Long Journeys in Short Records - facilitating cultural dialogue
Slovenia has long hosted refugees from the Western Balkans. Many came during and after the Yugoslav war. In recent years, other regional and global crises have implied a shift in the countries of origin of the people seeking protection in Slovenia. This has triggered different challenges, particularly in terms of cultural awareness.
“We hope the booklet can offer an insightful way to become more familiar with the Slovenian culture and society. After all, the stories and anecdotes gathered have one thing in common: they aim to foster intercultural understanding,” says the #Mi2/#Us2 project team, composed of Ajda, Baran, Erazem, Eva, Sirak, Tija and Veronika under the mentorship of Maja Murn, Slovenian Red Cross Senior Migration and Tracing Officer.
To enhance mutual understanding, young Slovenian Red Cross volunteers saw a need to counter the fear of the “other” associated with people on the move. Together, they started the “#Mi2” or “#Us2” project, funded by the European Solidarity Corps, to foster intercultural awareness and support integration. Through individual interviews and focus groups, they collected stories of people who left their countries and are now living in Slovenia, as well as testimonies from members of the host community. Volunteers talked to migrants from different cultural backgrounds and with varied reasons for migrating. The objective was to stress the richness of diverse cultural habits and to increase familiarity between people on the move and the local population. The booklet does not claim to be representative; through anecdotes, it aims to show how cultural habits can lead to – sometimes funny – misunderstandings.
In addition to these stories of misunderstandings and cultural nuances, the booklet provides brief information on migration-related topics such as resettlement, relocation, family reunification or the Dublin system within the Common European Asylum System.
The booklet was launched during a press conference in which the project team introduced their work. The digital booklet available in all Slovenian libraries.
The stories are accompanied by explanations of various cultural habits which differ from one country to another. For instance, participants share personal experiences on common ways to say no to an offer in different cultural contexts, how the concepts of timing and punctuality can be perceived differently, or how much Slovenians like to complain.
To support the social inclusion of migrants and the local population, this project seeks to promote respect for diversity and to fight intolerance, prejudice, and discrimination. Enabling migrants to become actors in the integration process can benefit the community at large. The booklet offers easily accessible insights to support intercultural dialogue. Red Cross staff and volunteers, as well as other frontline actors, can use it in their work with people from different cultural backgrounds to strengthen social cohesion.
“After all,” as the project team says in the foreword of the booklet, “applying cultural values to a new cultural context tends to bring possible clashes due to mismatched assumptions and expectations. But there are also plenty of opportunities for enrichment.”