People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.

Name: Fanny Griveau
Country of origin: France
Work: Furniture designer and coordinator at Uit de Buurtfabriek & designer at

Just around the corner of the Woenselsestraat, you will find a small industrial area with lots of different businesses and workshops. One of them is Uit de Buurtfabriek, a wood workshop that helps people to deploy themselves by working on designer furniture. Fanny stands on the doorstep when we arrive, chatting in Dutch with a co-worker. On the big blue doors of the building are for sale signs. “Yes, we have to move out in November unfortunately, “ Fanny tells us, “we are looking for a new place and we are talking to the municipality of Eindhoven, but it isn’t easy to find an affordable space that’s big enough for all our machines. We also would love to be more visible to the public.” While talking, we enter the building, passing the workshop of Refu-Bikes where refugees repair bikes. We take a seat in the canteen to talk about Fanny’s life in Eindhoven.

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    “Originally Uit de Buurtfabriek started as a social design project where we asked the neighbourhood to help produce furniture. Woodwork is a great way to work with your hands and it gives a lot of people a purpose in life again. Soon after we started Uit de Buurtfabriek also became a place for people from other parts of Eindhoven and from all walks of life. You will find people here who are retired or depressed or socially challenged or just want to get out of their house, you name it. For most of them it’s all about finding meaning and structure again in their daily life. The furniture they create is sold to big clients like Woonbedrijf and Philips as well as other social organizations and are genuine Dutch design pieces. My role within the organization differs from day to day. I design the collection  and coordinate the production but I have also been workshop leader. We have our collection and I also design tailor-made furniture for customers.”

    (Story continues after photo)

    “I’m not fulltime involved in Uit de Buurtfabriek. The rest of the week I’m slowly working on my own design label. I came to Eindhoven in 2013 for an internship at Pelidesign, the company of product and furniture designer Alexander Pelikan. After my internship, I decided to stay in Eindhoven and to start a worldwide search for a job from here. At the same time, I came across Conor Trawinski, social designer, who involved me in a neighbourhood project which evolved into Uit de Buurtfabriek here in Eindhoven. So, in the end, I’m still here,” Fanny says with a grin.

    “I didn’t study here, and that makes a difference when it comes to making friends. I had to restart my social life from zero, I didn’t speak Dutch at first and I’m not a party person. But I needed a social life, so I had to get over not being a fan of parties and I got motivated to learn Dutch to integrate. One of my classmates at my Dutch course noticed I was a bit lonely and invited me to practically everything she went to. That helped a lot and I made some friends. The difficult part of being part of the expat community is that you lose friends. People leave. That’s why I also like to have Dutch friends. Planning a nice get-together can be quite a challenge with the Dutch, though. When I send a message to ask them to do something together, they usually are available in like one or two weeks, while I meant today or tomorrow. Once in September, I got the question whether I was available somewhere at the end of November. I was like, ok what?! The Dutch way of planning stuff is definitely something I’m still not used to.”

    “When I arrived here, one of the first things I noticed was how clean the streets are. In France, the streets and sidewalks often look a bit shabby. That also has to do with the way, for instance, the sidewalks are repaired. Here they make an effort to make it look tidy. I live in Woensel West and this neighbourhood keeps improving. Housing association Trudo is doing a good job there. They have a house renting system where you pay less rent if you help out in the neighbourhood. I’m in the team that helps the elderly residents with their garden and I helped with the after-school projects for neighbourhood kids. It is nice to be part of such a thriving part of the city.

    Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel
    Read more stories of internationals here.

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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.