Women for Women connects talent to Brainport region

“So much untapped talent that it drives you nuts,” says Ed Heerschap, LivingIn program coordinator at the Expat Center in Eindhoven. He and Kavitha Varathan, co-founder of the Expat Spouses Initiative, set up the Women for Women program. Heerschap: “The Brainport region is attracting new talent by making it more attractive for more highly educated expatriate women”. The closing event will take place on Thursday at the TU/e Blue Hall.

A number of influential women who have an exemplary role in the company where they work are participating in the program. Role models for inclusion, Heerschap explains. “They are early adopters,” adds Varathan. “Women who are already committed to more cultural diversity or to more women in the workplace.”

Women for Women links these ambassadors to the internationals who left a good job in their own country for the career of their partner. But that’s not the most important thing, adds Heerschap. The ambassadors are ambassadors of Eindhoven as well. “They not only help the international community in this way, but they also show what inclusion means to the city.”

High potentials

Like Susan ten Haaf, lawyer and partner at HVG Law. “I am a buddy within our organization and a career watcher for female high potentials.” She also set up a network for women entrepreneurs, which meets four times a year. Her goal is for more women to remain active in the business world in the Eindhoven region. “I signed up for the program because I find it very bizarre that talented people especially with a high level of education will at some point vanish. Or stay hidden between four walls.”

Ten Haaf considers it important that she was able to do something for a talent, but that she also meets other women who are working on the same issues as she is. “That inspires me all over again.”

It is Varathans’ and Heerschap’s dream that any international talent will be able to join the business world, that it is considered “normal”. “It is rather strange that a spouse doesn’t have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing a possible future abroad,” Heerschap continues. “We want all internationals to feel welcome and participate in our ecosystem. It really is a huge loss if we let all that talent go to waste.”

Kavitha Varathan, CEO of Expat Spouses Initiative

Varathan knows from personal experience what it is like to build a new life here. In 2008 she left India for her husband’s career, as he was offered a job at Philips Research. She went with him, and quit her job as an architect. She found a job in the legal profession here in The Netherlands. Yet she also noticed that other spouses weren’t able to manage that. With this in mind, she started the Expat Spouses Initiative in 2014. A platform for highly educated internationals that can help them find a job.

The Community

The community, as Varathan calls it, counts about 1800 members after five years. Of these, 97 percent are highly educated and about 11 percent have a PhD, “all motivated and ambitious women.”

During this third edition of Women for Women there will be a total of four meetings where all the talents and ambassadors get to meet each other. This Thursday is the fourth and final meeting where everyone is welcome. Not only to meet the talents, but also to hear the ambassadors’ stories. Varathan: “Two Philips ambassadors reveal how they achieve more inclusion and diversity at Philips. Stories that make you take action too. We want everyone to leave with the idea that they themselves can do something for more inclusion. Right now.”

You can register for the closing event via this link.

ASML Veldhoven: the Dutch Silicon Valley for lonely expats

Journalist Tijs van den Boomen wrote the book Slim Zand (Smart Sand) about the expat community in Veldhoven in the province of Brabant that has sprung up over the past few decades around the foundation of ASML’ s head office. The Philips-based chip machines manufacturer currently employs 13,000 people from all over the world. His conclusions: a lot of people live in isolation, as they all have very different cultural backgrounds and all speak a different native language. And they don’t tend to become members of Brabant’s sports and social clubs. Something should be done about this, says Boomen. “Cohesion within this diversity will not just happen overnight. ”

Why did you write this book?

There are two reasons. I very much wanted to research the typical Netherlands that geo-sociologist Josse de Voogd calls ‘the midland’. This morning I gave a presentation to Rotterdam architectural students. I asked them about their perception of Veldhoven. Their reply: ‘boring’. That’s how we all react. We – scientists, politicians, journalists, artists – always look for the most beautiful, biggest or most exciting place. Or the worst, ugliest and most dangerous. We do not see whatever is in between. However: this is where most people live. The ordinary Dutchie lives in Diemen, Rijswijk or Veldhoven. These are the residential neighbourhoods of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Terraced housing. No taste nor style. Not good, not bad. And we never talk about that. We don’t even take it into consideration. I’ve been writing about urbanism for a long time now and this irritates me. At the same time, I notice how difficult it is to write about it. Because, yes, what exactly are you going to write about? That’s where it all started. The second theme was internationalization. I thought: then I’ d have something that sounds catchy, that’ s quite special. That’s how I came to ASML, which is the utmost epitome of that. Slim Zand is a deep exploration of the ordinary, the everyday. The funny thing is that these expats are, in part, also seeking that everyday experience. In Amsterdam, we have young people who work in generic professions: legal, management, PR and advertising. They can choose from all kinds of cities: they go to Paris, London, Amsterdam, LA. But these people at ASML, these betas, they simply want to get a certain type of work. They are very good at something, and they want to live close to where the work is. And that happens to be where ASML is located in Veldhoven. Many of those tech companies are in very stupid places. Just look at Silicon Valley. Those people end up somewhere and they just want a home with a garden, they have a wife and children. They have to go to school, they have to be able to get there safely by bike. They choose a house in a neighbourhood with a ‘beige’ colour, as I call it. Not extreme, not expensive, no hassle. Ordinary, comfortable and easy.”

How did you come up with the title?

“We thought about that for a long time. At first, I thought that the term global village had to be used. Because of what I was writing about. Amsterdam is also a global village but a different sort than Veldhoven. What does it look like? I wanted to show the internationalization of the province. But in the end, we chose the title Slim Zand (Smart Sand), which refers to the sandy soils of that region and the fact that the chips are made out of silicon, which in fact is pure sand. Plus, that region has been attracting very clever people for a long time, since the arrival of Philips in Eindhoven.”

What impact does ASML have on the local environment?

“My impression is that ASML landed on Veldhoven as a kind of UFO. It was also all a bit of a coincidence. They could have chosen from a variety of locations and Veldhoven reacted just a little more quickly than the other municipalities. The first head office was such a big white thing that just landed there and almost went bankrupt a few times. At the end of the 90’s they suddenly went full steam ahead and then everything went sky high. That was also just a coincidence. As in, it could easily have gone wrong. Nobody had foreseen that they would do so well all of a sudden. When you ask ASML how they see themselves in the Veldhoven area, they say: ‘But we are not a Veldhoven’s company. We’re not even a Dutch company’. They are an international company, almost footloose. At the same time, they made a lot of use of local suppliers during the first ten years. They still do. So they are very much interwoven in a network of suppliers who produce high-tech products which they are fully focused on. Such as a very small screw or hook, for example, every minute things that are necessary for the manufacture of chips.”

