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

Utrecht is quite conservative in terms of gender.

Foto: Bas van Setten

When Maja’s Dutch girlfriend was offered a job in the Netherlands earlier this year, the couple moved from Sweden to Utrecht. The timing couldn’t have been better: they are expecting their first child in November and there are lots of advantages to giving birth in the Netherlands. Maja explains that in the Netherlands, her girlfriend will automatically be the mother of their baby, whereas in Sweden she would have to instigate an adoption process, which would take six to nine months. But maternity leave is better-organised in Sweden, so Maja is taking a degree in Sweden to remain in the system.

These aren’t the only differences between the Netherlands and Sweden. “The Dutch don’t always have soap in the WC!” she laughs, “and there’s not usually warm water to wash your hands either, even in posh restaurants.” But Maja thinks that Dutch people are more sociable. “Swedes can feel uncomfortable if they’re approach by a stranger. ‘What do they want?’, is what they tend to think. Everyone is really nice here”, she says. There’s a big difference between people in the north and the south of Sweden, she continues. The further south you come, the more sociable the people are.

But Maja misses the progressive politics. “It’s a pity that Utrecht is so conservative. Take attitudes to gender, for example, it’s such a shame. There are so many students here; I thought the city would be more progressive and radical. My views make me a radical feminist here, but in Sweden I’m considered fairly moderate. Malmö, where I’ve lived for the past four years, is very questioning. Places where people come to discuss feminist issues are dotted all around the city. I haven’t found anything like that here. Feminism has a different connotation in Sweden: even the Prime Minister calls himself a feminist.”

Maja loves all the cultural activities going on in Utrecht, such as lectures and theatre events. She’s noticed that the bars are different from Swedish bars too, in the positive sense. “In Sweden, there are places where you drink tea and coffee, and there are other places where you drink alcohol. What I like about Utrecht is that you can usually order tea, coffee or beer in any bar. It’s a different sort of cosy!”, she says.

Name: Maja Nylén
Place of birth: Stockholm, Sweden
Motto: ‘To create a meaningfull 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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