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: Adri Vermeulen
Country of origin: South Africa
Work: Executive Assistant at Philips Design

We are lucky: just before Adri goes on holiday to Namibia, her native country, she has time in her busy schedule for us. “Just some last things for work, pack the suitcases, throw a kids party and then we are off to Africa. I try to visit my family twice a year.” Adri was born in Namibia and moved to South Africa when she was 12 years old. “When I was at university years later, there was a very nice Dutch intern. We fell in love and I moved to England and he went to the Netherlands. We traveled back and forth every weekend for a year and after that year we decided to live together in the Netherlands. That meant I had to go back to South Africa first. You have to start the integration process in your country of origin. I have done an exemption examination, which everyone else can request, and I passed it. I didn’t need to do any further courses. The questions on the exam were sometimes a bit strange: whether men can kiss at the train station and the neighbour is allowed to sunbathe in the garden.”

“We lived in Utrecht at first and I worked in Eindhoven at Philips. My husband used to study in Eindhoven and wanted to go back. When he found a job here, it was a win-win situation: we bought a house here and love living in Eindhoven ever since. We now have three children: a son of four years, a son of three years and my little present, a daughter of seven months. We both work full time. In my culture, it is normal to work full time as a woman. Here women work more often part-time. It’s very nice that I have a  good employer, where I can flexibly divide my time. If I have to leave work early for the children, I can. I’ll finish my work at night at home. I think I have a very healthy balance of work and private life.”

“In my culture, it is normal to work full time as a woman. Here women work more often part-time.”Adri Vermeulen, Executive Assistant at Philips Design

“In my spare time, the Sunday morning is sacred to me. That’s the moment for myself. That time is reserved for boot camp training with Mom in Balance. We do this in a park. I started with it when I was pregnant with my third child. It brings me a lot. You immediately feel a part of the group, everyone has nice contact with each other and you follow each other’s development. By the way, I went on with sports until I was 39 weeks pregnant. I really wish for other women to do this. After childbirth, women will recover faster if they are fit. Most of the friends I have made, I got to know thanks to the children. My children gave me roots here. Before we had children, I often felt like a guest. Now I am more at peace.”

“After almost 10 years, I feel like I belong in the Netherlands. At first, I thought everything in South Africa was better, but that’s not the case anymore. However, I think the medical care is better over there. Everybody is insured here and the doctors get paid anyway. For example, in South Africa, a general practitioner has much more to do with market forces. You go to the doctor you like best. Like the hairdresser, you go to the one where you feel comfortable. The Dutch are direct, but I think that South Africans should have more zing at times. I am so adapted to the Dutch way of handling things that my family sometimes thinks I’m a bit rude nowadays.”

“I bring up our children with the African language, but not with the hard-handed African educational style. In Africa, if children do not listen, they often get a smack. When I lived there, I thought that was very normal. My children look quite surprised when we’re there and a nephew or niece gets a slap as a punishment. And also you take on maternity leave differently here. I did not want any maternity aid at all. In South Africa, everybody cares for each other, so my mother came to the Netherlands to help me. But when our maternity aid was there,  it was really nice. Both countries have pros and cons, but now I do feel completely at home here in the Netherlands.”

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

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About the author

Author profile picture Sabine te Braake is a writer and an entrepreneur. She loves Eindhoven, the city where she once started as a student.