Expats on the ice in Veldhoven

ASML employees and their international colleagues took to the ice during Friday’s Echt Veldhovenz on Ice for Expats event, organised by the local chip manufacturing company and VVV Veldhoven.

When you move to the Netherlands, there are lots of new experiences to enjoy. Part of the integration process is learning what Dutch people do for fun, what they talk about, what they eat. Opportunities to participate in local, typically Dutch activities can be valuable for expats, and that’s what took place on Friday at the temporary ice-skating rink in Veldhoven’s De Plaatse.

Ice-skating, stamppot (Brabant’s version of hutspot), and curling (although there is some debate over whether it originates in Flemish Brabant or Scotland) are just a few elements of a typical Dutch winter.

Mayor of Veldhoven Jack Mikkers, opening the event, spoke about the importance of feeling ‘at home’ for expats. "We like that you come to work and live here in Veldhoven. Many young, skilled workers arrive in the Brainport region and we hope they’re here to stay. Alongside excellent working opportunities, the chance of finding a partner is also higher in the Netherlands. Which all in all is also beneficial to the companies compared to the high investments needed and there is a positive spin-off for the whole region. Therefore we promote and support events like these", he added.

VVV Veldhoven is also working on initiatives to welcome expats. Among others, they offer Special Host Services and Welcome and Family Tours for expats.

A diverse group of ASML employees strapped on their hired skates, with sizing expertly organized by ASML’s event management team (led by Ingrid de Roos) to ensure everyone had a fitting pair.

A fifth of the 125 people in attendance had ice-skated before, but for most it was their first time.

Yesterday’s evening offered a little more warmth and comfort than your typical ice-skating session out in the cold, sitting on the frozen grass to strap on your skates with no facilities in sight!

Finding your balance on two narrow strips of metal can be quite tricky, and how do you push yourself forward on slippery ice?!

Hojjat, originally from Iran, didn’t have high expectations. His only goal was to "not break anything", adding that he thinks it’s most important to have fun.
Stefano and Lisa, from Italy, started the evening with a bit more confidence having skated in the past.
"It is like skiing", added Antonio, also from Italy.

Anxiety was evident in the eyes of Indian employee Preethi. "I’ve seen it before but I’ve never tried it myself", she said, putting on her blue skates and stepping bravely onto the ice with her friends. She could even see the romantic side of it. Losing balance and maybe fall into the arms of a guy?

First-timers were offered a clinic, and courageously made their first rounds on the rink. Slowly but surely, many internationals picked up on the Dutch art of skating.

Coming off the ice, Hojjat says it was a "very strange feeling" to wear skates. He enjoyed it, though, and says he would repeat the experience.
Preethi, looking much more comfortable with her shoes back on, said "Your feet just don’t listen to you! But there were experienced people from the ASML ice-skating club who advised to hold your knees bent, and how to keep your ankles".
Another employee commented: "My opinion of Dutch people is that they are easy-going and careless. I was wondering how they can do something like this without breaking a leg. Now I know myself. I’ve learned much more than expected. I’d like to try it another time".

The second phase of Friday’s Dutch experience was eating a typical, old-fashioned local meal. Employees could choose from different types of stamppot (wortelstamppot, with mashed potato, carrots and onions; boerenkoolstamppot with mashed potatoes and curly kale; and zuurkoolstamppot with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut), with sides including gehaktbal (meatball), worst (sausage), and speklap (bacon slice). Plus, of course, a large helping of gravy. Unfortunately, vegetarians couldn’t enjoy this particular delicacy!

With full stomachs, and perhaps the courage for another new experience, everyone was introduced to curling by the Netherlands Curling Team.
Three enthusiastic young members demonstrated tricks and movements for pushing the 19kg granite stone over the ice and into the circle, as close as possible to the dot. While the rock is sliding, people sweep in front of it to control the speed and path of the stone as it slides towards the ‘house’ (circle). It was important to pay attention here, as a curling match was planned for later as well as a prize awarding ceremony for the winning team.

Asked what could compare to ice-skating in their home countries, expats had interesting responses. Adelina thought trekking, a typical activity in her native Romania, was a good example. Alex from Russia told us about ‘bandy’, a kind of ice-hockey popular in his country. Mihir from India compared the Dutch familiarity with the ice to his own with elephants. "I am very comfortable with the large animals. I know them, I can deal with them, I can control them", he said.

So, ice-skating is like riding an elephant! Once you learn at a young age, you never forget it.

Irene M
Pictures courtesy of Mathijs Jansen

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