HAVING a Sunday lunch with your family is a time-honoured tradition in Slovakia. Yet, this routine might change for some families for one Sunday as some of their members could be substituted by foreigners living in their neighbourhood.
Seven European countries, including Slovakia, will invite 420 local and foreign families to attend lunches served in the houses of either locals or foreigners. Apart from enjoying the meal, they will have the opportunity to learn more about each others’ cultures and their homelands.
Such a model supports mutual communication, an understanding of cultures and the development of personal contacts and relations between the majority of society and foreigners, Michal Milla from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Slovakia, one of the partners of the project, told The Slovak Spectator.
“Personal experience significantly helps to shatter stereotypes, barriers and the isolation of foreigners, and [contributes to] integration of foreigners on an individual, personal level,” Milla said.
The event will take place within the Next Door Family EU – Inclusive Neighbourhood project on November 18.
The concept of inter-family lunches comes from the Czech Republic where the association Slovo 21 (Word 21) launched its Next Door Family project in 2004.
The project was even awarded by the European Union as one of the three best models of integration of foreigners into society that allows its participants to meet interesting people, and learn about their lives as well as their cultures, reads the official website of Slovo 21.
It was launched as a way to support intercultural dialogue and integration, to bridge the gap between the majority of society and immigrants, and to shatter prejudices as well as fight extremist and malignant attitudes, according to the website.
More than 442 lunches, which included 884 families, have been organised since 2004. Last year, for example, the project was attended by 50 foreign and 50 Czech families from all around that country.
The survey, carried out by researchers from the social geography and regional development department of Charles University in Prague, showed that more than 52 percent of all foreign families and 60 percent of Czech families who participated continued to meet after the end of the project, Milla said.
“This means that such relations remain an important factor in the integration of foreigners and their connection to the majority of society,” Milla added.
Slovak families might participate
This year’s event will be special since Belgium, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia, Spain and Italy also want to organise a lunch for families living in their territories. Moreover, every country will select one lunch to be filmed for a documentary highlighting the cohabitation of major societies and foreigners in Europe, as well as educational material.
IOM plans to organise about 20 lunches that will take place all around Slovakia. The participants will have the chance to learn “how to live together, not next to each other” and talk about the differences between their cultures and habits, or about the problems that foreigners face after coming to Slovakia, Milla said.
Slovakia is often seen as a culturally homogeneous country.
Though migration contributes to economic, social and cultural development of societies, there are still some deeply-rooted prejudices and stereotypes towards foreigners in Slovakia, Milla added.
This attitude has been reaffirmed by a survey recently carried out by IOM in which nearly half of the respondents stated that Slovakia is a state for Slovaks and that this status should be preserved.
“The stereotypes over foreigners and migration are influenced by a lack of contact with foreigners and a lack of information about this issue, which used to be incomplete and biased,” Milla stressed.
“On the other hand, foreigners are not prepared to live amid a different cultural, language or religious environment, and they establish isolated communities, which creates a basic barrier to their integration into society.”
For more information about the project please visit: http://www.iom.sk/en/about-iom/news/76-info-stretnutia-rodin-november-2012
The families interested in the project might fill in the form at http://www.nextdoorfamily.eu/sl/index.php/en/on-line-prihlaska