Bart van Vlokhoven

ex-pat (the, m, v; plural: expats)  1. someone living abroad temporarily for his work. An expatriate or abbreviated expat is someone who is temporarily staying in a country with a different culture than that which he grew up in.

Of course, at the time of the European Football Championships I look somewhat envious to the fanaticism of some colleagues whose homeland is present in France, but all in all working amongst expats gives an extra dimension to my work environment. More than 14,000 employees with almost 100 different nationalities can be found at ASML. English is the language to communicate with colleagues from all over the world: China, Mexico, Peru, Poland ….

Every single one of them has left his or her home for an international experience. Tokyo, San Diego and Taipei are traded for Eindhoven. With both feet in the rich Dutch culture, fully accustomed to the immediacy in communicating. No talking in an elevator. Sobriety exchanged for complete madness at King’s Day. Gezellig sitting in a circle of chairs in the living room to celebrate a birthday. But weirdest of all, at least in the opinion of several exotic colleagues, the big gray public urinals … Right in the sun in the middle of the street.

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    Nice… a mirror held up by someone who takes a fresh look at our city and our culture. Well… Why do I choose for either ham or cheese on my sandwich and moreover, why not both or why not taking a little more time to prepare a nice salad?

    “Do not take your shoes off, do not feel at home…” That’s how many of them look at us. Indeed, I’m feeling quite uncomfortable when colleagues or acquaintances would visit me spontaneously during my dinner at my home. That’s how it is, after all, for decades already.

    My advice to my foreign colleagues who really want experience the Brabant culture, is to go to a friettent on Sunday night around half past six. There they should sit down, “throw in a frikandel” and  just watch and listen. This is Brabant at its best. Women with short snappy hairstyles, in one hand a white paper bag with dinner for that evening and in the other hand a phone, cigarettes and car keys.

    And then there are those who prefer to live in Amsterdam instead of Eindhoven. One and a half hours by car, most expats are used to commuting hours like that, and Amsterdam seems to be more appealing to some. ‘The world’s smartest city‘ is like a huge magnet for knowledge workers worldwide but Eindhoven itself has yet to earn their recognition. Even though Eindhoven is reshaped more and more as an expat environment. “Eindhoven has reinvented itself as the hip and stylish design capital” said one expat magazine.

    I do like the internationalisation of this city. Trying to understand the English gibberish in an overdose of different accents on a Friday evening in the Van Moll brewery pub. It usually provides interesting meetings and conversations. A Polish knowledge worker at Philips who asks me if I know someone to paint his apartment.

    But could I do it myself? Abandon Eindhoven, my home town, for a few years? Would I miss the city? The atmosphere at Strijp-S, a sunlit Wilhelmina Square in the summer. Would I miss PSV? I do not get much energy from the new ‘Philipsless’ appearance, but am still happy in the stands. Drink a beer, watch some football, and just talk nonsense. What would Eindhoven look like if I were to leave now and come back in a few years? Would anything be changed at all? A busier skyline maybe, or an entirely new area between the station and the Bijenkorf. Would the bus lanes have disappeared finally? Would Philips have returned on the chests of Guardado and his team mates? Would we have become even more high-tech?

    ex-pat (the, m, v; plural: expats)  1 Someone living abroad temporarily for his work…    Indeed, maybe I should try it myself.

    UPDATE: This column was written in June 2016. Bart van Vlokhoven recently moved to Portland, Oregon, which makes our columnist and his family real expats. His next column will describe his new life. 

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