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

“I make sure that every day is special

foto: Sterre ten Houte de Lange

Life is great if you really live it. These are the words of wisdom that Karen Martines brought with her from Honduras. Karen: “Life is great if you can enjoy the little things. A nice meal or a joke with your cousin.” Karen’s Dutch family-in-law share this mentality. “They came from a poor background, but they’re now affluent, happy, positive people, who still enjoy the little things in life. They get more pleasure from playing traditional Dutch games like musical chairs or apple bobbing than from a state-of-the-art telephone.”

Karen met her husband Marco in Honduras nine years ago. He was working in the same building as Karen, and she noticed him straight away. “Good-looking guy, blue eyes, tall, pale skin. I remember saying to my colleague: wow, that’s one hot gringo! At first, we had to communicate by making drawings and gesturing. He didn´t speak Spanish and I didn’t speak English. It was quite a challenge!”

Marco stayed in touch when he returned to the Netherlands. After five years of e-mailing each other and meeting up once a year, Karen caved in and moved to Deventer. “Marco would have been seen as a rich foreigner in Honduras and we’d have had to build a high wall around our house to be safe.” Karen worked hard learning the language. She went to classes three times a week, studied for five hours a day and went to work in a Mexican restaurant so that she would meet more Dutch people. “It wasn’t my dream job, but my colleagues were kind and patient so I learned a lot from them.” As a result, she has a slight ‘country’ accent, which she’s proud of. “Dutch is a difficult language, but if something’s difficult, I say to myself: it’s still new now, but it will be much easier in a few months and then I’ll be able to look back and laugh.”

After a soft landing in Deventer, Karen and Marco moved to Utrecht last January. “It’s such a romantic city. Deventer is lovely, but it’s not very big. It’s so much easier to meet people in Utrecht. Dutch people and foreigners. There are a lot more foreigners here than in Deventer.” Karen enjoys dancing with them. She’s noticed a big cultural difference when it comes to partying. “In Honduras, a party means lots of dancing and a bit of drinking. It´s the other way around here: lots of drinking and maybe a bit of dancing. I tried to fit in with this at first, having a few drinks and sitting still, but it didn´t go well. Let´s say there was quite a bit of crying and being sick… So now I´m myself again: lots of dancing, very little drinking.” She likes to listen to Honduran radio at home. “I make sure that every day is special.”

Name: Karen Martines Aguilar
Place of birth: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Date of birth: 11 June 1988
Motto: ‘If life presents you with lemons, make lemonade. If life turns its back on you, fart.’

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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