At that time, what was the difference when Philips came to Eindhoven?

“Philips behaved like a pater familias who organized everything for their employees in Eindhoven. They built residential areas, sponsored sports clubs and provided health care. And ASML doesn’t do that at all. That’s also the strange bit. Veldhoven originated from four villages, Oerle, Zeelst, Veldhoven, Meerveldhoven, and later the newer Meerhoven Vinex-neighborhood. ASML has its roots in Philips. Philips saw that it was a promising business. In 1973 they invented the machine that can make chips. However, they did not succeed in making that ready for production. During the crisis, they wanted to move away from all projects that cost money and that’s when ASML became independent [and settled in Veldhoven, ed.]. Nobody thought it would turn out to be much of anything. Canon, Nikon and the American company GCA thought: here comes a bunch of idiots from Veldhoven. What do they want? Journalist René Raaymakers describes that very well in his book about ASML titled De Geldmachine (The Money Machine). It was unlikely that this company would have made it. That was against all odds. It was doomed. The first 50 employees who were forced to join ASML after the privatization, did not want to work at ASML. The trade unions took action against this compulsory transfer. I know someone who was there and who said: I had already booked my holiday to Indonesia because we were going to go bankrupt anyway. And this has now become this billion-dollar company. At one point, forty crucial employees received shares so that they would commit to ASML. Nobody knew then what they would be worth. They are now very rich.”

What is the most important thing that you learnt from your research for your book Slim Zand?

“What I didn’t realize beforehand was how fragmented the expat community surrounding ASML is. There is no community at all. I spoke to a Japanese woman in Veldhoven who was married to a Taiwanese man. They met at work in Germany, they both used to work in Munich. They speak German at home. I asked why? That was their common language. This expatriate community is extremely fragmented due to all these different cultures and languages. They all live in a small home with a tiny garden, there is a lot of isolation. A majority of them send their children to a Dutch school. They choose to have their children become Dutch. That’s what you subsequently become. These people make a very important decision with dread in their hearts: do we stay, do we go? Okay, we stay. A vacuum then emerges between all these various cultures. We have to do something about that. The women, who are highly educated, often don’t find work there. The WRR carried out a major study on diversity and discovered in 2018 that there is a large expatriate community in the Netherlands which is not visible. We all focus on non-Western immigrants: Turks, Moroccans. Now they are looking at the ‘HHI’, a kind of index for diversity. To this end, they have identified eighteen geo-linguistic groups such as East Asian and South Asian. Then they look at how likely it is that people from the same group will meet each other somewhere. If the index is 1, all residents are the same. If it is 0, they are all different. That’s why they have suddenly noticed this diversity. It had never been studied before. Sociology professor Godfried Engbersen, who is a member of the WRR, has said: this doesn’t necessarily work out well. We need to build on new ways of living together. That’s what I noticed during the research for my book. In Veldhoven, there are a couple of smart officials who are already saying: we have to create meeting places in the public arena. Places where you can play cricket, kick a ball around or barbecue. Because expats don’t join clubs. Whereas club life in Brabant is an important part of the fabric of society. We have to do something about it. After all, cohesion within this diversity will not just happen overnight.”

How to embed your foreign company in the Brainport Eindhoven community?

Evoluon Brainport

Integrating, blending in, embedding yourself in your new region and community – it’s not always obvious for the dozens of new companies that come to Brainport Eindhoven from far away places like Brazil, India or even Australia. That’s exactly why Brainport development invited all the newly settled people and companies to a special meet & greet before this year’s New Horizon New Year’s reception.

Not only did they get the opportunity to get to know each other better, but of course this also was about their introduction to the broader Brainport network. Where else would they be able to get a personal guide in a meeting where no less than 1,500 representatives of the most important companies, knowledge institutes and governmental organizations from the Brainport Network were present? Around forty of last year’s new settlers grabbed the opportunity.

They were welcomed by vice-mayor Stijn Steenbakkers (economy, Brainport, innovation, education and sport) who tried to relax his audience with a couple of jokes (“Welcome to the place where you can make as many jokes about Belgians as you like and still be able to enjoy their beers, where every foreigner thinks Copenhagen is your capital and where, when everything goes wrong, you can always still blame the Germans”). On a more serious note, Steenbakkers called the Brainport Eindhoven region the innovation hotspot of the Netherlands. “A flourishing economy and a seven times faster growth have helped the city to become the place-to-be for people like you. We have the bright minds and golden hands that make this happen and you can now be part of it.”

Steenbakkers had a couple of requests for his audience as well. “We can embed your company in this successful region, but we ask something in return. Connect with the local community, support your local clubs. Next to that, please remember that growing business and making a profit is never a goal in itself. Finding solutions for problems of today is what really counts.”

Evoluon BrainportSteenbakkers also introduced “three important organisations” to the new settlers: Brainport Development (Naomie Verstraeten: “we can take care of the introductions you need to grow your business”), the Brabant development agency BOM (Eelko Brinkhoff: “Coming here is one thing, but staying is something else. We know the Dutch investment climate and can service you around housing and investment”), and the Holland Expat Centre South (Kris De Prins: “We are your one-stop-shop for all your formalities around permits”).

After the formal introductions, it was up to Maarten Spijkerman (Tilburg University) to lead a quiz that was supposed to create an atmosphere for discussion. What did we learn? For almost half of the people present, the main motive to move to Eindhoven is the availability of partners, suppliers and customers. Sourcing international tech talent is their biggest challenge. And recruiting talents is now mainly done through referrals and social media.

Brainport settlers

Yes, the questions really turned out to be triggers for discussion. For example about the role of the spouses (“Especially for them it’s very important to find their way in cultural and sports organizations, to find things to do”), the 30% tax rule (“how can we make use of it?”), the benefit of a career event (“We can organize as many events as you like, but we warn you that it’s much easier to find employers than talents.”)

Finally, there’s always culture as a barrier for blending in. This is especially felt in conversations, as one settler explains: “The Dutch tend to give a narrow answer, the English will give broader ones. The biggest challenge is to know who to ask your question to and how to ask your question.”

