The Network Intercultural Activity: “Redefining the Boxes” aims to raise awareness and stimulate dialogue to improve the image of asylum seekers and refugees, who are currently very much in the public attention. The project attempts to get people out of their comfort zone to reflect on and understand more about themselves and people from other cultures, and contribute to nurture mutual understanding about asylum seekers and civil society in The Netherlands, to foster tolerance and respect. This project is a cooperation between Our Common Future and Integration for All, supported by the Anna Lindh Foundation Netherlands Network, and part of the Network Intercultural Activity project.

The Integration Experience in Persion Language and Culture (see embedded video below) is a creative approach for looking at how it is for asylum seekers and refugees to arrive in a new country where language(s), cultures, and norms are unknown to them. By cleverly  reversing the roles, the difficulties associated with the situation are highlighted.

Some of the take-aways the participants had from this experience, was how the situation made them nervous: it is a formal setup, with direct and serious questions. Little context is provided for why they have to be in the interview, and the context can make it stressful for the participant; sitting across the table trying to answer questions in a language they do not grasp. In addition, it highlights the importance of highly qualified translators, as they are crucial for the successful exchange of transformation and a good dialogue.

In the latter part of the video, we see the participants in a language and culture lesson. This unfolds through story-telling in Farsi (Persian) with a German-speaking translator. The reactions were overall positive, although it was pointed out that a steep learning-curve made it a demanding lesson to attend. The importance of body-language and an open-minded approach became apparent as they were not allowed to communicate in other languages during the course of the lesson.

At the final part of the video, the people that took part in the project expressed what they learned from it. It was generally regarded as an insightful experience into the language and culture of someone else. As one participant put it, “walking in another person’s shoes” was a stimulating experience, creating confusion but also learning; the difference in experiencing and feeling the difficulties of asylum seekers and refugees fosters an understanding that transcends the superficial understanding one can garner from reading about it.