Everyone in Southern Europe is acquainted with the phenomenon of rose salesmen. It’s impossible not to be, as these mainly Bangladeshi men tirelessly stroll around the city streets, trying to make a living out of selling roses to wealthy Europeans. It’s no secret that the potential clientele often feels harassed just by the sole sight of these rose men with their colorful flower bundles. But who are these men?

When living in Milan in 2011, one night I finally decided to take out my camera and get out there to speak to these strangers about their lives and work. I interviewed more than a dozen men, but the look in Habib’s eyes was the one that captured it all. And that’s what I still feel like sharing with you, even after so many years.

I’d be lying if I told you I made new friends that night, but I did take a baby step towards understanding a subculture dictated by necessity and dreams of a better life. I encourage you take that step with me. It’s no high-quality work of art, but the message is there nevertheless.

Written by Sissi Korhonen
Exploring, interpreting and understanding cultures through local languages and people. An advocate for intercultural communication as a basis for diversity acceptance and human equality.