Internationals in Eindhoven: Laura from Spain

People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Laura Yvañez
Country of origin: Spain
Work: Marketing and brand manager at the-bike

We noticed Laura for the first time on a photo on the Instagram account of Gordon Jack, also an interviewee in our series. Gordon photographed Laura in a colourful coat on a tour during GLOW and the image was spot on. This week we met up with Laura at Coffeelab and again she was dressed colourfully. “Yes, colours are my thing, my Instagram is also packed with colour,” she smiles when we ask about it. “That tour during GLOW was amazing. I met so many interesting and creative people.”

Laura caries a backpack with a lot of stuff. “I started my Dutch classes two months ago and I have my study material with me. I decided to do an intensive course and that means I’m in class for four hours a week and study for two hours every day. Reading is easier at the moment than speaking the language. There are a lot of differences in pronunciation in Spanish and Dutch. A simple word like ‘jij’ for instance has a sound to it that we don’t use in the Spanish language. At the company where I work everybody speaks Dutch, so I feel the need to learn Dutch as quick as possible. I’ve been working at the-bike for two months now. My work is very diverse and that is something I love, that makes it fun. I notice a lot of people here work as a specialist in something and they are the best at what they do. I’m more happy with doing lots of different things.”

(Story continues after photo)

The last four years Laura had her own fashion company, but it was difficult to continue the company here in the Netherlands. “Everything was new to me here, also the rules and regulation about owning a business. Also, the production costs are higher here. That’s why I didn’t continue with my company here. Besides my job and learning Dutch, I’m still working on projects of my own, like my website where I share content about my international life, fashion style and decoration and design. I ‘m also a volunteer at The Hub. Nowadays I manage their Instagram account, but before I found my job, I was there a lot more. I would recommend to anyone to join The Hub, whether you are an international or not. Everybody is welcome and as a foreigner, you meet people who are in the same situation as you.”

Laura decided to join The Hub after she got a bit lonely from working from home every day. “I didn’t meet other people and when I worked at a communal workspace I didn’t connect with the other people there. I got out of my comfort zone and went to The Hub a few times. That’s where I found the social contact I needed. Most of my friends are internationals. In Spain is common to have friends at work too, who you see outside of work. I haven’t experienced that in the Netherlands yet. Everyone is very nice, but the conversations stay on a certain level. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is different from what I’m used to. In Spain, you go out for lunch and get to know each other more. Here most people make a distinction between work and private life, and again I don’t mean this is worse or better, it is just different.”

“Mainly in the weekends, I can enjoy some free time, because of my work and study. We love to go to the market on Saturday morning. There is a stall with dry sausages with all kinds of flavours we really love, so we always take some home. And of course, we get some more fresh products like fruit. After that, we like to have lunch in one of the restaurants at the Kleine Berg. I like this area because it is cosy. Depending on where there is a concert or event, we will go there at night. I would love it if there is a platform in Eindhoven with all the events on it. I sometimes miss nice events, because I didn’t know about it. Besides this, I’m very happy here. I take my bike and go to the forest or to the Karpendonkse Plas (a lake). I also loved Dutch Design Week and GLOW this year. These are amazing events. Everything I need is here and at the moment I don’t need more in my life.”

Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel
Read more stories of internationals here.

COLUMN: Multicultural innovation

expat fietstocht

As Program Director at Brainport Development, Yvonne van Hest is responsible for the PEOPLE domain. In the coming period, she will be writing a number of columns for Innovation Origins on regional developments, backgrounds and future trends in education and the labour market.

Yvonne van Hest SAEYSYesterday, I received a phone call from a Volkskrant reporter. He wanted to talk about expats and our growing international community. He had interviewed a number of internationals about housing in our Meerhoven neighbourhood and wanted more information. I began to tell him that the term expat is almost a thing of the past; the correct term is ‘international knowledge workers’. And that also implies the change that our region has undergone. I have lived in Meerhoven for 14 years now, and have worked for 8 years at Brainport Development. Among other things, I am responsible for attracting and retaining international talent.

“Wow, a lot has changed!”

When I told the journalist about the developments of the past 10 years or so and started thinking about this further, I thought “wow, a lot has actually changed”. When I enter the Lidl supermarket now, I always hear at least three foreign languages. When I call my doctor, the first choice I get is whether I want to be addressed in Dutch or English. And at the primary school in our district, there are already kids with more than 25 different nationalities. Eindhoven has grown from a nice tech city in the province to an international, innovative high-tech city in Europe. And that’s not just smart branding, but it’s really visible. Of course, there are people who have questions about the arrival of all those extra internationals? On the other hand, with an unemployment rate of 3.2%, we desperately need everyone (and of course we also want to get those who are unemployed to work!). Don’t forget that every new international creates about six extra jobs. And I also see that multicultural teams in our companies are igniting innovation.

Are there no negative effects of this growing group of internationals? Well, housing is indeed in danger of becoming a challenge. This is not due to the increasing number of people from other countries, but to the increasing number of inhabitants as such. I always say: “those internationals are just like people, they have the same housing needs as we do”. We see that more residents are putting pressure on the availability of housing and that the prices for housing are rising sharply. And I think that is something to be alert to in the near future. We are growing as a region, but we should not fall victim to our own success, as you can see in Silicon Valley and Amsterdam. Let’s jointly use our multicultural innovative capacities to meet this challenge.

Internationals in Eindhoven: Sonia from Spain

People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Sonia Tomegrós Regalado
Country of origin: Spain
Work: film and media entrepreneur

Meeting up with the internationals in this series is sometimes just like a blind date. We pick a location and we don’t know exactly who we are going to meet. We got in contact with Sonia after we posted a call for internationals to interview. She was enthusiastic right away. On a sunny day, we meet up at the Kleine Berg for coffee at Lucifer. “I’m still discovering the city, but I know where to get good coffee,” says Sonia while we take a seat. “My boyfriend and I arrived here in October 2017, but after a while, I went back to Spain. My boyfriend is a chef at a restaurant in Nuenen. A lot of Spanish chefs work in the Netherlands. The working conditions are better than in Spain and there is more work here. Back in Spain I sold our car and de rest of our belongings and came back to Eindhoven in January.”

When Sonia talks about Spain, we notice she isn’t very positive about living there. “We don’t have a lot of opportunities in Spain. That’s why we seek them elsewhere. A few years ago my boyfriend and I studied and worked in Australia for three years. I studied music and later I also studied fitness. Besides that, I worked as a photographer and film maker. We had so much fun. After three years we returned to Spain and we decided we didn’t want to stay. We travelled to Denmark to volunteer at an organic farm and to work at the restaurant, connected to the farm. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find an affordable apartment. Via an organisation specialised in jobs for Spanish chefs in the Netherlands, he got in contact with, he found his job in Nuenen.”

