Burgemeester 10-jarig bestaan Expats Utrecht Facebook Community
Toespraak burgemeester Jan van Zanen
Utrecht, restaurant Speys Jaarbeurs, 8 maart 2019
Thank you, Darla.
Also the City of Utrecht is home to many inspiring and talented women. This is certainly worth mentioning on International Women’s Day. And Darla is indeed one of them. Initiator of the Expats Facebook Community. It has already been a decade ago.
She came to Utrecht to be with someone she’d fallen in love with. When the relationship came to an end, her love of the city remained. Originally employed as a nanny, she has been adopted as the ‘nanny’ of all internationals in the city.
Just imagine: About 28.000 internationals currently live in Utrecht. The Facebook community currently boasts 21.000 members. Which community manager doesn’t dream of reaching such a large percentage?
You might wonder why this community has proven so successful. It’s naturally due to the best efforts of Darla and her volunteers. But also because our neighbours and colleagues are the most reliable advisers on all matters concerning daily life in our region. Particularly in digital form.
There is a surprisingly large number of people who know exactly how to answer your questions, because they have experienced the same issues themselves, for instance in finding housing, schools, healthcare, sports clubs or just the best local shop or pub. I even spotted a post advertising a ‘free Spanish open class’.
The person in question also quoted a good reason for learning Spanish: You’ll be able to shout all your secrets aloud on the streets of Utrecht, he claims. I have my doubts about that, though. Because, I recently started taking Spanish lessons in preparation for the arrival of La Vuelta in 2020.
Moreover, increasing numbers of internationals are settling here in the city. For example, due to international companies setting up business here. Recent research commissioned by the Economic Board Utrecht shows that the number of internationals settling in our region is set to increase by 7% annually until the year 2030. In recent years, the number of international students rose to 3.700, an increase of almost 40%.
And around an amazing number of 170 nationalities are currently represented in the City of Utrecht. The common factor uniting all these people is that they have to adapt to life in a different country. They encounter practical, social and psychological obstacles in the process. We plan to open a regional International Welcome Center in the City Hall later this year. In order to serve you more adequately and swiftly.
The International Welcome Center Utrecht Region will then replace the current Expat Center. The change of name, extension of opening hours and recognisable location, should make the International Welcome Center accessible to a broader international target group in the region. For all kinds of formalities, such as municipal registration and to pick up IND residence permits. But also to acquire information there about housing, education and care.
This is the sort of hospitality Utrecht likes to extend to newcomers. And the Facebook community is an indispensable addition to this service. Its membership of 21.000 is a clear proof of its value.
Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the community. Enjoy the party and a brand new video about you, and Utrecht.