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My Home Countries

Countries I Have Lived In





Our path crosses, marriage of two cultures will definitely work and I’m the living proof that it will work 110 percent. Twenty-eight years ago, our (me and Ben) love collide in the intersection destine for each other must be destiny. Frankly and honestly living between New Zealand (eight years) and Holland (twenty years) Living abroad for twenty-eight years  and married for 28 years is immeasurable. Lucky Me! Live in two separate countries of the world, visit places and European countries that some people only dream about. Landmarks of every country you see only on postcards, magazines and books and I get the opportunity to see them firsthand. I am fortunate to experience the culture and lifestyle of the New Zealanders and Dutch people and  lived amongst them. To grasp the thought of learning the culture is to absorb it. The prospect of living abroad is to accept and adapt the culture and lifestyle in a major way (completely opposite to the country where I came from)  Holland is currently our home, where we raised our two daughters.





fort santiago

Our daughters at Fort Santiago.




Before I go any further, Philippines will always hold a special place for me. A country in Asia, portray a friendly image “Where Asia Wear a Smile”. A country of rich cultures makes the country exceptionally unique and interesting. Our rich culture stands-out above any country of the world. Filipinos are easy-go-lucky-friendly helpful people, the generosity, kindness, politeness, courteousness, cheerfulness and good mannered children you’ll  find and experience in the Philippines. Hospitable by nature, people of the Philippines are a joy to be with. Once you get to know them, they’ll treat you as part of their extended family. Magnificent country for adventure seekers, known for scenic locations, historical places (heritage of historical structures dated back during the colonial of the Spanish era) crispy white sandy beaches, famous scuba diving spots and water sports activities, world-class golf courses, superb air-conditioned shopping malls of your choice, the biggest and the largest is the Mall of Asia, the third largest mall in the world on a 19.7 hectares located of a reclaimed land in Manila Bay. Ayala mall and SM Cebu mall, dubbed with the name Supermall after the expansion of the north wing on 11.8 hectares, is the 11th largest shopping mall in the world.  SM Cebu is now a much bigger, larger and a much better place for shoppers. The list of shopping malls of your choice goes on. Life in the Philippines is as comfortable as you wanted it to be. The industries consist of: metal and copper industry, mining industry, ceramic, shell and native products industry (wood-crafts, bamboo, rattan) the big production exporting rattan and bamboo furniture, cement production, glass production, fruit and vegetable industry, fishing industry. The world re-known Del Monte Products exported globally. The computer product industry (software and hardware production) Microchip and semi- conductor products industry operated in Philippines owned by foreign companies. Petronas a major name in oil and gas industry in the Philippines also Roma Petroleum plays a major role in oil and gas industry. As per latest report of Philippines oil and gas industry the Royal Dutch Shell and BHP Billiton are trying to bid for 20% ownership of oil and gas project in the Philippines. The Call Center Industry is up-and-coming industry in Philippines, business process outsourcing regarded as one of the fastest industry in the world. Not forgetting the Philippines plant sources of expensive perfumes exported internationally, the sampaguita (jasmine) national flower of the Philippines and ylang-ylang (canata dorata) used in perfumery and fragrant compounds which is used in the production of perfume. The oil from our very own ylang-ylang (a native famous scented flower from the Philippines) is widely in demand used in perfumery for floral perfumes like Chanel No. 5. I guess I get women’s attention on this matter. We, people of the Philippines take great pride of our country.




sky tower

Skytower, Auckland New Zealand



At a tender age of 21, I arrived in New Zealand. Such a great time, I lived my first wonderful eight years in this so-called magnificent beautiful country New Zealand, the country where our two daughters were born. To make the transition complete, I have family members living in the surrounding areas that I can lean and depend on, so I couldn’t ask for more. New Zealanders are easy-going friendly people, a country that anyone will fit in easily in such a short period of time. New Zealand culture is a fusion of Maori culture (being identified in New Zealand due to “haka” displays by New Zealand sporting teams)and British culture. British culture is pretty much widespread within the country, descendents of British  and Dutch colonists in very early years. Scottish and Irish influenced are strong mainly in the southernmost part of South Island. New Zealanders are dominantly of European descent, with a huge percentage Dutch. Immigrants of Asian, Fijians and Polynesians make up for the rest of the population. Auckland, New Zealand by far has the highest population of people born from a foreign country. A diverse influx of multicultural people, there are many unique qualities of character including friendliness, self-reliance, independence and individuality that you’ll find in most New Zealanders. Tourism industry is a big reputable business in New Zealand. Industry are:  farming (poultry farming, poultry processing and livestock breeding) meat, seafood and dairy product industry.  New Zealand is the best known for its timber industry because of  high quality forestry. Primary product for export is  wool. Boat builders and boat designers can be found in New Zealand. A lot of timeless unforgettable memories, such memories will root through in my sub-conscious mind. 




