The elections are over and looking back, one of the topics that got attention was the international community in Eindhoven. There are big plans to keep all the Expats here and to keep them coming. Even the government is involved and gives Brainport 130 million euros to improve the ecosystem.
But what do expats actually need? And what are the issues they are facing? In order to find out, we talked to Praveen Kypa, who drove the initiative Voices of Expats in Eindhoven. More than 50 expats were surveyed on the issues they are struggling with. And he is in contact with the local parties to fix those issues. “If you come into this environment as a new expat, you would identify with a lot of these issues. Most of it has to do with a lack of information, not knowing what to do when you get a letter from the government, not knowing where you can get detailed information. A lot of parties have shown that they’d like to make this information available in English. It is especially important for the new people coming here because we all know that the Dutch language is quite though and takes time to learn. Meanwhile, the taxes are not going to stop, the letters from the government keep coming.”
Towards the elections, Kypa has had contact with different political parties, to discuss the issues at hand and how to solve them. “People have understood that there is now a larger and ever-growing population of expats and that it is time to find a way to integrate them around these topics. Motivated expats are trying to connect with what is happening within the city, especially around the elections. It’s evident that at least the parties that have responded have their heart in the right place, they care about the issues of expats. A huge step that we have made, is that a few parties came together and passed a motion, that the stempas (voting pas) and election material should also have an English version.” The parties PVDA, Groenlinks, CDA, VVD, BBL, ChristenUnie and D66 have tabled a motion, which the mayor has embraced during the city council meeting on the 13th of March. He promised to reach out to the international community to establish the best way to inform them about the elections. An example of one of the solutions is an English letter that comes with the stempas. “This is remarkable, very often we tend to find that some of the difficult topics probably take months or years to before we get to a point of consensus. And this is a classic case of a lot of people coming together and making a really progressive step.”
Not only a lack of information is a problem for the expats. The survey also shows safety, bilingual education for their kids, housing, public transport and culture as focus concerns. To improve some of those things, like the cultural institutions in Eindhoven, Brainport is getting 130 million from the government. But does that fix anything? “Definitely some of these things. If you want to prevent brain drain and if you want to hold on to your expats, you have got to invest in that direction. But I think that the input of expats has to be taken into consideration by whoever is trying to put the policy in place. Brain drain is a global phenomenon, a lot of countries try to tackle it with mixed success. If Eindhoven would like to be successful in that regard, integrating people is crucial.” But rather than concerning himself with cultural institutions, Kypa comes back to the basic issue of a lack of information. A question I would ask myself is: ‘If I am not able to read basic documents, would that compare with the cultural integration?'”
Within a couple of weeks, Kypa and other expats have managed to get the attention of the political parties and have started a dialogue. He hopes that will not stop just because the elections are over. “I hope that the connection that we have made and that the dialogue that we are having, on a wide range of topics and with a lot of parties, continues. I hope that we find a way to work together and get results. We cannot take years to have this information translated into English.”