Author profile picture

For the second time, E52 organises the annual Expat Top-10. There are a lot of internationals in Eindhoven who have done a great job for the city, and by this, we put a spotlight on them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Sport & Leisure’. Every day we present you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, how they put an effort in the city and how they look at the Eindhoven with their international perspective. Today: Arash Helmi.

Arash Helmi 
Born in 1984
From Mashad, Iran
In Eindhoven since 2012
#1 on bucket list: “Travel through all the countries in the world”

When Arash Helmi moved to the Netherlands, something was missing for him. Therefore he started PARVAZ, a group dedicated to art, culture, music and human studies. In the beginning it was only about Persian culture, but now the group exists of more than twenty nationalities. They organise all kinds of events to learn about each other’s history.

“Everything was nice but it’s still hard to start from zero”
After Helmi finished his Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in Iran, he wanted to go to the best technical university. “One of my professors also worked in Sweden. So through him I went abroad. Although I lived there for three and a half years, I didn’t feel at home. During the day I had my job but in the evening I experienced a gap. I didn’t have much of a social life.” Then Helmi got the opportunity to live in the Netherlands. “One of my professors told me about a proposal in Eindhoven. At the Technical University I could do my PHD, so I went there. I really liked Eindhoven immediately. My integration was easier than in Sweden but it was still hard because I had to start from zero again.”

“When you’re abroad and you start working, you miss the social aspect and have a gap in the evening.”
Helmi already learned that work isn’t everything in life. “I missed entertainment and the social aspect. Therefore I started PARVAZ in 2013. It started with five people reviewing Persian literature. But we couldn’t challenge ourselves because we all had a Persian cultural background. We wanted more and different cultures in our network.” This wish came true because now the network consists of 173 people from 22 countries. Now the events aren’t only about literature anymore. There are movie nights, festivals, cultural projects and more. “Dream and Dare was one of the events we organised. People with different cultural backgrounds had to tell in seven minutes what they dreamed about when they were seven years old. We also did a World history project, and a History of Art project. The art project took a year where there was an event every two weeks. We started with learning about art from Mesopotamia and ended in the Van Abbemuseum with contemporary art.” The events always have a cultural value. “With PARVAZ we learn more about each other’s  society and history through our projects. Take for example the art project. We can relate to the cultural environment through learning about art.”

Helmi believes that it’s harder for internationals to keep the social aspect of their lives when they immigrate. “It’s not only about activities with friends, it’s a part of a community and I’m happy I can help with that. When people learn more about each other it’s easier to accept and deal with each other. Furthermore because of PARVAZ we don’t forget our own culture. We can interact between the different cultures. People grew up in different countries but they have similar interests and values.” Helmi explains where the name PARVAZ comes from.

“If we know better the story of one another, we understand more of each other and have less conflicts.”Arash Helmi Siasi Farimani, – Winner Expat Top-10

“When there’s a problem, Dutch people always have a clear solution”
Helmi feels more at home in the Netherlands than he did in Sweden. “Here I feel myself more a part of society. I’m happier because I have a network of friends whom I can share my sadness and my happiness with. Perhaps it’s easier to feel at home because there are more internationals than in Sweden.” Helmi tries to keep going on with organising international events. “Together with other people I try to think what is missing. We want more entertainment and activities in English which are about art, culture and philosophy.”

Helmi definitely feels the space to grow in the Netherlands. “Dutch people are more tolerant and less conservative than in Iran. It’s pretty easy to reach a good standard of living. Although it’s still hard to reach a really high placed job in management for example. I believe the Netherlands are the most easy of the Western countries to do so, but still not as easy as in the U.S.A.” Besides that Helmi recognizes a pragmatic culture in the Netherlands. “Persians have more a culture of dreaming. And when Dutch people see a problem, they immediately have a clear solution for it.”