In front of a traditional windmill



Here I am, twenty years to be precise living in Holland. Living in this country comes handy. We can visit and re-visit neighboring European countries anytime we wish to, which is accessible by car, bus, bullet train or by plane. My life living Holland is an experience I will treasure for a lifetime. Holland is a densely populated country. Tulips the loved symbol of Holland, the demand for import and export is astounding. Dutch people purchased fresh flowers regularly for their homes. When visiting a family or friend, it is customary to take a bunch of fresh flowers. Also known for windmills (pumping water out of the polders, grinding grains the old fashion way attracts tourist) Noted a rich history for cheese production (the best known product is Edam and Gouda) Predominantly, industries in Holland are: automotive (Daf trucks industry) Philips Electronics based in Eindhoven, one of the wolds biggest consumer electronic firms, that has branches out into medical equipment, was founded by Mr. Frits Philips who was born and bred in Eindhoven. Electrical, chemical, oil refinery in the west coast of Holland, gas production in the north of Holland, electrical, electronics and machinery production,  food processing. Holland is the world eight largest exporter of goods and third largest exporter of food.





The Alkmaarse Cheesemarket



Holland is well-protected from flooding by sea walls and dykes. In 1997 is the year of the completion of storm and flooding barriers. The storm surge barrier only closes when the sea level rise 3 meters above mean sea level, 1,500 miles designated as primary dikes and 8,750 miles (14.080 km) as secondary dikes. The project is one of the most extensive engineering projects in the world. The Delta Works located at the South West of Netherlands is the world largest flood protection project. The works consist of dikes, sluices, dams, locks and storm surge barriers. Structures are reinforced, heightened and strengthened. Civil engineers of the American civil engineering society have declared this project as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.





Parts of the Delta Works





Stormsurge Barriers



The realization twenty-eight years ago that I’m in a new place, start a new life and embark on a completely new environment is staggering. I’m no longer in a place where I knew who lives who on every certain street. New breed of people with names and last names attached to them, that I am no longer familiar of. Moving and living in a different country altered my life quite dramatically. Dutch families tend to be small 1 to 2 children. Appearances and dressing-up are important even to smallest details for majority of the people. They are thrifty and hardworking, organized and practical. They don’t like to brag nor displays their possessions, wealth and accomplishments. However Dutch are very private people. Didn’t take me long to learned that it takes time for Dutch people to open up to you for a conversation, but once you get to know them with extra effort some can be really friendly. A firm handshake with a smile is a form of greeting. Customary for family and friends to greet each other kissing cheek-to-cheek three times starting on the left cheek. Dutch are very private people, they don’t like personal questions and they refuse to answer you if you intrude on their privacy and seriously they value their private time and personal time. The Dutch people are direct in their communication with everyone entitled to their own opinion. Directness and frankness “tell it like it is” but “accept it like it is” with no anger and resentment attach to it may sound blunt to some cultures where communication and words are carefully thought of, but in Holland it is very much appreciated. The amazing thing is everyone is ok with it and the atmosphere seems to be fine, happy as usual.



Spectacular flower fields in Netherlands.



Production of tulips is superb. Every year 3 billion bulbs are produced.


Cultural Differences




I got married to Ben, our path collided. Coming together, when our cultural backround merged, our relationship is fascinating, challenging but enriching. We came from different customs, culture and values. So right from the start, we learned to compromise to keep our options and priorities open as far as emotions and expectations. The gravity of our marriage is solely based on our commitment to communicate.  Continually understand the sensitive side of the culture, to enhance our marriage is the mutual willingness to accept, perceive and reciprocate the underlying issues.







Marriage no matter what country, what language and what culture knows no barriers. Hand-in-hand we built our marriage. Our triumph is to overcome challenges head on big or small and we went through it together. With confidence and clear vision, so far our life is exhilarating, interesting and fascinating.







Environmentally and geographically, it is definitely intriguing. I have lived amongst influx of people of diverse cultures between New Zealand and Netherlands, but it does not necessarily mean it will change who you are and doesn’t keep you to the one you are accustomed to. I have learned a lot of knowledge and gain resources for my own personal growth that impacted my life tremendously.







It is such a sheer pleasure taking this extraordinary journey with Ben for this long twenty-eight years.










©Marilyn Ouano Gilsing (