Birgit Veskioja - a practice for internationals

Anyone starting their own business faces a lot of hurdles. And it’s even more difficult if you come from another country and you don’t know all the rules, conditions and facilities. That’s what Birgit Veskioja found out as she was setting up her own practice in psychology, which recently opened its doors in Maastricht. With the help of resources like the Business Contact Point (BCP), the StartersCentrum Limburg, and the Holland Expat Centre South (HECS), she found her way. ‘I was surprised that there was so much information available.’  

Soon, Birgit Veskioja will be taking her state examination in Dutch. The Estonian psychologist wants to be able to speak the language, now that she’s decided to stay in Maastricht with her partner. But her practice, International Psychologist Veskioja, operates in English. ‘I’m focusing on the international community in the city,’ Veskioja explains. ‘For expats and their families, it’s the first year in a new environment that is the most difficult. It’s normal for people to feel isolated, and that’s especially true for the partners who travel with the expat. I know this myself, because I’m only now starting to feel really at home in Maastricht, even though I’ve lived here since 2015. What I offer in my practice is help for people with psychological and personal problems. I work with individuals and also with families.’

Translating

When she started setting up her own business, Veskioja had the advantage that her partner is from Maastricht. ‘A lot of information on websites is only available in Dutch. My partner was there to help me with collecting and translating it all. In the beginning, what I mainly needed to know is how the tax system and the healthcare system in the Netherlands work. I had a lot of help from the Starterscentrum Limburg in figuring that out. This center offers a lot of assistance, like meetings and workshops in English. And not only that, but I could just walk in to them.’

Beyond that, Veskioja started working on her network right from the beginning, in a number of ways. A big help their was the Business Contact Point Maastricht, which serves people starting and running their own businesses, and the municipality’s account manager international institutes. ‘It was great to see that the municipality is so easily accessible. BCP also pointed me towards the activities of the Holland Expat Center South. I attended a few of their Catch-Up events, where I got to know a lot of new people and learned right away how the municipality works.’ 

Platform

Veskioja was surprised about how much information there was available for internationals in Maastricht. ‘It would just be nice if there was a platform where expats could exchange their experiences. There are a lot of separate initiatives, but the cohesion between them is not always clear. It’s also really important to expats for the municipality to communicate in English, particularly on social media. Because in my experience it seems that almost all internationals use Facebook for all their questions, comments, and sharing tips.’

Veskioja’s practice has now been open for a year, and the Estonian has found her place. ‘For my social network, what the HECS provided was indispensable, and for practical information about doing business I learned a lot from the BCP and the Starterscentrum. Now my business is growing, step by step.’