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

Leidsche Rijn is a cocktail of Friesland and my village in Taiwan

Ying-I Huang – foto: Marlot van den Berg

“That text’s rubbish.” These were the first words that Ying-I Huang (36) ever spoke to the tall, blond man who would later become her husband. They were in the queue for the Rijksmuseum and she was referring to the words printed on his bag. The characters were Chinese, but upside down. Ying-I comes from the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan. Not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China, one of many countries that refuses to recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Ying-I often see mistakes in Chinese characters, even in tattoos. “I only said something because I fancied him.” The student of Dutch Language and Culture, who had been living in the Netherlands for four years, then gave this ‘Frisian god’ a guided tour of the Dutch masters.

The De Boer home is in Leidsche Rijn. They moved there from Friesland with their daughter in 2007, partly because Ying-I found Friesland boring. To her mind, the district is a cocktail of Friesland (green and spacious) and her own village (a concrete jungle). Everything she needs is within hitting distance. “Shops, hairdresser, station… old city to the left, countryside to the right.” She doesn’t agree with critics who say that Leidsche Rijn has no soul. “The buildings have no history, but the ground does!”

The couple love walking over this particular ground, especially Máxima park. In the basement of their apartment complex, they have two full-size scooters and around ten bikes: folding bikes, city bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes… “A neighbour thought that some moron had parked in our space!”, says Ying-I. “We’ve become a bit obsessed.” Ying-I likes biking between the Italian poplars on Rijnkennemerlaan, which runs past their building. “The path is four kilometres long and takes you to the Haarrijnseplas lake. I sometimes go for a drink at Key West Beachhouse in the summer – it’s like being on Bali.”

The home front

“We complement each other nicely”, says Ying-I about her Frisian husband who works for the council. “Taiwanese people tend to be emotional like Southern-Europeans. He’s very down-to-earth and keeps me calm.” He may be down-to-earth, but all the Buddha and yoga stuff in the room is his. “Surprising, huh? He was into Buddhism before we met. It’s great – I learn a lot from him.”

They don’t have a dining table: it’s an Asian thing. And their home inevitably smells of Asian food. Ying-I isn’t impressed by the Dutch sandwich culture. “I always take my own lunch to work.” But they enjoy eating out in Utrecht too. “Saigon on Voorstraat has a great veggie menu!” And if you like wine (as Ying-I does), there’s Lefebvre wine bar on the Neude. “I once had the most incredible South-African dry white there. They’ve taken it off the menu now, but I still order it online.”

She’s sometimes homesick for real Asian food, but not for Taiwan itself. “I go once or twice a year. I filmed my home village recently to show friends where I come from. Just like Leidsche Rijn, isn’t it?’, I say.” Ying-I stays in contact with her family via WhatsApp and Facebook. “The world is much smaller these days.”

Name: Ying-I Huang
Date of birth: 31 January 1981
Place of birth: New Taipei City, Taiwan
Motto: ‘Carpe diem: seize the day’

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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Article by Fenna Riethof.