Cris

Agile Delivery Lead

Lives in Leeds // From Porto, Portugal

I am originally from Porto, in north of Portugal – that’s where I did all my studies. I started working there and after a while I moved to Lisbon, and worked there for 2 years. One day I was just browsing online and I saw this job advert for a native Portuguese speaker in Leeds, at the time I was in translations. And I just applied for it. Came here for an interview, and they offered me the job, and it all happened in like two weeks. And, then I thought, “yeah, why not”!

From a very young age I always knew I wasn’t going to stay in my home town. My whole family still lives in the same place. They all live like 5-10 minutes away from each other and have a massive family, but I think I have always known that it was not what I wanted to be. I think I have always had this desire to live abroad, have the experience, especially because I studied languages all my life, mainly English. I thought about doing Erasmus but it didn’t quite work out for me so when the opportunity came up, I just thought it’d be a good experience and I never thought I’d still be here 10 years later. I thought it’d be a couple of years of staying and then I’d go back but yeah, I am still here.

I definitely feel like Leeds is a home for me, not just because I have been here for a while but also because it’s where I live, where I enjoy my life, where I work, where I have people around me that I love, so it’s definitely home. But, I do still say I am going “home for a week”, when I mean I am going back to my parents to see my family. I think it’s almost like having double personality – you have these two sides to your life. I can’t just say this is not home because it definitely is and I feel at home in England, but also home is still in Porto because it’s where my people are, where my family is. They both still are in a different way.

You’ve been here for a while but you’re always looking forward to going home even if it’s just for a long weekend – for the weather, to see the family, for the food…whatever it may be. But then, once I am home for 3 or 4 days, I start to get a bit itchy and I need to go back. I need to have my flat, my routines, and my things. There is always something missing wherever you are, I feel that way. I stay at my parents and don’t have my own place, I don’t have to go to work, I don’t have a schedule so it’s just seeing your friend in the morning or your family for lunch, but you’re not on holiday really but you’re also not working. I go back to the place I grew up, where all my family is, so it’s kind of like going back in time almost. I left home when I was 21, so it’s like going back to that time and try to resume life at that point, it’s a bit of a weird sensation. I definitely feel like it is two different lives. The friends you have are different in the two places, the routines, the things you do… it’s totally different.

Portugal is a bit like oasis - we’re very peaceful and a quiet country, very happy as well. However, I think there are a few things I absolutely love about England. One of the main ones is diversity. And this is one of the things when I moved to Leeds, I was like, “oh my God, this is amazing”. My first job in one building there were people from 30 different nationalities, and it was such an incredible experience and something I had never been exposed to back home. I think that’s one of the things in England that I feel like you can have pink hair and go out, and no one cares. Or you can wear whatever you want or be whoever you want, and you don’t feel judged or criticised in any way. It’s very open and I do love that. I also love the quietness. I know people say British are very cold and very reserved, and I do agree that they are very reserved but I am also a bit like that so it’s something I don’t struggle with. I am quite comfortable in that sort of environment. I can’t really say that culture wise I’ve had any issues or difficulties when moving here.  

The opportunities that I got since I moved to England have been just amazing. It’s something that I know had I stayed back home, my path would have been very different. I am really grateful for that because I know even if I had to go back now, I would probably struggle to have the life I have here, mainly in terms of work. This gave me opportunities I never would have had. 

I know some people who moved here or to other countries because they had to, either because of family or to look for a job and better opportunities, which wasn’t my case. I moved because I could and the opportunity came up, otherwise I would’ve been fine where I was. I didn’t have that pressure to make this work. I knew if things didn’t go right, I could always go back. When I told my dad, he just said, “yeah why not. If you don’t like it, you come back. It’s as easy as that”. I think that takes some pressure away and then you have the time and the means to look for what makes you happy.

Overall, I never had that culture shock that some people might do. I always felt very comfortable and very at home, which made the transition incredibly easy. I think after a couple of months of being here I felt settled. I never really had any doubts or thought that I should go home. Nothing has ever happened to me that made me think that I need to leave.

I happen to be born in Portugal, and I live in England. But, to me that shouldn’t even matter where you’re born or where you live. I do feel like I am a part of something bigger, a part of Europe. I guess being born in the 1980’s, I grew up thinking like that – Europe and European Union were always concepts that were a part of my life as I grew up. It’s not something I ever would have even questioned, it’s a part of my identity. When I think of Europe, I don’t think of European Union in particular. I don’t think of any barriers or borders. I think of free space, where you have the freedom to move, to work, to live, wherever you would like. That’s something I find absolutely amazing, knowing that if you wake up tomorrow and think, “I’d like to go spend some time in France”, you can just get on a plane, go to France, find a job, and you can work and live there. I find that such a privilege to be able to do that. But, I always kind of took that for granted. 

