An Englishwoman in Utrecht

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Christine is English and has moved back and forth to Utrecht since her Mum, little sister and step father moved here in the 1980’s when her step father started working for Apple Computers. Her Mum then had her half-sisters in Nieuwegein where her Mum and step father still live.

“I came to Utrecht in 1989, fell in love with Utrecht.”

And of course, who could blame her? She lived here until 2000 when work took her back to London and that was where she met her husband, Toby, who currently runs an Escape Room in Utrecht.

When they got married in 2005, she couldn’t convince him to move to Utrecht, but by the time their kids had started school in 2012, she was becoming appalled by how dangerous the roads were in England and was missing the way of life she had loved in Utrecht; the night life, the bikes, the very civilised way things happened in Utrecht, like Koningsnacht, de intocht, and Tweetakt. She missed the buzz of the city, Christine loved living in London, but

“Utrecht has that perfect mix of family friendly as well as all the sights and sounds.”

So in 2014 they moved to Overvecht, with Toby and her sons Leon 7 and Reuben who was 6, pictured below in a tent!

Christine truly loves Utrecht, it is obvious in the way she speaks about the city. Just last Saturday, she went to the Nacht van de geschiedenis evening at the Utrechts Archive, which is one of her favourite places to go. The theme was opstand. It made her love Utrecht even more,

“I consider myself a bit of an oppositional type, and to walk the streets and hear the talks on all the people who over the years have stood up to stupidity and cruelty in Utrecht.”

Christine loves that Utrecht is unique with its werf kelders, and the rich and diverse history shes learnt about with her sons here at various exhibitions over the years – They often go to the Archive, the University Museum, the Botanical gardens and the Spoorwegmuseum on their bikes with their Museum cards. As she says

“I love that the Dutch are on the one hand, very down to earth and yet there’s a rich vein of creativity. They are tenacious and and are not afraid to challenge the system.  Utrecht is mijn Stadje.”

When ever she brings visitors to the city, in the spring and summer she takes them on bikes for a swim to Maarsseveenseplassen or for a pancake in Amelisweerd, as well as walking round the museumkwartier, or hiring a sloop and seeing the grachten from the canall. Then:

“A meal in de Oude Pothuys, a bierfestival on Ledig erf a film at the Louis Hardlooper Complex, a band in Ekko. There are always things to do and places to see.

Her work in Utrecht is as a calendar coordinator for the International Women’s Contact Utrecht (iwcu.nl) which is an expat group and she volunteers close to where she lives, at Burezina buurtkamer, in Overvecht. She is involved with her community, she is in a Lady’s choir in Utrecht called LadyLa, and they performed last year at gleurenbijdeburen in Utrecht.

She knows a lot of expats from all over the world but she’s also very much involved in the place where she lives. In the 90’s Christine used to work at the Irish Pub, Oleary’s next to the windmill in de vogelenbuurt. Even now she can go in there for a drink on any day of the week and hear someone shout out her name and insult her gently in an Irish accent.

“The Dutch aren’t so different though, I take people as I find them, some people look at you for your status, or judge you by your appearance. If you can get past all that, we are all just trying to do the best for ourselves and our families.”

Interestingly, Christine says

“I actually think the Moroccans and Turkish people I know have a lot in common with the Brits too, they have a strong sense of identity, all with our different types of tea and associated rituals.”

In a beautiful tribute to the city she says:

“There are some really extraordinary people in Overvecht doing really incredible things. It’s a great time to be in Utrecht, and especially Overvecht.”

In Utrecht, as in life it is never too late to learn and Christine is doing just that. Going back to school so that she can give even more back to the Utrecht community.

“I recently passed the 21+ toelatings exam to get into Hogeschool Utrecht and next year I hope to be starting a HBO to become an English Teacher in Middlebaar school.”

She is bi-lingual, as she learnt Dutch in the 1990’s, but after 14 years away, on her return, she was very rusty. She picked up her spoken Dutch quite quickly, but what really helped her with her written Dutch was reading the AD Utrechts Nieuwsblad every day. It is still part of her morning coffee ritual.

To close this part of our interview a paen to cycling in Utrecht:

“I love the cycling, the peculiar lane discipline you need cycling here in rush hour, I absolutely love cycling here. I grew up cycling in traffic in the UK and was pretty fearless for a woman, but as soon as I had kids, that changed. Segregation and special provision in the city like the Fietsstraat are really what makes Utrecht so liveable for everyone of all ages.”

Next time we will look at the problems faced by Christine and her family with Education in Utrecht.

How does your life as an ExPat compare to Christines?

She has flourished in the city, have you?

What problems do you find with integration?

If you are a native Utrechter, do you find that ExPats integrate well?

Tell us your experiences.

Get involved in the discussion.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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