Q: How old are you?
A: 33 years old.
Q: Do you have kids?
Q: How long did you stay in Spain?
A: 8 months.
Q: How was your life in Portugal before you left?
A: Before I left to Spain I was studying. I was doing my master’s degree. I was not independent yet. I had a normal life for a 24-year-old. A student life.
Q: What was your family like?
A: We had a good relationship. I didn’t live with my parents because I was studying in Oporto and they lived in a town someplace else in Portugal, so I lived alone in Oporto.
Q: How was your social life? Was it different in Spain?
A: The truth is that I find more differences in that aspect now, that I am in Belgium. In Spain I didn’t find differences in how people relate.
Q: How did you decide to leave?
A: I went to Spain to do the practices of my master’s course. I was doing my master’s course in Food Technology. My decisi0n to come to Belgium was completely different, a longer story.
Q: Why did you choose Spain?
A: I was doing a work with olives and my professor who was doing it with me had contacts in Spain. Also, the country is good with olives and olive oil.
Q: Did you always want to come to Spain? Was it a problem to come?
A: It was very natural. When they proposed going there I accepted gladly. It was only for a few months, it wasn’t a radical change of my life. I was happy.
Q: Did you know exactly how long you were staying?
A: No, I didn’t know. I was finishing my master’s degree. If I had had the chance to stay in Spain after finishing my master I would have stayed, but that didn’t happen.
Q: Did you know what to expect in Spain?
A: Kind of. I left in October and a month earlier I started asking for a house to live when I went. There was nothing available, it was all occupied. I didn’t know what I would find. In the last days I found a house I had to share with some other people.
Q: Do you remember your first day?
A: Very well. It was a very hard day, because I was taking with me some olives from Portugal to use here for my investigation. So I had to do the trip in few hours, by car. From north Portugal to the south of Madrid. Like 800 km. My parents came with me, and we went directly to the university to leave the olives. And then we went to see the house I was staying in. It was hard.
Q: Did you always live in that house? How was the relationship with the others?
A: Yes. It was good, they are Brazilian. Also people that were staying only for some time in Spain. Through them I met other people and we made friends. This was 10 years ago and we still talk to each other. I still make contact with people I met.
Q: Did you have experiences when you arrived that were worse than you expected?
A: No, it was the other way around. It was a very good experience. I made friends, learned a lot.
Q: For the holidays and festivities did you go back to Portugal?
A: I went back home for Christmas, but I think that on Holy Week I stayed in Spain.
Q: What did you like best and worst in Spain?
A: What I liked best is the people I met, I learned a lot, tapas… What I liked the least maybe it was having to share the flat with people I didn’t know very well, although it all worked fine. But I like having my space.
Q: Who did you have to leave in Portugal?
A: My parents, my boyfriend of the time, all my friends. But I knew it was for some months, so it wasn’t so hard.
Q: How did your parents react when you told them you had to come?
A: Very well, they have always supported me with these kind of things.
Q: Did you send each other packages, letters…? What was communication like?
A: When I was in Spain I made my Facebook account, to be able to communicate. Through the Internet. We talked more through the Internet rather than phone calls. More than once a week we talked.
Q: Did you have to go back to Portugal for some reason you couldn’t handle from Spain?
A: No. I had to go back for some things for the work I was doing. From October to January I had to go back to Portugal some times for the investigation.
Q: Do you think the life of your people in Portugal changed since you left?
A: No. It is true that when you are not there you miss some things, but it didn’t change very much.
Q: And yours?
A: Yes. I think that when you leave your country and live new experiences, meet new people, it changes you as a person.
Q: Now that you are in Belgium, what differences do you find between the three countries?
A: Yes. Belgium is very different from the southern countries of Europe. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the cold. People are not that close. It is not easy to make Belgian friends, unless you have a friend in common.
Q: Did you make more friends in Spain than in Belgium?
Q: How long have you been there?
A: Three years.
Q: Do you move around Belgian people or foreigners?
A: Usually with foreigners. I have some Belgian friends, but my group of closer friends is mostly made up of people from other countries. I think it is normal, because we are more available.
Q: Since you moved there, do you think your environment in Portugal changed?
A: It has changed, pretty much. When I left to Spain I knew it was for only some months. When I came to Belgium, I didn’t have a return date, I still don’t. That changes many things in your family and you miss many things.
Q: Do you think you will stay much longer in Belgium? Might you go to another country?
A: I don’t want to go back to Portugal. I go many times but for a vacation, I wouldn’t go back to live there. Move to another country, I don’t know. I still don’t have plans to leave Belgium, but if a good opportunity comes up, I wouldn’t mind leaving.
Q: How did you manage the languages? Both times.
A: Spanish for a Portuguese is easier. Before I left I did a course of two months, something very quick. My Spanish is not very good, I can communicate. But here, language is Netherlands Dutch, and it is very hard. I studied for six months to have a basic level. I can understand some things but talking is very difficult. I have to keep on studying. I communicate in English here.
Q: Do you dream in other languages?
A: Actually I do. I remember once, I was in Spain, that I dreamed in Spanish. And it happened again here that I dreamed in English.
Q: Is there a Portuguese community where you live?
A: In Spain there wasn’t. I only met one Portuguese, that didn’t even live there, he was there sometimes because his girlfriend studied there. We were the only Portuguese there so we met. But here in Belgium there is a community. We have a place, we call the Portuguese plaza, that has shops and stuff from Portugal.
Q: If you compare the reason why you left your country and the experience you had in Belgium, was it what you expected?
A: I came here looking for a better life than I had in Portugal. After three years, I do have a better life. There were some rough times, often you feel lonely, but now I can say I have a better life. The job level is better. On social grounds, I don’t know, I left many friends and my family.
Q: Did your family and friends visit you in the countries you lived in?
A: Yes. My parents quite often. Now that I am in Belgium they come twice or thrice a year. And some friends came to visit me too. I have a friend that we meet in the summers, whether it is here or in Portugal.
Q: If you could go back in time, would you do the same things you did?
Q: Do you feel you need to leave Portugal to find something better?
A: Unfortunately, yes.
Q: Would you go to another country?
A: I wouldn’t mind. I don’t plan to do it now, but I wouldn’t mind if it were to have a better life, better job, better salary.
Q: Do you think you could take some of your family with you? Your parents?
A: Probably I could. Now that I am in Belgium they plan to come here in the future. Why not.