“Here in Eindhoven was finding an apartment also quite difficult. We were not in the position to buy a house or to pay a very high rent. Eventually, we found an apartment and now we are settled a bit. Now I can concentrate more on my own projects. I worked at Doc Feed festival and got in contact with filmmaker Frank van Osch. He hired me as a translator in the production of his documentary El Zapatero Cojo (The shoemaker and the photographer). That was a great experience. I’m also working on my own transmedia project. I want to make a series of documentaries accompanied by magazines. Every documentary and magazine have a theme to encourage people to make more wholesome choices in life. Something like this would be very difficult to make in Spain, here are people more open-minded and it has a bigger chance to succeed.”

And what does the future look like? “The ultimate goal for us would be to have our own restaurant. I would prefer it to be in Barcelona, but that has to do with the food culture there. In the Netherlands, food is more of necessity, in Spain, there is more love for food. My ideal restaurant would also have its farm, so we know where our products come from. But that is all for the future. We now first concentrate on our lives here in Eindhoven.”

Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel


2018 Expat Top-10: Cindy Shen

Cindy Shen Fight like a woman

For the third year in a row, Innovation Origins has organised the annual Expat Top-10. Over the past years, Eindhoven has welcomed thousands of internationals, many of whom have done a great job for the city. Through this top-10 we say Thank You to all of them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Jobs and Entrepreneurship’. Every day we offer you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, what they are doing in and for the city, and how they get around in their new community. Today: Cindy Shen. Here’s the whole series. 

“Shops in Eindhoven close quite early!”

In Eindhoven since: the end of 2015
Originally from: China
Do you speak Dutch with the people in your neighbourhood? Yes, I do speak Dutch with my colleagues every Friday morning and with family in law sometimes.

What was the reason for you to move to Eindhoven?

“I moved here because I fell in love with a Dutch guy :)”

What makes Eindhoven an attractive place to live and work in?

“Eindhoven is in the transition to be an International City in the Netherlands, and it is very exciting to grow together with the city and to witness the change. Plus, most of my colleagues tell me that people in the South are nicer than the North.”

What should Eindhoven do to make itself a better place to live and work in, especially for expats?

“Personally, I missed the culture part. It’s getting better, however, if we could have more international experiences (the international exhibition, music, food) that would be even better.”

Tech companies in and around Eindhoven have a huge shortage of employees. What could they do to attract more technicians from China?

“For tech companies, it’s a good idea to set up innovative recruiting programs for 2 reasons: Innovation brings the awareness, and awareness attracts talents. And innovation is the only way to compete with big cities who have more appearance in expats’ top choices.”

How would you describe your role within the Eindhoven community?

“I think probably the main reason I got nominated is that I’m part of Stichting Fight Like a Woman, mainly focusing on getting women with a career gap back to work. With my partner: Patricia Plantinga, we aim to bring this HR innovation projects into companies in Eindhoven.”

What is it like to start your own business in Eindhoven?

“We don’t really own a business, we have a Stichting which is non-profit. We do get a lot of support from great people here in Eindhoven, so it’s relatively easy to start.”

What is the worst and the best thing about Eindhoven?

“The best thing: I made a lot of friends here within a short time, that proves: People in the South are nice! The worst thing: shops close quite early :P”

Photo (c) Israël Nunez-Hernandez

2018 Expat Top-10: Betsy Lindsey

Expat Event 2018 Betsy Lindsey

For the third year in a row, Innovation Origins has organised the annual Expat Top-10. Over the past years, Eindhoven has welcomed thousands of internationals, many of whom have done a great job for the city. Through this top-10 we say Thank You to all of them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Jobs and Entrepreneurship’. Every day we offer you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, what they are doing in and for the city, and how they get around in their new community. Today: Betsy Lindsey. Here’s the whole series. 

“I feel a little like a traffic cop”

In Eindhoven since: 2011
Country of origin: United States
Do you speak Dutch with the people in your neighbourhood? Zeker! (Yes!) I even text on the BuurtApp, the neighborhood group on WhatsApp.

What was the reason for you to move to Eindhoven?

“I ‘married in’.  My husband and I met in Seattle, we moved to Hong Kong first, but then found life there too busy to raise a family. So, we moved to the Netherlands to take part in a ‘work/life balance’ economy!”

What makes Eindhoven an attractive place to live and work in?

“It’s just enough of a city. I like that I can get out to nature quickly. I live near the outer ring.”

What should Eindhoven do to make itself a better place to live and work in, especially for expats?

“I think the City has made a significant effort to help folks integrate. I participated in the “Vrouwen voor Vrouwen or Women for Women” project as a mentor to new female expats to help them integrate.”

Tech companies in and around Eindhoven have a huge shortage of employees. What could they do to attract more technicians from your country of origin?

“Perhaps, the city could facilitate more temporary and affordable housing for folks coming into the country for the first time? And, make rental housing easier to find!”

How would you describe your role within the Eindhoven community?

“Even though I am relatively new in town, I feel like my job is to continually connect folks in our high tech ecosystem. I feel a little like a traffic cop, giving directions to Dutch folks and internationals of where to go for help. I know folks from every sector: the University, the High Tech Campus, the startups, and the city government. I would like to think I can keep us all moving forward.”

What is it like to start your business in Eindhoven?

“I don’t own my own business, but at HighTechXL, the hardware accelerator that I work for at the HighTech Campus, we actively help companies incorporate. I think registering your business is the least of your worries. There is plenty of advice from the established business ecosystem for budding startup, but getting a bank account for non-EU companies can be like pulling teeth. If you are interested in starting a hardware startup, feel free to contact HighTechXL!”

What is the worst and the best thing about Eindhoven?

“Probably, the worst thing is the connection to the Düsseldorf Airport. Better public transport options that don’t involve a Sprinter train might make it easier to depart to international destinations.”

Photo (c) Israel Nunez-Hernandez

2018 Expat top-10: Minsung Wang

Expat Event 2018 Minsung Wang 2

For the third year in a row, Innovation Origins has organised the annual Expat Top-10. Over the past years, Eindhoven has welcomed thousands of internationals, many of whom have done a great job for the city. Through this top-10 we say Thank You to all of them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Jobs and Entrepreneurship’. Every day we offer you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, what they are doing in and for the city, and how they get around in their new community. Today: Minsung Wang. Here’s the whole series. 

