Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“People make it too easy for me’“
Utrecht locals are often surprised that Chad likes it here. They’re too modest, he says. “The city may not have huge international allure, but it’s not a sleepy Dutch town either. It’s vibrant, and definitely left a good impression after the Tour de France.” When he watched the series The Honourable Woman in 2015, he saw Utrecht in the background. “Yes,” he thought, “I’m going to live there!”
Chad lived in the rainbow nation until 2008. South Africa has eleven official languages, hundreds of dialects and every shade of skin colour imaginable. “I often have to explain that I’m a real South African; I was born and bred there – and I feel South African.” Apartheid is long gone, but there is still a clear social divide within the population. Chad had friends of every race, creed and colour. Life had a western vibe, he explains, but it was also traditional; some of his friends were circumcised at sixteen – they went to a medicine man in the bush and came back ‘real men’.
Chad’s Port Elizabeth on the coast of the Eastern Cape is two-and-a-half times the size of Utrecht and has almost as many inhabitants. The weather was always good, dolphins swam in the sea and Chad played rugby and cricket. He’s misses this life since moving to England at seventeen; his parents wanted to live closer to their other sons and first grandchild. Chad studied geography in London, fell in love and followed his heart to Utrecht in 2015, where he started a Master’s degree. After eleven years working in restaurants (“from 5-star hotels to grotty bars”), Chad finally ended up at Beers & Barrels.
Bikes and festivals
These days, Chad manages Café Brutal beneath the water tower on Rotsoord (“soon to be a second Ledig Erf”). It’s an easy-going Spanish bar, serving wine, beer, cheese and chorizo. “I’m usually on my own because it’s so small. Working in catering is invigorating; perhaps I’ve found my niche.” When he’s not working on a Saturday night, he goes to Mick O’Connells to watch rugby. The 2015 World Cup final is etched in his memory; arch-rivals New Zealand were playing Australia and the bar was on fire. “It’s great that people have started enjoying rugby here.”
Despite missing the heat, dolphins and cricket culture, he never gets bored with Utrecht. He still can’t believe all festivals that go on here, although he’d appreciate more food festivals. “Idea: fortnightly in Twijnstraat!” He likes biking through the city, except during rush-hour. This stresses him out. But then he sees a ninety-year old granny on her bike and pulls himself together.
Chad isn’t one to complain but when pushed … “The locals make it too easy for me! Whenever I try to speak Dutch, they all talk back in English. I don’t have to do my best so my Dutch hasn’t really improved these last 18 months. I feel slightly guilty when I meet other migrants, people from Syria for example, who speak excellent Dutch after just a year. People expect more of them than they do of expats like me.”
Name: Chad Davies
Date of birth: 21 March 1991
Place of birth: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Motto: ‘I don’t do mottoes’
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.
Article by Fenna Riethof.