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

I never imagined that there was a country where I would fit in so well

(c) Bas van Setten

Nikola is a programmer and ultra-marathon runner (he ran 221 km in 24 hours, for example, a Belgian record). Although these are two totally different things, they both revolve around balance, which is an important theme in his life. Nikola wants to keep challenging himself. His aim is to run two marathons a year, anywhere in the world. The exact venue depends on his training schedule. In 2017, he signed up for a marathon in Utrecht, because it fitted in nicely. “I saw pictures of Utrecht on Google and thought it looked beautiful, but once I’d run the marathon, I was in love. It was like a dream! I ran through beautiful countryside and tiny villages outside town; picturesque and friendly. I came sixth and at the finish a man asked what I thought of it. I called out: ‘Gorgeous, I’d love to live here!’ and a few months later I was approached through LinkedIn with a job offer in Utrecht. I’d still love to know who that man was.”

Leaving Croatia wasn’t an easy decision, despite his budding love of Utrecht. “Everything was going well there, and I was afraid to leave. I’d have to prove myself all over again”, says Nikola. He found it particularly hard to say goodbye to Medvednica, a huge mountain close to Zagreb. “I’d won several races on that mountain. They hold them once a month at five in the morning and I’d run thirty in a row. I had to give up that streak.”

When Nikola weighed up the pros and cons, he realised that the reasons for coming to the Netherlands far outweighed his reasons for staying on Croatia. “I never knew that I could fit into another culture so easily: the Dutch are so broad-minded, direct, slow to judge and so good with money. You’re very organised and efficient. People in Croatia are very different, they’re still broken by the war. I want to learn how I can help people in my country to improve their way of life.” The move has opened Nikola’s mind even further. He’s become more transparent and more accepting of other people’s views. He says he’s more helpful than he was too. Nikola is constantly surprised by how friendly people are in the Netherlands. “If I go out on my bike, I sometimes stop to get something or for a quick bite to eat. Complete strangers ask me whether I’m okay. That’s just great.” Nikola thinks that the world would be a better place if more people took the Dutch culture as an example.

However, Nikola isn’t sure if he’ll spend the rest of his life here. “I live life day by day. I’m happy at the moment, but I love my own country too. It’s where my roots are.”

Name: Nikola Horvat
Date of birth: 5 January 1980
Place of birth: Croatia
Motto: ‘Live for today and be grateful for what you have’

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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