“The transition from international student to independent expat worker can be quite challenging

In Eindhoven since: 2009
Country of origin: Seoul, South Korea
Do you speak Dutch with the people in your neighbourhood? I can have simple chats with my Dutch neighbours. At the moment I am attending Dutch courses to improve my Dutch; my aim is to be able to do my work in Dutch as well within two years.

Minsung Wang came to Eindhoven in 2009 to study at Design Academy Eindhoven. He graduated from the Man and Leisure department in 2014. After graduating, he started working as an independent designer based in Eindhoven. In 2016 he co-founded design studio “Bron van Doen”, together with Dutch designer and friend Ron Krielen.

Minsung Wang came to Eindhoven with a vague expectation of what Dutch design is. “In retrospect, I was very clueless, also on what it means to be a designer in Europe. It was a tough learning experience because it was so different from what I expected. Now I can call myself a co-designer or a social designer, names I didn’t know they existed when I was in Korea. I didn’t know there was such a thing as social design.”


“Having studied in Eindhoven, and then having started my own design business here as well, I think I have a good understanding about what it means to be a student in the city, and what it takes to transition from being an international student to becoming an independent expat worker. This can be quite challenging, especially for people from outside of the EU. I hope I can help others who are specifically in this situation.”


“Eindhoven has an extremely dense and diverse creative industry and network, and it is a great city for designers to be based in and work both locally and internationally. Eindhoven already has a robust expat network. That said, I have noticed that the expat community has a weaker connection with international alumni who have graduated from local Dutch schools, and are still living and working in the city. I think there is a lot of potential in strengthening this bond. Being a small city, I love how everything is accessible within cycling distance. The only thing I miss is a more diverse culinary scene.”


In South Korea, people have a vague fondness towards the Netherlands but do not know enough to pay attention. South Korea is one of the most highly educated countries in the world, and many highly skilled workers in South Korea are going abroad to work, mostly to China and USA. In order to attract highly skilled workers to Eindhoven from South Korea, establishing connections with Korean universities and the Korean government is important.”


“The Dutch make it very easy to start your own business. However, growing your business is, of course, more challenging. That said, Eindhoven is a very friendly city for international designers. And the Dutch have one of the most robust and diverse creative industries in the world which encourages and supports independent practices. And if you need help, especially in the first couple of years, usually you will be able to find help in Eindhoven.

Photo (c) Israel Nunez-Hernandez

2018 Expat top-10: Ailén Gamberoni

Expat Event 2018 Ailen Gamberoni 3

For the third year in a row, Innovation Origins has organised the annual Expat Top-10. Over the past years, Eindhoven has welcomed thousands of internationals, many of whom have done a great job for the city. Through this top-10 we say Thank You to all of them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Jobs and Entrepreneurship’. Every day we offer you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, what they are doing in and for the city, and how they get around in their new community. Today: Ailén Gamberoni. Here’s the whole series. 

“This is a Brainpower City that creates the future”

In Eindhoven since: 2016
Country of origin: Italy
Do you speak Dutch with your neighbours? No, unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of free time to study. Mostly I can understand, but I still cannot speak. Sorry!

Hardly a month after arriving in Eindhoven, Ailén Gamberoni already had her own business in the city: Cucina Italiana. With this initiative, she wants to introduce people to the Italian kitchen, but also offer a place to meet and talk.


“I’m a networker, I always have been. I love to introduce friends to friends, professionals to professionals. In my studio, I do not simply offer dinners or workshops, but real experiences: a cozy place where one can feel at home, share moments of aggregation between Dutch citizens and expats, Italian-kitchen-culture lovers – moments during which people can chat about history, culture, well-being, traditions and innovation with our chef.”


“This is a city where I feel at home, the atmosphere is always relaxed, people are happy and gentle, it is big but not too big, the balance between green areas and new buildings is perfect. It is a city that creates the future. A city bursting with energy, brainpower, work-ethic and fun. There is a constant flow of new developments in the fields of creativity, innovation, technology, design, and knowledge. This is a city full of beauty, but it must be discovered: if you are not curious you will not find it. Eindhoven must work more into the communication: it’s not simple – sometimes also for me – to be updated about all the nice events running around. For me, the biggest challenge is to create more networking areas: people sometimes are disoriented, we need more city guides to show the sometimes hidden beauty of our city. Expats need homely places where they could socialize more. We also need better services that are tailor-made for expats around catering, but also hairdressers, beautician, International Schools and so on.”


“The Netherlands has come out on top when it comes to work-life balance. Work-life balance refers to the amount of time spent on working and the time spent on leisure activities as well as personal care. That is according to the latest OECD Better Life Index, which ranks countries on how households successfully mix work, family commitments, and personal life, among other factors. Also: we are in the Brabant area, that I call ‘the Mediterranean’ area of the Netherlands, more warm, open and better atmosphere.”


“For me – also compared to Italy – it was simple, quick and easy: this is a  city full of high-profile cultural challenges, where a general interest towards anything “cuisine-ey” – but especially towards the Italian cuisine – is incredible.”

Photo (c) Israel Nunez-Hernandez

Internationals in Eindhoven: Avril from France

People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Avril Guarino
Country of Origin: France
Work: Freelance Graphic Designer

On a somewhat stormy morning, we meet up with Avril at the Parktheater. It is already quite busy at the theatre at this hour: groups of kids doing workshops and the Seats2Meet workplace is filled with people. We get a cup of coffee and find a place to sit. Of course, we want to know how Avril ended up in Eindhoven. “Well, let me start with what happened before I chose to come to Eindhoven. After I graduated in Marseille, I didn’t get accepted at the school of my choice. That was a big disappointment. I didn’t have a backup plan. I knew if I wanted to broaden my horizon, now was the time. I decided to go Japan for a month. That trip was amazing! I slept at Japanese homes thanks to Couchsurfing and it felt really good to be there. After I returned to France, all I could think about was going back to Japan.”

In case you are wondering where the Eindhoven part in the story is, just wait a bit, and keep reading. “In two months I arranged everything at home in France and left for Japan for a year. Food and a place to sleep are very expensive over there, that’s why I worked at hostels, schools and families and they provided a bed and food for me. Every month I had a different job via Work Away. I’ve worked as a French teacher, English teacher, cleaner, receptionist, and much more. When I was working and living in Hiroshima, I met a nice Canadian guy. What are the odds, right? He was travelling with friends, so he didn’t stay very long. But we kept in touch and fell in love.”

