Fear of bullies became a reality for three women who shared their stories with Delano
Photo: Mike Zenari
On the surface, the expat community can appear to be a carefree bubble in which life is about as good as it gets. Scratch the surface a little and you might discover a different story. Fear of bullies became a reality for three women who shared their stories with Delano.
For “Anne” (not her real name), the bullying started almost five years ago, for “Lisa” three years ago and for “Tina”, it’s a recent phenomenon.
A breakdown in a friendship left Tina wondering “is it me they are all talking about?” For Lisa, it began with verbal abuse but after that, “the bullying happened behind my back. The problem was I didn’t know what was being said or that lies about me were being told to other people.”
Anne heard it on the grapevine, told by “friends who were too scared to stand up to this particular group”.
In all cases, there were one or two perpetrators, but as Tina puts it: “Many of my so-called friends didn’t stand up for me. No one said ‘stop’ or ‘you’re out of order and what you are saying is not fair’.” She believes that their silence condoned the bullying. Although much of it was via social media, she had a genuine fear that threats would be carried out.
When Anne tried to talk to her bully, it backfired and things got worse: “It was a shock how direct the abuse became, people who I thought were friends were openly attacking me.” Someone she had confided in teamed up with the bully, whilst another friend described the whole situation as very “Lord of the Flies”.
Tina admits she still struggles with it. “I try to remain dignified in my silence, but there are days when it’s bad, it’s tough. I am trying to grow thicker skin,” she says.
Lisa found talking to her husband helped put a perspective on the bullying. For Anne, separating herself from it and all those associated was the only solution.
Boredom at the root
All three cite boredom as the reason behind expat bullying.
“You have a group of mainly women who moved away from their family and friends, who are not working or in the role they had in their homeland. It raises insecurities and people act in ways they wouldn’t at home,” says Lisa. “Also for many who don’t plan to stay long-term, Luxembourg isn’t a reality for them, so they behave with less accountability.”
Tina corroborates that Luxembourg’s expat community is indeed cliquey, with too many alphas in a small territory: “Everybody has their place and it’s not so welcoming to new people.” Anne believes there is definitely a schoolyard mentality where bullies prey on weaker members of the expat community. “We live in smaller communities here, everyone knows everyone else, so the situation feels worse.”
Do expat organisations and clubs have a part to play in the bullying? Tina has had no direct evidence of this, but says she imagines they are rife with cliques and dominated by those in charge. Lisa says groups should be neutral as they can “inadvertently exclude the victims of bullying who are already feeling socially isolated”. For Anne, it was clear that the power one bully had in a specific network affected her greatly.
Trust has become a serious issue for all three victims. “I am much more private now. If no-one knows what I am doing then information can’t be used against me,” says Tina. Talking to someone you trust is a good first step, advises Lisa, who admits “I find it much harder to trust other people and I have gone from someone who loved making new friends to someone who is happy with a small trusted group of friends”.
Saying it out loud helped Anne immensely: “Since I’ve been able to share my experience, I feel more confident against situations of bullying.”
If you need to talk to someone about bullying, contact SOS Détresse www.454545.lu/en