Yolanda, freelance business consultant
Yolanda lives in London where she works as a freelance business consultant. She was born and raised in Switzerland while her family is originally from Colombia.
"I am the Colombian girl for my non-Colombian friends and the Swiss girl for my Colombian ones! By moving and travelling around the world, I have come to realise that somehow you are what people see. Regardless, I like to consider myself as a citizen of the world".
What do you consider your nationality/ies to be (if any)?
The nationality question has always been quite a confusing one for me. While I was born and raised in Switzerland, both my parents are Colombian, so Spanish was my first language and I was raised in a Colombian bubble: listening to Colombian music and eating Colombian food! I feel as little (or as much) Swiss as Colombian.
I don’t think your country of birth necessarily defines your nationality, definitely not in my case. I am the Colombian girl for my non-Colombian friends and the Swiss girl for my Colombian ones! By moving and travelling around the world, I have come to realise that somehow you are what people see. Regardless, I like to consider myself as a citizen of the world.
Have you ever considered yourself a Foreigner?
Usually moving to another country makes you realise that you are a foreigner...but then again, my first language and culture were not the ones of the country I was born in and I never felt like a foreigner growing up.
A few years ago, I spent three months travelling in India. The cultural gap was so big and everything was so different and new: I think that was the first time I really felt like a foreigner.
Can you tell us your story as a Foreigner?
I arrived in summer 2013, I am turning 4 this year [laughs]. I’ve always wanted to come to London. It was something about a really “happening”, big European city and the sense that things were actually being created and built here. I had this conviction that I could learn so much more coming to London and also that it would be great for my career.
Why did you choose the UK?
I wanted to stay in Europe. London was the obvious choice.
What made you want to stay?
The challenge, the buzz; at the beginning, starting from scratch was harder than I had expected. It took me over a year to find my feet. But now that I’ve built a good setup I want to keep on enjoying it and make the most of it.
What do you enjoy about living abroad?
I enjoy being stretched out of my comfort zone, meeting people I would never have met otherwise and learning so much from everyone. The biggest benefit in my eyes is the freedom: being a foreigner means that it is ok if you’re not politically correct all the time and say weird things!
Do you remember any personal challenge in adapting to the local culture?
I think that arriving to a big city to work without knowing anyone is challenging regardless of the place. One of the hardest challenge for me was the realisation that any type of social interaction here has to be planned literally weeks in advance, which makes the whole “building a social circle” really hard.
Was there any key encounter in the country that helped you, personally or professionally?
Yes - I’ve been lucky enough to end up in extremely friendly working environments and to meet some amazing people that became friends, colleagues and mentors.
Do you think your working experience would have been the same if you stayed in your country of origin?
Definitely not, which was one of the main reasons I moved here. I knew that to do my job I had to go to where the job was really being done and that is London. I think the professional opportunities, pace and speed in London are absolutely outstanding.
How do your origins inspire your work?
Not sure if my origins inspire my work but they most probably influence it - I think my warm Colombian side comes up in the way I work and interact with my colleagues while the Swiss in me likes to have structures and processes in place to make sure I keep my clients happy.
What about the local influences?
Absolutely, adapting to the local culture is super important - making sure you know all the rules and understand them before “disrupting” them is key.
How is your work usually received by local people?
I have been lucky to work in places where multiculturalism is valued and seen as an asset. I’ve never felt that my work was judged differently because I wasn’t British.
What are your plans for the future?
The couple of years in London has now turned into four. My fiancé and I have just decided on two more years before re-assessing. At the moment, we are very happy here.
Where is home?
If I have to name my home, it would be Geneva, in Switzerland.
What words/ideas do you associate with "Foreigner"?
Usually foreigners have really interesting and very different stories to tell - so I tend to associate it with crazy background, multi-languages, bold, different, open-minded.