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

After my first Meetup gathering, I’d already made a new friend

Serdar (37) would recommend everybody go abroad for a while, as long as you venture outside your comfort zone. So, not France? Well, he happens to have lived in France and while he had a great time there, he’s referring to countries with a different culture. Going there will give you a broader perspective of the world and its inhabitants. “I discovered that a universal logic is hiding underneath all of our personal and cultural differences.”

When he was 13, Serdar spent a year in France, where his father was employed to work on a project. He befriended a Bulgarian boy, and their parents became friends as well. This wasn’t an obvious choice: Turkey and Bulgaria have a troublesome relationship due to their shared past. “In expat circles,” Serdar explains, “everyone is accepting. It doesn’t matter where you come from, and you’re allowed to be ‘different’.” After a year, the family returned to Turkey. Growing up, Serdar attended three primary schools, three secondary schools and one high school in Istanbul, Paris and Ankara (where he later attended university).

His ‘gang’ is diverse. He still sees his Bulgarian friend, as well as his other international friends. Nine years in the Netherlands have brought him a good deal. Serdar registered with Meetup, an organisation that brings together Dutch people and expats looking for new friendships. After attending the ‘Make the most of Utrecht’ meeting in Theehuis Rhijnauwen for the first time – the location has since become his favourite spot – Serdar befriended one of the organisers. He was so impressed by the initiative that he promptly joined the organising committee himself. These days, he’s more involved with InterNations, a similar club that caters exclusively to expats.

Eyes on Turkey

Serdar arrived in the Netherlands in 2008: he was looking for a job as a software developer in Belgium, Germany or Norway, but was offered a position in Maarssen instead. His then-lover was Dutch, so he thought ‘why not?’ and moved to Vleuten. He had a house, a garden, and a girlfriend – four blissful years. As his relationship came to an end, he moved to Terwijde. At his new home near the Croeselaan, his kind neighbour insists on speaking Dutch to him: “Great move on her part, because even after nine years, I haven’t mastered the language.”

He loves the energy Utrecht exudes: it’s both urban and rural. “With eight million people living in Ankara, cars are honking day and night.” When Serdar’s brother came to visit, he said contemptuously: “It’s a bit too laid-back if you ask me.” His parents on the other hand love Utrecht. “When they’re here, they stroll towards Lombok where they can buy food that they know. Incidentally, I don’t want them to keep up with Turkish news.” Why not?

“Politics dominates everything in Turkey: it’s always on your mind”, Serdar says. “That’s no way to live, and that’s why I’m not going back. I’m disappointed: too many Turks are pro-Erdogan, even the brainy ones. They live in a bubble and think everything is just fine, which it isn’t. Many innocent, critical people have been imprisoned, like my father. The situation won’t change quickly, but I remain hopeful.”

Motto: “You shouldn’t take life too seriously 90% of the time; be playful and enjoy the simple things, like sunlight. Take it easy! The remaining 10% of your time is for serious issues.”

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.

Article by Fenna Riethof.