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

It wasn’t all that warm, but the pavement cafés were packed

Foto: Robert Oosterbroek

Ruben Ramos arrived in Utrecht as a PhD student in April 2014. He’d just finished a Master’s degree in genetic metabolic diagnostics and was working in the lab in Lisbon. “I started reading papers written by Prof. Nanda Verhoef-Duif, a well-known authority in my field, and decided that I wanted her to supervise my PhD. That’s how I ended up in Utrecht.” He now works for her research group in the UMC, studying genetic defects in human metabolism.

During his first week in Utrecht, Ruben found himself strolling around the city at 5 o’clock one Saturday afternoon. It was spring and the pavement cafés were packed. “It wasn’t raining that day, but we’d had a spell of rain the days before. It wasn’t particularly warm either. But the city was heaving with people drinking beer outside. You wouldn’t see that in Portugal. It was great, and I remember thinking ‘I could get used to this’. I like the way that this major city actually feels quite small.”

Ruben isn’t sure that he’ll ever feel completely at home here. “I miss Utrecht when I go back to Portugal to see my parents. But when I’m here, I miss my parents and my old friends. I think I need my friends and family around me to feel really at home. Luckily, I’ve made some great new friends and I’ve never felt lonely.”

Bless you

Soon after arriving from Portugal, Ruben signed up for a Dutch course. “This was my thinking; I want to live here, so I need to learn the language. It was so difficult! I passed the course, but I hardly ever use it. As soon as someone notices that I’m fumbling in Dutch, they immediately switch to English. I’ve never really had to try.” The first words that Ruben learned were the Dutch for ‘bless you’ and ‘thank you’. “I arrived in hay fever season and couldn’t stop sneezing. All I heard all day was ‘bless you’, so I politely replied ‘thank you’.”

Ruben lives in a building near Galgenwaard, which is also home to lots of other PhD students. “I live on Rubenslaan! Not many people can say they live in a street with their own name.” He hardly ever cooks during the week. “I often get a take-away from Saowapa; I love their food.” If you ask Ruben what he thinks about the food in the Netherlands, his answer is politically correct: “Let’s just say that I miss the Portuguese cuisine. I like stamppot, but unfortunately, you only eat that in the winter.”

His PhD research project is due to finish in April 2018. He’s not sure whether he’ll stay in Utrecht after that. “I’m still on contract for my job in Lisbon, because I’m on a sort of sabbatical. If it were up to me, I’d love to stay in Utrecht, but I’m not sure that I can.”

Name: Ruben Ramos
Place of birth: Évora, Portugal
Year of birth: 18 April 1984
Motto: ‘Always be kind and think positive thoughts

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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