I’m interested in how the world ticks. You too? I’ve always been fascinated by various aspects of the world around me, the fact that only women who weren’t married seemed to get to travel, study and have interesting jobs as noticed by the primary-school me to the neon-green caterpillar on the rather luxurious “doghouse” that our family had as spotted by the teenage me.
I’m a Dutchwoman from Amsterdam, but I’ve previously lived in the United States so you’ll find a mix of American and British spelling on this website. I’ve been in England, the southernmost one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, since the end of 2004.
My last name appears to be a combination of Norse and French, because that is where the families on my dad’s side came from, but you have to go back pretty far in time to track that down.
I am an earth & life scientist, a geologist turned marine biogeochemist, to be exact. Yep, sure, I was once part of KNCV, GeochemSoc, AGU, KNGMG, IUPAC (albeit affiliate member), ASM and various organizations for women in science. I am a current member of IAPG, but not active in it.
I no longer talk much about what I actually do these days or what my plans are.
As I am an EU citizen in England, I am clearly making that all up. I am just trying to sound more interesting and perhaps trying to pretend that I am from a posh family. I am cheap, low-skilled labor. You can bet that I do not even know how to operate a coffeemaker. I am from the EU. They don’t have coffeemakers beyond Dover. Everybody knows that.
I have nothing against low-skilled labor, by the way. To the contrary, I am totally not a desk jockey. There is a lot of manual labor involved in geology (and also in marine science) as well as a lot of walking and climbing. Want an example? I collected 500 kilograms of rock samples during my fieldwork in Sweden (usually needing to be chiseled and hammered out first, after taking down their location and orientation) and they had to be crushed or sawed and/or pelleted for further analysis.
I’m a late bloomer, though. I used to work in tourism & hospitality in Amsterdam and only started turning myself into a scientist when I was in my mid twenties.
I’ve done all sorts of other stuff since. In March 2015, I completed an online course by Harvard Law School at 89% for example. I’d better keep such things to myself because I obviously faked those results as everyone knows that all women over 45 have dementia. (I was 44 when I moved to England, which made me age almost 50 years overnight. I also lose about 50 years every time I leave the country.) We are crazy, we old people, and we all make up hackers to mask that we don’t know what to do with a computer, let alone a smartphone. We’re like recalcitrant 3-year-olds and must be put in our place?!
Seriously, most older adults do not develop dementia at all. Let go of the dumb myth that everyone over 45 is senile and as good as dead, a “daisy”. Touting that myth merely marks you as a clueless fool, as a Boris or a Jacob. 13 in 14 people over 65 do not have dementia (1 in 14 does). Poverty is a much bigger problem because that is behind a lot of health problems in all age groups. It’s not at all true that once you’re over 45 or 65, bad health is a given. Let go of all the other nonsense too, such as the idea that Black Lives Matter is a daft short-lived typically American movement that has no relevance for people in Britain, as suggested by Keir. He’s just as clueless then, isn’t he?
(Before you start suspecting that I am a fan of the Lib Dems, let me state clearly that when a former Lib Dem leader starts stepping up for one of the least ethical companies in the world, no matter how many times it changes its name, it sadly also speaks volumes about what the Lib Dems stand for. That said, I did vote Lib Dem for years. I vote Green Party these days.)
Eighteen years ago, at the end of 2004, I relocated from Amsterdam to Hampshire in England. This was only supposed to have been for a few years. I’d previously lived and worked in the United States and the plan was to move back to the US eventually.
Every country has its problems and its pluses and minuses. They’re just like people, to some degree. You click more with some than with others, but the most difficult situations also usually offer the biggest learning opportunities.
In the US, most people welcomed me.
The fact that I looked 10, 15 years younger than I actually was, helped along by the optimal skin moisturization produced by Florida’s high humidity caused a certain degree of misunderstanding, but no more than 1 or 2 or 3 people associated me with drugs and prostitution just because I was from the Netherlands.
Most Americans were also very helpful, corrected me when I made language mistakes (mispronunciations, sometimes because I used the British pronunciation of words like “herbs”) and taught me that the language we got to hear in American TV series and movies is not always fit for daily use (such as the word “bastard”).
In Britain, by contrast, people tend to make fun of you behind your back for similar reasons. If you ask questions, you usually get nowhere. You may get told off. You’re a non-native and you’ll never understand the English way of doing things. (This is called “exceptionalism”, I believe.) And if you don’t like that, then why don’t you go back to where you came from?
Sometimes, English people you’ve never met before have already spoken about you with other English people at such length that they must feel as if they already know you, therefore forget to introduce themselves and don’t inform you that they already know that you’re Dutch either.
In groups with strangers, English people often diligently avoid your eyes and pull up their chairs so that you can’t pull up another one and sit next to them, but that, indeed, is genuine English social awkwardness. There are English people too who are amused by this, however, such as the HMRC guy running a tax workshop that I attended, noticing that I was the only one talking to the others and handing out cards. That sort of thing – talking to strangers; this is not exclusively about foreigners – still tends to freak out a lot of English folks, even if they’re in business for themselves. (Brexit is not likely to make that better.)
