Iranians are more resilient, kind and generous than most Europeans, says a Swiss friend and Iran visitor who just finished her second visit here.
Scilla Donati is a 63-year-old medical case manager and prolific globetrotter, who lives in Locarno, Switzerland.
We met by pure chance, five years ago in Yazd. We stayed in touch and this time she returned to Iran to stay with Saeideh and I. Together, we went on a tour of Khorasan.
In her own words
“Here, I have met people who ‘have their hearts in their hands’ toward Iran visitors. It’s an Italian saying. It refers to people who freely give to others out of love.
“In Switzerland, we have so much but we don’t help others like we should. Here, people don’t have much but they give it away freely. It is very strange. It should be the other way around.
Iran visitor: Iranians rely on each other
“Iranians rely on each other, treat each other with respect. In Switzerland, we live isolated from one another.
“Can you imagine going into a restaurant in Switzerland and anyone ever even noticing you? But in Iran, strangers come up to [Iran visitors] and ask, ‘what is your name? How are you?’ It is amazing.
“And we have no resilience. We’ve lost the ability to deal with life. I have a very rich client who used to make half a million franks a year. He lost his job because he drank too much. Now he’s falling apart. I ask him why don’t you relax and enjoy all the money you got? But he thinks his life is over.
“I need to go to places where I see new people, new cultures, new ways of going about life. It gives me equilibrium. It makes me a better person. That’s why I enjoyed visiting Iran.
Iran visitor: travel to here is a special kind of travel, not for everyone
“I have friends who go to Italy, to shop, to go to the beach. But for me, that is not a good vacation. I come back still stressed.
“I don’t even have to understand the language of the people. Just being able to sit and watch people show charisma and satisfaction at being around each other, to address each other with kindness, generosity. I find that even years later, I can recall exactly the emotion of that moment. That memory gives me energy.
“I don’t have to connect to everyone. Just a few is enough. Nationality has nothing to do with it. They can be Indian or Iranian or German. Doesn’t matter. It’s the person that matters.
My time in Kashmir and Mali
“In Kashmir, I stayed in a houseboat of a Moslem man. When he prayed, I could literally feel the good energy in the room.
“In Mali, I stayed with people who were very poor. Eight families lived together. No bathrooms. Just a hole in the ground. Only one fridge for 80 people. Very little to eat. But psychologically, they were very in tune with each other. They train their children from a very young age not to be aggressive and to talk less and think more. Psychologically, these people are more advanced than Europeans.
“I think distance from home does not affect the way you feel about people. When I was 20, I married a man with a university degree from a rural background and we moved to his village of just 80 people. I stayed there 24 years and raised four children, but local people never recognized me as a local, perhaps because I grew up in the city and with a more open culture, always interested in new cultural and social experiences. This village is only 35 km from Locarno, my hometown! When I got divorced and left, contacts and relationships dissolved.”