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

I discover all kinds of new places biking to work

foto: Jantine Albers

“The Balkans, which include Serbia, have been through some rough times. This has affected the people and had an impact on my upbringing. You see it in small things: for example, people keep their cupboards well stocked due to years of economic uncertainty”, explains Matija. But this isn’t the only reason he came to the Netherlands. “I was a member of a European study organisation, so I’d travelled a lot and met people from various different countries. I enjoyed this international environment and soon realised that I could learn a lot abroad, so I decided to do a post-Master’s degree at Eindhoven University of Technology.”

In Eindhoven, Matija mainly mixed with other ex-pats. “It’s not easy to integrate and build up a social circle, particularly if you only meet other non-Dutch people. The University offered Dutch classes, which was great, but apart from that I hardly spoke any Dutch. So I instigated ‘Dutch Wednesday’ in my course, which involved doing everything in Dutch on Wednesdays.”

Matija could have done his current job in Serbia too. In fact he would earn a relatively higher salary working there. “It’s not about the money, I’m interested in other aspects. There are pros and cons to every country. Life in Serbia is very different from life in the Netherlands: everything you do, whether it’s arranging a hospital appointment, dealing with the police or finding a job, depends on knowing the right people. This is much better-organised in the Netherlands, everything is digital. The working conditions in my sector (IT) are really quite modern.”

“I never had any doubts about staying here, and neither did my girlfriend, who’s Rumanian,” says Matija. He moved to Utrecht last year and really likes it. “We’ve got a good life here, the perfect balance between sport and culture and between work and home life. The city itself has a great vibe. Everything’s on a small scale, more like a village really. I live in Terwijde, close to nature. Being able to bike to work is an added bonus, I discover all kinds of new places along the way. I just love finding my way around this city, whether by bike or while I’m out running.”

Of course it’s only natural that Matija misses things about his own country too, particularly friends and family. “Luckily Serbia’s not that far away and it’s a relatively easy journey. My girlfriend and I travel to Serbia and Rumania at least once a year, sometimes more, to attend a wedding or some other special occasion. When I’m there and I see people I haven’t seen for ages, it’s as if I’ve never been away. We just pick up where we left off. We’re always there for one another, not matter how long it’s been.”

Name: Matija Lukić
Date of birth: 22 November 1986
Place of birth: Serbia
Motto: ‘Don’t be scared to keep changing and developing; that’s what makes you strong’

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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