This week we are featuring none other than Hidde van Gelder! Many of you will know him as he is Zoku’s Community Manager and B Leader, meaning he is the one working to bring our Community together day in, day out, uphold the Zoku values of Better Together and making sure everyone that steps foot into Zoku is cared after. Next time you pop by Zoku, feel free to stop Hidde for a moment, he is always open and more than happy to have a chat and meet new people.

What path has your career taken?

My career has started at Zoku actually! I have always said that I wanted to have a lifestyle instead of a job and guess what, Zoku offered me exactly that! In my daily routine, I help people from all sorts of backgrounds, interests, from freelancer to big corporations through awesome events and mostly being the connection for them to whatever they might need.

I decided to start my studies at the Hotel Management School Maastricht, mostly because of the international opportunities. I ended up doing an internship in a Hyatt Regency resort in Hua Hin for half a year and I also did an exchange semester in Helsinki Finland for international business. My management internship I eventually did at Zoku in the Meeting & Events team for half a year before becoming Events Supervisor. Shortly after the position of Community Manager was created at Zoku and I was the lucky one who was able to take it on.

It is a very fulfilling ‘job’ that I could have never dreamt of having. What I mean with a lifestyle instead of a job, is that I never want to be in business, just for business. I want to do something that I would do in my personal life as well like something that will help others in both their personal and professional lives. I feel like others should have the same mindset so that the world is driven by passion, which results in business instead of just making money. Zoku is a company that understands this and that’s also why we became a B Corporation. B Corp is now also a big part of what I do.

What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?

‘Birds’ from the Dutch band Chef’Special is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. The song is about seven birds that are sitting close to a window. Birds are always close to peoples window and they see the world from above. They don’t talk and people talk too much. The song, to me, is about how we have filled the world with too much nonsense and that we get lost in what we think we know. Birds are the people that are actually listening and therefore know so much more. Listening and being open for the opinion of others is when you learn the most and I wish more people lived their lives like that! Besides the meaning (for me) of the song, it has such a calming effect and you can play it at any moment of time, it always works!

What is your top tip for being productive while working from home?

Now that work-life balance becomes harder as both are in the same space, me and my girlfriend have been creating new things within the house to make it feel like a different space. An example is finding out that frying pans are pretty decent ping-pong paddles by turning the kitchen table into a ping-pong table! Record to break is 85 hits! Also creating a pillow and blanket filled cave into your bed/living room is an amazing thing to do! Use this time to be creative and create new fun things to do. Maybe you will find out that your apartment has way more to offer than you initially thought!

Which book/product have you gifted the most, and why?

I always give experiences instead of things. At Zoku we say “The world doesn’t need more stuff, it needs smarter solutions” and I couldn’t agree more! By gaining new experiences, you always create new perspectives, stories to tell and inspire people and memories to look back on with a smile with people that you shared the experience with. This to me, is so much more of a gift than any ‘thing’!

What is one piece of advice or tip in your field of work that you want to give to people?

That’s an easy one, listening. As a community manager, or anyone working in hospitality, you need to listen. Most people give advice based on what they already know and not on what the other actually needs. When listening and asking the right questions, you will always be able to help someone out in a personal way instead of a business way. You basically will change from “I will help you like I know best” to “I will help you like you know best”.

How do you manage to keep up your mental health/wellbeing while working from home during these times?

I am embracing the fact that I am ‘forced’ to take time for myself and just chill. There will never be a time again (at least I can’t imagine) where the whole world is forced to relax. There is no fear of missing out and no social pressure as everyone is in the same situation. Even though I get that people start to feel lonely, this gives me a feeling of connection as we are all together alone. Embrace the fact that everyone is in the same situation and try to embrace this feeling of peace.

What brought you/brings you to Amsterdam?

