Expat Essentials

Expect the unexpected: What to expect when you’re expecting to move to Eindhoven

You’ve never heard of Eindhoven when suddenly opportunity comes knocking at your door: You’re offered a great job!

That happens a lot, and you’ll be okay. We’re here for you.

Along with Berlin, Amsterdam and Stockholm, Eindhoven is a major destination for highly skilled internationals. There are an estimated 40,000 highly skilled internationals here in the city, and 70,000 in the surrounding Brabant and Limburg provinces, according to government data.

Because of that expat concentration and the overall density of tech talent, Dispatches Europe has been based here since March 2016. After almost three years, if we had to go with one piece of advice for new arrivals, it’s “Expect the unexpected.”

As we asked our expat network for their input for this post, we got this from fellow American Betsy, who’s been here for years: “Eindhoven is big enough to get things done, but it isn’t overwhelming.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

Welcome to Tech Town

As you’ve already figured out, Eindhoven is all about technology. Some of the most valuable ultra-high-tech companies in Europe including ASML and NXP, both major global players in the semiconductor industry, have their headquarters here.

There’s a huge research campus, High Tech Campus, and a new Manufacturing 4.0 campus, Brainport Industries Campus. High Tech Campus just opened the largest startup hub in the Netherlands.

Eindhoven also has Technical University Eindhoven, one of the Netherlands’ two engineering schools, which is full of international students. They give the city a younger, more cosmopolitan buzz than a lot of stodgier cities. It also has Europe’s biggest collection of physicists. And everyone here seems to have a patent on some futuristic technology.

So, what is Eindhoven really like?

Eindhoven is a 21st Century city, not a 16th Century city like Amsterdam or Dordrecht. Two relatively recent events in its 1,000-year history have shaped Eindhoven – World War II, which left the city in ruins, and Philips’ shift from a global consumer electronics power to basically a health care and research firm. Philips moved its headquarters to Amsterdam in 2001, and that left dozens of empty manufacturing buildings, offices and research facilities around the city.

Flash forward almost 18 years, and you’re arriving at a time when those buildings are getting new life as apartments, startup hubs and boutique retail clusters. Strip-S is the best example of how Eindhoven is pivoting from a dreary one-company manufacturing city to an exciting innovation hub with a diversified economy, great restaurants, cafés, events spaces and clubs.

As in all of the Netherlands, infrastructure is tops generally because taxes are high (about 52-percent on personal income over 69,000 euros). Roads are smooth and all the power lines are buried. When there are storms, which isn’t very often, the power usually stays on.

in Eindhoven has access to WiFi, even on the streets, with WiFi kiosks all around the city center. Up and down speeds are pretty fast here … at least 25 mbps – as fast as fiber optics in the United States, though not as fast as Romania, oddly.

Speaking of weather, you’ll hear that the Netherlands as a whole is rainy and cold. We’ve been here three years, and the weather is actually pretty good … very Northern California-ish. Moderate, though since 2016, there’s been Global Warming shift toward very dry summers.

How big is Eindhoven?

It depends on how you look at things. As Americans, we think in terms of MSAs – metropolitan statistical areas. That is, the city, and the surrounding region that’s connected to the city economically. Atlanta, for example, has a core population in the city limits of about 500,000 residents but an MSA of almost 6 million.

In the Netherlands, the suburbs count as separate cities. Which is weird. ASML, which makes the multi-million euro, room-sized machines that make silicon chips, has a giant, futuristic headquarters campus in Veldhoven, which the company describes as “a Dutch village.” Sort of the same way Greenwich Village in Manhattan is a village. (See the video above.)

So, Eindhoven’s official population is about 225,000, but the region has about 1 million people.

THE CELEBRATION AFTER EINDHOVEN WON IN 2016

Is there anything going on?

If you’re bored in Eindhoven, it’s not the city ….

Eindhoven has some sort of big party or event nearly every week of the year, from King’s Day to Dutch Design Week to The Flying Dutch to mega football celebrations when PSV wins its league, which is surprisingly often.

Work/life balance is really important to the Dutch, so a fair number of people don’t even work on Fridays. You can find them at their favorite café on the main square until late at night. We learned this early in the game from our Dutch neighbors: A party is a total bust if it doesn’t last till 4 a.m.

Can a tech town also be a foodie town?

Yes. Good news … you’ll never starve in Eindhoven. There are sooo many good-to-great restaurants here we can’t name them all. Even the train station has a super upstairs restaurant to grab a drink or have borrel (cocktail hour) with friends. And there’s a restaurant street, Kleine Berg, with a variety of restaurants from good Turkish food to sophisticated fusion spots.

