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: Llewelyn van Zyl
Country of origin: South Africa
Work: Assistant Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at TU/e and an Extraordinary Professor at the North-West University, Optentia Research Programme.

Hidden behind modern buildings on the university campus you find the Paviljoen. A single-story building with a maze of hallways, classroom, and offices. What’s so special about that, you might think. Well, the base of this building was built in 1956 and was the first building on the university campus. It was supposed to be only there for temporary use, but today it is still there with all it’s 1950’s details. “Not for long though,” tells Llewellyn, “When the Atlas building is finished, this one will be demolished.”

Llewellyn is happy to talk to us because in his work he is also involved with the international community of Eindhoven by researching expat integration. “Currently we are researching together with the city of Eindhoven, Stichting Cultuur and the Design Academy what the city needs to make people feel at their best here. Thanks to the Brexit a lot of international companies move to the Netherlands, what will lead to an increase of 33 percent of the international inhabitants of Eindhoven by 2025. Research shows that an international employee needs to work at least five years for a company before this company actively benefits from their presence. So it is important for the city and the companies that people love to be here. A good cultural climate can add to that feeling.”

“I came to the Netherlands when I felt stuck in my career. I was working as an associate professor at the North-West University, where I had achieved all the goals I had set for myself. I felt that there was no way to further progress in my career or enhance my skillset in my current environment. A change needed to take place. In my field of work (applied positive psychology at work), you will find the best of the best in the Netherlands. If I wanted to take my career and life to the next level, I knew I had to be here. I worked at the University of Twente for one and half years and then I got an opportunity to come to Eindhoven to work directly with one of the field leading researchers in positive organisational behaviour.The fact that the best individuals in my field are in the Netherlands doesn’t necessarily imply that they all are Dutch. My current line manager, a highly influential psychologist, is Greek for example. The Dutch knowledge-based economy attracts highly skilled individuals from all across the globe. There is an enormous drive here to generate knowledge, and advance science. The Dutch have perfected the art to not only generate knowledge, but to translate it into practice quite efficiently. Knowledge is the Dutch’s primary export, their most important commodity. So it’s important to ensure that the best scientists and practitioners from across the globe are contributing here.”

Llewellyn moved to Eindhoven six months ago. “I used to live in Oldenzaal. I don’t want to say anything bad about it, but I’m happier in Eindhoven. There are a lot of things to do, there are different cultures and the people here in the south are friendly and welcoming. Eindhoven has allowed me to rediscover parts of myself which I have lost touch with, like writing , travelling and meeting new people! However, establishing meaningful relationships with the Dutch remains a challenge. If you are able to break that initial barrier, you are practically family. But don’t ever come-over between 18:00 and 19:00.” Llewellyn jokes. “If you know the Dutch a bit, you know why. The daily routine is different than in South Africa. At least in Eindhoven, the shops are open every day, I’m happy about that. This is not the case in every city. In South Africa, the malls are open from 9:00 in the morning until 22:00 at night. I recently discovered Strijp S, I loved it there. I also like to travel. I have set the goal I want to see 1.000 cities in 40 countries before my fortieth birthday. With the city having its own airport and several other airports nearby, I travel every other weekend to a new destination.”

“My one tip for other expats is to build lasting and sustained positive relationships in the Eindhoven, in order to help you with the inevitable emotional ups- and downs which you may experience,” Llewellyn concludes.

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