Photo Credit: Shaeann Yee Loy
The Black Expat: Life As A Trini Expat In Rotterdam, Netherlands
Marketing executive Shaeann Yee Loy is a Black expat in Rotterdam, Netherlands, originally from San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago. The 29-year-old moved to France in 2019 to complete her master’s degree. Since then, she has lived in three cities in France and visited 26 countries; setting her well on her way to achieving her goal of visiting 30 countries by the time she reaches 30 years of age.
After completing her masters and internship, her company offered her the opportunity to work in the Netherlands at one of its subsidiaries. She quickly accepted the offer without thinking twice.
“Believe it or not, I didn’t hesitate because this is exactly what I moved from my home country to experience: new life challenges. I think I was in the ‘what’s next’ moment of my life and this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. You know when you’re at that stage where you’ve completed all your career bucket list things and now you’re like ‘okay, do I just stay and be comfortable with life as it is or really push myself to see what I can do?’ And that’s precisely what I did.”
Though the subsidiary is based in Delft, Shaeann opted to move to nearby Rotterdam instead. After living in Paris, she knew that Delft would be a bit too rural for her and thought transitioning from Paris to Rotterdam would be much easier. However, having made the move in January 2022, there are some things that she is still getting used to, including how expensive the country is.
“I think the biggest shock for me was the tax system and how expensive taxes are for a single-person household. Coming from the Caribbean, it was something I had to get used to in France, when I realized they taxed you for having a TV, and now the Netherlands for taxing you for waste collection. The bikes were also difficult to get used to, especially in the winter. I actually don’t own a bike and after a short experience during winter, I don’t see myself owning one anytime soon.”
Of course, there are also many things she likes about the Netherlands. Shaeann appreciates the diversity, how easily accessible everything is, and the friendliness of the people. Walking down the street, she is greeted by smiling strangers bidding her “Goedemorgen.”
But she notes that Dutch people are typically either friendly or mean, with no in-between. Similarly to her home country, Trinidad and Tobago, Shaeann finds that many people in the Netherlands are quite friendly, and that many are also very straightforward.
“In my country, we’re quite blunt and usually say it as is and the Dutch are no different. It could definitely come across as being rude or insensitive but having lived in a more polite culture (French) to now living here I notice it much more. I don’t mind it at all because I would rather someone tell it as it is than try to beat around the bush.”
Realizing the importance of staying connected to her roots, Shaeann has been able to connect with other members of the Trini and Caribbean community during her short time in the Netherlands. She was surprised to see so many Trinis living in the Netherlands and is excited to link up with them at the upcoming Rotterdam Carnival at which she hopes to reunite with her culture and language in her new home.
She believes living in a majority white country and being the only Black employee at her work has taught her to appreciate her culture and country so much more.
“I’ve become a big advocate and I’m always trying to incorporate some part of me and my culture into the activities that I participate in. I’ve only been here for a short time and my friends have already experienced the food, music, and some Trini dialect. My culture is a big part of me and I’m happy that most people here have been really open to learning about it and it that has been such a positive experience for me.”
For travelers visiting Rotterdam, Shaeann recommends checking out Scheveningen, one of the biggest beaches in NL, located in Den Haag, for its fine sand and relaxing beach clubs, as well as Leiden, where you can rent a boat to cruise around the canals.
“It was a really nice and different experience without the crowds and the same scenery as Amsterdam. I also recommend Roopram’s Roti. As a Trini, it’s only right that I find a proper roti shop in NL and this one is as close to home as it gets. A bit expensive compared to home but if you’re missing dhalpuri and curry, 10/10 recommend.”
Follow Shaeann as she aims to achieve her goal of 30 countries by 30 by the end of 2022.