If you like history, foreign affairs, politics and economics, you’ll envy Alida Ritsema.

Alida, the 197th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is the deputy consul-general at the Dutch consulate-general in Sydney. So her job involves working on consular and economic topics with governments, trade bodies and companies. 

Alida has been a diplomat for almost two decades. Her career has taken her to the Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, the Palestinian Territories and, since 2016, Australia. 

Why did Alida become a diplomat? Because she was interested in history, foreign affairs, politics and trade promotion. And because she thought the foreign service offered better career prospects than teaching, which was her first career. 

I really enjoyed my lunch with Alida. She’s a good listener and an interesting conversationalist. Whether those are natural qualities or traits she’s developed during her years as a diplomat, I couldn’t say. But I do know it makes Alida excellent company. 

Unfortunately, I won’t be enjoying Alida’s company for much longer. One of the occupational hazards of being a diplomat is that you never get to stay in one place for too long. Next year, Alida will be sent to a new posting, probably in Europe.