5 Questions for Kelly Merks, PR Manager

19 April 2021

In April 2021, we are reflecting on the past years the EAC has spent collecting and preserving life stories of expatriates worldwide and celebrating people who have played an important role in making the EAC what it is now.

How did you get your start at the Expatriate Archive Centre and how long have you been working there?

Shortly after moving to The Hague in 2015, I applied for the current position I have at the EAC. I didn’t get the job then, but the person who did, Sarah, brought me on a few months later as a PR volunteer. I kept volunteering until the beginning of 2018, when I left on maternity leave. I didn’t know in what capacity I would come back to the EAC, but I knew I wanted to. When Sarah decided to leave the EAC that summer, I applied for the position and got it.


What are you most proud of during your career at the EAC?

I started a project on Twitter called @WeAreXpats while I was a volunteer, and it’s still going 5 years later! When I created it, rotation curation accounts (also called RoCurs) were a big thing on Twitter. The idea is that one account ‘travels’ to a different person every week based on a shared quality. Most RoCurs are geographically based, like people who live in a certain country or city. Some are thematic, such as people who work in a specific industry or have a common hobby. I created @WeAreXpats on Twitter in this spirit; all the curators (the people who tweet from the account) have experienced life abroad in some way. From an archival perspective, it gives the EAC an opportunity to experiment with archiving social media and enriches the archive’s holdings with so, so many perspectives. To date, more than 200 people have tweeted their own week from @WeAreXpats, several of them more than once! The EAC’s initiatives are all unique and worthy, but this one is a labor of love that I still spend time on, even outside working hours.


What do you enjoy the most about living in the Netherlands?

I appreciate a lot about life here, but I really love being a bicycle commuter and living in a walkable community. For me, life is better on a bike. My childhood and early adulthood were spent in auto-centric, big city Texas, where distance between cities is measured in driving hours instead of miles and public transportation tends to be underdeveloped, if present at all. I biked in my smaller college town, but cyclist safety is absolutely not a priority in my home state so I didn’t do much of it outside my neighbourhood there. Here, even though the weather isn’t great most of the year, I feel safe and comfortable biking or walking to work, the beach, the market, or anywhere else because my city continues to invest in cycling infrastructure. They actively try to get people out of their cars and on two wheels. And it’s a relief to know that when I get caught in a sudden rainstorm or hop off my bike sweating on a hot day, there are thousands of others looking just as disheveled as I do!


When it is safe to do so again, where would you like to travel that you’ve never been before?

My husband and I have this discussion every month or so, and we keep coming back to Taiwan and Vietnam. I want to go to Oman, but he isn’t convinced yet. We both miss traveling in Asia, but most of all we want a sunny place with different scenery, excellent food, and a favourable currency conversion rate.


Have you ever been an expatriate yourself? Tell us your expat life story.

My husband and I, married only a couple of weeks, moved to Japan in the summer of 2011 so I could join the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. We lived there for almost four years. I loved it so, so much. Though I appreciate the heck out of living in the Netherlands, Japan remains my favourite place and I would fly there tomorrow if given the chance. In 2015, my husband was offered a job here in The Hague. He first thought the job was one he could do remotely from Tokyo, but once we knew the job was in Europe and the offer was on the table, it was too good to pass on. Work-life balance in Japan is not great. We knew a few foreigners there who had become jaded because they stayed longer than they probably should have, and we didn’t want that to happen to us. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but we made the big leap and landed in the Netherlands in March 2015. Just as in Japan, our idea was that we would live here for a couple years and maybe return to the US. But we’re still here, with our own home and a young child learning Dutch and more roots than we ever had in Japan. We have no plans to move anywhere else anytime soon.