What It’s Like to Be a Digital Marketer on the Other Side of the World
From Amsterdam to Vietnam: A Q&A with Tessa Leenders
Where were you before?
I worked in Amsterdam but I lived in Utrecht, a city 30 minutes from there.
What made you decide to move?
Since I had been working for the same company for more then 2 years, I became a bit restless. I was playing with some ideas in my mind what my next career step would be. They were basically all focused on Amsterdam.
Then I saw Jobbatical, and I thought,
“OK, if there is one phase in my life I can make decisions like this, leave everything behind, it’s now. I’m 27, I don’t have a boyfriend, I don’t have children, so let’s go for it.”
If people ask me that, “How did you end up there? What brought you there?” I just say, through Facebook targeting. Because I saw your ad on my timeline I was curious, so I just clicked on it, and then I saw “Get Social in Vietnam!” on the website and I clicked on that one as well. It kind of got stuck in my head.
Vietnam was on my bucket list because all the people I met while traveling told me that Vietnam is one of the best places to visit. People who are traveling often prefer Hoi An to Da Nang. I go there in the weekends. It’s my weekend hangout.
How is the cost of living in Da Nang?
It’s definitely affordable! For things like food, it’s cheap, but if you’re looking for Western products it’s more expensive than back home. I think in most countries, if you just buy local products, go to local markets, it’s cheap to live here. But if you want the same stuff you get back home, nice clothes and perfumes or Western food, you pay more than back home.
But I really like spicy local food so I’m good here. When I just arrived I had the pleasure to meet my food companions — The eating nomads — they showed me all the good spots!
How does it feel having left home?
I am sure that I made a good decision. I was ready for something different. Last year was hard on a personal level, and there is less pressure on me now.
In the area where I worked in — advertising — it’s kind of a crazy business. You just go with it day by day. Now I am able to take more opportunities to develop and challenge myself.
So the work culture is quite different in Vietnam?
Of course there are differences. But it’s not easy to tell from my point of view if they are cultural or based on the fact that I moved from automotive to hospitality. I love the fact that Vietnamese people are straightforward, they value people who are ‘real’ and ‘honest’. I share the same values.
And their work ethic is pretty good. They work hard, and they’re dedicated. I think in the beginning they’re not really out there but once they’re comfortable with you being there, they open up!
What’s it like to work in such an international environment?
It sure is interesting! You can learn a lot from that. At Fusion Maia we have a lot of different cultures. Our General Manager is from South Africa, and two of my direct colleagues are from France and Japan.
And of course I speak to the guests on a daily basis as well. One day I get to talk to people from America and the next Germany and Korea, so I’m meeting a lot of different people every week.
I think if you just work at the same company with the same people, you take some things for granted. You’re used to doing things in a certain way. Here I had to take a few steps back and give them the time to adapt to my ways of working. Sometimes you’re taking a bit, other days you give a bit, and you will meet each other in-between. In my opinion an important balance in every team wherever in the world!
Does the language barrier play a role in communication?
Of course! English is my second language as well — it’s not my mother tongue — so for most of the people who work here, English is not their main language. You get in funny situations. Once in a while you need to take a bit more time to get things done. Don’t get frustrated too easy, because it works the other way around as well, since I don’t speak Vietnamese.
At the end if things go a bit differently, we all just laugh about it.
Any advice for the aspiring jobbaticlers out there?
If you’re thinking about it, just go for it. Don’t think too much. You can solve basically everything. You can go back. I booked a one-way ticket. I told my friend at the airport, “Maybe I’m back next month, or six months, maybe a year.”
But if you don’t try, you don’t know.