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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: Kris de Prins. Here’s the whole series.

“I saw the city change from a wannabe to a frontrunner

In Eindhoven since: 2007
Country of origin: Belgium
Do you speak Dutch with the people in your neighbourhood? Yeah, but actually a mixture of several dialects: Flemish, Brabants and Limburgs.

What was the reason for you to move to Eindhoven?

“I met my wife in Sweden. She is Dutch, so I moved to The Netherlands and started my professional career here.”

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

“The fact that Eindhoven is constantly moving forward towards a more internationally oriented hotspot. During the last 10 years that I worked here, I saw it change from a ‘wannabe’ to a frontrunner. It combines ‘petiteness’ (it is in reality not more than a large village – in comparison to other high tech hubs), with potential greatness. The attractiveness though lies in the way that people work together: the Eindhoven way! Always searching to collaborate, not in a ‘kumbaya-manner’, but warm yet business-minded.”

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

“There is still some ground to cover. We need to make the next step: focus on dual career, opportunities for spouses, making integration a natural process, mix locals and internationals, help out SME’s to internationalise, communicate in multiple languages, etc. We are not done yet!”

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

“They have to look into their onboarding procedures. What do they have in place for the international and his/her family? You are not hiring just one brain, you’re adopting a family.”

How would you describe your role within the Eindhoven community?

“In 2010 we opened up Holland Expat Center South, the one-stop-shop for formalities. Internationals arrange their paperwork at the expat center in a fluent and efficient manner, their registration with the municipality and their visa. On top of that, they can ask questions on all kind of practical issues, such as taxation, housing, learning Dutch, healthcare, etc. I have been the director now for about 7 years: the team and myself guided the expat center to the next level: we have helped more than 350 different employers until now, we registered almost 2,600 internationals in 2017 (25% growth each year), receiving people from all over the globe (135 different nationalities), and organising 20+ events each year. My role has been to expand the expat center, to make it financially sound, to be a connector between the government, the employers and their internationals and all kinds of organisations with internationals on their radar.”

If you own a business, what is it like to start your business in Eindhoven?

“The Expat Center is not really my own business, because it is 100% governmental, but we do work together with about 60 commercial services providers, they are part of the Official Partnership Program. We host events together, like the ‘Buying a House’-event, the ‘taxation sessions’ or the ‘Start your own business’-events. We do have a very broad network with (semi-)governmental agencies, corporates, SME’s, startups, foundations focused on expats and our commercial partners. It is a nice mixture of stakeholders that have one thing in common: internationals, whether as an employee, a client, a member, visitor, and so on. Our business is to serve the international and their employer. Starting out of necessity to boost the economic and living climate, we now see that our services have earned their place in the ‘landing’ process of each international: the expat center has become a natural stepping stone in the path to integration, and that makes me really proud.”

What is the worst and the best thing about Eindhoven?

“Worst: Eindhoven is addictive. No medicine can cure that. Best: Eindhoven stands out in its profile: people know what Eindhoven is about. They get it. A lot of cities lack such a strong ‘raison d’être’.”

Photo: Alderman Stijn Steenbakkers is handing over the award to Kris de Prins – Photo (c) Israel Nunez-Hernandez