Friday, May 1, 2015

Sundays for expats

My father told me. There is nothing as sad as a lonely Sunday in a foreign country. No Sunday lunch with the whole family, no shopping (that’s Saturday), no friends (with their partner or family), nobody around in town, nothing to do. Well, after working from Monday to Friday and doing the grocery shopping on Saturday, what does it remain to do on Sunday? Excluding the weekends at home, in Italy, and those spent on travel, there are still at least 30 lonely Sundays per year.
Credits: link
Actually, since I moved abroad, my Sundays have been of two kinds: Type 1, like that described above, really depressing, and Type 2, completely different. Type 2 Sundays are those filled with cultural events, touristic trips, tea with other lonely friends, etc. There should be a Type 3, the working Sundays, when I’ve been reviewing or writing scientific papers, preparing slides for conference presentations, or even travelling to and from conferences abroad, and writing applications for job positions. This category partially falls in Type 1 Sundays, therefore it will not be treated separately.

Let’s rather talk about the Type 2 Sundays. An important appointment on Sunday is the church. I’m catholic and as far as possible I try never to miss the Holy Mass. This means for me also listening to music and singing along. Sometimes this even implies playing the organ. In Vienna, I was “enrolled” as replacement organist and I indeed played in many churches. In Brussels, after one year regularly playing in one of the Italian churches, I became member of the team of organists in the German church and generally once a month I play during the service. As I have to prepare the songs and the other musical pieces I want to play and as generally I stay after the mass for practicing, this activity easily fills the whole day.

Antwerp castle
Sometimes there are special event, such as concerts, fairs, exhibits, movies, etc. The last Sunday I went to a concert with a couple of friends and next Sunday I’m going to visit a mineral fair in Antwerp. I like Antwerp. Generally I prefer visiting cities in work days, not on Sunday, but there is always something interesting going on in this city, like a second-hand book market, a piano-marathon, an art exhibition, etc. Nowadays the web helps a lot finding (free) activities or connecting with other lonely emigrants who want to go out. This is something that was probably unthinkable in the 60’, when my parents found themselves alone in Germany, at the beginning without speaking the local language. Who doesn’t speak a basic English now? My limited French and Dutch do not prevent me from going out. In addition… everywhere there are Italians and many locals have learned the language for cultural purposes. Not that I like talking Italian in my free time. I rather challenge myself with the local languages. But often Italy becomes the main topic in a conversation with other foreigners or with locals.

The Sunday of an "emigrant" (meaning young people who decide to move abroad and have the possibility to do it in the safest way as possible), alone in a foreign country, might be really sad, but at least for me (and my generation) staying at home and depressing myself is a choice (or I’m sick, that happens). Type 2 Sundays exist, it just depends upon us. So… what about an international brunch one of the next Sundays?