The fact that we really need talents from all parts of the world to solve the challenges we are facing, is now more than obvious. But does the city have enough to offer for the international? Commissioned by the Living In coordinator Ed Heerschap from Eindhoven, a team of the Expat Spouses Initiative (ESI) did some investigating. The most important conclusion: language remains a barrier.
This week, we make a short series on the position of the expat in Eindhoven. Read all the published stories here.
The purpose of the research was to figure out whether the level of facilities in the city meets the expectations of the expat. For that, the necessary source research has been done first and secondly hundreds of internationals have been interviewed. The investigators directly came across a definition problem: what makes someone an expat and what makes someone an international or a knowledge worker? Heerschap: “The expat is someone who stays somewhere for a short period of time, without wanting to settle down. We are now noticing, however, that more and more internationals come here with the idea to stay for a long time. That is why I’d rather not use the word expat anymore.”
There is a huge gap between the actual quality of Dutch health care (according to research it has been the best health care of Europe for many years) and the way internationals experience it. Three quarters of them are dissatisfied or even very dissatisfied. More than a third would even rather leave the Netherlands for that reason. According to ESI, good, English guidance could improve a lot in this situation.
Also in the field of housing the lack of information is the biggest obstacle for the internationals. Especially because a lot of information is only available in Dutch. That is the case with for instance contract information, legal documents and municipal regulations. The websites of housing associations are often in Dutch as well. It does not apply to most brokers: two thirds are (also) in English. The greatest need for internationals is a central entry point: an online platform or a legal help desk.
Overall, the expats like Eindhoven. The career opportunities, however, receive a 6 minus.
The internationals organise their social lives in three ways. All sorts of meetings take place within more or less closed communities, but there are also occasional meet-ups (through calls on a web platform) and support groups on facebook, for example.
English language is crucial for attracting talent, Dutch for retaining the talent
The internationals are facing a big problem with cultural information, especially because either the agenda information is not in English, or the performance itself isn’t in English. There has recently been a lot of improvement in this area, so has been found. The Parktheater is working hard on it and The Hub for Expats has arranged activities too. There are also international festivals and special gatherings on the International School and the High Tech Campus.
Having a job is decisive for the satisfaction of the international. It is, moreover, not enough for only one of the partners of a family to have a job, it seems. Work is the perfect way to settle in the new environment; this is more difficult without a job. In fact, in a period of five years the chance of expats returning home when their partner can’t find a job is 20% higher.
There are several ways to help the partner of the expat get a job. The Expat Spouses Initiative is working hard on it, for instance by mediation or participation in career fairs. Other initiatives are Bright Society, Fight Like a Woman and Boost IQ.
The cultural differences between the home country and Eindhoven are strongly noticeable in the field of education. The international school is welcome, but also too expensive for many families. In primary school there is no warm meal at noon. There is plenty of appreciation for the initiative Wereldwijzer, a primary school for newcomers where the children learn Dutch in 40 weeks, so that they can then go to regular education.
Almost all expats (90%) would like to learn Dutch, but can’t afford a course. Half of those surveyed is convinced that connecting with the local community would be a lot easier if there was no language barrier.
Whether it’s the literal accessibility of the city (for instance how to go from the airport to the city centre and what are the rules for a cyclist) or the figurative accessibility (how can you find municipal information, what is the news), this is where the international is totally missing the connection. Again, the language is the issue.
The ESI researchers are drawing six conclusions from their findings:
- We are on the right track
- Focus on the talent of the partners is highly necessary
- There are many good facilities, but the perception of the international is different
- Accessibility needs improvement
- English language is crucial for attracting talent, Dutch for retaining the talent
- Focus on well-being is prominent for the municipality