When you are employed full time, it means you have a contract with your employer for a certain amount of time of which you will be working for them on a full-time basis. Your salary is typically divided into a basic salary and a housing allowance (car allowance, depending if you will be on the road a lot). Healthcare is mandatory same goes for residence visa and Emirates ID. Extra benefits such as flight tickets to your home country, mobile phone, laptop etc. defers on each company.

It was 2006 when just graduated from the Willem de Kooning Acadamy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, as an Interior Architect (Spatial Designer). I got an offer to work overseas in Hong Kong for a local Architectural firm. I was in awe and packed my suitcase and off I went.

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Little did I know about negotiations, the company and about living abroad. Slightly clueless I accepted the challenge and worked from a hostel for a month with my massive laptop while I was waiting for my work visa. Often enough I thought, what did I get myself into? I was made “Architectural Designer” and worked on the most extravagant projects for someone who just graduated. From towers to masterplans, to a villa for a client who wanted a tower with an overview of his manmade lake, his plot with 12 villas for his friends and a pool with viewing windows on the bottom so he could see people swim when having a foot massage in the room below.

The sky was the limit. We had to clock in and out, not allowed to wear jeans or sneakers and had 10 days of holiday a year. Working overnight, and almost every weekend was not unusual. The three years I worked and lived in Hong Kong were crucial for my future career. The culture difference opened my eyes, the work ethic (even though tough) made me resilient, and I made friends for life at work.

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Moving to Dubai was something I always wanted, it fascinated me and I had an offer to work for a large international Architectural firm in 2008 and I moved from Hong Kong to Dubai. Arriving right in the crisis was quite stressful as they unfortunately had to let go almost 30 people. As I was the only interior architect they kept me on.

While I was used to the freedom of designing across all disciplines of architecture/ urban and interior design, I had to get used again that in larger firms office politics are strong and everyone gets a piece of the pie, therefor it is more focused on what your role in a project will be. Working on large scale projects very detailed was a great learning moment for me.


After this experience I worked at a design and build company in Dubai. What a huge difference this was. From working on (big) projects for years, we now designed (smaller scale offices) within one month and we were on site two months! Commercially driven design, knowing all your suppliers and how materials work on site. It was a different level of experiencing design.

Working for different types of companies, either in size or in their types of projects, will broaden your experience massively. I have made lifetime friendships with my colleagues and working within different cultures has given me the insight and understanding of viewing things differently.


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