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: Erika van der Merwe
Country of origin: South Africa
When you are a frequent reader of the articles in this series, you know we always ask the interviewee to pick the location for the interview and photo shoot. Erika surprised us with a special location in Eindhoven: the terrain of the Grote Beek domain. This is the main location of GGzE, an organization specialized in helping people with mental health problems. “I love to take a walk on these premises. It is a wonderful place for walking and reflection, the main buildings are elegant, and I enjoy the interaction with passers-by on the grounds. And nobody seems to find it weird when I’m talking to myself,” Erika jokes. “We live close to this estate and it is just beautiful.”
“Our family of five, husband and I and our three teenaged children, moved to Eindhoven from Johannesburg, South Africa at the beginning of 2017. We moved because my husband took up an opportunity to work for a multinational company in the city of Venlo. Although it means he has a fair amount of commuting to do each day, we chose to settle in Eindhoven so that our younger two children could attend the International School Eindhoven. Before we moved here, my husband lived close to Venlo for a year. He travelled back and forth to South Africa every few weeks during that year. He did a lot of research before we all moved here: on the option for schools, well-located neighbourhoods and so on. Our being apart for a year was also in some way an investment in our future. When he got the offer to work in the Netherlands for a longer period we had a now-or-never feeling. As you can see, we took on this adventure.”
Erika’s daily life changed drastically with her move to the Netherlands: “For all our family members it has been a big change. In South Africa, I worked full time and managed our household. I suppose the choice to move here makes me a stereotype: yet another expat wife who gave up a career to move for her husband’s career. In many ways, this is a relatively challenging position to be in. Being uprooted from everything that is familiar and having to reassess one’s identity, skills and purpose. It is also an enormous gift to be forced to reformulate one’s life plans and to get to know a completely new culture and society. It is a treat to have a cup of coffee with one of my neighbours. We seem to have hit the jackpot with kind, helpful and generous neighbours and were welcomed on the first day with flowers and cards. One of our neighbours gives me weekly Dutch lessons, and these include a healthy dose of current affairs, European history and seventeenth-century Dutch art.”
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With her family, Erika likes attending the Saturday market in the Kruisstraat: “Our favourites there include roast chicken straight from the grill, joining the queue for kibbeling (fried fish), bagging a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice, seeing the proprietor of the stroopwafel (thin waffles with caramel) stand look up at us and yelling ‘Ah, Zuid-Afrika!’. Evidently he enjoyed his trip to South Africa and loves exchanging stories with us. We also love engaging with the owner of the saucisson stand over which flavours are best this week.”
“There are many aspects of Eindhoven that I love and I am very grateful that this is the city in which we settled. When one is making a decision to move countries and cities, it is impossible to know everything that one is letting oneself in for. And we certainly got a good deal with Eindhoven: The city is relatively small, and yet it has all the conveniences of a large city. I never feel crowded, the people are friendly, and the city is always growing and improving itself. And it boggles my mind that I can cycle down to the Eindhoven University of Technology, or to the High Tech Campus, to attend a seminar by a world-renowned speaker on a fascinating subject. What I love most about Eindhoven is its down-to-earth, roll-up-your-sleeves character. The city is hardworking, practical and is strong on cooperation and community. I was absolutely thrilled by the release by the City of Eindhoven of ‘Een kei fijne film’, a short movie which exemplifies all of these qualities – as well as showing that the people of Brabant have a wonderful sense of humour.”
Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel
Read more stories of internationals here.