Europe Can Be Lonely, If You Let It



The biggest shock to my system after my move from Africa to Europe wasn’t that I saw white faces everywhere instead of the usual black, nor was it the strange Czech language. No sir! See, Africa is a continent of (frighteningly) open people, whose friendliness any non-African might find overwhelming. A friend is family and families are close. Europe offered something different though. I walked into a stone wall of closed Europeans who came off as either unfriendly or pissed off to heaven. It was and still is quite difficult to make friends and here’s why.

Greeting a neighbor on public transport is a no-no


My very first brush with the European social freezer was on the Prague metro. Out of a well-honed 24-year habit (I’d previously struck up innumerable conversations with strangers on the Ugandan public transport), I attempted to engage a Czech stranger. My friendly ‘Ahoj’ drew a frown, then a puzzled look but no verbal response. Was my accent that off? Embarrassed, I smiled sheepishly and looked away. What was her problem? Two things dear reader. One, she didn’t know me from Adam. Two,  Ahoj’ as a greeting should be used amongst friends. I should have used the more formal  ‘Dobry den’.

Turning work colleagues into friends is a long and often, futile shot


Just because you see each other daily, go for lunches together, talk about your lives, celebrate birthdays and have nights out doesn’t make you friends. Once out of sight, say, like when I had to take maternity leave, all communication ceases. Some might come together and send you flowers and gifts, but don’t be offended if they have no interest in meeting your new baby.

Friends are mysterious too


You might know them for years before you get to meet any of their family, if ever. If there’s a change in their lives and they are in no position to