Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“Today I became an official Utrechter“
Barbara Schröter (29) is a brand-new resident of Utrecht. She arrived yesterday, picked up the bike she’d found online this morning and came to the interview straight from city hall, proudly waving a municipal envelope. “It’s official!” An external organisation had made appointments for her to register as an expat and immigrant today, but something went wrong. She was originally told she’d have to wait another week, but luckily for her, the woman at the desk was prepared to make an exception.
“People here are so kind; I’ve been in Utrecht looking at rooms for the past few weeks. One day I discovered that my purse had been emptied. Not long afterwards, I got a Facebook message from a guy who works in a bar called Tilt. He’d found all my cards on a table.”
Barbara is from Austria. She came to the Netherlands to start a new job in the chocolate and confectionary company she works for. In 2010, she moved to Italy to do a Master’s degree, planning to go on a trip around the world once she’d finished. But her internship company offered her a contract in Berlin. “Having seen how many of my friends couldn’t find work, I’d have been mad not to take it.” So instead of a year, she went travelling for four months. “It was long enough. I can go again once I retire!”
Friendship and coffee
Barbara has high expectations of life in Utrecht. Everything is modern. “Certainly compared with Italy. They don’t like it if you try to pay for a coke with PIN there. On the other hand, everyone here seems to be glued to their smart phone; it’s much nicer just to talk. But I guess it’s useful to be able to arrange stuff online.”
Like finding somewhere to live, which she’s now managed. Yesterday, Barbara moved into a house on Oudegracht near Ledig Erf with seven housemates. They ate together for the first time. Potential friends, as she puts it. She’s learned from experience that living in the same house is a good basis for a close friendship. But she thinks she’ll have to be patient. “Friendship doesn’t come for free here. The Dutch are friendly and polite, but aren’t immediately interested in making friends. Italians call each other friends after just one evening, but it’s usually superficial and doesn’t last. It seems to take a long time before you ‘have’ someone here, but then you get to keep them forever.” Age is probably an issue. “I’m nearly thirty. People of my age don’t go out on the tiles as much, or they’re thinking about starting a family.”
She’s going to be busy for the time being: back to Berlin for her last day at work, learning Dutch, finding a dentist, going to Meneer Smakers a couple more times and getting to grips with the Utrecht coffee scene. It’s very important in Austria. “You have these traditional coffee places in Vienna, where the waiters wear white shirts. Artistic people tend to be regulars. It’s different again in Italy; you drink espresso eighty percent of the time, but never after lunch. If you do, they know you’re a tourist. People drink coffee all day in the Netherlands, don’t they? I’m glad I’m here.”
Name: Barbara Schröter
Date of birth: 19 July 1987
Place of birth: Steyr, Austria
Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.