NAME: SHAMIRAN DEMIRDAG
COMPANY: FERRMONS ADVOCATENKANTOOR
IN THE NETHERLANDS SINCE: 1980
Business was in Shamiran Demirdag’s blood from an early age. As a child she was already ‘playing shop’ and on Queen’s Day had her own jumble stall. The choice presented to her by her parents was: ‘Study – or start a business’. But she was keen to both study and be an entrepreneur, and luckily her parents supported her in this. After studying law in Amsterdam and gaining experience at various law firms she started her own, Ferrmons, in Almelo. Her involvement with the community and affinity with entrepreneurship have led her to specialise in labour and bankruptcy law. Although she felt very much at home in Amsterdam, she consciously chose the more relaxed province of Twente where, as she herself says, she can differentiate herself better.
1. How long have you been in The Netherlands?
I came to Twente with my parents and brother in 1980, when I was one year old.
2. How did you become an entrepreneur and why?
It’s more or less in my genes, because Assyrians are entrepreneurs and traders. They find out what people want and then provide it. For example, my father had a successful textile workshop, which he sold 16 years ago to start a Greek restaurant. Law seemed a good choice for me because I love an intellectual challenge and am adventurous. After studying in Amsterdam I started working as a lawyer at various law firms to gain experience. I soon decided to start my own practice and to specialise in labour and insolvency law. As a curator you have to work with other entrepreneurs and I could identify with them due to my affinity with business. I deliberately chose to stay in Twente because, as an Assyrian, I stand out more here and can differentiate myself more than I could in Amsterdam. I also love the relaxed friendliness of Twente. I enjoy advising and passing on tips to other entrepreneurs, but I also think it’s important to do voluntary work – so that my success can benefit the needy in the community.
3. Did you encounter problems when you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
No, I received a warm welcome in Twente and am highly appreciated as an Assyrian/Dutch lawyer and curator.
4. What are the differences between doing business in The Netherlands and in East Turkey?
In The Netherlands people are much more professional; here it’s all about professional skill, craft and quality – which is also why people are less likely to switch careers. In the Middle East they switch professions more easily. The Dutch are less emotional and are happy to leave everything to me, assuming that I know best because I’m a lawyer. This also has to do with Dutch professionalism. Assyrians have a much greater desire to communicate – as well as prove they are right. They have a lot of respect for authority, but prefer to make their own plans. Assyrians often know each other within the community, which means that they also prefer a Dutch lawyer for reasons of privacy. Assyrians are proud and expect less from others. Although they are quicker to compliment. As the Dutch say, in The Netherlands it’s more a case of, ‘Just act normally – that’s crazy enough’.
5. What is typically Dutch when it comes to doing business and being an entrepreneur?
The professionalism, here you must meet all the requirements otherwise you will not be taken seriously.
6. What have you taken from both the Assyrian and Dutch cultures?
From the Assyrian culture I have commercial skills, hard work and respect for authority and rules. From the Dutch culture the importance of expertise and that you sometimes have to adapt to situations.
7. Would you ever go back to East Turkey?
The Assyrians once had a country, Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris, currently Eastern Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. My family is from East Turkey, the land of the Biblical paradise with its beautiful landscapes. I would particularly like to visit the city of Minyat again.
8. What are the secrets of your success?
My passion for the profession and my socially-driven motivation to be of benefit to my clients.
9. What is your favourite fruit, and why?
Watermelon. It reminds me of my vacations in Istanbul, where watermelon is eaten at breakfast, lunch and as a dessert. It’s also delicious with a drink, or to garnish a main course. I am also slightly addicted to lychees because of their exotic nature and delicious, fresh, sweet taste.
10. What is your favourite Dutch product and/or place?
A plate of Dutch boerenkool (kale with bacon bits) is always delicious in winter. And the funny thing is that my father makes that especially for me – in his Greek restaurant! My favourite place is, and always will be – Amsterdam!
TIPS from Sharmiran
1. Be yourself and be open about your background.
2. Embrace the hospitality of The Netherlands.
3. Focus on similarities and respect differences – they make society diverse and adventurous!