behind the scenes

To all my conversation partners

 

Once more, I want to wholeheartedly thank you for your courage to talk about your experiences of loneliness, for sharing your stories with me and with everyone who will visit this website. Your openness is the heartbeat of this project.

 

For some of you, I was just the mostly silent listener at the back of the room. I, on the other hand, feel like I got to know part of each of you throughout this project. Talking to you, listening to your stories, transcribing or working on translations, reading and re-reading them numerous times, and finally editing and re-editing the film material made me know most of your stories by heart. Many of them touched me personally – sometimes after the first, and sometimes after the tenth time of going through them. To some, I could better relate personally, others taught me much about facets of loneliness I had not considered before.

 

I am very grateful for having met and being allowed to listen to you. My good wishes and thoughts are with all of you, but particularly with those for whom loneliness has been a companion throughout their entire lives. As alone as you might feel or even be, my thoughts are with you.

The people behind

 

A large project like this requires a lot of solitary, but also quite some non-solitary and enjoyable work. I am very grateful for having had the chance to meet so many different wonderful people through this collaboration.

 

To begin with, the research part of this project was conceptualized and developed at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands – together with the feedback of my supervisors Nina Hansen and Martijn van Zomeren. Both have been incredibly supportive in finding ways to combine a research with this film project.

 

I am also particularly grateful for the financial support provided by the University of Groningen for this extensive project. In fact, only a Sustainable Society PhD grant by the University of Groningen allowed to have this website so beautifully designed by Janneke Tromp from J Ontwerp.

 

During the winter break 2018/2019 and in June 2019, I conducted a number of first interviews in Vienna (where I am from) and in Salzburg (where my family is from), Austria. This was made possible through the help of many family members and friends who activated their social networks and shared the call for this study with friends, acquaintances…

 

As much as I enjoyed being able to directly talk to participants myself, I was also happy to be supported by collaborators in all other research contexts – and I was lucky enough to have particularly wonderful people to work with, no matter where I went. They helped me better understand their cultures, found interviewees, conducted interviews themselves or together with me, and were fantastic hosts.

 

I travelled to Cairo, Egypt, in March 2019, where I had the chance to work together with the translator Mahmoud Radwan. Mahmoud and his friends (or friends of Mahmoud’s friends) were a joy to spend time with. They were extremely open and welcoming, taught me much about Egyptian culture, humour, ended up in a sauna-like sepulchre together with me, trained me in Arabic pronunciation, and introduced me to all sorts of delicious Egyptian (or accidentally Syrian) food.

 

Only two weeks after returning from Cairo, I travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria, together with Tsvetina Ivanova, a research master student in social psychology at the University of Groningen at that time. Working with Tsvetina was very inspiring and insightful – just as Mahmoud, she turned into a friend during the two weeks of our stay. We conducted interviews both in Sofia and in Kozloduy, a town in the North-West of the country, close to the Romanian border. This was also where I could directly experience Bulgarian hospitality. I was invited to stay at the house of Tsvetina’s warm-hearted parents who offered almost exclusively home-grown or at least home-made food, including Kombucha, sweet pumpkin, Kefir, etc.

 

In July 2019, Aharon Levy, a postdoctoral researcher in social psychology at Columbia Business School at that time, flew all the way from New York to Tel Aviv for some more interviewing. Aharon had been involved in the project right from the start and was very encouraging throughout the process. We conducted interviews in Tel Aviv, in rural areas North of Tel Aviv, and in Jerusalem. This also involved a wonderfully fast insider tour of Jerusalem, highly interesting cultural theatre plays at the blocked Jerusalem bus station, and much Hummus, Sabich, and Falafel.

 

The initial plan was to end this project in Latin America, but due to the political protests in Chile in autumn 2019, a quite different, but all the more exciting opportunity emerged in Karnataka, India – thanks to Aiswarya Gangadhar, a pre-master student in psychology at the University of Groningen. Indeed, we travelled to Bangalore, India in January 2020 – just before Covid-19 would have made this impossible. There, we conducted approximately half of the interviews in Bangalore, and the other half in a village in rural Karnataka, close to Bangalore. Due to Aiswarya’s extensive knowledge and great motivation, and an exceptionally warm and welcoming family, this involved many Hindu temple visits and an introduction to its philosophy (with much time to discuss all this during traffic jams or long car rides), music and chanting (including one participant’s attempt to marry me off to his son), and, of course, most delicious idlis, dosas, and coconut chutney.

 

Although this opportunity never manifested itself, I am also grateful to the kind and enthusiastic people from Chile who I would have loved to meet and work with, if not… bureaucracy and political circumstances had happened. Hopefully, there will be other opportunities for collaboration in the future.

 

Additionally, I want to thank (in chronological order) Sarah Awad, who referred me to Mahmoud and who provided great support in planning my trip to Egypt. Martin for quickly lending me a tripod when mine turned out to be broken – and for the initial technical pointers. Sascha Pajic for his openness and courage to participate in this project. I sincerely wish him all the best, and hope that he has followed his very own creative and spiritual path. And an Egyptian friend who I will not call by name but who so generally offered her help because she believed in the benefit of this project.

About me

 

Most of the time, I am a researcher in the field of social and cultural psychology. As such, I am clearly not a filmmaker. Someone lately called me a filmmaker, which is technically correct because I have made films, but as you will see in the videos, my filmmaking is not what you would expect if I actually were a filmmaker. Nevertheless, I hope that you can enjoy watching some of the many videos on this website despite their technical imperfections. Wabi Sabi.

 

Originally from Vienna, Austria, I have been living in Groningen, the Netherlands, since 2014. Here, I have conducted most of my research about loneliness (together with Martijn van Zomeren and Nina Hansen). I will not bore you with other biographical details, but I will just answer one question that many people ask: Why did I choose to conduct research about loneliness?

 

Often, the people who ask this question assume that loneliness is a sad topic to be confronted with every day. Not for me. For one, loneliness is a very interesting phenomenon to study across different cultures (see Section about Scientific Contribution). Second, negative experiences are as much part of life as positive experiences. Learning and communicating my insights about loneliness provides my scientific work and therefore me with meaning and helps better deal with and accept loneliness whenever it greets me (or those around me). Finally, studying loneliness always means studying not-loneliness as well. As such, loneliness research can teach much about loneliness, but also about affection and love.

Luzia Heu - Loneliness across Cultures

more about our project

Study Participation

 

Dear visitor,

 

Would you like to participate in our new research project (15-20 minutes max.)? We examine people’s own and their perception of others’ feelings, including loneliness.

 

For more information and/or to start participation, please click here.

 

Or have you already started participation and accidentally closed the survey tab? Then please click here.

 

Many thanks in advance!

 

(For any questions or comments, please send an email to l.c.heu@uu.nl)

Dear visitor,

 

We are currently working on a new research project to examine people’s own and their perception of others’ feelings, including loneliness.

 

Would you be willing to anonymously answer some questions (max. 15-20 minutes)? Then please click here. You can end participation at any point.

 

Many thanks in advance!

 

(For any questions or comments, please send an email to l.c.heu@uu.nl)