I had not expected to like it much in the US, on the basis of stories I had read and warnings I had received. I had also anticipated not liking the Florida heat and humidity at all. In fact, I had dreaded it, but I probably mostly based that on a long weekend spent in Alicante in weird very humid weather, which was not its usual weather (at least not back then) and on my experiences in a city with a lot of air pollution that quickly becomes overcast and sticky in hot weather (Amsterdam).
Florida’s air is relatively clean.
Moreover, all Florida homes have some form of air conditioning, abbreviated to “airco” in the Netherlands and to “air con” in the UK, but it’s simply “a/c” in the US. It makes a big difference.
I got dehydrated there pretty badly once but that was also the last time. When it happened, the Americans around me were helpful and understanding.
From that point on, I cherished the heat and humidity of Florida.
Fast forward to England where it’s often like everyone considers themselves your personal enemy. That feels like a gross exaggeration, so dramatic, until you consider the following.
This fragment comes from (an earlier version of) the book “When cultures collide“, written by Englishman Richard D. Lewis and recommended to me by an American, Pinkney C. Froneberger III (a Democrat whose granddad was a US senator). I encountered him at a workshop at Berenschot, about cultural differences. PC and I discovered that we were both members of the Amsterdam American Business Club.
Later, when someone at NATO called me one day and inquired about the presentation skills workshops for scientists that I was offering through my business, I contacted PC, because PC did this kind of thing for a living, mostly working with the big banks, through his own business. My usual presentations skills trainer with whom I’d designed three different workshops, a self-employed Australian ex-Shell guy with a geology background, was in Turkey at the time, on business.
Through the Amsterdam American Business Club, I got to meet Lencola Sullivan, another Democrat as well as a world-class singer and speaker. I was attending the celebration of Dutch-American Friendship Day at a reception in a lounge at Schiphol Airport and noticed a woman in a peach- or salmon-colored suit standing by herself at the time and I sauntered over. We got to talk about how natural public speaking skills come to most Americans. It’s what American youngsters grew up with, but Dutch folks certainly did not. Communication is a vital part of science but many science presentations were still really dull in those days. There were no TED Talks yet. Lencola then invited me to join Toastmasters of The Hague, which I did. That’s where I met the ex-Shell guy.
By the way, did you know that the United States and the Netherlands have the longest uninterrupted friendship between two countries?
Shell had gotten my attention because one day, I had watched a woman who graduated from the same department as I display superb presentation and leadership/management skills at a GAIA event. She was Shell staff and I figured it might have something to do with that.
I’ve also done a great deal of networking online. That’s for example, how I ended up working with Arcadis (until I moved to England).
These are just a few examples of how people in other countries network.
England does not work this way at all, by contrast.
Does that mean that I never felt awkward at network etc events in the past, when I still had a life? Sure I did! I remember a meeting in Delft or the Hague at which a woman started talking about sailing with the guy at the table that I was at too. I think this was during lunch at a grant-writing workshop. Turned out that he too was into sailing. I had and still have no experience with sailing and suddenly became completely invisible. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Here are some tips: https://www.npr.org/2022/09/29/1125931749/how-to-start-professional-networking-and-feel-good-about-it
What I do these days other than write books and create online courses so that I have something to do with my time? Not that much, really. That said, I no longer talk much about what I do. Talking about what you do can equate to “tempting the gods”.
I am not just living in England, I am living in what I call “Charlie’s metaverse”, the creation of a hacker and master manipulator and his pals and pawns.
Charlie stumbled upon me in the course of 2008 when he did a search on some of his professional interests (but he is also somehow connected to someone else I stumbled upon in the course of 2008). He’s described himself as an artwork of light and dark, among other things, as well as god and dog.
In October 2022, I finally managed to identify this person. He’s an engineer who apparently had something terrible happen to him, after which he apparently went to pieces. He has a daughter with Down syndrome. I don’t think I had met him in real life before he began targeting me. I first encountered him in real life in the second half of 2008. That was in Southampton, at the entrance door to the building that I was living in at the time. He later made contact again in real life in Portsmouth, in the second half of December 2010. Eventually, I put two and two together, but that still didn’t mean that I now knew exactly who he was.
The information I ran into in October 2022 might be part of his carefully crafted metaverse (and in this case, likely intended to make me look like a fool to others again; this he has done many times before, granted). I don’t think so, though, for example because his wife resembles me in an odd way and because it clicks very well with all sorts of other things that I had run into before. He’s 9 years younger than I and I have the impression that he and his wife are still married but separated (for example because he never shows up in photos together with her, while she is quite active, occasionally in the public eye and also still part of his business).
He started this business when I moved to Portsmouth, at the start of 2009, and it seems that he was living very close to my address in Southsea at the time. The business still exists but it only did well for a year. (I downloaded the accounts from Companies House.) He’s moved a few times since and is currently again living very close to where I am.
This is one of his favorite tracks, perhaps still his absolute all-time favorite.