Work Therapy


Writing has been a form of therapy the past couple of weeks. I was able to work on several articles about China-related topics for Dutch media. While it’s lovely to be back in Europe, I still miss life in Hongkong very much and writing about Asia-related issues somehow makes it a lot easier to deal with a reversed culture shock.

You can read some of my work for Nederlands Dagblad and China2025 on my blog here. I also wrote three pieces for the June issue of One World Magazine… they curated a special China-edition. Keep you posted on that project. It’s being printed as we speak!


Gender Imbalance in China

leftover women (doeke van Nuil)

As a preparation for Valentines day, my extensive piece about gender-imbalance in China and the often harmful effects for Chinese women was published on De Correspondent (written in cooperation with Kathleen).

De Correspondent is a Dutch-language, online journalism platform that focuses on background, analysis, investigative reporting, and the kinds of stories that tend to escape the radar of mainstream media because they do not conform to what is normally understood to be ‘news’.

Don’t you love the illustration that came with it, done by Doeke van Nuil? I do:)

Autumn Writings


Autumn finally arrived in Hong Kong as well. The cool, fresh air… what a relief to feel a breeze again when you step outside! I love this season in the city, you’re still able to wear your summer clothes with an extra sweater… great months for hiking and… writing!

I finished quite a few articles this month about Occupy Central (unfortunately only in Dutch) for Nederlands Dagblad and China2025 and I did a set of short interviews with protesters for One World. I also finished a piece about how Shakespeare is being used in diplomacy with China (you can find one of the versions here).

At the moment I’m working on a long-read about the influence of pop-culture/fiction and fandom in recent revolutions/demonstrations in Asia. Keep you posted:)

‘Women Only’ Languages


Yesterday my friend Kathleen had a surprise for me. Somehow she managed to get her hands on a hard copy of Opzij, the Dutch magazine that published my article on women’s languages in Asia. It was so much fun to see in print the results of a topic that I researched intensively for the past couple of months and… being able to browse through the actual magazine here in Hong Kong was awesome:)!

The article is about Nu Shu a Chinese language that was only spoken and written by women in a time when girls were not allowed to receive any education. This language was the only way in which they could express themselves and contribute to culture, history and society. It helped them escape illiteracy.

Opzij began in 1972 as a radical feminist magazine, but turned soon into a more mainstream/moderate newsmagazine for women. It’s content: women’s perspective on culture, politics, society and lifestyle. The perfect platform for an article on women’s languages. I just love how Asian women took faith in their own hands an created these beautiful monuments of resistance.

Introducing Dutch Landscapes to Koreans


One of the cool things about the project in Shanghai was that I could catch up with some old clients again. Finally we were able to have coffee over this book that I made for DVP China last year (did the lay-out, cover-design).

It was done for the World Expo in S.Korea to introduce Koreans to Dutch landscapes in all their facets. But… I heard from my friends at DVP that the Dutch consulate in S.Korea is still using the book today as a gift for networking purposes:). It has beautiful pictures in it from Paul Ridderhof, one of my favorite photographers!

Does China ‘Get’ Dutch Design?


The new Hollandse Nieuwe is out, (a magazine for the Dutch community in Hong Kong). Again I did the design for this special issue about… design:). We featured a lot of interviews  and articles about Dutch Design and the one-million-dollar question: do Chinese get the highly conceptual style of Dutch designers? I’m very curious… what do you think?

Graphicness of Chinese Characters


The day has finally arrived that I found the courage to dive into the complicated world of Chinese characters. I started learning a bit of Mandarin in 2010 but left the writing aside, because I never thought I would be able to master the memorizing. But the script kept intriguing me. As a designer I admire the graphicness of written Chinese.

Chinese characters (Hanzi) are independent of any spoken version of the language. Chinese has several dialects, many of which are as different from Mandarin as Dutch is from English. But here’s the amazing thing: every dialect uses the same Hanzi to write things down (although in Hong Kong and Taiwan, they use older, slightly more complex versions). Because every single character is connected to a whole word, it means that people who speak a different language, are still able to read each others notes.

As a literature-lover, I like the way layers of history are visible in written Chinese,  I love that 3000 year old concepts of social order, agriculture, and technology are literally still written down in Asia’s modern society of today.

“Shadow Play is Fun!” illustration by Qian Qian.

Bookdesign: Healthy Living in Shanghai

healthy living in shanghai

The timing was perfect. I received mail from Shanghai. The book I’ve been working on this summer about healthy living in Shanghai, is printed so I was reading it in the worst smog-week China has seen in a long time. How ironic.

Shools were closed, air-traffic was down and models even had to wear face-masks during an outdoor fashion show (looked so ridiculous along with their fancy clothes). It’s a hot topic… hopefully all the attention will make policy-makers act and initiate real changes!

Work in progress


Yes, I still do my fair share of design-jobs during the week, but apart from that I’m also starting to do more jobs as a freelance editor lately (sorry only for Dutch magazines and newspapers;-)). There’s so much to write about and my favorite topics –China, language and consumer/design trends– merge in so many area’s these days. I feel inspired all the time!

– A couple of weeks ago, my article on how we need to use more Chinese words in our international language, got published in Trouw. It was really exciting! I got in touch with several language-experts after that and we agreed that a lot of eastern-concepts can’t be translated in a western languages like English. You can read the article here.

– Now I’m working on two stories. One is for magazine Skipr about Hong Kong’s public health care. Bloomberg put it our city on a number one spot in terms of efficiency recently. The other story is about the fascinating Chinese womans’ language Nushu. It was used secretly in times of hardship and illiteracy, by women from Hunan province in China. It’s the only exclusively ‘womans’ only’ language in the world. Nowadays it’s not a symbol of submission anymore but of empowerment instead. Woman who still speak Nushu can make more money in the tourist industry than their male relatives. Fascinating, no?!