And today, I’m posting a portrait of an American lady for the first time. Many nationalities have already come along, but I have never had a real “New Yorker” in front of my camera for the project before.
I met Buffi on Instagram somewhere last year, but we met in real-life at the AndBloom event in January. I had a girl-crush from that first moment on, she is one of the funniest women I have ever met, incredibly sweet and open. From the moment of our first real-life meeting we became friends.
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I am therefore very excited that I can post her story today besides a beautiful portrait, also an excellent interview.
Tell us what you’d like us to know about yourself:
I’m Buffi, and yes, it’s my real name, and it’s really spelled that way. I turn 52 years old this month, and I was born in Brooklyn, NY. I am a Personal English coach, writer, course creator, and consultant. I help fabulous people feel confident about their English communication skills. I’ve written several books, taught 10,000 people at once at the Lowlands Festival (that’s a record!), have worked for several TV shows (doing pronunciation coaching for the Voice, for example) and have created an amazing career out of the one thing that I do very well. I have lived in the Netherlands since 1991. My blood type is B Positive. That pretty much sums it up!
How did an American woman end up in the Netherlands?
I graduated college in NY in 1990 and went to Europe that summer for a short vacation before I was supposed to start work as a therapist in NY that September. I never came back. I’m still on vacation! I was on a train in Prague that July and someone heard me speaking English. They asked me if I wanted a job at the very first English school there. Of course, I said YES! I put my job on hold in NY, and taught English in Prague for a year in 1990. I was the first person from Western Europe to do so. I got 70 cents an hour and had total freedom to create my own program to teach adults who had to speak English for work. It was a huge challenge, as I didn’t speak Czech and English was forbidden until just a few months before I started working there.
People were arrested for playing a Beatles record in their own home. I had to really use my creativity to create a program that was effective, yet fun. But then there was a huge plot twist. Just before I was supposed to start, I was using the last few days of my Interrail pass, and on August 2, I was in Barcelona for a weekend. There I met a fabulous Dutchman in the middle of the night. It was a totally random encounter. We fell in love but I had to go and work in Prague a few days later, as I had already signed a contract (in Russian, actually, I didn’t understand a word but I completely trusted the woman who hired me). So I tried to get that man off my mind, and off I went to start an exciting new adventure in Prague. That hot Dutchman and I wrote letters for a year.
He asked me to come and live with him in the Netherlands. I said ‘You are amazing, but you are all I know about the Netherlands. That’s not enough. I will need a job if we are going to have a future together.’ So he arranged an interview for me at the most prestigious language institute of the Netherlands. I worked there for 11 years but left in 2001 to follow my dream – to become the First Personal English Coach of the Netherlands.
What Do You Do for Work?
I coach highly-motivated people who need English to share their message with the world. If you check my site, www.buffiduberman.com, you’ll see that I have a very diverse client portfolio. I coach clients in Parliament, celebrities, global CEOs, and creatives. I also work with companies to help their staff rock their Business English, and am a senior TedX speaker coach. I help people with everything from pronunciation to press releases, from songwriting to sales, from the boardroom to the stage, and everything in between. I also work online in Zoom sessions and start my new 8-week coaching program, Great in 8 in September.
I love what I do and left a very safe, well-paid job to create something that didn’t exist. People said I was crazy – I had just given birth, and now I wanted to leave all this behind for something that no one had ever heard of. But I had to follow my heart. That is my compass and I knew I had to try. I had to work extremely hard to prove my value. People started to hear the difference in pronunciation from some Dutch rock artists on the radio and started asking why it sounded so much better. They talked about me during their interviews, and word just kind of spread that way. The rest is history. I am also committed to education in all forms, that’s why I founded my own foundation – BDEALFOUNDATION.org, where we support English programs in rural areas in Bali.
People are always struck by my passion, enthusiasm, and optimism, and I think it’s because I wake up every day excited about what’s to come because I live my dream. If you love what you do, and do it with love, you will never work a day in your life.
What do you do for play?
I find joy in the tiniest of things. A hot cup of coffee after meditation. Watching a butterfly. Seeing the leaves flow in the breeze. Watching my kids when they don’t know I’m watching and seeing them explore the world in their own way. I am also a free hugger. I stand at train stations and hug hundreds of strangers in 1 day. I can’t do that now because of Covid, and I miss it a LOT.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Having to tell my grandmother that her daughter was killed. Nothing comes close.
If you could tweet something to your younger self, what would you say?
Oh, does it have to fit into 140 characters? If so I would say ‘One day you will realize that not fitting in is actually your superpower. And you will discover that you are not just smart but also beautiful.’ Oh, that’s 3 characters too long. Guess that’s another rule I just broke. But I do wish someone would have told me this when I was younger.
If I may, this is also what I’d like to share with your readers, specifically about aging:
You’re not old, you’ve just been fabulous longer.
When I hear ‘anti-aging’ I think – ‘So…you don’t want me to age? That means you don’t want me to get older? So you want me to stop living? So you want me to DIE?’ Thank you, but I will choose to age every time. Every day is a gift. ☺
Beauty is everywhere. But it’s not where you look. It’s how.
Putting more value on other people’s opinions, rather than your own, means that you are putting other people first. Put you first. The more energy and love you give to yourself, the more you can give to others.
The only thing a woman should never wear is the burden of the expectations of others.
Life is short, make it deep.
What’s your fantasy version of your older self?
Oh, I just look in the mirror before coffee and I have some idea of what’s to come. ☺ She’s awesome. She loves herself inside and out. And gives zero fucks. Maybe at this point minus 4 fucks. I cannot wait!
If You Had a Warning Label, What Would It Be?
WARNING: Zero tolerance for homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and useless complaining. Also: Warning: This person might start doing the robot dance if the right song is on.’
Favorite thing to do when no one is around?
Enjoy the silence and the solitude. Read. Bake a cake. Take a long walk and listen to an inspiring podcast.
What is your age?
Nearly 52. I love being old. To me, being 52 means that I’ve been fabulous longer than most people. I’ve reached level 52 of this game called life. I love my face. My cellulite. The big scar across my neck. The veins that stick out on my legs. My wrinkles. The most beautiful thing about all of us can never be captured by our eyes. Only by our hearts. Mine is gorgeous and kind. And so is yours, Dee. I love you!