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

Utrecht needs to get its house in order before developing any further

He used to live in the centre of Copenhagen, in a 752m flat with Scandinavian wood trim and oodles of natural daylight. On his arrival in Sumatrastraat, Utrecht, in 2005, he found himself in a dingy student flat measuring 182m belonging to the infamous ‘slumlady’ Ms Chang. He paid the same amount in rent as he got for his luxury Danish flat. His younger flatmates came round to cry on his shoulder. ‘What am I doing here?’ he asked himself.

Martin Boisen (35) graduated in urban geography in the Danish capital before embarking on a Master’s degree abroad. One of his professors recommended Utrecht University in preference to the London School of Economics; better teaching, he was told. But it was a Dutch girl he met on an exchange trip to Istanbul who finally tipped the scales.

That girl has been his partner for the past thirteen years, and his eega since they married seven years ago in the Dom Tower. They now live in a former school building in Pijlsweerd, which they renovated to suit their own taste. Scandinavian-style obviously. As few walls as possible, a mezzanine and an open kitchen. It was still a ‘yuppie colony’ in 2010 but it’s much more diverse nowadays. They couldn’t believe their luck when a branch of Bagels & Beans opened! It was the first of many trendy new places, including the Muzieklokaal, one of Martin’s regular haunts.

Work in progress
Martin lectures at the University of Groningen and works as a self-employed consultant; he develops future visions for cities and regions, from Oslo to Rio de Janeiro and from Vianen to South-Limburg. He studies the direction cities are heading in, finds out what the residents need. Having once examined Utrecht himself, Martin thinks that the main issue for the city is: ‘What does Utrecht not want? Tourists from Amsterdam flitting in and out, for example.

Martin would like to see Utrecht get its house in order before developing any further: put the finishing touches to the area around the station, improve the range of cultural activities and upgrade the district connections. “Give these projects higher priority so that people see Utrecht as a developed city rather than work in progress. But I’m optimistic about the future.”

The bureaucracy is another bone of contention. It’s far less troublesome in Denmark. Martin’s wedding in Utrecht was nearly postponed because of the length of time it took to get proof that he hadn’t been married before in another country and a copy of his birth certificate, which had to be translated in Leeuwarden. Not to mention healthcare insurance and double taxation. “EU citizens have the benefit of very few restrictions, but the pain of having to deal with badly informed civil servants.”

Martin loves Utrecht, and may never leave. As an urban geographer, he often wanders around admiring the ‘historical façade structure’. He shuts his eyes when he gets to TivoliVredenburg: “The back end of the city, a building that belongs in a provincial town.” But all the traditional old buildings, the Weerdsluis, the water towers and the enclosed cloister gardens more than make up for it. And then there are the Jelling Stones on Domplein, donated to Utrecht by Denmark in the 1930s. The monument reminds Martin of his late father, who discovered the runestones during his first visit to the Dom city in 2005. “It was quite amazing, and one of my fondest memories of my Dad in Utrecht.”

Name: Martin Boisen
Date of birth: 16 December 1981
Place of birth: Copenhagen, Denmark
Motto: ‘What you see depends on what you’re looking for’

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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