So Japan and a Canadian boyfriend. How on earth did Eindhoven got involved in this? “Almost there! After leaving Japan, I lived in France again, this time in the north and my boyfriend and I had a long distance relationship. You might think he lived in Canada, but no: he got a nice Job in Eindhoven! Every six weeks we travelled to see each other. I’m happy he chose Eindhoven because I love it here.”

When she returned to France, Avril found a job as a graphic designer. “I got a lot of opportunities at this company, but the ambience wasn’t good. I didn’t feel happy there and I dreaded going to work. My boyfriend suggested several times that I should join him in Eindhoven. I wanted it, but it was also a big step. What would living together mean for our relationship? But being with him would make me so happy! I arrived in Eindhoven four months ago and the super good feeling of seeing each other every day instead of every six weeks is still there. We both have our own things we like to do, we are not glued together. I even started a webcomic about our relationship. It is called The Adorkables. We have a lot of fun together.”

“In our spare time, we like to go to The Hub. Every Monday we go there to join the international game night. We play board games and get to know other internationals. Locals can join too, by the way! My boyfriend is also in the comedy improv club. Stand up improv comedy is not my cup of tea, but when he is on stage I am there to support him. This weekend I’m going to visit the Expat Fair and see if can make connections for my work. I am a freelancer now, so I need to build on my network.”

Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel

The Hub for Expats Celebrates Reopening This Friday

The Hub for Expats

After months of hard work, The Hub reopens this Friday, June 1, with a big party to celebrate its new style and interior. Known as a central spot for internationals, The Hub is eager to unveil its new look. Other changes include a new website, better programming, and a more creative atmosphere to keep helping internationals in Eindhoven quickly build their social networks.

The Hub first began as an idea back in 2007 when Lin Pender noticed how difficult it was to meet other internationals. She initiated meet and greet events and pub quizzes for expats and other internationals to help them build connections. In 2011, Pender, who’s English, met with Joost van Dijck, who’s Dutch, to begin a foundation called The Hub Eindhoven for Expats. The Hub received a permanent location in 2012 when the municipality of Eindhoven allocated a building at Vestdijk 25 for them to host and organize events. The occasional pub quiz expanded to 8 to 12 events per week that include language courses, comedy nights, games, music, meet up mornings for spouses, and even salsa dancing.

The Hub’s mission, according to the website, is “to create a living room space in Eindhoven for expats to enjoy a range of activities, relax, and meet new people in a safe, comfortable environment.” Jan Michielsen, The Hub’s chairman of the board, puts it even more succinctly: “We want to create a nice environment for people to be happy and connect with each other.”

It began as a social opportunity for expats, individuals, and families who moved to Eindhoven for a limited time for work, always intending to return to their home countries. However, the international scene in Eindhoven is changing. In fact, Michielsen sees its name, The Hub Eindhoven for Expats, as no longer relevant because “more people are staying longer. There are more students and more internationals receiving local contracts. They come from many different backgrounds from countries all over the world. It’s up to us to create events that make them feel at home.”

One particularly popular event is the Friday evening tour of Eindhoven. “The first Friday of the month we host a tour of Eindhoven together with the Holland Expat Center,” says Michielsen. “Then everyone comes back to The Hub, and we explain some activity currently occurring so internationals can understand what is going on in Eindhoven. For instance, this month we explained about King’s Day so internationals will know why everyone is dressed in orange.”

Though some events may require a small fee, most are free and open to the public. The Hub receives funding through local government and partnerships with local businesses and relies a great deal on volunteers. More than 120 people volunteer at The Hub, most on a regular basis while others help out at events.

These volunteers, along with staff and partners, will begin Friday’s festivities with a formal event. The doors open to the public at 20:00 at Vestdijk 25 in Eindhoven.

For more information call The Hub at +31 40 845 1475, visit their website at www.thehubeindhoven.nl, or send them an email via info@thehubeindhoven.nl.

The Hub for Expats

The Hub for Expats

Jorritsma in the Hague to fight for the 30%-rule for expats

expats tweede kamer Deal is deal

The Eindhoven mayor John Jorritsma, together with a delegation of foreign knowledge workers and representatives of VSNU and VNO-NCW, calls on the government to comply with the agreement to keep the so-called ‘30% rule’ for (current) international knowledge workers for the full eight years. On behalf of more than 35 scientific and cultural organisations and companies, they presented a pamphlet to the Lower House of Parliament to reinforce their message.

The regulation under discussion gives knowledge workers from abroad the right to pay 30% less tax for a period of eight years. According to Jorritsma, the scheme is of great importance for attracting talented people from abroad. Brainport Eindhoven is heavily dependent on this in order to keep economic growth going. Jorritsma: “If the government wants to abolish the current 30% rule early on 1 January 2019, it will affect at least a thousand valuable employees who are currently working in Brainport Eindhoven. We, therefore, call for a transitional arrangement for international knowledge workers who currently have a contract based on the 30% rule. For this group, the right to the full period of eight years should be respected.”

According to Jorritsma, this is not about knowledge workers with top salaries, “but about R&D employees, technically trained people and researchers that we so desperately need in order to remain at the forefront of the high-tech region. They not only work for large companies in Brainport Eindhoven, such as ASML, Philips, Signify, TU/e and the Expat Center who also signed the manifesto, but also for SMEs and knowledge institutions.

Seven Thousand jobs
According to Jorritsma, more than seven thousand jobs can be filled in Brainport Eindhoven this year alone. “This simply cannot happen without international knowledge workers. Dutch industry needs many workers now and in the coming years that we do not have here.”

According to the organisations that signed the pamphlet, a decision to stop the scheme affects ‘hundreds of companies and institutions and some 60,000 employees’ nationwide. In their view, the scheme contributes to the economy and to our climate of innovation. “With the Brexit in mind and measures taken by other countries, it is all the more important for the Netherlands to remain attractive. The State Secretary, therefore, needs to act quickly, because this is in nobody’s interest”, according to the initiators.

expats den haag Plein

“A way for people to get involved, and have an impact”

Carola Eijsenring

Parktheater’s International Program To Host Season’s Final Welcome Night With Bending The Walls

This Saturday, May 12, the Parktheater in Eindhoven presents Bending the Walls by Spanish choreographer and dancer Fernando Hernando Magadan along with Korzo and the Nederlands Dans Theater. This performance, which the Parktheater says “is about the human desire for happiness”, is the fourth and final show in this season’s Welcome Night series for Eindhoven’s international community. The evening includes a brief pre-show gathering in the theater’s café with an English introduction of the performance. After the show, the audience may return to the café to interact with the dancers.