My identity is I am of the European Union and that’s how I want to carry on being. I don’t know if there’s a difference by the country; I know in Portugal everyone really feels part of the European Union. If you ask my mum or dad, they will say “yes”, there are no doubts or questioning it, it’s who we are and where we are. In Europe where we are, we’re so small. Creating further divisions and barriers, and borders, is just insane. The beauty and where the strength lies is that everyone is together, behind something.  

I have a very traditional Portuguese family, everyone is very close-knit which I guess is different when you compare it to English culture. But Portuguese families – everyone lives close by, everyone supports each other, and my family is very much like that, so I think I am the one of the only people who lived abroad. I think my dad is the exception to the rule – my dad has always, in different stages of his life, lived and worked abroad - from Russia to Cameroon in Africa, and France, and Spain. So, he’s quite used to that and he was quite open to the idea of me moving. I think my mum was more worried and concerned, when I told her. Her first reaction was, “why? You’re fine in Lisbon, you have a job”. But, I think that was just more out of concern.

The process to apply for settled status was super easy for me, literally like five minutes which was good so I don’t think everything is going to shambles right now. I think it’s just opening that dangerous precedent in European Union, especially right now I think it’s quite a dangerous time and I think that’s what scares me the most. I remember where I used to work there were a few people who voted to leave but nobody could actually explain to you or articulate why they had voted that way. The reasons were a bit vague or they’d avoid the actual questions, I guess that just shows there is this underlying context where it happens and that probably explains the outcome.

I think you should always vote, even if you don’t want to vote for any particular parties. Do what you want but I think you should always be there, be present, and vote, and have your say. If I had had the chance, I would’ve voted because I think it’s your duty to vote, it’s what democracy is about. It depends on people making themselves heard. I think voting shouldn’t even be a question, if you have the right to vote, then you should definitely.

We just had an election in Portugal, last week. Only half of the people voted, which was an all time worst for us and it’s just so sad. You basically have half of the country deciding the fate of the whole country. Each year it gets worse and less and less people vote, it’s scary for me that people aren’t interested in taking part in what is their life and what affects every aspect of their lives. I think that’s a lot down to awareness and education work that needs to be done with people. Especially for the younger generations to get into that habit and understand that voting shouldn’t be just optional, you have to vote because it affects every single aspect of your life and it affects every single one of us. 

Leeds is a very diverse and quite a big city where people are probably a bit more open than if you were to live in a tiny traditional village in the middle of nowhere, where people may not be as used to or as open to immigration. I think there is always that fear of adaptation. In the beginning everything is strange and new which causes fear and resistance to change. Then, after a while it becomes embedded in the culture and you are used to, then it’s part of who you are and the society you live in but at first there is always that shock. 

For me what was also very important was – I am moving abroad, without any expectation of living in Portugal, with Portuguese products and eating Portuguese food, and having Portuguese friends and speaking Portuguese all the time. I think what really helped me integrate in England was the fact that I accepted that I am in England, I eat English food, and watch English TV, and I speak English with my friends. I didn’t even make any intentional effort to find any Portuguese groups or friends, because I thought I want to be a part of the culture and the only way to do it is if you fully immerse yourself in the habits, in the whole lifestyle. Not to say I don’t miss it, though. 

I am happy here, still very happy here. As long as I am happy, then this is where I want to stay. With me not agreeing with Brexit and so on it hasn’t made me question whether I am in the right place, I still feel like I am in the right place. Because it’s still the place where I have been given a lot of opportunities, it hasn’t got to that stage yet. I have heard a lot of people who have said they will leave before end of the year and so on, which I totally understand because it shakes you I guess, and it has to do with your values and it’s something that you can almost feel like it’s a personal attack. That’s not exactly how I feel because I think it was more of a misinformed decision, and also products of a weird context we were in, and how the campaigns were managed and so on, so I don’t feel like it’s a personal attack against me.

I think I moved here at a very defining stage in my mid-20’s. It’s difficult to think what could have happened – I probably would still be working in languages and translations. I don’t think I would have moved to such a different place, probably still living in the same place in Lisbon. I was happy when I was there but since a very young age I always knew I wasn’t going to stay there, that it wasn’t going to be enough. I didn’t quite think it would specifically be living abroad, but I knew I would need something different. I knew it wasn’t going to be that very traditional path, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I knew it didn’t fit me.

It takes a lot of courage I think to leave everything. You come here and you can’t bring your house here, you bring a couple suitcases and that’s it. You are by yourself, you may know one or two people and so on, but you are still in a completely different place, different language which can have a big impact especially when you first move. It shows determination and tenacity. You didn’t quite know what you wanted in your life but you had the courage to go after it, then you can adapt to different cultures and work with different people. I think it says a lot more about you, more than just “oh, you worked in the UK”, I think it says a lot about you as a person. 

I think now I am a lot more tolerant and open, or at least aware of how different people and places, and lives are in general. When you live in the same place and you get used to your habits and the same people, it can be difficult to remember that there’s more to the world around you. Whilst here, you work and go out, and chat to people who are so different and from such different places. That’s another thing I like the most, that’s probably the biggest change. 

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