“Despite my dark skin colour I’m a real Dutchman. I’m a cheese specialist. I work at the Jumbo cheese counter in Gein. My first job was via an employment agency; they were looking for someone to work at a cheese wholesaler. A big, strong person. I’m one and a half meters and didn’t qualify, but I really wanted that job. The finally let me start work and I have now learned about nine hundred different sorts of cheese. I had no idea there were so many types of cheese.
Twenty seven years ago, in 1989, I came to Amsterdam. I was sixteen and had just married the love of my life - a blonde haired, blue eyed Amsterdammer. He had previously lived on the Maldives with his parents and they still visited every year. We fell in love and I wanted to go back with him to the Netherlands. My parent said they would let me go as long as we were married first.
When I arrived in Amsterdam I was still a minor and had to go to school. I was the only married girl in the entire school. On the Maldives, marrying at an early age is a normal state of affairs and it was only when sitting on a school bench in Holland that I realised how unusual this was for them. Because my parents-in-law had lived on the Maldives they were also used to this tradition. And their son was ‘already’ twenty one. So they had given their permission, too.
Marco and I now have three children; two sons age twenty and nineteen, and a daughter of fourteen. They all still live at home. I don’t have to worry about them marrying young in order to emigrate to the other side of the world. My eldest son often jokes about it, “I should have been married for four years already, mum!”
Before we came to the Netherlands I told Marco, “I’m scared of going to Holland. What if I am the only dark-skinned person there”? The first day we were there we took the metro from Gein to Nieuwmarkt and I happily realised my fears were unfounded. One of the great things about Amsterdam is that it’s multicultural. I never feel shut out of things, even though there’s only one other person from the Maldives here.”
2 people in Amsterdam have the Maldivian nationality