New team members Monique Kostons & Sybille Steinert10 January 2023
Expat Centre Maastricht Region has welcomed two new team members in recent months. Sybille Steinert and Monique Kostons bring vastly different areas of knowledge and expertise together with the intention to further facilitate and develop the expert expat and international services that the Maastricht Region provides.
Sybille: 'I am an expat. I have lived in the Maastricht Region for 13 years, despite the fact that I am “only” from Germany, I have also lived in Spain and in the United States. I think I have a similar experience to many other expats. I am here to fill in the need and the questions the expats have, and being in the same boat as they are, I can do that with a lot of knowledge and experience.'
Monique: 'I have effectively been working alongside Expat Centre Maastricht Region for 5 years and it’s not that I’m an expat, but I have seen it on the sidelines and I find it always very interesting. The job vacancy came by, and I thought “now is the chance, take it”. My background is in Human Resources (HR). I have always worked in HR, and then I started working for Servicepunt Grensoverschrijdende Arbeidsbemiddeling (SGA), a service that facilitates the cross-border labour markets of the Euregio Meuse-Rhine area in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. From there, I learned more about Expat Centre Maastricht Region.'
What are your roles specifically within Expat Centre Maastricht Region?
Monique: 'We are both Hospitality Coaches. We are there to help any questions which come up from expats who live in the Maastricht Region or who are looking to move here.'
Sybille: 'We want to facilitate highly-skilled migrants and their families who are coming to the Maastricht Region. This makes it more engaging, not only to work with new employees themselves but also with their spouses and their children. Their living needs, finding a home, finding childcare, finding school, finding a badminton club. Where they can go for a specific need. Taxes, administration, whatever pops up. Just being there as the first point of contact for help and guidance.'
How do your roles differ?
Sybille: 'Monique brings expertise from SGA, which also makes it easier when working from that perspective. We can also refer to her colleagues in that area. The inside knowledge she has helps a lot. However, the idea is to have similar roles, where we can complement each other and work together as a team.
Expats are reassured when I tell them I am from Germany as we have a better understanding of each other. They recognise that I have been through the same situation, albeit a long time ago, so I can always relate to them.
However, there are areas where Monique’s knowledge and expertise is greater than mine, and it is also important to have a “native” on staff.
What are your goals at ECMR? What do you hope to achieve?
Sybille: 'The general mission is to be welcoming to everyone who is moving to the Maastricht Region, and if we can’t help directly, then we can put them in contact with the right person, the right department or the right organisation. It can be overwhelming when you are moving to a new country to realise, I don’t know who I have to contact? Our general mission is to be welcoming people coming from abroad and to listen carefully, if they have positive or negative feedback and to facilitate with our Programme Partners, with Gemeente Maastricht and the Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (IND). We are building up our new team, so we are yet to define more specific goals, but I see that in the future we can offer more events where we can offer more information specifically. To engage within the Gemeente about what the needs are of expats.'
What is your biggest challenge?
Monique: 'I would love to think that our biggest challenge is to find connection between expats (their family members), employers and the residents of Maastricht. In which we have good cooperation with each other and empowering individuals and keeping them together.'
Sybile: 'To have satisfying replies to the 1001 questions and needs from our expats. The ones who still live abroad and decide about emigrating to the Netherlands, the ones who just arrived, the ones who struggle here with daily life issues which might be totally different handled in their country of origin.'
Do you have some tips for new and prospective residents of the Maastricht Region?
Sybille: 'Join every group you can find. Facebook group or Meetup group. Not only can we help you but expats who already live here can help too. The expats themselves are the experts. There are many groups, for internationals in Heerlen, for expats near Maastricht, for residents in Sittard-Geleen. I am a member of many of the groups so I can learn about what specific needs are, what the questions are. Sometimes we help, and sometimes others help.'
Monique: I think it is important when you come here to see your surroundings. Go for a walk. Check out the city where you are living, or the village, what do they offer? What kind of cultural events are there? Is there a small café? What’s on the menu? Just see how you can involve yourself in the community where you are going to live.'
What are your views on learning Dutch?
Monique: 'It may be useful. Not that you have to speak it fluently, but please try to understand it.'
Sybille: 'Yes and no. I have seen a lot of expats who live in the Maastricht Region and get along fine without learning the language. However, they do notice that they don’t feel as close to the community as they could do. You can definitely survive without learning Dutch, but do you then feel at home?
When you do try to speak Dutch, insist that others speak Dutch back to you.'
What are your hopes and intentions for 2023 for your new roles at Expat Centre Maastricht Region?
Sybille: 'I think that ECMR is a good mirror to show us what is happening in other countries such as Iran, Ukraine, Russia etc – for us to customise our services to their specific needs. I see a lot of potential challenges and developments for what we offer. The more that you get involved in our job the more you see potential for the future.'
Monique: 'I am looking forward to becoming more acquainted with Expat Centre Maastricht Region and find out more about how I can work together with and for expats who live here and those who are considering moving here. I am excited to meet our future neighbours, colleagues and friends.'