Yoka Saris was born in the Netherlands and moved to New Zealand at 19. As a young bride, she arrived on the ship
Sibajak with her husband and initially settled in Wellington. Yoka currently resides in Christchurch after having lived in the capital for 32 years.
Yoka has been an active member of the Dutch community for many years. She initially got involved with the
Netherlands Society in Wellington as secretary, which she stayed for 23 years.
Later in Christchurch, she became the first female member of the Federation of the Netherlands Society and
worked as migration officer at the Netherlands Consulate. Yoka was also involved in setting up the Christchurch
branch of the Friendly Support Network and worked for producer Theo Boekel at Echo radio.
When you moved to New Zealand, did you know what to expect?
We didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect. So when we arrived here, everything felt very different. The main challenge was the language and I remember having a bit of trouble understanding the New Zealand accent. However, we settled in Island Bay and the community there was just amazing. Overall New Zealand felt really nice. I do remember feeling homesick in the first year, but after the birth of my first son that went feeling went away.
Has being Dutch influenced your live in New Zealand?
Apart from being very active in the Dutch community, I also think being Dutch has influenced me in other ways. The Dutch can be very determined and hard-working, even through hard times. I think those characteristics have certainly helped me.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my family, my three sons, their partners and grandchildren. Another achievement I’m quite proud of is the book I’ve written ‘Ontboezemingen’. In general I’ve had a very happy life, New Zealand’s been very good to me.