Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“I want to make an effort, because the Dutch make an effort for me too“
Only ten other people living in Utrecht have a Nicaraguan passport and Oscar Mendoza doesn’t know any of them. Every now and then, he hears someone speaking Spanish with a familiar accent. All he does is smile. He supposes he could start up a conversation, “But what would I say?”
Oscar hasn’t been to Nicaragua for nine years. “I miss it – the beauty of the country, my family – but I wouldn’t want to live there anymore. My life is here now.” After graduating in law in Nicaragua, he went to Costa Rica and Panama to visit relations and then spent a couple of years travelling the world before going to Spain to take a Master’s degree. Before long, the Nicaraguan came to the Netherlands for a holiday, and no, not after sticking a pin into a map.
“I made a few Dutch friends while I was studying. They worked in the Dutch consulate and were always really positive about the Netherlands. The political system, healthcare, education; the Netherlands seemed to have its house in order. It sounded attractive, but I never thought I’d move there.”
Years later, after a holiday in the Netherlands, he noticed just how well-organised things were. Particularly compared with Nicaragua, which was gradually emerging from decades of political turmoil. “The tax system here works, the traffic system is efficient: people stick to the rules and show respect for each other. That’s how I want to live”, says Oscar. “A comfortable life.”
John came into Oscar’s life on his third trip to the Netherlands. They had ‘many, many’ dates and have been an item for two years now. They live together in Hoograven. “In a nice street with lots of families. It feels safe and everything is close-by.” Oscar also enjoys the cultural diversity. “There are forty houses in our street, and at least fifteen different nationalities. Everyone speaks Dutch or is doing their best to learn. People are determined to integrate.”
He is also speaking for himself. “I started a Dutch course last summer.” He sighs: “I gave up – it was too much alongside my PhD research. I’ll finish in May 2018, and then it’s back to the language course. I have to, as I won’t find a decent job if I don’t speak Dutch.” He’s already mastered a few phrases: “Goe gaat get?” and “alsterblieft!”
“I want to make an effort, because the Dutch make an effort for me too. They’re kind. It’s the Dutch mentality; freedom and equality are very important – my neighbours notice that too. Obviously you have solidarity in Nicaragua, but it’s mainly reserved for people you know. If you fall off your bike here, someone helps you. Yes, I’m speaking from experience; I ended up on the ground a couple of years ago and three girls on a pavement terrace rushed over to ask if I was okay.”
Oscar intends to stay in Utrecht. And who knows – once he’s learned the language, found a job and feels settled, he and John might even start their own multicultural family.
Name: Oscar Mendoza
Place of birth: Manague, Nicaragua
Date of birth: 26 September 1984
Motto: ‘Live for the moment’
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.