How do you find these women?

The question I get asked most is how I find the women I interview. Most of the time I know somebody, who knows somebody, etc. For example, my good friend Camille introduced me to Marion and Marie, women who, like her, work in the Paris art scene. If I can’t manage to find enough women this way, I ask around on Facebook. It is always a nice surprise who will introduce me to whom! For example, Anastasia from Moscow introduced me to
passionate foodie Annette from Warsaw – a city where I didn’t know anyone. Some of the women crossed my path in a special way, however.

I met the parents of Parisian Caroline in a charming casa particular in the city of Trinidad, Cuba. They didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak Spanish, there was no wifi, so the best we could think of was to try and communicate in my rusty high school French. The fact that they were patient enough to listen to my attempts to speak their language and kept inviting me, the solo traveler, over to their dinner table in the garden, says a lot about their kindness and warmth. When I left, Caroline’s mother gave me Caroline’s email address and said that I should definitely contact her if I ever went to Paris, because she was sure I would love to hang out with her daughter. When I did meet Caroline for this interview, it wasn’t a surprise to find out that her heart was just as big and welcoming as that of her parents.

I try to interview seven women in every city and I like to set up only six meetings before I go, so I still have one ‘wild card’. I want to stay adventurous and open to whatever comes my way. When the extravagant, 70-year-old Parisienne Dominique and I passed each other in front of Café Le Nemours in Paris AND she made eye contact with me (something that isn’t really common in this city), I knew I wanted her for my project. I was a bit intimidated by the looks of this lady, but I gathered all the courage I could muster and followed her into the washroom of café Le Nemours (yes, I really did that) and struck up a conversation right there. She wasn’t even surprised that I wanted to interview her! She immediately accepted, especially when she found out that I’m Dutch, just like her best friend. I tried to explain what my project was about, but she was in a hurry, gave me her phone number and said I should just call her to make the appointment. And so I did.

I also kept a wild card for Warsaw, so it was great that the woman who rented her apartment to me happened to be a journalist and knew a lot of people. When I told her I wanted to interview a teenager for a change, she told me about 15-year-old Amelia, who made it her mission to talk openly about the issue of depression among teens. Because Amelia was a bit insecure about her English, this also happened to be my very first Google Translate interview ever!

So except for when I interviewed some of my Amsterdam friends to serve as a test case, most of the time I know nothing about the women I’m going to interview other than their name, age and profession. It’s always a surprise to find out what this unknown woman has been going through in life. A woman who would otherwise have remained a stranger; just another woman to pass me by on the streets of some city in Europe – leaving me wondering forever what her life could possibly be like. 

– Mariska, founder Women of Europe


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