Originally, I am from Breukelen, a small city close to Amsterdam. I always knew I would eventually end up in Amsterdam and that is also one of the reasons why I decided to study in Maastricht instead of Amsterdam so I could broaden my perspective. As expected, I now already live in Amsterdam for about 3 year after running into Zoku and deciding to start my career here. Even though I still have to explore a lot of the world, I feel like Amsterdam is one of the best cities in the world because of the freedom and creativity that is hanging over the city. I don’t think I will live in Amsterdam for the rest of my life, but it will always be the city I will come back to!

How long have you stayed at Zoku Amsterdam and what were/are your thoughts?

I know the rest of the Zoku family will be reading this as well so I can’t really say anything negative here, can I 🙂 No, just kidding, I obviously love our concept! That’s the whole reason why I mentioned that I don’t want to have a job but a lifestyle. I will never be able to sell something I don’t genuinely believe in and Zoku is exactly what I believe in!

Zoku doesn’t just sell rooms and coffee, we are becoming the most desired home base as we speak where we not just help our residents with an extended stay and members with a place to work, but with genuine connections, friendships, both informative/personal development as fun events, the search for apartments or anything that comes into play when moving to a new country or exploring your own. A hotel in general shouldn’t be just providing a bed whilst traveling, it should provide everything you need to feel connection to like-minded people around you in order to feel welcome in both the hotel you are staying in as the city that you are visiting/moving to!

Obviously, I can talk for hours about Zoku. So, to keep it ‘short’, here are three things that are my personal favorites:

  1. Every morning, I take the elevator to the 6th floor. It doesn’t matter if the weather is good or not (preferably good), but taking the walk through the Green House towards the Living Room where you walk into a family area where everyone knows you and is happy to see you. I am not just talking about myself, but for every resident, member, neighbor, partner or dog. At Zoku, both the community as the staff (same thing though) are people that genuinely love to connect to people, not just because they share the same space. This walk brings a smile on my face every morning as I can’t wait to be welcomed again with open arms, smiles and hugs (not at the moment of course)!
  2. The Friday night live music with Amsterdam Music Project! Every Friday we have live acoustic music starting at 18:00. The beauty of this is that when we start, there is an amazing mix of activities and people in the same space. In the beginning you see half of the laptops closing with a refreshing after work drink, where others decided to keep on working whilst enjoying the music. Others decided to play a board game next to someone having a four-course shared meal with friends. Whatever you decided to do, it is okay, it’s Friday and you decided how you want to spend your time, everything is okay!
  3. Our check-in chats. This is a chat that I offer to our long stay residents after that stay 14 nights or longer, after they have checked in. When staying for two weeks or longer, we found out that people need more than just a bed and a friendly chat on the 6th floor. Therefore, we decided to offer a chat with me so I can help them out with whatever they might need. Whether it’s getting to know all events options (that they can join for free), getting to know the rest of the Zoku family or help with finding an apartment, gym or fish tank, we are there to help! People don’t expect someone from ‘a hotel’ to actually sit down with them for an hour if needed to just be there for them. This chat always gives me a huge sense of purpose in my ‘job’ as so far everyone has left with a big smile on their face and a good amount of tips, tricks and connections!

What is the most interesting/inspiring place you’ve been to or have visited and what was so special about it?

This must be the dormitory that I lived in with my Thai colleagues. The place itself was far from beautiful if we look through a western lifestyle perspective. A room that I shared with a friend, without air-conditioning and a (only) cold shower that almost didn’t work and no privacy whatsoever. The washing machines made your clothes more dirty than they already were and there were about 5 stray dogs begging for food all the time.

Still, this was my own choice. I could live in the city and rent an apartment for myself and my friend, which would have been really cheap and way more convenient but we chose to live with our colleagues of whom most didn’t speak any English. This was the most beautiful place I have ever lived by far! I gained friendships with people I couldn’t talk to, we created a home for the stray dogs and we played football every day on a football field that looked more like a dump in the middle of the jungle. I have never felt so connected to everyone and everything around me!


Hidde’s LinkedIn