A Venezuelan in Utrecht
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Jenny is from Maracaibo, Estado Zulia, in Venezuela. It’s called “La tierra del Sol Amada” (the land loved by the Sun). This is because they have +35C all year round.
She arrived with her husband five years ago. Her mom, dad and three sisters live in Venezuela. She first lived in Eindhoven before moving to Utrecht. Jenny is a Chemical Engineer and works as a Quality Management Specialist in Rotterdam.
Jenny has a personal blog called Tourist Mode On: Chronicles of a Tourist
What brought you to Utrecht?
My husband and I had always wanted to live abroad. In 2013 we were finishing our postgraduate studies and thought it was a good opportunity to start looking for opportunities abroad. We felt it was time for a change, we had already been working for five years in Venezuela’s chemical industry. My husband found a PhD position at Eindhoven University of Technology. We received our master’s degrees in December 2013 and in February 2014 we were on a plane to The Netherlands.
Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?
I like the Máximapark. It’s close by where we live, only a 5 minute bike ride away. I love that we can do many things there. Usually during spring and summer we go for bike rides in the afternoon after work. I discovered the Vlinderhof garden and I enjoy it a lot, it’s nice for taking pictures and to relax. Inside the park there are a several places we like to visit, such as, the Castellum Hoge Woerd, the Maximus Brewery and Anafora Park Restaurant. So, after bike rides there’s always a place where you can stop for a coffee or a beer. The park is also close to the Haarrijnseplas, which is another of our favourite places in Utrecht.
Does Utrecht inspire you?
Yes, it does. What I’m most inspired to do is take pauses, to take a look at my surroundings and enjoy the moment. There is this peaceful dynamism that I haven’t experienced before anywhere else. For example, being in the city centre close to the Oudegracht you’ll see the busy streets, everyone walking or riding their bikes. It looks pretty busy, but there is always someone, somewhere taking a cup of coffee in a terrace, or sitting in a bench along the canal, enjoying the day. In the middle of the chaos of the city, there is a place to stop and consciously breathe.
What would be a perfect day in Utrecht for you?
First, it would be a sunny day! And one of those rare days where there is no wind. So, I could take my bike and not have to fight my way through. I go in my bike to the city centre, take a cup of coffee in one of the terraces while reading a book. Then I would walk along the canal and visit some of the shops. I would make a visit to one of the city’s museums. I would stop for a glass of wine and borrel in one of the bars. Then head back home.
What is the main difference between the Venezuelans and the Dutch?
I would say that Venezuelans are very happy and positive people. Although we have lots to complain about, we’re above all grateful for what we have. We first express gratitude for the good things we have, then we reflect on what’s not so good. We always make jokes at life, however difficult or unfair a situation may be. Also, we consider other people’s feelings and we usually don’t say things directly to people unless completely necessary. We appreciate being kind before being direct. We believe there are some things better left unsaid.
Do you miss anything about Venezuela?
I miss mostly my close family: my mom, dad and my sisters. I also miss a lot my closest friends, but they are also no longer in Venezuela. Like us they’re expats living all around the world. From the country itself and my city specially, I miss the sunny days, which were most of the days. I miss that any weekend we could go to the outdoor swimming pools or we could take a short trip to any of our beaches. I was (naturally) tanned all year long.
Do you think there is a Dutch way of life?
Yes, I do. I think the Dutch way of life is about being balanced. Work and family. Sports and fun. Also, the Dutch way of life is about being practical, not getting complicated about details or minor things.
Do you think you fit in to the Dutch way of life?
Yes, I do. I think the Dutch balanced lifestyle is something that I needed and didn’t know that I did. In Venezuela our lives spun around school and work. Being the best, as students and professionals, was the number one priority. That was what people saw and judged first. Here I’ve learned to take time for myself and my hobbies. Also, although sometimes it still shock me, I’ve learned to be practical about many things. If a solution works it works, there is no need to try to make it “perfect” if in the end the result may be the same.
Do you know many Venezuelan expats in Utrecht or do you make friends with the Dutch?
No, we know just a few Venezuelan expats in Utrecht. We haven’t made many Dutch friends. We mainly make friends with other expats, but I think it’s because we have more things in common. We have friends in Utrecht that are expats, but from other countries. I think it’s difficult making friends with the Dutch if you don’t speak the language. We have a group of close friends of about ten Venezuelan expats but we’re in different parts of The Netherlands: Eindhoven, The Hague, Haarlem and us here in Utrecht.
Do you think the Dutch could learn anything from the Venezuelans?
Sure, maybe just as much as the Venezuelans can learn from the Dutch. But the truth is that the best way is to learn by experience. Just like I learned about a balanced and practical life by living in a country that reflects these principles. Dutch people may learn about gratitude and joy if they were to live in a country like Venezuela, where that may be the only thing that keeps you going day-to-day. Maybe they could learn many more things, but they would be best to judge on this.
Will you be staying in the Netherlands?
Yes, we feel that we can make a long life here in The Netherlands. Nevertheless, we also think that in a few years we’d like to explore living in some other country.