There are plenty of employees working at the Erasmus University, but there seems to be no one as popular as the woman after whom the FAECTOR office coffee machine is named: Henriëtte! If you ever treat yourself with a nice lunch in Etude, you’ll definitely know her! She always welcomes you with her smile and a fun chat. We decided to interview her to get to know her better.
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Henriëtte, I am 55 years old and I was born in IJsselmonde. I have lived in Hoogvliet and Pernis, and have been working as a cashier for 33 years. One of my hobbies is cats! Sadly, of the 7 cats I’ve had, only 1 is left, which is now 17 years old. Since it’s an old cat, I’ll have to wait and see how long he’ll stay with me. If he passes away, I’ll not be taking cats anymore, it’s been enough.
When did you start taking cats?
They have all been street cats: I have taken 7 cats from the street so that they could live with me. I have done a lot for cats, like giving them food, searching new homes for other cats, or calling the animal ambulance that can bring them to an asylum in case they are homeless. I’ve done this for 13 years now, but it’s been enough, so when he dies, I’ll take care of myself and go on a holiday haha.
So you never go on a holiday too?
No, I don’t want to leave my cats alone… they are my everything. If I were to be on a holiday without my cats, I wouldn’t be having as much fun. I would be curious how they’re doing all the time, and I would just want to be with them.
How did you come to work here?
First, I have worked at Shell Pernis for 23 years. Then, I was relocated to the EUR, where I started working in the L Building, then the T Building, and now I’m in H. The L building had a big restaurant, way bigger than Etude, but the university removed it. Next January, it will be my 11th year working here.
What do you like the most about your job?
Engaging with the people, that’s what I like the most. Sitting at the counter, chatting with the students, having a fun time.
Do you know a lot of people?
I can’t remember names, there are just too many, but I definitely recognize faces. ‘Oh that’s him!’, ‘How are you doing?’, wishing them good luck on their exams. Sometimes they come to me for a pep talk. Then I give that to them, and they’re so happy. Sometimes when they’ve graduated, they even come tell me they did it, giving me a high-five, telling me they listened to me.
What do you like less about your job?
I don’t like having fights with my colleagues, or jealousy. Since I’m more often at work than at home, I prefer work to be fun, especially no critizing behind each other’s backs. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing it myself though, if I don’t like something, I just say it haha, I don’t mince my words *winks at colleague who’s also having lunch with us*. I just like it the most when we’re having a fun time. However, sometimes I walk in and I already see their annoyed faces: then I’m already done with it.
Did you ever catch someone stealing food?
Yes, definitely! It happens every now and then. For example, they hide butter and meat products under their plates, or put extra meat products on ‘budget broodjes’. Then I see it happen and I’m like: “You can’t do that, that’s stealing!” If I were to call security, they’d be suspended from the EUR. Imagine stealing for 50 cents to mess up your future, that’s just very stupid.
Do you say anything to them if you see it?
Yes, I just confront them with it once I see it happen. Then they respond with “Oh, oh, oh”, but I can handle them. People think: that lady won’t see it anyway, but let me tell you, this lady sees everything. I just confront them with it, I don’t feel ashamed. If you want more meat products, just pay. A ‘budget broodje’ costs €1,57, so don’t go add meat products worth even more. That makes me disappointed.
Any story in particular?
There was this one guy who always bought a baguette, but added the meat products of another baguette to it. He was a really nice guy, but we were wondering why at the end of every day we always found one empty baguette. Then I was once sitting at the counter and I see this guy leaning over. So I go have a look, and I confront him with stealing! Then you don’t see them for a while, but when they come back after some time, I just watch them.
Did you ever get a weird complaint?
Yes, I have had a complaint once. I got an official warning from the office for not being friendly to the customers. I don’t know whom it came from, though. I can’t remember having said something unkind, but you never know, I’m just a human being, maybe I was grumpy, everyone experiences a grumpy day every now and then.
I’m an active member of our study association, FAECTOR, and in the office there is this coffee machine which is named after you, the Henriëtte coffee machine. What do you think of that?
Haha that’s so nice, so funny! I find it really nice to hear that!
Yes, you’re so popular! Everyone knows you!
Haha, so you talk about me as well, if you come to the restaurant? Haha I find that so nice to hear!
What do you do in your free time?
If I’m at home, I clean up my place, I take care of my cat, and I like watching soapies, like The Bold, GTST, and Utopia, or I record movies to watch them during the weekend. Or I’m doing groceries, or going shopping for new clothes. And I sleep late, that’s the most important thing!
Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
No not really, it’s not like I really want to go to a country in specific, but if I go, I need a good beach or a nice swimming pool at the hotel. I want to be treated. I’ll never cook during holidays, I need relax time.
Do you have any dreams?
At the moment, I wouldn’t know. I’m satisfied with my life. Maybe I could see myself with a partner in the future, but on the other hand, I actually don’t want to live together. I’ve been alone since September 2011; I can organize my own life, do whatever I want. If I don’t want to cook, I’ll order Chinese or Greek. But a relationship or living together, I don’t think I would want that. No dirty socks!
Do you have any life advice for the students?
Do your best! If you graduate now, you’ll have a beautiful future, which is important for you, as you’ll need to work your whole life. So, make something out of it, be proud of yourself, and stand for what you want to study. Don’t go out and party all the time, even though it’s fun, but all the extra years of study cost a lot of money as well, so you can better do your best instantly. Make sure you can be proud of yourself, that you did it in 4 years. I think that’s important, that you achieve something. Then if they graduated, I am so proud of them and I tell them. They come to me and give me a hug. I’ll tell them that they should definitely come by if they’re at EUR again.
I really enjoy engaging with students. A lot of students come have a chat with me at the counter, that's my thing. I'm so proud of them. If I didn't like people, I would never do this work. If I'm having a bad day and you come in with a smile on your face, you just make my day. You students keep me going here. There are these moments I would prefer to be at home, but when you walk in, I just forget that and I have a nice day.
Thank you so much for the very fun interview, Henriëtte!