“It’s a perfect way to give the international community a taste of what the theater offers,” says Carola Eijsenring of Indigo-Wereld. Parktheater hired Eijsenring to assist them in creating and coordinating the Parktheater’s International Program (PIP). The Welcome Night series began in 2014 when the theater realized the world around them was changing but their audience was not keeping pace. They had to find a way to reach out to an ever-increasing community whose first language was no longer Dutch.

“There are hundreds of performances offered by the theater,” says Eijsenring. “For the Welcome Nights, we choose performances that offer a broad variety and appeal to as many people as possible, such as dance, a circus, music, anything an audience can follow even if they don’t speak Dutch.”

Eijsenring sees her role as a link between the theater and the international community. To build an audience she and her theater colleagues created focus groups comprised of internationals. This audience would go to shows and give feedback, letting them know what they miss from their home countries and what they would like to see on stage.

In addition to the Welcome Nights, the Parktheater made their website bilingual, providing flyers and newsletters in English, created a storytelling group, a program group and played a big role in setting up the International Theatre Collective in Eindhoven. These PIP groups provide internationals a chance to express themselves, come together, and create activities. Eijsenring provides the coaching and support to bring their ideas to life. As enthusiasm for the project grows participants bring other people into the fold and the community continues to grow.

The Parktheater International Program’s goal is to open up the theater to everyone with the Welcome Night, the storytelling, and other experiences. “It’s a way for people to get involved, be entertained, and have an impact,” says Eijsenring. “They can come, enjoy a performance that’s easy and relaxing, and it’s a good way to meet other people. We have some come by themselves and leave having made friends with others.”

For tickets to this season’s final Welcome Night performance contact the ticket office at 040-2 11 11 22. Tickets are € 17.50, and the Parktheater’s, the main entrance is located at Elzentalaan 50. The pre-show gathering begins at 7:45 p.m. this Saturday, May 12.

Parktheater International Program

Huge growth for Expat Center in March

Expat Center South

Last month, Holland Expat Center South – located on the Vestdijk in Eindhoven – has served 45% more internationals than in the same month a year before. In March 2017 there were 169 (expats with family), one year later there were 246. According to director Kris de Prins, the growth in March is no exception. “We are becoming increasingly familiar with employers, with 3 to 7 new employers using us every month.” Over the whole of 2017, 2,596 internationals registered with the Expat Center; they work for 350 different companies.

“That doesn’t mean that all those companies use us every month. A number of employers such as ASML, TU/e, Yacht, Tata, Cognizant do so: they are our regular customers.”

One reason for the growth is that the Expat Center’s scope of operations has been expanded. De Prins: “We have connected new regions, which means that we are now registering for the whole of Noord-Brabant and Zuid-Limburg. However, the vast majority is still from the Eindhoven region.

An important determinant of the growth of the Expat Center is ASML, which attracts far more international employees than in previous years. According to Monique Mols, responsible for Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at the chip machine manufacturer, every month some 150 new employees start working for ASML. About 40% of them do not have a Dutch passport. Some of them are already familiar with the Netherlands because they studied at a Dutch university. For ASML, the Expat Center plays a crucial role for new international employees. Mols: “The Expat Center is an important place for our internationals, a kind of landing place from where they can feel at home in Brainport Eindhoven. It is important for them to make that connection immediately with the new environment and the residents. The Expat Center helps enormously with this, thanks to good information and professional service.”

In addition to ASML, the TU/e is also a major constant customer for the Expat Center. The origin of the internationals is very diverse, says De Prins. “Usually we have more than 30 different nationalities every month, both within and outside the EU. From outside Europe, India is clearly the largest group, then China, and then Turkey, the United States, Taiwan, Iran, and Brazil.”

Expats and the language barrier

Expat Center South

The elections are over and looking back, one of the topics that got attention was the international community in Eindhoven. There are big plans to keep all the Expats here and to keep them coming. Even the government is involved and gives Brainport 130 million euros to improve the ecosystem.

But what do expats actually need? And what are the issues they are facing? In order to find out, we talked to Praveen Kypa, who drove the initiative Voices of Expats in Eindhoven. More than 50 expats were surveyed on the issues they are struggling with. And he is in contact with the local parties to fix those issues. “If you come into this environment as a new expat, you would identify with a lot of these issues. Most of it has to do with a lack of information, not knowing what to do when you get a letter from the government, not knowing where you can get detailed information. A lot of parties have shown that they’d like to make this information available in English. It is especially important for the new people coming here because we all know that the Dutch language is quite though and takes time to learn. Meanwhile, the taxes are not going to stop, the letters from the government keep coming.”

Towards the elections, Kypa has had contact with different political parties, to discuss the issues at hand and how to solve them. “People have understood that there is now a larger and ever-growing population of expats and that it is time to find a way to integrate them around these topics. Motivated expats are trying to connect with what is happening within the city, especially around the elections. It’s evident that at least the parties that have responded have their heart in the right place, they care about the issues of expats. A huge step that we have made, is that a few parties came together and passed a motion, that the stempas (voting pas) and election material should also have an English version.” The parties PVDA, Groenlinks, CDA, VVD, BBL, ChristenUnie and D66 have tabled a motion, which the mayor has embraced during the city council meeting on the 13th of March. He promised to reach out to the international community to establish the best way to inform them about the elections. An example of one of the solutions is an English letter that comes with the stempas. “This is remarkable, very often we tend to find that some of the difficult topics probably take months or years to before we get to a point of consensus. And this is a classic case of a lot of people coming together and making a really progressive step.”

Not only a lack of information is a problem for the expats. The survey also shows safety, bilingual education for their kids, housing, public transport and culture as focus concerns. To improve some of those things, like the cultural institutions in Eindhoven, Brainport is getting 130 million from the government. But does that fix anything? “Definitely some of these things. If you want to prevent brain drain and if you want to hold on to your expats, you have got to invest in that direction. But I think that the input of expats has to be taken into consideration by whoever is trying to put the policy in place. Brain drain is a global phenomenon, a lot of countries try to tackle it with mixed success. If Eindhoven would like to be successful in that regard, integrating people is crucial.” But rather than concerning himself with cultural institutions, Kypa comes back to the basic issue of a lack of information. A question I would ask myself is: ‘If I am not able to read basic documents, would that compare with the cultural integration?'”

Within a couple of weeks, Kypa and other expats have managed to get the attention of the political parties and have started a dialogue. He hopes that will not stop just because the elections are over. “I hope that the connection that we have made and that the dialogue that we are having, on a wide range of topics and with a lot of parties, continues. I hope that we find a way to work together and get results. We cannot take years to have this information translated into English.”

