Friday, July 7, 2023

Blog: Cultural Reads


Link to blog:

Dear Readers:

It is rare when I share another blog on my blog, but this one is so fantastic. I travel the world and love experiencing different cultures and meeting the people. I always have and will continue to do so as long as God is willing to let me. The CULTURAL READS blog is fantastic. Now, I don't have to search everywhere on the internet to find specific information on the country I plan to visit. This blog serves that purpose and so much more. I hope you enjoy the interview with Thomas Plaatsman, the blogger. Be sure to follow his blog too!

Thomas Plaatsman

                                                                    Blog: Cultural Reads

                                                            Link to blog:


Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.

Hi Everyone! I'm Thomas; I grew up in the Netherlands but lived in Spain, the Philippines, Kenya, Ecuador, and Kenya.

I've always loved international environments and enjoy meeting new people and learning about other cultures.

I worked for the Red Cross in Impact Investing and am now part of a reforestation project in Brazil.

These experiences have been a massive catalyst in traveling and meeting people, which eventually formed the basis for, a blog with books, movies, and music from around the world.

What inspired you to start a blog?

Whenever I traveled abroad, I visited bookstores and bought 1-2 books from local authors. Reading these helped me get so many insights into the culture, which led to plenty of fun conversations and connections.

I remember being in Cameroon for work and reading about the country's most famous author, Mongo Beti. On my way to the hotel, I asked the taxi driver if he knew the writer. It turned out that Mongo Beti used to run a bookstore in the capital, and the next day the driver drove me there to check it out. It was such a fun and unexpected way to explore the city.

I wanted other people to have these experiences as well. I thought sharing cultural recommendations could help do this, which is why I asked all my international friends the following question:

"If I want to learn about your country, what books/music/movies do I NEED to know?"

The result was a giant list with recommendations, which was the basis for my

Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?

If I had to pick one person, I'd say Tim Ferris. I love personal development, meeting people, learning new things, and value freedom. Tim managed to incorporate all of these into his personal and work lifestyle.

When it comes to books and authors, I realized that all my favorite books have the same elements: adventure, coming of age, and a personal story (fictional or non-fictional), preferably in a non-Western country.

Some of my all-time favorites are:

Dave Eggers (What is the What and Monk of Mokha)

The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa

Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

The Untameable by Guillermo Arriaga

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

I keep a list of all the books I read and also use Goodreads.

I also write a yearly book recommendation post:

What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome?

I'm impatient, very ambitious, and have many ideas, but also a bit perfectionistic. The combination of all of these factors sometimes leads to frustration and analysis paralysis.

I know that I have to be patient because things take time. I need to focus on the right things, what I care about, and keep going.

Especially when writing longer-form articles or interviews, I tend to struggle. I think it's probably because the task seems too large or because I care too much about what the person I interviewed will think. It helps to break things down or hire someone to write a first draft. In that way, I have to structure the work and write down the tasks, which takes the fear element out of the equation.

Tell your readers about your blog.

Link to blog:

On the surface, Cultural Reads is an easy way to discover worldwide books, movies, and music recommendations. On a deeper level, it's a way to connect people. I'll give you an example:

If you work for a European company and travel to Nigeria, you'll get security training and feel a little nervous for your first trip to Africa. You'll spend much time in your hotel and meeting rooms and struggle with cultural differences. You'll eventually come back feeling frustrated about the misunderstandings and difficulties in reaching agreements and probably didn't learn much about the culture.

If, instead, you had known about the wonderful world of Afrobeats beforehand and read a book by a famous Nigerian author, your mindset would've been entirely different. Instead of being fearful, you would've been curious to explore the food, the music, and the culture. This curiosity leads to a more open attitude, which people will notice. They'll be more welcoming and happy to teach you more about their culture. The result: your trip was more fun and more successful.

I hope that Cultural Reads can connect people worldwide by planting the seed of cultural curiosity.

Link to blog:

Who is your target audience, and why?

I still need to dive deeper into my "niche," but I feel the primary audience consists of expats, people living abroad, and those interested in other cultures.

Some of these people could include NGO workers, diplomats, exchange students, journalists, and corporate companies working internationally.

I think there are different reasons why people would read Cultural Reads. One is to discover books, music, and movies worldwide. Another could be to explore new countries. Some might be proud to see their own country featured, and others are looking for adventure or connection through stories from people around the world.

What do you consider your greatest success in life?

I love the article "the top 5 Regrets of the Dying." A nurse who worked in palliative care wrote a book with things her patients regretted:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

What I'm most proud of is that I've always tried to go with what I believe in, even if that's not the popular choice (number one on the list).

I also realize that on your deathbed, you'll likely not care about many things except for your closest family and friends and what you've given back to the world. I try to focus on that every day.

Here's the link to the article btw:

What one unique thing sets you apart from other bloggers?

I would say it's my passion for other cultures, learning, and meeting people.

Many people could do what I'm doing (and I hope they will), but in the end, it's not the skills but the motivation that is essential.

Building something new takes a lot of work, and I think that's only sustainable if you're genuinely motivated.

I want people to know there's more than Hollywood and Western books and music. It helps develop unique perspectives and find personal wisdom, and it's a fantastic way to connect to others.

We're all on this planet together. Life can already be difficult enough (especially if you grow up without many opportunities), so let's focus on genuine connection, kindness, and helping each other out.

The first step is to spark people's curiosity, which I'm trying to focus on.