Do people in Wageningen feel lonelier then people in Seoul? How do social and cultural ideas and norms shape the way we experience loneliness?
About Lonely in Wageningen, but not in Seoul?
Are people in Wageningen lonelier than in, say, Seoul? Does living in an individualist culture like, arguably, the Netherlands make lonelier? And if so, what makes the difference? Cross-cultural psychologist Luzia Heu found that, contrary to many assumptions, it is actually not the case that a so-called collectivist culture protects you from feeling lonely. But cultural norms, and specifically what we expect from ourselves and our relationships, can influence when and how frequently we feel lonely. Tonight, Heu combines the results of her research with fragments from her video project Loneliness Across Cultures. She interviewed people from all over the world to discuss the way they experience and value their loneliness. Explore together with Heu what cultural norms precisely are at play, and how they shape the ways in which we are lonely.
About series ‘Loneliness: Living Apart Together’
You're no exception if you have felt lonelier than ever, during the past months of lockdown. But what exactly is this loneliness we are talking about? After all, skin contact or being in the same room are no guarantee to feel connected, and social isolation is not the same as loneliness. Think of passionate love letters or making friends in an online game community. Also, one can truly enjoy spending time on one’s own without being lonely. Conversely, one can feel very excluded in a group of friends one belongs to, abandoned by the community one is part of, lost in a crowd, or in bed with someone. So what is loneliness? Is it one and the same experience? Is it the same to you, as it is to your friend or your fellow student? And to what extent is it shaped by cultural and social ideas and the stories we tell about loneliness and lonely people?
About Luzia Heu
Luzia Heu is assistant professor in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at Utrecht University. She studies loneliness across different cultures, with a specific focus on how cultural norms influence experiences of loneliness and risk factors for it. To that aim, she has used quantitative analyses of primary and secondary (i.e., existing survey) data, as well as qualitative methods (e.g., in-depth interviews). As such, her research can be located at the intersection between social, cultural, and developmental psychology, as well as sociology and anthropology.
In her PhD research at the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Groningen, she aimed to explain the “Cultural Paradox of Loneliness” – the finding that people in more collectivistic cultures tend to report more loneliness than people in more individualistic cultures. For an easy-to-read summary of her conclusions, see mindwise-groningen.nl.
Luzia has also connected her cross-cultural research to a film project about loneliness definitions, causes, and remedies, which will soon be publicly available at loneliness-across-cultures.com.
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