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

My children cheer just as loudly for Iceland during the World Cup

(c) Bas van Setten

“Dutch birthday parties took some getting used to; sitting in a circle with one piece of cake each. In Iceland, there’s a buffet and everyone just helps themselves. You can eat five pieces of cake if that’s what you want. In this country, you spend your birthday running around after your guests. In Iceland, you can relax. So I do it the Icelandic way, nice and chill”, laughs Helga in the David de Wied building on the Uithof.

Helga first came to the Netherlands in 2001, Groningen to be precise, for a 6-month research placement for her pharmacy degree. A friend introduced her to a boy who invited her to his place to eat hutspot. They’re now married, have two children and their house is under construction on the site of the old cattle market in Utrecht. After graduating, she took a job with an international pharmaceutical organisation in The Hague. Later on, she joined her husband in a village close to Zutphen, near to his work. “I was born in Reykjavik, so I’m a city girl. It was nice and quiet for the kids, but I wouldn’t want to live in a village again. I prefer the hustle and bustle of city life.”

Helga and her husband recently found jobs in Utrecht, so this was a logical place to live. They’re staying in Tuindorp until their home in the Veemarkt is ready. Helga thinks that Utrecht is a great, diverse city, much greener than she’d expected and vibrant day and night because of the students. “A university is so important to a city. It not only creates job opportunities, but also means lots of restaurants and bars.” The Kloek chicken restaurant on Vredenburg is a firm family favourite. They first went there during the spring holiday, when they took the children to see where they’d be living. It was a good move. They love the University museum and the Railway museum, while Plato in Voorstraat is one of Helga’s favourite haunts.

Heaven on Earth

Helga and her Dutch husband ensure that their two sons stay in touch with their Icelandic roots. Icelandic surnames aren’t like Dutch surnames. Your surname is your father’s name, followed by the word for son or daughter. So Gardarsdottir means quite literally Gardar’s daughter (dottir). Helga and her husband tried (and failed) to give their sons the same kind of surname in the Netherlands. “Although they were allowed to take my surname, that wasn’t an option because it would have meant ‘daughter of their grandfather’. So we gave them Icelandic first names instead: Gunnar and Andri. At least this shows that they have a different background.”

Gunnar and Andri are being raised bilingually, go to Iceland to see their family every year, watch Icelandic TV and read their mother’s old Icelandic storybooks. Her sons cheered just as loudly for Iceland as for the Netherlands during the World Cup qualifiers, and now secretly louder for Iceland since Iceland qualified for the first time and the Dutch team went out. Helga ‘obviously’ supports Iceland.

Name: Helga Gardarsdottir
Place of birth: Reykjavík, Iceland
Date of birth: 12 August 1975
Motto: ‘Enjoy every day’

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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