Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“Home is anywhere we’re together“
His grandparents moved from India to Malaysia to secure a better future for their children; in turn, his parents moved from Malaysia to New Zealand for the same reason. Sudhan has lived in various places around the world: Malaysia, New Zealand, the United States, Curaçao and the Netherlands. He moved to the Netherlands when he was accepted for the Master’s programme in Sustainability Science and Policy in Maastricht.
While writing his thesis, Sudhan met his Dutch partner. “It was his dream to live and work in Curaçao. I had to make a decision: I was ready to put down some roots, but Prince Charming doesn’t come knocking at your door every day. My partner said: ‘Home is anywhere we’re together’. And he was right: what’s the point of a career without loved ones in your life?”
Sudhan worked on a lot of interesting projects in his field during their time in Curaçao, but after eight months, the couple decided to return to the Netherlands and settle in Utrecht. And they’ve never regretted it. “We wanted to live in a place where we would feel at home. This city has some lovely restaurants (we enjoy eating) and I love walking or running alongside the water. It might seem more logical to move to Amsterdam where there are more jobs requiring English, but it’s such a busy city. Utrecht is a nicer place to live.”
Sudhan is also pleased that the airport is so close. “You can travel to all kinds of places relatively quickly and cheaply. My Malaysian family don’t feel so far away.” This was totally different in New Zealand, when he always felt a long way from everywhere. Sudhan: “My parents had two houses in New Zealand: one close to the university and my sister’s job, and one close to my school and my father’s workplace. It was an eight-hour drive from one house to the other.”
According to Sudhan, Utrecht is definitely getting things right in terms of sustainability: “The city is in the lift and Utrecht is the home base for lots of businesses promoting sustainability.” But there’s still a long way to go. Sudhan still sees a lot plastic being used and discarded in the bars, restaurants and shops of Utrecht. “They should be working together. A lot of that plastic could be recycled”, he says.
Sudhan has an ability to connect people. He’s only been in Utrecht for two months and he’s already met lots of people and attended several meetings. He’s not had much luck finding a job yet, but he’s putting his time to good use. He spends two days a week helping in Betsies Kookwinkel, which is helping him to learn Dutch. He’s also taking Dutch classes, has started a YouTube channel with cooking videos (Cooking with Sudhan) and has signed up for as a volunteer for Duurzame Week (Sustainable Week).
“I’m an extravert and I love meeting people who share my ideas. I also like to challenge myself, step outside my comfort zone. For example, I recently went to a meeting where everything was in Dutch. It was a bit scary, but I just took a few deep breaths and got on with it.”
Name: Sudhan Balakrishnan
Date of birth: 28 May 1989
Place of birth: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Motto: ‘Time is the most valuable asset in life, and it’s important to spend it with loved ones.’
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.