Our favorites include Restaurant 1910, Street Food for quick meals and Love My Curry on High Tech Campus on The Strip for really good Indian food. In fact, there are multiple excellent restaurants on campus, including The Colour Kitchen and Love My Curry, as well as food trucks.

Also, there’s a relatively new restaurant cluster, the Downtown Gourmet Market, that opened last year and features a dozen different choices including Asian food, Turkish food, Dutch food and wood-oven pizza.

If you’re feeling flush, you can check out Nuenen’s flourishing food scene, which includes De Lindehof, a 2-star Michelin restaurant that’s one of the best in the Netherlands. We know! There’s another 2-star Michelin in tiny Heeze, a suburb on the south side of the city.

The restaurant scene is crazy here. You’re never going to believe this, but Eindhoven has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other Dutch city including Amsterdam.

Here are the Michelin-rated restaurants in no particular order:

• De Lindehof (two stars) in Nuenen, which is run by Master Chef Soenil Bahadoe, one of the most renowned chefs in the Netherlands.

• Tribeca (two stars) in Heeze, near where we live just south of Eindhoven. We tried to get in here once, but they were booked out weeks in advance.

• De Treeswijkhoeve (two stars) in Valkenswaard.

MEERHOVEN

Where should I look for an apartment or house?

The major expat community is Meerhoven, just north of Centrum and conveniently adjacent to Eindhoven International Airport, which connects to about 85 destinations from Lisbon to Moscow.

Here’s updated info from some of our earlier real estate posts:

• Waalre is great if you want to live close to the International School of Eindhoven or the High Tech Campus. But get ready to pay a minimum of 2,000 euros for a house or apartment within biking distance. And here’s the thing … I BEGGED rental agents to show me units here. Crickets ….

• In the city center, I liked Anna van Egmondstraat in De Bergen quarter. There, you’ll find a former school converted into very cool homes, but units rarely come up for rent. Still worth watching for. The neighborhood around it includes some of the best restaurants and shopping.

• Also in the city center, apartments in the Lichttoren (the Light Tower) are highly prized. This is a former Philips factory that’s been repurposed into loft apartments, a big restaurant call Usine (“factory” in French), Igluu, a very cool shared office space complex and the Inntel Art Hotel. Lichttoren’s location next to the main commercial/retail areas and two blocks from the train station make it the place to live. But again, not that much comes up on the market.

• Son en Bruegel are two villages on the north side of Eindhoven that flow into one another. They’re sort of comparable to Buckhead in Atlanta … elegant homes and lots of restaurants and shopping. There’s an IKEA store as well as other big-box stores in a large retail development on the edge of Son. But this is the high-rent district.

• Nuenen – This village where Van Gogh lived is just northeast of the center of Eindhoven. And it’s a very desirable place to live. This rental market is all over the place, from tiny apartments in not-great new complexes to mid-century modern homes to lavish old estates. Get ready to pay premium rental rates. We looked at a huge, glorious house in Gerwen on the east side of Nuenen for 2,000 euros. Highly recommended if you can pay the toll.

• A lot of the villages on the outskirts have more affordable housing, because most people want to be close to the center of Eindhoven. You might try Heeze, Leende and Maarheeze if you have a car.

Gerrie Royakers at Best Intermediair was a godsend for us. When other realtors wouldn’t return our calls or respond to emails, Gerrie and her colleagues showed us two great houses in the same general area … one in Leende, and one literally a mile away in Leenderstrijp. I met Gerrie’s partner at the big Eindhoven “I’m Not A Tourist Expat Fair,” so this is a very expat-friendly firm.

We also recommend:

• Khalid Mrabet at HousingXL

foto

KHALID MRABAT

Khalid and his team were there for us, showing me some nice units, one of which was a finalist. He and his colleagues were incredibly kind and cooperative. Like most Dutch people, Khalid speaks absolutely beautiful English and other languages.

 Hans van Gennip at Rots-Vast Eindhoven.  

Though we never met in person, I feel like I know Hans, because he’d call every day checking on how it was going, and making suggestions. Hans was super responsive and diligent about sending me options. Just by bad luck, none of the units he had allowed pets, and we have two dogs. But I was rooting for Hans just because he’s so dang friendly and diligent.

Otherwise, housing is expensive and hard to find for three reasons:

• Students pour into the city to go to TU/e.

