Brussels: Cultural situation of Eastern-Europeans immigrants

Brussels: Cultural situation of Eastern-Europeans immigrants

Since the very old times people tend to move from a place to another, from a country to other country, nowadays the free movement of people is the major right of EU citizens to work and get residence in any country in the European Union.

In terms of human rights, the transition to market economy and democracy has had varied results. On the one hand, free expression, as well as the right to travel and cultural rights for minorities, are being restored.

As we all know in the Western-Europe is a big community of people coming from the East-Europe (Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Albania etc.). Based on the EU statistics there are millions of immigrants and a huge part of them is represented by the Eastern-Europeans. For example, according to Statista (2020), there are over 5 million Romanian immigrants in the Western-Europe.

In this article we will not talk about the historical reasons of their decision to leave their countries, we will focus on relevant reasons according to this period of time.

In recent years, the majority of the discussion on global migration has been on migration into wealthy countries and the political struggles that result.

People depart nations in the former Soviet Union for a variety of reasons, for example: education aspects, short distance from their mother land, families that are already living in the West, better job offers etc.  Many people are worried about corruption and the consequences it has for their country’s future. Others already have relatives in other parts of the continent. The majority of people simply want greater opportunities for themselves, their children, and their children’s children. This is something that anyone involved in the Western immigration debate should keep in mind. The desire for a better life is the most human of inclinations, and we must not criticize people who act on it, lest we lose sight of our own humanity.

Interesting facts that we should present, according to Adriana Pietrareanu (Deputy Director of the Romanian Cultural Institute in Brussels), are that Romanians chose to leave their country for Belgium, mainly because of 3 reasons: economical, political and social causes. She explained to us that the lack of jobs in their countries and the low wages are the aspects that impact most of the people to leave for a better opportunity (“The lack of jobs on their country market, but also the fact that salaries in the countries where they emigrate are much higher”).

Also, they would like to have a better life for their family, safer: “I met many people who have emigrated because they want a better life for their family, safer, with clearly established rules, long lasting”. Another important fact is that Eastern-Europeans feel the need for job appreciation. It doesn’t matter if it’s intellectual or physical work: “In Eastern countries, it is not yet in people’s consciousness that every work has its social importance, whether it is physical work or an intellectual one. A society cannot live only from the contribution made by intellectuals and, therefore, the conception of the appreciation of any kind of work must be changed”.

Other interesting and important facts, according to Ligia Marin (Cultural Expert), is that most of the Romanians chose to go to Brussels, because of the language, in schools, past and present, Romanian students are taught French as a second language (except English): “Until recently, French was widely studied in school, so eventually knowledge of the language, at least at beginner level” and the distance is pretty short from Romania. Immigration comes with advantages and disadvantages. If we talk from the immigrants’ point of view there are a lot of advantages, as we presented above all the facts, but the most important part is represented by disadvantages.

Adriana Pietrareanu presented us 1 disadvantage, the human rights: “but only if their rights are protected”. As Ligia Marin said in the interview we had, from the Romania perspective there are disadvantages that create a huge impact, the intellectual immigration (students, teachers, directors etc.), the migration of active workers, population decline, the appearance of the lack of labor force: “On the country of origin, the negative effects are the disappearance of an active and courageous part of the population, which could have created a dynamic towards progress”.Advantages according to Adriana Pietrareanu: “immigrants cover many services that locals refuse to do, and the money obtained is sent to families in their country of origin to improve their standard of living” and according to Ligia Marin: “Money can be sent to home, the mother country’s political system must be changed”, also for Belgium it’s a huge advantage: “The positive effect on Belgium is the arrival of a new workforce with a level of preparation (usually) high”.On the other hand, the biggest advantage is the GLOBALIZATION, the idea of a united European Union.

When presenting the Eastern-European immigrants, it’s impossible to not talk about cultural exchange. Because Eastern-Europe have some totally different traditions and habits we tend to think that immigrants that come from that region are acting totally different from the Belgium locals, which is completely wrong. According to Adriana Pietrareanu:” Living together, it goes without saying that there is a cultural exchange”, but they adapt and change their habits with the local ones: “they become more conscientious in their work, more organized, more serious in everything they do, they learn faster to observe the rules of society, they become more attentive and polite with the others”. The interesting part is that when they visit their family, in their own countries they “use to share these new values to their friends, families, acquaintances”.

The surprising part is that the Balkan immigrants don’t create any divergences with the locals, because they tend to have pretty much the same religion, the same education most of the time, they tend to be calm and peaceful.

There are many barriers for Eastern-Europeans in Belgium, especially for Romanians, the most common one is represented by stereotypes: “stereotypes rooted in the minds of Western Europeans, people who often do not have time, do not have the necessary education or simply do not want to analyze specific behaviors, but they prefer a ‘ready-made’ opinion”. (Adriana Pietrareanu, 2020)

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