I have meetings
or evenings out that don’t fall within my regular childcare hours or my husband’s schedule.
It’s true that setting up your own project and really giving it your all takes up a lot of energy and headspace. So, I try to be able to disconnect from it even though this isn’t always easy (on Wednesday afternoons I try not to work too much and take time for a siesta or to have a violin lesson …). Also, I try not to work at all at the weekends, which are really sacred.
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness?
Moments of happiness…
These are with my family… every day! Cuddles with the kids, the youngest one who always comes running across the nursery to meet me, arms wide open and with a huge smile when I go to pick him up, kisses at bedtime, reading fairy tales with the children, family board games …
I also get a lot of joy from work … I love the adrenaline rush you get when things are going well, the enthusiasm you get from a new concept, the joy of working with people you want to work with rather than have to work with (THIS MAKES ME
REALLY HAPPY!), the amazing feeling of freedom when managing your own business plans and life. Being able to make free choices every day! You spend a lot of time looking after your children.
Do you have a little home-made secret you can share with us?
Yes, the birthday party at Beatrix Park when Marcel was 6 last July. We created a circus called Realization of a Circus “Marcel Circus” and made everything ourselves.
What sort of cultural things do you enjoy right now on your own or with your family?
There are two cultural things I like to do regularly: The Proust group at the Ecole Wallonne, which sends me into raptures once a month on Thursday mornings (it’s a guided reading class of “A la recherche du temps perdu” – “In search of Lost Time”) with a group of retired French-speaking Dutch people. I simply love it!!! I’m surrounded by professionals in literature, medieval history and psychoanalysts, art history and music. It’s a passionate group and the group leader is truly remarkable – It really drives me wild. I learn something from everyone there with me and it’s like a breath of fresh air for the soul! Also, I’ve recently started going to a reading group with only a few members, which means we can really discuss things. I go with the family to the Rijks, the Marine Museum and the Troppen Museum and the kids have a ball!
Time for a bit of culture: Can you quote one of your favourite books or paintings?
In terms of art, I’ve just bought myself a present by Quentin Carnaille. It’s a work that you can reach out and touch and is malleable. It speaks of time passing. I love it!
In terms of literature, I love “ C’est une chose étrange à la fin que le monde ” (“The world is a curious thing in the end”) by Jean d’Ormesson. See what Chloe thinks about it.
Chloé, can you tell us about your business?
We all have a passion for learning but it’s often hard to put culture first when we have a busy schedule. To make sure that culture doesn’t always take a back seat and to show it can be a big plus in our lives, Cultcheers helps to manage our time constraints by offering short cultural sessions of less than 60 minutes in many places around the city.
Cultcheers enlists talented people in areas like philosophy, art, literature, history and science and puts them in touch with those interested using a web platform. There are all kinds of subjects (for example, fine food, sport, sophrology, which are just some of our secondary themes). Talented individuals are enlisted to pass on their knowledge through a talk, performance (for actors, musicians, singers) or a tasting session (for wine, beer and food).
They engage their audience by encouraging them to exchange views, incorporating at least 20 minutes of discussion time for questions and answers. So, the format is very engaging and friendly. The sessions take place at the home of the person offering the session or they’re sometimes hosted by a participating third- party. With between 6-12 people, discussions take place over a drink (coffee, tea, wine, depending on the time of day).
So Cultcheers offers a cultural agenda right on your doorstep, with sessions that are 5 minutes from your home, school, workplace, sports club. Cultcheers offers many different themes at different times and places, engaging many talented people with sessions in many languages. Those who go along pay 10 euros per event and signing up brings many advantages.
The beta website and app were created in May 2018, but the official launch of the current website and app (for live public use) was in September 2018.
Cultcheers aims to bring a high-quality cultural brand into the home while strengthening the bond with a lost oral tradition, showcasing little-known talented people and building close connections that spans the generations.
How did you develop a business around meetings that unite both culture and friendship?
The idea had been running through my mind since 2015 when I lived in Mexico. Before fine-tuning my idea, I took a 4-month course in “starting cultural projects” at a Mexican university. Then, I put together a proposal on paper for Mexico City with international potential and the idea of creating a label, a referrer brand for high-
quality accessible culture. Shortly after finishing my diploma, I found out that we were going to live in Amsterdam in 6 months. So, after dedicating the first 3 months to ensuring my family settled in, I relaunched my project in January 2017. I was well aware that I didn’t have the same facilities as I had in Mexico: no network, no professional contacts, no knowledge of the local language…
I was very lucky to meet Lili and she became my business partner a few months later. We complement each other perfectly and were very lucky to meet. Lili specialised in the recruitment and training of cultural teams and in managing the art of public speaking. We shared the same values and had a common vision for the project, so we launched the adventure together and took on the challenge of creating our own label. The first stage was to properly define our project and build a network, meeting many different talented people and those involved in cultural areas.
Then, we carried out 50 tests between Amsterdam and foreign countries (from Hong- Kong to Boston, via Paris, Mexico and Bangkok…) for recruitment purposes and live marketing studies.
Thanks to these tests, we managed to live up to the expectations we had raised and pursued the “momentum” we’d built up to not let go. This has enabled us to react quickly to opportunities that arise and to develop our team.
After securing freelancer status, we were awarded private company status a few days later, which was very important for our business. At the same time, we set ourselves up in a co-working area and welcomed our new trainee. Amsterdam is a city that’s quick to react and has impressively powerful networks, which was inconceivable after Mexico.
What do you gain from your experience on a professional level, settling into the country and also in family terms …?
My professional experience helps me to create multiple opportunities with extremely beneficial meetings. I draw daily comfort from my network and word of mouth that secures qualified contacts who are also recommended. I appreciate the great commitment of everyone involved, whether through their own projects or through their enthusiasm for the projects of others.
I draw on extremely positive energy and, on a personal level, this allows me to meet people who I like and admire.
We found that working in a thriving environment motivates the entire family and allows us to feel at home in the country.
Can you summarise your professional journey?
Can I summarise it…? Ok, I’ll try!
I left the ESSCA business school in Angers in 2003 after specialising in finance there. I took a year out to take part in an educative humanitarian mission in Benin and then spent a few months in Mexico. After this, I completed a specialist master’s degree in corporate finances at the EM in Lyon. Between 2005 and 2007, I worked in business banking and advice. Since I really wanted to make sense of what I was doing, I chose a conversion course in operational marketing in large-scale textile distribution. I then worked in the market for 5 years as a product manager in charge of sales promotion. In 2012, I followed my husband to Mexico City. I used this as an opportunity to begin studying again, motivated by the desire and curiosity that had been going through my head for several years. I took a master’s degree in humanities at a Mexican university (Art, Literature, History and Philosophy) and completed my degree with a thesis in
philosophy. At the same time, in 2013 I purchased a children’s accessory brand that I’d been working on for 3 years (redesigning the product range, setting up new distribution channels, especially in online sales). I sold this on in 2016 before leaving Mexico.