My Cultural Journey: From the Rain Forest of Borneo to the City of Dubai

When I was growing up, I always wanted to leave my home in Borneo. The rain forest in my backyard was full of obstructive trees, insects and pests – how annoying, I thought. I found the place much too hot, too humid, too rainy, too “jungly.” I knew that living in Borneo for the rest of my life would not be an option.


I belong to an indigenous tribe – the Bidayuhs, which means “The Land People” in my language. There are only about 200,000 of us on this planet, and our language is so disparate, that one dialect is intelligible from another. My small village is located on the Malaysian part of Borneo, and some of our tribes are separated by the modern border between Malaysia and Indonesian Kalimantan.

Traditionally animistic, most of my parents’ generation converted to Christianity in exchange for education. Our traditional profession is farming and hunting. Life as a farmer in my part of the world means relying completely on the natural elements such as rain and nutrients from the soil. Then, we pray that no disease or drought will harm our crops. It is no wonder than when we get our new harvest, it calls for a big celebration and since we do not have any written form of the language, or even a calendar, the harvest festival is also a mark of our new year.

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The dense rain forest in Borneo.

Leaving Borneo: My Motivation and Inspiration

As a child, I grew up with no running water and no electricity. Forget the telephone.  And, mind you, I’m not that old. As our home address did not exist at the time, the postman does not turn up either. When I was in school, I discovered a special place called The Library. It was full of books that told me of all the wonderful places that sounded so magical. It was what inspired my imagination to leave Borneo.

I managed to get myself into a prestigious local college, but it also meant that I had to leave my home at a tender age of 12 to live in a boarding school. 5 years later, I managed to get a scholarship to do my A-Levels in the capital of Malaysia, which was how I managed to fund my degree in the UK. I came back to Malaysia to work after graduation. I felt it was my duty to give back to my country for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. A few years later, I moved to Australia for my first job abroad. Since then, I have lived and worked in Europe and now the Middle East. I have travelled to so many places, and I still call Borneo home.

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The funny thing is, the longer I am away from my birthplace, the stronger the bond I feel. The jungle that I used to dislike, I now have grown to love and appreciate. The insects and pests that I have hated, I have learnt to tolerate and accepted. The hard life that I wanted to shun, now sounds idyllic.

Today, my little village has a Wi-Fi hotspot and everybody has access to internet. Some are even conducting business on it. A few years ago, the small road that led up to our house even got a street name but the postman only brings letters for bills. Most people use IM and emails. We also have water supply from the city council, and they even come to collect our garbage once a week! The city is a mere 30 minute drive away, but only because you could only drive at 60km per hour.

I might have simplified the journey from Borneo to Dubai for this blog but it has not been an easy one. As a citizen of Dubai, I miss speaking my language, I miss our weird food (which is anything we could find in the jungle and around our homes), and I miss our culture. Today, I consider Dubai as one of my home cities. Our office has over 55 nationalities, and Dubai itself is very cosmopolitan. You could find all kinds of representations of any culture imaginable in Dubai, and I have yet to hear my mother tongue spoken here.

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Traveling to a farm that can only be reached after hours of trekking.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity at Ericsson

We celebrate Cultural Diversity in a big way in the office too. Our largest event is our International Day, where we get to wear our traditional costume, and share our food and get to know our colleagues better. Throughout my cultural journey, I have met so many people from diverse background and learned about different cultures. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have been given. Whenever I go home, I am always reminded of humble beginnings.

I have always been a minority in my home country, so I am used to being the odd one out, as far as culture goes. In Ericsson, I am a minority as the few women who makes up our workforce, especially in technology. I started my career in Ericsson as a Solution Architect in Digital Services. Today, I am one of the fortunate few who are working in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) portfolio. I love what I do and I personally believe that IoT will change society all over the world.

At Ericsson, we believe that cultural diversity enriches our every working day. And with more than 100,000 people speaking 193 different languages and operating in 180 countries, we have so much that we can share – our diverse experiences; our knowledge and expertise; our different ideas, thoughts and perspectives; the cultural journeys that have made us who we are. Click here to learn more about Ericsson employees’ cultural journeys.

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