Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
‘I was doubly proud during the Tour: proud of France and Utrecht’
“This is what I’d say to exchange students thinking of coming to Utrecht: watch out. Before you know it, you’ll have been here for twenty years!” Karine Berard laughs. The Française has never regretted her decision to spend eight months studying economics and management in the Dom city twenty years ago, where she rented a room on Amsterdamsestraatweg. “Isn’t that where everyone starts out?”
After a few years living in a village close to Tilburg, she moved back to her beloved Tuindorp, where she later moved in with her boyfriend Mark. They live in a neighbourhood with several ‘Francophiles’ who got very excited when they first heard Karine’s accent. Mark is the one who signed her up for Allemaal Utrechters: ‘Karine is just as proud of Utrecht as she is of France!’
“True”, says Karine. “I noticed it most strongly during the start of the Tour de France in 2015. I was proud of France because the event was so well-organised, and I saw how great the pictures from the helicopters were. Utrecht looked stunning in the French newspapers. I thought: yes, that’s where I live!” Karine will never forget those days. “I was at the Tour presentation, I stood next to Dom Tower for the stage through the city and I was right at the start for the time trial. My mother rang me: ‘You’re on TV!’”
Karine has seen tourism boom in the city since then, and all for the best. “There’s so much more on offer now.” She never gets bored. “Mark and I just wander around and we always find something nice or interesting to do: the cinema or a pavement cafe. I love all the concept stores too, like Hutspot and the little shops on Twijnstraat. I used to go to Paris for that sort of stuff. The old city has such a good vibe; picture it without the cars and you could be back in the Middle Ages.”
A modern painting of Marseille hangs on the wall above the kitchen table. It shows a harbour and a mountain: the view from a real café, explains Karine, who comes from Marseille. She was having lunch there with her mother and uncle in 2004 and noticed the painting. ‘Oh, I love that’, she said, and next Christmas, her uncle gave her copy. “It goes everywhere I do. It reminds me of home, although to be fair, Marseille is in the lift just like Utrecht. Something’s changed every time I go. It’s nicer. I feel like a tourist in my own country these days.”
For the past five years, she’s worked for international company that employs other French people, which gives her plenty of opportunity to speak her native language. “We switch back and forth between Dutch, English and French.” The main topic of conversation with her French colleagues is food. “It’s inevitable – we’re French”, explains Karine. “We used to talk about the things we couldn’t get here in the Netherlands; whenever I went to France on holiday, I came back with a car full of products. But you can find most things here nowadays, so we tend to talk about how much we enjoy it instead.”
Name: Karine Berard
Place of birth: Marseille
Date of birth: 25-02-1975
Motto: ‘Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt. The world belongs to the early-risers’
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.
Article by Fenna Riethof.