Mandy Jong-A-Tai currently works for the city of Rotterdam as a records manager where she uses her expertise to help and manage implementing a digital application for various departments. She is born and raised in the Netherlands and has a family heritage that stems from the tropical country of Suriname. Mandy’s passion for information technology has opened many new opportunities for her to work remotely. One such opportunity occurred in Sint Maarten where she resided and worked for the past three months.
How did that happen?
“What started as an adventure turned out to be an amazing experience”
My family has been living in Sint Maarten for many years already, but I was unable to visit during that time. During the lockdown in the Netherlands, I was already working from home for roughly a year. I soon came to realization that normal working life would take some time to return. As a result, I wanted to change my work setting. I always thought about going to Surinam, but it was a bit difficult to get there during the COVID restrictions. Fortunately, after chatting with my cousin (Anique) from Sint Maarten, it popped in my head that I had never visited her before. She immediately told me she would love me to come over and that I could stay at her place. After some research it turned out to be very easy to travel to Sint Maarten. I left The Netherlands in January and I had no clue what to expect. I had been to Curacao and Aruba before, so I had a brief insight into the Caribbean lifestyle. What started as an adventure turned out to be an amazing experience, I even extended my stay to an additional 5 weeks! I really enjoyed my stay.
Did you do any research before coming here or was it more a spontaneous call?
After I booked my ticket, I searched on the internet for tips and blogs. I made a list of places I wanted to go but when I was already in SXM I found the Instagram pages (Team SXM and Heartfortravel_) and they provided some really good tips.
What exactly were you doing here?
I was working remotely and at the same time taking days off to have a nice vacation. Vacation for me is exploring new places, restaurants, having a drink and doing fun things. So I did work, even though it felt like a long vacation!
Would you Say Sint Maarten is a comfortable place to work remote?
Definitely! I had my own room to work from and I also could work outside in the shadow of a beautiful mountain-side view. Watching the palm trees and sky while working is just like a dream come true. The contrast between working in Sint Maarten and the Netherlands couldn’t get any bigger and I was enjoying it so much! There were some downsides to working remotely on the island, namely the internet speed which could be unstable and slow at times. However, I still enjoyed working in this lush tropical island setting.
“Watching the palm trees and sky while working is just like a dream come true.”
How did a regular work day in Sint Maarten looked for you?
Because of the time difference, I had to start at 04:00 in the morning! It was hard to begin with, but after a few days I adjusted fairly well. Starting my work day at such an early time had it benefits as I finished at noon which meant I had lots of time left to relax and unwind. In the afternoon I often grabbed lunch somewhere outdoors, visited the beach, explored the French side or shopped around. Driving around the island was an absolute pleasure as I was captivated by the views surrounding me – from the green mountains to the sandy coastlines. With the tropical sun never failing to show up, each day I had a fresh appreciation for the island! During the afternoon, I also practiced taekwondo at the King Yen Taekwondo School, a school that my uncle,’Grandmaster Theo Liu’ gives lessons. It was my first experience learning taekwondo and I am extremely happy that I was able to do so especially because sporting was not allowed in Netherlands under the COVID restrictions. With all the tasty food and restaurant options in SXM, I was glad I could exercise and even better, I got my yellow belt here on SXM.
Is there something you wish you would have know before coming here?
Yes! Groceries are quite expensive, sometimes double the price I’m used to. If I knew that before I probably would have send a box full with some groceries for my family and myself.
Would you recommend Sint Maarten as a place to work remote?
Yes, definitely! As long as you have a good working place and internet, it is great to work remotely. After work and in the weekends, you can explore the island and can relax at the beach. Especially during this pandemic time, I really enjoyed working in another country. In the Netherlands we could not go out, had an evening curfew, restaurants were closed, no physical training….so you can imagine that I really enjoyed the freedom that I had in Sint Maarten.
What is your favorite memory of Sint Maarten?
I made so many long-lasting memories, but if I had to choose one, I must say the views. I simply fell in love with the mountains, palm trees, beaches and sunset. Sint Maarten is an amazing and unique island. Something I will never see here in the Netherlands, so I am definitely coming back to Sint Maarten!
“Especially during this pandemic time, I really enjoyed working in another country.”