I lived in Milan and I lived in London and I never made friends with any of my neighbours. I’d hardly met a few of them on my way in or out every now and then. I’m not necessarily proud to say that, but it just didn’t happen, that’s it. I didn’t have time.
Then we moved to Lugano.
As you may know Switzerland passed a referendum last year pursuant to which dating from next year the number of foreigners admitted to move their residence into the Ticino Canton will be capped. In this period of massive migration it may appear as a mean measure, but, to be honest, I think I understand it. According to the last statistics Lugano population almost doubled in size over the last few years and as of December 2015 consisted of 68.677 people 40% of which foreigners from some 147 different nationalities. It must be kind of alienating for them to be invaded by such a massive immigration.
I mean, also London is packed with foreigners, but in a population of over 8 million people you don’t quite notice it that much, while Lugano is a small town, after one year I already start recognising many of the people I happen to meet around.
On the other hand if you are a foreigner living in Lugano is a bonanza. The native may not be always very welcoming but you can definitely count on a network of helping fellow foreigners. And in this picture making friends can be easy peasy, if you want, but – all the same – it doesn’t really come naturally if you have never been “practicing” before.
Now, I wouldn’t have called myself a friendly gal, I had enough of my friends and my colleagues to look for new friends in the past, but when you are the staying-at-home-mum-of-an-only-child and on top of that you’re alone abroad there are very few things more appealing than making friends with some other staying at home mum with a similar offspring living nearby.
Having friends in the neighbourhood implies things such as asking if they need something when you go to the supermarket, waiting for them with their kids if they happen to be late at the school bus, send your kid to play with theirs in the afternoon, having somebody to chat with in those never ending afternoons at the playground and – above all – learning new things about new cultures, not to mention new languages. It’s a more “cosmopolitan” way of living, with this melting pot of different cultures, as I’m sure it is going to be more and more in the future, and together a more “inclusive” way of living, kind of an old style thing, when grandma went to watch the TV at her neighbour’s because she had the only TV set in town… And I definitely like my child to be part of this multicultural environment.
The only downside with foreigners is that they happen to leave as suddenly as they arrive.
After one year I had eventually succeeded in making friends with the nicest neighbour I’ve ever had (even though, actually, she’s the only neighbour I made friends with), a girl from Riga with a smart, jolly little girl who lived right across the street who had just arrived in Switzerland and now they’re leaving again. 😫 Hope they come back… In the meanwhile I have to explore some further…