Attracting the right calibre of personnel to live in a new location can be as important as factors such as infrastructure quality and access to markets. And with a cultural scene that includes museums, theatres and arts academies, as well as events such as Japan Day – a celebration of Japanese culture on the banks of the Rhine – not to mention the longest bar in the world, Düsseldorf has real pulling power.
Expat workers and their families are also wooed by other soft factors, such as the city’s promise of good educational opportunities, including a number of leading universities, as well as easy access to two international airports. In fact, a survey by expat network InterNations shows that the city ranks fourth worldwide in terms of quality of life and career opportunities. More than 12% of employed residents in the city hold foreign citizenship, a total of 46,000 people.
International workers often comment on the city’s open-mindedness, and report that the people of Düsseldorf are generally easy to get on with. Keen to foster this welcoming approach, the city's authorities have set up the Expat Service Desk, which offers information and advice to foreign professionals and their families as well as SMEs on living and working in the city of Düsseldorf and the wider district of Mettmann. As well as providing this initial information, it acts as a hub for networks and institutions such as government agencies and departments, international schools, expat organisations, international associations and investment promotion agencies to support expats in dealing with regional authority partners in areas such as professional qualifications and careers, social integration and aspects of everyday life.
The Expat Service Desk also supports employers with an international workforce in areas such as the recruitment of international specialists, official procedures and professional development and qualifications.
“We have more than 80 staff who have relocated here from around the world so far, from the UK, Croatia, Australia and Canada to name but a few,” says Jason Muller, global manufacturing director for cosmetics company Lush. “When we announced that we would be opening a central European manufacturing unit in Düsseldorf, there was no shortage of staff interested in the possibility of relocating. The facilities are fantastic for us.”
Hans Van Bylen, chief executive officer of adhesives specialist Henkel, agrees. “We find it easy to attract talent – from Germany as well as from abroad – to come to Düsseldorf. The city is home to a highly international community, offers attractive places to live and several international schools as well as a vibrant cultural life. I'm constantly impressed by the diversity of art and culture in the city,” he says.
Michael Reinartz, an expat from Austria and a director of innovation at Vodafone, is also complimentary about the city. “Düsseldorf is often referred to as ‘the city of small distances’. One of the real advantages for frequent travellers like me is that it’s easy to access the airport by car and public transport,” he says. He adds that when it comes to weekends, there is plenty to do with the family within a short drive.
Meanwhile, the city’s education system offers something for everyone, including kindergartens, and local and international schools that are praised by many expats for being on a par with what is available in other international cities. The Japanese International School, for example, is highly regarded by the many Japanese expats living and working in the city.
Rolf Schrömgens, one of the founders of tech company Trivago, says: “We feel at home here. It is no coincidence that Düsseldorf is a city with a high quality of life.”