Interview, News|

'These are challenging times. But above all it’s important that everybody stays safe and that we keep on working together.’

Niels Bouwman is the Director of the Dutch Pavilion at Expo 2020. He moved to Dubai with his family earlier this year. We spoke to Niels about his job, his new home and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How is your family adapting to life in Dubai?
They are still settling in and getting used to life in Dubai, but so far my wife and son are very happy here. Not least because the facilities here are excellent, and Dubai is a very safe and clean city.’

Are you and your family well? Is everyone safe and healthy?
‘Under the circumstances, we are happy and content. I’m very happy that we’re all together in Dubai.’

When did you become Director of the Dutch Pavilion?
‘I started work as Director of the Pavilion in June 2018. First, working from the Netherlands, and then in January 2020 I moved to Dubai. Here I can manage everything onsite and stay in touch with our suppliers, partners, other businesses and participating countries.’

How is the current situation affecting your job, and what would a postponement of the Expo mean for you?
‘For me, it won’t come as a surprise if the Expo is postponed, given the current situation. We’re preparing for all kinds of scenarios. In the event of a postponement we’ll have to reschedule our planning and align the contracts we have with our partners. These are challenging times for us all. But above all it’s important that everybody stays safe and that we keep on working together.’

What do you like most about your job?
‘I have a very wide-ranging job which allows me to contribute to Expo 2020 in general and to our goal of uniting the themes of water, energy and food more specifically. The position has also taught me a lot about how to manage a unique project like a World Expo. It’s a very multicultural job, which gives me the opportunity to work with lots of different parties in the UAE. And I love working in Dubai, because this city is a major global hub.’

What do you like most about Dubai?
‘I’ve lived abroad for short periods of time before, but this experience is unique. Dubai is a fascinating place to live. It’s truly larger than life, and very different from the Netherlands, which is a very down-to-earth country. Dubai is a city where everything revolves around internationalisation, and I really like that. And of course I also enjoy the sunny weather here!’

What are you and your family doing during the lockdown in Dubai?
‘It’s really nice to see people being so creative, and we’re doing our best too. We’ve also started playing board games like Monopoly and Risk again. I love the time I spend with my family.’

What do you miss about the Netherlands?
‘I actually don’t really miss much at all. But perhaps I haven’t been gone for long enough yet. Of course I do miss my friends and family. But if I want any favourite foods like liquorice or peanut butter, I can just buy them in the big supermarkets here. And I also think that if you move abroad you need to try and adapt to your new home country a little.’

What would you like to say to readers of
‘We’re working towards an amazing event for Dutch businesses, a great platform where they can present themselves to the world. This Expo will be the greatest show for Dubai, the Gulf region and far beyond. So I’d say to Dutch businesses: these are challenging times. But above all it’s important that everybody stays safe and that we keep on working together. Don’t wait until the Expo has started: seize those opportunities now! When Expo opens you’ll receive a very warm welcome at our pavilion!’

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