• Expats are coming from all over the world to work for the tech giants and they can afford nice places.

• Most of the housing in Eindhoven was built decades ago as worker housing. It’s tiny, and most of it goes to Dutch people – even middle-class people – as subsidized housing.

The center of the city is pricey, but not London expensive. If you’re coming from, say, Berlin or Paris, the nicest apartment in Centrum might run you 3,000 euros compared to 5,000 euros. That said, it’s difficult here to find affordable mid-range apartments much over 100m2.

For example, a 1-bedroom in the Witte Dame, one of the coolest industrial loft apartments in the city, will cost you 1,575 euros per month for 62 meters2!  Ouch!

If you’re coming from India or China, rents and housing prices are much higher here.

If you’re coming from the States, uhhhm, get ready for a major lifestyle adjustment. We sold our 1,700 square-foot apartment in the best neighborhood of our medium-sized American city for about $310,000. Here in Eindhoven, a comparable apartment would be 500,000 euros. At least.

All that said, there are cities around Eindhoven where you can find more affordable houses if you’re buying, and perhaps cheaper rents.

Transportation

Unlike Amsterdam, Den Haag and other large Dutch cities, Eindhoven doesn’t have trams or subways. It has buses, which are pretty reliable, though drivers go on strike from time to time because their working conditions suck. (How long can you drive without taking a potty break? Apparently, it’s eight hours here.) You can jump on a train and be pretty much anywhere within the borders of the Netherlands in 90 minutes. Driving here is also pretty easy compared to, say, Amsterdam. But be forewarned … there are plans to turn the Centrum into a no-car pedestrian zone sooner rather than later. An idea we like depending on how easy it’s going to be to get to parking areas around the center.

There are some quirky things you should know, like you have to stand in front of bus stops with your NS card clearly visible to the driver to get buses to stop.

By the way, if you’re coming from somewhere like Turkey or New York where taxis are affordable, forget it here. Taxis are insanely expensive. Round-trip from the train station to Nuenen and back – about 15 miles, but considered a separate city – will cost you about 50 euros. And while Uber is here, it’s not really a thing.

Bikes

Many, if not most, Eindhoven residents ride bikes as their main mode of transportation, as well as for recreation. So, here and in all the Netherlands, there are three intersecting streams of traffic to watch out for when you’re driving – other cars, pedestrians and bicycles. (If you’re out in rural areas, add horses, wagons, livestock and farm equipment to the list.)

At some intersections, bikes have to yield or have their own traffic lights. But there are many intersections where they have the right-of-way. So, you have look both ways to make sure bikes aren’t coming.

With the increasing adoption of electric bikes, bikers in the city can be almost as fast as cars and can come at you out of nowhere. And they do, because as a population, Dutch people have little-to-zero situational awareness. They walk/ride/drive right out in front of you because this is a nation that assumes everyone else is watching out for them. And they are, because it’s the law. And it works. But it takes a LOT of getting used to.

Last word: Give bikes the right away even when they don’t have the right way because if you’re driving a car and hit a bike, it’s your fault. End of story.

Cool stuff you probably don’t know, and would never suspect

• Pull up your Google map and put your finger on Eindhoven. Then look at where you are …. an hour and change from some of the coolest cities in Europe including Düsseldorf and most of the Rhine-Ruhr mega-city, Brussels, Maastricht, Aachen, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and Antwerp. This is quick-trip heaven. And even better, you can jump on a discount flight at Eindhoven Airport and be anywhere from Moscow to Malta in few hours.

• This is a crazy story, but the equestrian center of Valkenswaard (Falcon Village) is just south of Eindhoven. It’s home to Dutch equestrian champion Jan Tops, who runs his Longines Global Champions Tour empire from his stadium in Valkenswaard, not too far from where Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica has her horse farm.

• Not surprisingly, Valkenswaard is sort of the Beverly Hills to Eindhoven’s LA, a place where the rich live in quiet anonymity. Bill Gates was here this summer looking at the Frits Philips 30 million-euro mansion, as was Bruce Springsteen. The Boss really likes Antonio’s Pizza here and shows up from time to time.

• Parts of Amsterdam and Rotterdam can be pretty sketchy. Gangs from the Balkans descend on the Netherlands to steal the bikes. But there’s so little violent crime here that the local newspapers tend to blow up every little thing. Fight at the train station? Front-page news! That said, don’t leave your laptop or any electrical device in a car. We found out the hard way.

In Eindhoven, even the thieves here are high-tech.

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