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

I worry about the cold winters

foto: Robert Oosterbroek

It was love that brought Sanna to Utrecht, and he certainly doesn’t regret it. He’s only been in the Netherlands for a few months but already knows lots of people. He has friends of various different nationalities, most of whom he met through his work for HEMA and in the Taalcafé. He’s obviously met all his wife’s friends too, and knows people from his days as a guide in Gambia. Sanna recently discovered that someone he was at school with also lives in Utrecht. “It’s great to have someone from your own country so close-by.”

Sanna is keen to integrate into Dutch life and already feels Dutch: “I know a lot about the culture, and I’ve been to loads of places in the country. In fact I’ve even tried on the national costume in Volendam and worn clogs!” To Sanna’s mind, the biggest difference between the Dutch and the Gambian culture is the social side. “People in Gambia are much more open, you can just chat to people you’ve never met before on the streets. People are more insular in the Netherlands.” The other thing that is new to Sanna is the train. Luckily, his wife has shown him how the railway system works, and otherwise he bikes or goes by car. Sanna biked in Gambia too, but he’s much quicker in the Netherlands; asphalt is a much faster surface than sand.

The only thing he can’t adjust to is the weather. “You never know what it’s going to do”, says Sanna. “My wife’s downloaded a few weather apps and shown me how they work, so at least I can see how cold it is and if it’s going to rain. I’m worried about the cold winters though. We don’t have them in Gambia. I’m fine with twenty degrees, like it is now, but my hands already freeze onto the handlebar when I bike to work in the mornings.”

Leaving his family and friends in Gambia and saying farewell to his culture was a big step. “You just have to keep going. In life, no-one knows what’s going to happen next”, says Sanna. He had to leave his last job. In Gambia, he worked in the Parks and Wildlife management department in Abuko, studying birds and giving guided tours. Later on, he worked as a guide in Senegambia, which is where he met his wife. Once he’s mastered the Dutch language, he hopes to do something similar in the Netherlands. Next year he intends to start classes, improve his Dutch and find a job that suits him better.

Name: Sanna Manneh
Place of birth: Faraba Banta, Gambia
Age: 29 years
Motto: ‘Discipline, hard work and success’

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.

Click here to view the other articles.