Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“Sirtaki is a little bit of home in Utrecht”
It’s the late nineteen-eighties. A 19-year-old Dutch girl and her friend are on holiday in Cyprus. As they walk into the Pussy Cat disco, they’re approached by the owner, a 33-year-old Cypriot complete with moustache and Afro. With a heavy Cypriot accent, he says to the girl: “We are going to get married.” The 19-year-old girl was Marianna Tringis’ mother. Now 20, Marianna laughs and says: “I still don’t understand why my mother didn’t run off screaming, but they went on a date, and I’m the result!”
Marianna grew up on the island of Cyprus. After leaving secondary school, she worked as a barista in a coffee bar on Cyprus, where they have a serious coffee culture. “Many Cypriots go straight to a coffee bar after work and stay there until midnight.” But Marianna’s mother wanted her to go to university. Marianna chose to train as an English teacher at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, close to her Dutch family in Lopik.
“I love the English language. It’s international and I feel comfortable with the type of people who teach English. I think education is in my blood. I even pretended I was a teacher at nursery. I came to the Netherlands to train because they teach good didactic skills here.” Finding somewhere to live in Utrecht before she arrived turned out to be impossible. “I spent six months trying from Cyprus, but if you can’t come and introduce yourself, you don’t stand a chance.” So Marianna spent the first two months living with her aunt in Lopik, which was far from ideal.
“I rang my mother in despair and she put me onto a rental agent, who helped me find my current place on Nicolaasstraat. It was love at first sight, both the house and the district. This is the best part of the city. It’s less hectic than the centre, there’s a lot going on culturally in the museum quarter, you’re close to the canal which is great in the summer and you can get everywhere on foot.” Marianna would rather walk than cycle. “I’m not used to these narrow streets. All the streets on Cyprus are wide and everyone drives everywhere. I must admit that I miss my car. And the mountains and the sea.”
It took Marianna six months to adjust. “Although Utrecht is an intimate, beautiful city, I missed the island culture where everyone’s welcome, and we all know each other and say hello. In Cyprus, people simply stop their car in the middle of the road to have a chat. The concept of being anonymous in a city was new to me. I like it now; you don’t have to engage with anyone if you’re not in the mood.”
Marianna already speaks fluent Dutch. “I always spoke Dutch with my mother, and English and Greek with a Cypriot dialect with my father. I still practise my Greek by reading books and going to eat at Sirtaki, the Greek restaurant next to the Dom. The staff are Greek so I can speak Greek all evening if I want. That’s what makes it a little bit of home in Utrecht.”
Name: Marianna Tringis
Place of birth: Larnaka, Cyprus
Date of birth: 28 February 1999
Motto: ‘Minimal effort, maximum outcome’
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.