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

In the Netherlands, it’s okay to go to work or a nightclub wearing a pair of old jeans

foto: Jantine Albers

“It’s so relaxed in the Netherlands”, sighs Didier. “The people are so relaxed, even in what they wear. It doesn’t have to be smart, just comfortable. It’s even okay to go to work or a nightclub wearing a pair of old jeans. In Chad, we have dress codes.” Another thing that Didier finds relaxed about the Netherlands is the fact that he’s free to do what he wants and go where he likes – this is very different for him in Chad. In Chad and several other African countries, Didier is a popular poetry slam artist (otherwise known as Croquemort), and he can’t walk around outside without people wanting to talk to him.

Didier explains that a dictator has been in power in Chad for 29 years. “Nobody in my country is happy with the situation. We’re in the middle of an economic crisis: the dictator and his family are rich, the people are poor. Chad has 100 million cows, but we import milk from the Netherlands where they have 1 million.” Didier is an activist, but demonstrations are banned in Chad. “So I write protest music instead. I haven’t had any problems yet, because I’m an artist”, says Didier. He also organises slam festivals, where slammers from various African countries can get together.

Didier originally came to the Netherlands to carry out PhD research at the University Medical Centre Utrecht. He was performing in Leiden in December when he discovered a down-side. “I’d never been so cold in my entire life. I’ve learned to wear warmer clothes now”, he laughs. At the performance, Didier met someone who advised to apply for a grant. In Chad, he’d already been working on a device to help people who have contracted a particular infectious disease. Didier: “The disease itself is easy to treat, but many areas have no local hospitals.” The system he is currently developing uses technology to enable people to be diagnosed at home and have the right medication delivered to their door.

Didier doesn’t know what he’ll do next year once he’s finished his research. “I’ve learned a lot from living in so many different countries. Each country has its own reality. I want to see the world, but I’ve fallen in love with the Netherlands.” The only thing he found difficult at first was the language. Things were easier once he’d mastered English. “Life is so much simpler here. I like being able to bike everywhere, the cost of living isn’t too high and you have nice beer! I’m not sure I’d feel quite as at home in another European country. The French, for example, are much more competitive.”

Didier is sorry that he hasn’t got know his neighbours better in the Netherlands. “I only ever see them when we pick up parcels that have been delivered. I knew everyone living in my district in Chad, even before I started performing. They saw my success as their success.”

Name: Didier Lalaye
Place of burth: Pala, Chad
Date of birth: 6 January 1984
Motto: ‘I want to make sure that everyone in Chad can lead a good life.’

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.

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