By Diplomat Magazine.
Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Zin, the wife of the Malaysian Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We strolled through The Hague, talking about responsibility, work and love. We stopped at the historical Hotel Des Indes in the picturesque Lange Voorhout neighborhood. When sitting down for a cup of tea, we decided to ask her some questions.
Q1: As the spouse of the Malaysian Ambassador, how do you see your role and duties in representing you country?
The role as a spouse to an ambassador is quite similar to my career back home in corporate marketing. It is simply hospitality at its best.
Perhaps, the difference is that now instead of representing a corporation, I represent a country. Further, instead of translating the hospitality to dollars and cents, I translate my conduct and mannerism to the good, dignified name and positive image of Malaysia. That is my primary role and duties here, although I certainly believe that the best way to do it is just simply “to be myself” and “to have lots of fun” doing it.
Q2: In the two years that you are here, how do you perceive the Netherlands? Tell us about a time before coming to your first posting as spouse, what expectations did you have at the time and how you performed together with more “experienced spouses”?
The Netherlands is a liberal country with warm people and well developed economy. Recently, I had an opportunity to join my husband to Brainport in Eindhoven and learned about the city’s massive success in bringing back economic life to the city after the economic crisis in the 1990s. I think that the city of Eindhoven is the precise reflection of what the whole country is, in terms of its coordination, synergy and knowledge sharing among the Government, the universities and the industries players. All with one common goal, which is in finding what works best for their people and for the country.
The Dutch are fun and united too. I joined the crowd during the King’s Day when I first arrived in 2015 and I was amazed that it takes only one color, Orange to unite the whole nation.
I also feel very safe, mostly in my neighborhood in Wassenaar. For example, I feel completely safe to go for my run alone in the evening, a simple pleasure like that which I would not be able to enjoy in my neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur.
Overall, I am impressed with the quality of life and the living condition here compared to other European cities that I have been to. After all, I do not have much to complain for a country which its Prime Minister cycled to see his King at the Palace to present to the His Majesty the list of the Cabinet Ministers!
I consider myself as very lucky to be in The Netherlands for my first posting although my husband has been posted to the USA and Indonesia before.
When we received the news that we will be assuming these roles, I did not put any expectation or benchmark to myself but I know it is going to be intricately delicate and demanding at the same time.
It is well understood that being spouses to diplomats, we have certain responsibilities to fulfill and they are all back in supporting our spouses’ official duties in promoting the interest of our country.
I have been blessed too, to become friends with many other spouses of the ambassadors here because of our involvement in the Ambassadors’ Spouses Association (ASA), The Hague. ASA has been an effective platform for me to connect and learn from other more experienced spouses.
Q3: What have you done so far to increase Malaysia’s visibility in the Netherlands? What are your plans, how much more can be done as you perceive the future during your mandate?
I accompany my husband in many diplomatic and social functions and gatherings. I take pride in wearing Malaysian’s traditional costume, mostly “baju kurung” to these events. I would also do the same when receiving our dignitaries from home at Schiphol Airport or when I am hosting in our Residence. It is my way in expressing my patriotism and the confidence that comes with it and it is tremendously gratifying.
Malaysia is also enthusiastic in gastro-diplomacy. I have organized numerous culinary events to promote Malaysian food here among the corps diplomatique, the locals, international school community and others. Recently in September we invited one of our celebrity Chefs from Malaysia for a cooking demonstration with the theme of “Street Food of Malaysia” and it was very well received by the guests.
Going forward I would still keep on doing what we are doing best here but I would also like to take the opportunity in shifting the focus to learn and gain from the experiences of the Dutch in the areas that Malaysia and other ASEAN countries could improve on, for example in bridging the gender inequality and key sectors that have specific focus on women’s development.
Q4: Tell us something about your involvement in ASA and the ASEAN Ladies Circle.
I am the Secretary of Ambassadors’ Spouses Association (ASA), The Hague and the President of the ASEAN Ladies Circle (ALC), The Hague.
ASA celebrates diversity and practices equality. Therefore, we do not have ranks in the association. My role as a Secretary is mainly administrative and to handle official correspondences and communications with the members. Together with other committee members, we would plan for activities that we deem could foster closer friendship among the members and local community.
The challenge does lies in finding the right activity that suits the demographic, dynamic and interest of the members. I would really like to encourage more spouses to get more involved with ASA.
Additionally, the association is reviving and all the 5 countries are responding, supporting and cooperating well with each other. At every quarter we will organize an activity which aims to encourage cordial interaction among the members. We do not look at only organizing activity within our circle but also collaborating with other organization, for example in May this year we have organized together with Diplomatic Magazine and Hague Bridge a cycling activity around The Hague which was also joined by all the ASEAN Ambassadors in The Hague. In the coming years, I hope to see that ALC, The Hague would also be thriving as ASEAN is advancing.
Q5: What is your greatest strength and what you can say to the new spouses coming to The Hague to fulfill their role?
You need to have a big heart full of kindness, a growth mindset and positive outlook as this role is almost philanthropic. It is also important to be involved with others beyond your community and official duties as there are many opportunities and platforms to be explored here.
Q6: Is there something you would like to share with the Diplomatic community in The Hague and/or with population in general?
The world today is full of endless possibilities with the advancement of humanity and technology. The world today too, is full of challenges, mistrust, confusion and uncertainties in many parts of the world. People are suffering from poverty, war and injustice.
As a member of the world community we should all come together and do our part to promote peace, harmony and justice. And to me, it is not hard at all. In the simplest manner, we are all can be kind regardless of who we are.
Kindness is empowering and the best place to start is in our own home.
As a mother, I think that it is vital for the parents to model kindness to their children. It is the core of all the education that we could provide to our children. It is so powerful that it will further shape their character and eventually mold our societies, flourish our nations and evolve our world to become a better place for all.
Photography by Roy Strik.