16 - 22 Settembre, Roma

Italy is a country of kind people. But do we know how to create win-win relationships with foreigners?

My Journey as a Refugee in Italy

As a teenage Afghan refugee living in Italy, I would like to share my experiences with others. Over the past two years, I have faced a series of challenges that have made it difficult for me to cope with the fact that I had to leave my homeland, where I had cherished memories. The reason for our move to Italy was my father’s former military service in Afghanistan, which posed a constant threat to our safety.

Our decision to relocate was abrupt, leaving me unprepared mentally and unfamiliar with the country and its language. Despite the difficulties, I believe it’s important to shed light on the experiences of refugees like myself.

The Struggles of Adaptation

After moving to Italy, I didn’t encounter direct racism or discrimination, but I felt unwelcome in society. It seemed as though I could never be loved or accepted here. Struggling to make friends, I often felt reduced to the label of ‘refugee,’ overshadowed by my problems. These challenges led to the development of severe depression, social anxiety, and a fear of people, compounding my difficulties.

A Glimmer of Hope: The Business Lab Program

However, my life took a positive turn when I had the opportunity to participate in the Business Lab program. Through this experience, I met remarkable individuals who offered me incredible opportunities and changed many aspects of my life. Yet, these positive experiences do not erase the broader challenges faced by refugees living in Italy.

Why Foreigners Struggle in Italy

Based on my observations, there are several reasons why foreigners have a hard time living in Italy:

  • Italians often believe that all immigrants and refugees come to Italy due to economic problems. This assumption leads to the belief that they have entirely different experiences and values, making it difficult to form close relationships.
  • Another common belief is that education in the home countries of refugees is not as qualified as in Italy. This perception creates a barrier to forming close relationships, as it is assumed they do not share the same worldview and logic.
  • Lastly, there is a notable lack of English proficiency among Italians, despite Italy being a multicultural country heavily reliant on tourism.

This language barrier makes communication between Italians and immigrants very challenging.

The Way Forward

In conclusion, it is essential to recognize that blaming individuals and their cultures is not a fair approach. Human evolution has led us to be cautious toward strangers, given our history of living in small tribal communities. Today, our rapidly changing world often outpaces our instincts, leading to numerous challenges.

To address these issues, self-awareness is a valuable starting point.

Recognizing the distinction between logical thoughts and feelings and those driven by inherited instincts can foster understanding and empathy.

Building positive relationships between Italians and foreigners can result in numerous social and economic benefits. Greater inclusion in the workplace can spur creativity and innovation, and considering the needs of foreigners alongside those of natives can lead to fresh ideas that boost the economy. Welcoming and accepting foreigners can also pave the way for international partnerships and collaborations, benefitting all involved.

Mahnaaz Danishyar

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