“I feel at home in the Netherlands.”

Manizha Kodirova comes from Tajikistan. Four years ago she came to the Netherlands for love, where the openness and directness of the people appealed to her. Now she feels so much at home that she has applied for a Dutch nationality. In Museum Speelklok in Utrecht on 21 August it's time: she receives the papers for her Dutch passport.

'I originally come from Tajikistan. I went to secondary school in Prague and subsequently went to Sweden and Germany to study Economics. I've been living in the Netherlands for more than four years now. I work in Utrecht as a communications expert. I feel at home in the Netherlands. The people, the culture – everyone is straightforward, which is absolutely the way I am."

Large family
'In Tajikistan you are not only close to your immediate family, but also to your cousins, aunts and uncles. My family lives all across the world, but we stay in contact with one another. We hold large parties. If someone is getting married, everyone from across the world goes there and wants to know everything about each other.  Although it costs me a lot of time and money, I travel back regularly to Tajikistan to visit my family. It is also typically Tajik to want to know everything about one another – how you are doing, how your husband is doing, when you are going to have children. You care for one another and think about one another often. In the Netherlands this happens as well, but on a smaller scale, with the immediate family.'

'When I came to the Netherlands, I once again had to start getting to know people and building a new life. Because of my hobby – I dance the Argentine tango – I meet many people. I have also made friends at the Language Café Utrecht. In this café you get together every Wednesday evening to practise a language together. I wanted to improve my Dutch and maintain my level of Swedish. I now have a large social network. If you really want to and you try your best, it's easy to broaden your network. It helps to be a bit extraverted in order to really integrate – don't just study for your civic integration examination, but also go outside and talk to people.'

'The naturalisation process took a long time. But the IND made it clear what to expect. That helps with planning the different steps.' On 21 August it's a fact: with the papers in her pocket – proof of Dutch nationality, with which you can apply for a Dutch passport – Manizha goes out for drinks together with her friends. By bike, of course: 'I am pleased with the cycling culture. I did not believe it initially, but you really need a bicycle in the Netherlands. When I arrived here, my friends already told me: "In the Netherlands your bicycle is like a limb, you cannot go without it." It feels that way now too.'