We are chatting over breakfast at Usine in downtown Eindhoven, about everything from life as an expat, to the professional advantages of being international, to Eindhoven as a global city.
Jorge is originally from Lisbon, Portugal, but has lived in four other countries (Norway, the Czech Republic, France, and Belgium) before moving to the Netherlands, and speaks five languages.
“Where’s the center?”
I ask him to tell me about his first memory of Eindhoven. He doesn’t need time to reflect before he responds. “I remember I was very confused. I kept seeing a sign for ‘centrum to the right’, and I was driving in circles thinking, ‘where’s the center?’” The city seemed strangely quiet and empty when he arrived. He soon realized that Eindhoven was not going to be as dynamic as Paris, Amsterdam or any of the other larger cities he has lived in. But he’s OK with that. He finds Eindhoven to have many advantages that larger cities do not, such as a higher quality of social life. “I think it’s easier to make friends here – it’s easy to build social relationships. It’s easy to live a more relaxed life, without being in a rush. In a smaller city [such as Eindhoven], it’s easier to find your way”.
He interrupts himself as he tastes the Carpaccio he ordered and discovers that it’s less than appetizing. We take a break to discuss the proper thickness of Carpaccio meat slices before steering the conversation back to more serious topics.
In terms of professional success, Jorge believes that there are many benefits associated with being international or having international experience. Doors are opened that might otherwise have remained closed.
“You don’t have to eat the Carpaccio that you don’t like.”
“It’s a matter of logic,” he says. By not limiting yourself to staying in a single place (i.e. by becoming an expat in another country), your “palette of choices” for jobs and other opportunities expands. “You don’t have to eat the Carpaccio that you don’t like.” In other words, you don’t have to settle for what’s in your home town or country.
However, it’s not always easy sailing for an expat in the Netherlands, and Jorge can attest to that.
There are currently over 55,000 expats in Noord-Brabant, and experts such as Kris de Prins, director of Holland Expat Center South, expect that number to double in the next few years.
According to research done by NRC Q(2), the percentage of expats living in Eindhoven is 3.64%, which lags only slightly behind the percentage of expats living in Amsterdam (4.13%). The statistics would seem to suggest that Eindhoven is almost on par with Amsterdam in terms of being a global city. However, Jorge believes we still have a long way to go.
“Working at [TU/e] or the High Tech Campus is like being in a bubble,” he says. However, once a person leaves the bubble and tries to find work or develop a social life in the “real world” of Eindhoven, things get tricky. “The language is an underestimated issue,” he goes on to say. “I realized that it is very difficult for [an expat] to find a job here, unless you’re applying for jobs where they’re expecting the person to speak English.”
Jorge thinks that more effort needs to come from both the locals and the expats in order to increase the number of expats who stay and become integrated in Eindhoven. On the locals’ side, he suggests giving a small handbook to expats who come to Eindhoven that includes information about things such as networking events and Dutch cultural norms. On the expats’ side, he admits that expats should make an effort to learn the language and to integrate. “If you have the ambition of staying [in the Netherlands], you need to learn Dutch.”
Want to hear more? Come to the Global City Eindhoven event(3) on October 2nd to learn more about these topics and to participate in active panel discussions with Jorge and other prominent global citizens of Eindhoven. (http://globalcityeindhoven.com/).
Bottom-up enterprises such as Expat Spouses Initiative (http://expatspousesinitiative.org/) aim to achieve a more global future for Eindhoven by encouraging expats who follow their partners to the Netherlands to integrate more with the local community and to contribute to the growth of the local economy.
About the author: Kate Brunton is an American-born, English-, French-, and Dutch-speaking global citizen of Eindhoven. She recently graduated with a master of science in social psychology, and is a core member of the Expat Spouses Initiative team. She strongly identifies with the ideas and values at the heart of the organization. She also works for Startupbootcamp Smart Materials in marketing and communication. She loves writing and has enjoyed being able to share the stories of the Global City Eindhoven participants.
3) The Global City Eindhoven event is organized by Expat Spouses Initiative