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

Wittevrouwen reminds me of Santiago when my father was young

Foto: Bas van Setten

His wife signed him up for Allemaal Utrechters as a joke. ‘He’s a real ambassador for Utrecht’, she said in her e-mail to DUIC. Francisco laughs. “She’s serious. I’m passionate about the city.” He felt a chemistry he’d never felt it in London, Amsterdam or Tilburg the very first time he came to Utrecht for a festival on Ledig Erf in 2010. “In a weird way, it was like coming home.” All those people, the friendly atmosphere. This is where I want to live, he thought.

So he left the ‘far from beautiful’ city of Tilburg, where he had spent years studying, and found himself sharing a house with mice on Amsterdamsestraatweg. His Dutch housemates were of much the same age (29) and ‘adopted’ him. They became firm friends. Francisco commuted back and forth to Rotterdam, where he works as a lecturer at Erasmus University and conducts research into family businesses. Every year, he spends a month to six weeks with friends and family in Santiago, the capital of Chile, his country of origin. He continues working while he’s there.

Santiago is located in the mountains. You don’t have to ask Francisco whether the unpredictable, cold climate in the Netherlands bothers him as a South-American; when he lived in Chile, he often ascended to chilly heights of several kilometres, winter or summer. Mountain-climbing was his favourite hobby, and Francisco misses it. He also misses being close to the ski slopes and the natural beauty, by which he doesn’t mean a park or a ditch with water. It’s the vast expanses of Chilean nature he misses.

Excursion to 020

He wouldn’t swap the quality of life he’s found in Utrecht for Chile though. “I love all the events here. At the moment, there’s an International Chamber Music Festival, for example. There’s a lot more going on in London and Amsterdam of course, but it’s so difficult to get anywhere. Here in Utrecht, I just jump on my bike. Not that I go every week, but it’s nice to know that I can if I want to.”

He and his wife Sanne live in Wittevrouwen. It’s a nice neighbourhood, he says – the feeling of community reminds him of the stories his father told. “He used to talk about his childhood in Santiago, where they played with water pistols on the streets. I thought that only happened in the villages these days, but you see it here too. Wow!”

Francisco describes Sanne as someone who would rather have stayed in Amsterdam. When they met, she lived in a large apartment close to Vondel park. Reluctantly, he left Utrecht to move in with her (“It was either that or a house full of mice”). But as far as he was concerned, it was only ever a temporary arrangement. Two years later, Sanne found a job as a psychiatrist in Utrecht and Francisco persuaded her to swap Amsterdam for his beloved Domstad. Francisco jokingly comments: “It was a traumatic experience for her, but I don’t care!” He laughs. “Now I understand why she signed up for Allemaal Utrechters.

Name: Francisco Urzua
Date of birth: 18 June 1981
Place of birth: Santiago, Chile
Motto: “My motto? I can only think of quotes from the film Kung Fu Panda, but I think I’ll leave it at that.”

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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Article by Fenna Riethof.