Author profile picture

The expat top-10 aims the spotlight on the internationals that help Eindhoven progress. E52 sat down with each winning expat to talk about their experiences and perspective on the city they once came to, and never got away from. Today: Zuzanna Skalska.

Name: Zuzanna Skalska
Born in 1971
Profession: Trend expert at 360 Inspiration
In Eindhoven since: 20 years

The Polish Zuzanna Skalska is the owner of the Eindhoven 360 Inspiritation. She is a trendexpert in the field of future  and innovation. She was part of the organization of the Dutch Design Week for 7 years and she is still active there in an advising role. In 2011 she started her own design academy in Poznan, Poland, where this year 120 students will graduate.

‘I didn’t want to stay in Poland to study’
“If I had stayed there I would have learned everything from someone who had never worked in practice. That’s the way things work over there. In the nighties I came to Eindhoven. I started at the academy for industrial design. Yeah, I’m old school. In that time Eindhoven was a real working city, the english of the Eindhovenaren was not quitte well. They sounded like farmers and everything was really Brabants. Back then the level of tolerance was at a much lower level than it is today, people were making fun of a girl out of Poland that came here to study. So right from the beginning it was full focus on integration. I did everything in orange on Koninginnedag. There was no time for me to feel isolated.”

‘When I’m on the train and it passes the Klokgebouw, I know that I’m home’
“I have made friends for life at the academy for industrial design. My heart is in Eindhoven. After graduating in 1998 I had the dream to work for Philips Design. But I did not dare to send in an application, why would they hire me? That’s what I kept on asking myself. I learned a nice dutch expression from a friend [niet geschoten is altijd mis]: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I applied and got hired. I was speechless, this was such a great feeling. From that moment on I felt like I could move mountains.”

“I feel like one of the mothers of the Dutch Design Week, it al started with the Day of Design at the TU/e. Eventually it extended to one whole week. I’ve been on the board for seven years. In the beginning we really had to fight before the city hall believed in the added value of the event. That we pulled it off makes me really proud, especially with the small team. And I’m still fully committed to the DDW, but now in a advising role. But every year I cry out of joy.”

‘Eindhoven is known as the city of technology, but where is this reflected in the city?’
“In the 90’s Eindhoven was a typical city of workers, everyone was tired. Groceries were done on Saturdays because you didn’t have time for it during the week, and the stores closed at 6. It felt like a small village. The last train to Amsterdam departed around ten. Strijp-S was a forbidden city, you didn’t go there. When Philips left the city, Eindhoven felt abandoned. It has taken an incredible amount of time for the city to recover, in fact this is still in process.”

“What bothers me is that Eindhoven wants to be a city with international allure, but it even lacks a direct international train connection. From Breda you can go to Belgium or Germany. But tell me, what is to be found in Breda? Eindhoven Airport is merely used for fun trips by people who want to take a break. That has to change if you really want to play the game.”

“Eindhoven is known as the city of technology, but where is this reflected in the city? It isn’t visible. You could, for instance, construct smart bus lanes or other things that show the city’s support of technological advancement. I miss that visibility, but still the brand Eindhoven is very strong. That brand has been designed with a group of creative people. Everyone had a say in it, and everything was continuously being fed back. That’s how you create ambassadors. I also feel like an ambassador, I love Eindhoven.

“That is something Rob van Gijzel does greatly, he has returned the city to the people. He should give master classes to all the other mayors. The awareness that a city does not belong to the government, but that the people make the city is unfortunately not widely accepted.”

‘Integrating is easier when you start young’
“For international students it’s easier to integrate, they build something new. You meet new people and everyone is open to getting in touch with each other. For expats it’s more difficult, they enter a closed community. Everything is being taken care of: a house for example, and the kids are taken to the international school by a minibus. Moreover, they know they will be here temporarily, so they don’t really build up a life here. I often get the feeling that it’s a separate community within a community.”