Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

– article by Annabel van Heesbeen

My move to Utrecht has made me a better person

“Public transport in the Netherlands is brilliant! The rail system is amazing! Very few delays, fair prices and the staff are so friendly. I can’t think of anything bad to say about it.” Darina’s enthusiasm is infectious and it’s difficult not to smile. “Some Dutch people just love complaining. But this is one of the best countries in the world. Everything is almost perfect, from the food to the opportunities to develop.” Darina’s advice to the moaners: try living in another country for a while and you’ll come back happy.

“When you’ve only ever known one culture, you have a limited perception of the world. Moving to another country broadens your horizons. My move to Utrecht has made me a better person. I’ve learned so much and I now look at my problems differently. The move has taught me to look at people, listen to what they’re saying and stop thinking in terms of stereotypes.”

Six years ago, Darina was asked if she was interested in a job in the Netherlands. The offer was a godsend. Having travelled throughout Europe for her work and spent long periods living in various countries, Darina gradually concluded that instead of moving around on one project after another, it was time for her to put down roots. Given the choice between Amsterdam and Utrecht, she chose Utrecht where she immediately felt at home. The city reminded her of her home town in the Czech Republic: Prague. Both have an inner city bursting with history and lots of parks. Darina is a huge fan of the Botanic Gardens on the Uithof, which she considers unique.

Chocolate slice at Bond & Smolders

As Darina was keen to move abroad, she made things easy for herself by trying not to compare everything with Prague. “The first big shock was that the shops here aren’t always open. Most of them close at 18.00, when I’m still at work. But I quickly changed my schedule because I don’t like things to annoy me.” Darina bought a small apartment in Zuilen. She likes all the green space in the area, and the fact that all her favourite shops are within hitting distance: the greengrocer for fruit and vegetables, the cheese shop and Praxis DIY store (“Oh, I love that shop!”). Finding a shop that sells fabrics was a trickier task, but after a Google search, she found the weekly Lapjesmarkt market, which is where you’ll find her on Saturdays.

Another Saturday haunt is Bond & Smolders, where she happily tucks into the cakes and patisserie. The chocolate slice is her absolute favourite. This is where Darina learned to speak Dutch; the staff helped her find the right words and were very patient. These days, Darina brings her boyfriend Stuart. She met the Irishman at work and he moved in with her last year. At Bond & Smolders, they call them the love birds. Darina laughs: “See? Love really can come to people over forty!”

Name: Darina Kalinova
Place of birth: Krnov, Czech Republic
Date of birth: 8 January 1974
Motto: ‘Live and be happy, learn, listen and respect’

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.

Click here to view the other articles.