The Emirati founder of Happy Mandarin, a Chinese-language learning institute in Dubai, attributes her entrepreneurial skills and ambition to her years of number-crunching and competitive market analysis as a corporate trader.
Reem Hong, who was born in the garden city of Yangzhou, China, came to the UAE in 1997 with her businessman father, who wanted her to improve her English. She never left. She ended up marrying an Emirati and converted to Islam, a decision that she says was “the most beautiful transformation of my life. I am a more peaceful person and I can always rely on my religion.”
Happy Mandarin, which launched in October last year, already has 40 students. The institute offers Mandarin courses to children and adults, delivered in a fun and interactive manner.
“We have many expat Chinese children, whose parents want them to learn their mother tongue,” she says. “However, currently, 25 per cent of our students are Emirati. Parents are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of making their children global citizens. We also cater to private and government organisations. In my own way, I want to bridge the gap between Chinese and Emirati cultures.”
Hong has grand plans for the future. Not only has she recently started classes for babies – the youngest Happy Mandarin student is 14 months old – but she is also going to introduce shorter executive-focused courses for intercontinental businessmen and women.
The master’s graduate admits that it has been quite challenging to “find passionate and qualified teachers”, but she’s very particular about the intensive training her staff need to go through before they can conduct a class.
The mother of four adds: “None of this would have been possible without the love I receive from my family. From being a native Chinese to an Emirati businesswoman, the journey has been very fulfilling.”
Quick chat with Reem Hong
What’s your all-time favourite movie?
I enjoy watching movies sometimes, but I am not a television person. I prefer reading all kinds of books, and my favourite is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
What sort of car do you drive, and what does it say about you?
I drive a Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive. It is a safe and comfortable family car.
What are some your favourite Ramadan dishes?
Lamb biryani [pictured] and harees with beef, and rangina, which is a traditional date dessert.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Yangzhou, China. It is covered in greenery, the people are very welcoming and the local food is delicious.
What music do you have on repeat at the moment?
Chinese popular singer Lin Yi Lian. I love her romantic voice – it cheers me up.
What’s your favourite restaurant in the UAE?
Din Tai Fung in Mall of the Emirates, and Caesars for great Indian biryani.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
Fresh water, lines and hooks to catch fish, and a small tent.
What do you do to unwind?
Read books and walk in my garden. I also make it a point to chat with my friends regularly.
What’s your favourite landmark in the UAE that you recommend to tourists?
The Burj Khalifa. It is an awesome and amazing architectural design.
Source: art & life