Workshop « culture shock »: « I miss my family»

Caritas International Belgium Workshop « culture shock »: « I miss my family»

Today, 75 Syrians came together to the venue Pianofabriek. They came from Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels, and had all benefited from the resettlement program. They took part in two workshops organized by Caritas International, the first about searching for accommodation and the second about an exchange on their experience here in Belgium.Report.

« Here is the curve of the culture shock », explains Else, an integration coach from Caritas International, while showing a diagram that summarizes the emotions felt after resettlement. She opens the workshop on the exchange of experiences in Belgium.

« The purpose is to make the participants aware of this emotional factor », specifies Else. « Things won’t always be easy. Another aspect of this workshop is the exchange: they see that they are not the only ones facing difficulties. »


First exercise: name one thing that they like here in Belgium and one they dislike. « I feel angry », starts one participant. « My family still lives in Syria and I am alone here. I miss them. » Another carries on: « For me, it’s easier because some members of my family are here. But my wife really misses hers. In our culture, family is very important. » A third person, a more confident man, dares to ask: « In the United Kingdom, families are reunified much faster. Why isn’t this the case in Belgium? » Else intervenes to explain that the legislation on family reunification is not uniform in the European Union.

Caritas International Belgium Workshop « culture shock »: « I miss my family»


On the positive side, many Syrians mention safety: « there is no need to hide from the bombs and be afraid all the time ». Or: « People are nice here. » « My neighbour helped me find a job », says another. But quickly the discussion goes back to difficulties: the cost of living is very expensive, there is so little contact with the Belgian community, and the traditions are so different… « My daughter does not want to go to the swimming pool with her class », tells a father obviously lost in this new situation. « She refuses to wear a swimsuit. I don’t get it, why can ‘t she wear a burkini?» Else intervenes again and shows understanding. « It is important that she can talk about this in class, at school, but also at home. She must not be let alone with her emotions. »

Finding accommodation

Further in the workshop, they learn about the tools and tricks for finding accommodation: How to search? Which accommodation is affordable? How to introduce yourself to a landlord? … The resettlement program is organized as follows: the Syrian beneficiaries are first taken care of by a Belgian social welfare center for a period of six months, they then have to find accommodation on their own. Caritas International is there to support and assist them during the entire process

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