In a small, cosy flat in the rather drab Prague suburb of Strasnice, two families were getting to know each other.
They already had quite a lot in common. Both couples were in their early 30s. Both men worked in IT. Both women were at home raising two young children.
There the similarities ended. Jiri is from Prague and his partner Leona originally from Moravia. Kenneth, however, is from Lagos, and his wife, too, is Nigerian. This lunch – in Jiri and Leona’s flat – was the first time the two couples had laid eyes upon each other.
They were taking part in a project to improve the integration of foreigners in the EU. An annual occasion, it has spread across Europe since it began life in the Czech Republic.
Last weekend, 420 families sat down with immigrants or foreigners – people they had never met before.
“I wouldn’t say Czechs are unfriendly, but cold – yes,” Kenneth told me, when I asked whether he thought the Czech reputation of being hostile to foreigners was justified. He had been here eight years, so was in some position to judge.
“They are really friendly, if you get to know them or get close to them. But the thing is, initiating that process at times is a bit difficult.”