Africans come up with set of proposals for Eindhoven

mpanzu bamenga ccola

The opportunity to create small and medium enterprises, suggestions on how to maintain security, maintenance of city parks and open spaces, including play areas, street cleansing, environmental enforcement and cultural activities: these are some of the proposals that came from a meeting of residents with an African descent. They met last weekend at the Hub for Expats and came up with a number of suggestions to help policymakers when making political decisions in Eindhoven.

The Project Roots and Joint Future was organized by CCOLA and IDEA, as a four-year project to culminate The Decade for People of African Descent.

For Africans in Eindhoven, the proposals could serve as a baseline to assess the changes in the community over the next four years. It can also be used as a framework for cooperation among African organizations, local, public and private institutions, and other local communities.

D66 representative, Mpanzu Bamenga said that “the Eindhoven City council is responding positively to the opportunities and challenges arising from the city’s rapid growth; it continues to provide a high-quality service to the inhabitants.”

According to the participants, the suggestions are to ensure that the Eindhoven City Council is “even more responsive to African residents’ needs, like the opportunity to create small and medium enterprises especially at a time when the city is expanding and demand for services is growing”.

Participants hope that city’s new councilors will discuss the suggestions after Wednesday’s local elections.

Photo: Facebook CCOLA

The Library helps expats to integrate in Eindhoven

bieb040 bibliotheek Eindhoven

“In a modern library, a book is an instrument, not a goal”
Public libraries serve public interests. The diverse, multinational population of the Brainport region has non-standard needs and interests in almost every aspect of life and the usage of the public library is not an exception to this rule. The head of Eindhoven public library, Albert Kivits, shares his views on the role that the main public library of the Brainport region plays in the community.

The library funding question is important nowadays. Albert Kivits brings up some numbers: “In Eindhoven, the library receives 16,07 euro per capita, in Den Haag – 48 euro, in Amsterdam – 32 euro, in Tilburg – 28 euro. The Eindhoven, the library is perceived in an old-fashioned way as fulfilling one function – storage of books, so the finances are planned accordingly, whereas the library provides a wide range of services, not limiting itself to books collecting. In a modern library, a book is an instrument, not a goal.”

Albert Kivits

The Eindhoven library defines itself as a city’s living room and it is for a good reason: “Everyone is familiar with the idea of a library as a public place open to everyone. The Eindhoven library provides nice, cozy space with the free access to books, international magazines, and various activities. We also offer free coffee for the disadvantaged groups of people – the so-called “postponed coffee” (uitgestelde koffie).”

“Expats coming to Eindhoven know that they can visit the library for the Dutch-speaking class. They can receive help in reading overcomplicated letters from Dutch authorities or from their children’s schools. Expats bring their children to the library for the Dutch reading sessions – and many expat parents listen to the fairy-tales along with their children – to practice Dutch!”

Kivits believes that the public library is a place where expats and local people can connect. “Internationals of Eindhoven can visit the workshops organized by the library and speak in Dutch with all kinds of people there. I believe that internationals should have that sort of stimulation to step out of the expat bubbles and to start a dialogue with the locals. English may be the main language in TU/e but a simple Eindhoven resident does not speak it well, so learning Dutch for an expat is important in order to integrate into the society.”

Internationals are encouraged to provide their input into the Eindhoven library activities: the library is planning a live travel book project in which international participants deliver presentations on the places of their origin sharing information on their native language and culture. Currently, the Eindhoven library is running an internationalization project, arranging the meetings with the focus group of expats in order gain a better insight into making the services of the public library more internationals-oriented. As the first result of internationalization sessions, the library has launched a pilot project for expats – EHVevryday.

Kivits says that the library’s goal for the near future is to move from the concept of a public library towards the concept of the House of Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom, the vision of which is currently being developed in collaboration with brand designers.

Quetzi from Mexico

People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, E52 has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Quetzi Navarro
Country of origin: Mexico
Work: Photographer at  High Tech XL

What do you get when you put two photographers together at a table? They talk shop. Quetzi, our interviewee of today and Diewke, photographer of this series, immediately start talking about the equipment they work with, light and all kinds of interesting Facebook groups. Quetzi: “I studied Communication in Mexico and always wanted to do more with photography. Nowadays I’m part of the creative and media team of High Tech XL. And besides this more corporate work, I also work on my personal portfolio photographing concerts and more editorial pictures.”

Before Quetzi moved to the Netherlands, she and her boyfriend lived in England. He finished his Masters there and she did a documentary course at The London Film School. “It was the ideal opportunity for me to learn English and get to know the European way of life. When my visa expired I had to go back to Mexico. For a while, we had a long distance relationship, but luckily we got reunited in the Netherlands. My boyfriend got a job at ASML and I can live here on a partner visa. We arrived in the summertime and we had a lot of fun. I had an agreement with my boyfriend: I would get a job within three months. And I did! I found a job at the office of a clothing brand in Breda.”

“Eindhoven still needs one thing: a good Mexican restaurant. My dream is to open one”Quetzi Navarro, Photographer

Going from the happy laidback summer days to long work days including commuting and cold weather in fall and winter, wasn’t always easy for Quetzi: “It was quite a reality check. But during those days I also made some wonderful friends at work. Girls that also live in Eindhoven. They are still my best friends now. At that time I missed my home in Mexico very much, but my friends got me through it. My family always says I have ‘mamitis’, a real mama’s girl. She thought I would never leave home. But here I am, on the other side of the world. I have no intention to go back very soon. Last year we bought a house, so we are really settled in Eindhoven.”

“I really like this city. There are a lot of internationals here, with a lot of Mexican people. I’m from Guadalajara, a city of millions and in England, we lived in a small town close to London. Eindhoven is really different to what I was used to, but I’m having fun here. I have a cinema card so I see a lot of movies, I love making fashion photo’s with friends and walking our dog. My two favourite restaurants are Haru for the ramen soup and Mount Everest. My boyfriend likes spicy food and at this place they are very good at it. My boyfriend and I have an inside joke about the popularity of restaurant Meneer de Boer. When they just opened we went there every Sunday. We always say we made that place so popular,” Quetzi says with a big laugh. “Eindhoven still needs one thing: a good Mexican restaurant. My dream is to open one here with a gallery where you can buy Mexican art and  the most important real and good Mexican food. I already have a name: Taqueria La Chula, I just need the money.”

Read all the internationals stories here.
Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel