Lately, I’ve been thinking about my move to Utrecht from Amsterdam. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the Netherlands, Utrecht is a smaller city about 20-30 mins from Amsterdam. Utrecht also just LOOKS like a mini-Amsterdam.
When I moved to the Netherlands in 2019, I moved to Amsterdam because it was what made sense at the time. I had also spend a few summers in Amsterdam before I moved, so it felt a little less unfamiliar than what moving to a new city in a new country can feel like.
Maybe that’s what made the inevitable decision to move to Utrecht more difficult for me emotionally than it should have been. I love living in Utrecht now, but there were times before when I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the city.
I am from New York City, and as you might know, NYC is HUGE. Other than New York, I’ve also mostly only lived in other big cities in the US like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. This was mostly why I wasn’t sure about moving to a new, much smaller city.
But that’s not all. Amsterdam is SUCH a cool city— it was really hard for me to think about not experiencing what the city has to offer every day. I love the museums in Amsterdam. I love the cafes and restaurants. And of course, I just love the vibe.
That said, there were some clear downsides that made it so that living in Utrecht was a much better option for me at the time. The biggest downside of living in Amsterdam was that I would not be able to afford a proper one bedroom apartment in a location I liked on my salary alone. My girlfriend Sara, who is Dutch, wasn’t due to move back to the Netherlands until months later.
How the fuck was I supposed to pay 1600 euros a month plus utilities on my own? There are only so many organs I can sell to cover that rent.
So a few months after living in a temporary apartment in Amsterdam, I moved away before I could get used to living there. It’s when I found out that moving within a foreign country makes the whole moving abroad thing so much harder.
I had to start from scratch because the connections that I had started to make in Amsterdam now no longer lived a few minutes away from me. I knew no one in Utrecht, and had not experienced the city in the same way and I had come to know and love Amsterdam.
Slowly, I started to discover some of things that are important for me to form a relationship with a place. Although I can be without good friends somewhere for a while, as long as I have nice colleagues and some people I can hang out with from time to time, I don’t really feel comfortable in a place without my favorite cafes, parks, restaurants, theaters, etc.
I told you, I’m a city person. And by that I mean I LIKE THE CITY ITSELF.
Turns out, it really does just take time to get to know a place well. I’ve had this experience when I’ve moved before, but this was my first time moving to another country PERMANENTLY as an adult. I’m going to carry the lessons I learned during this move from Amsterdam to Utrecht along with my move to the Netherlands in general with me for the rest of my life.
In the last three months, I’ve fallen in love with Utrecht. I’m very lucky, and I was able to get an apartment in the city center. The city center of Utrecht, is absolutely gorgeous.
Every day when I leave my apartment, I cannot help but be amazed at how beautiful everything is around me. The city center of Utrecht is OLD and drop dead gorgeous. It is also really lively since there are many stores that people like to visit. There are also a decent number of tourists visiting the city.
The center of Utrecht, despite being absolutely wonderful, is quite small. And for a long time, I didn’t think of leaving the center since there are many things to discover in that small space as well. I think that was a good move for me in the beginning since I do like getting to know the neighborhood I live in.
But I do think that I really started to see what the city has to offer once I started getting to know the other neighborhoods in Utrecht (which I wrote about in my post on three of my favorite neighborhoods in Utrecht!). I know what you’re thinking, I probably should have done that sooner—and I agree—but what I didn’t realize is that living in the center of a city would maybe lead you to see LESS of it, not more.
What I missed in Utrecht at first was the feeling of walking from one end of the city to another and experiencing a different vibe along the way. I only started seeing the different kinds of neighborhoods when I actually started spending more time in them.
I know that sounds like a painfully obvious thing to say, but in my very weak defense, I work in another town so during the week, I wasn’t actually in Utrecht a lot. The one good thing that came out of the coronavirus situation was that now I had more time to spend in Utrecht, even though the city isn’t quite itself during these times.
One of my favorite moments in Utrecht was when I discovered Wilhelmina Park. It is really pretty, and the neighborhood around it also a nice mix of young families and students. I found myself quickly connecting to the feel of that neighborhood. And last Thursday, when Sara and I were lying there on the grass next to a pond, I felt truly happy.