Photo credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo
“Before coming to Portugal to study, I was told: 'They greet people like in Latin America, with kisses on the cheeks!' I am from the United States and grew up in a Salvadorian and Cuban household in California. I was quite nervous before coming to Portugal, as I had never really been abroad besides going to nearby Tijuana, in Mexico. I had no idea what to expect from moving to Europe, and to a country where I did not speak the language.
I have felt very welcomed here. Coming from the American West Coast, I thought my home was a laid back place, but I have found Portugal to be even more relaxed! I love the Portuguese quality of life, especially how Portuguese people take time to have dinner together. Spending time together is a tradition here, both indoors and outdoors. In the U.S you work all the time and sometimes it is barely enough to survive. You can’t spend the time with friends and family as you would like. However, I get very frustrated sometimes because there are certain tasks that could be done very quickly, but then you end up needing two hours to do them in Lisbon. I think I have grown to become a more patient person while living here. I am used to taking my car to the store back home in California, but here I don’t have a car, so I find myself using public transportation. I’m either waiting for the metro or chasing after the bus.
Lisbon is a vibrant and colorful city, with character and history. In Portugal, you have buildings and streets that are hundreds of years old and castles almost everywhere. Wherever you walk, you’re walking into a piece of history and for me that’s always a ‘wow’ factor. My favorite place in Portugal is the island of Madeira — it combines everything one can find in a city with the beauty of nature!
The most difficult aspect of living in Lisbon for me has been the language. I speak Spanish, but it’s hard to improve my Portuguese accent and speaking because everyone is always so polite and immediately begins speaking in English with me when they hear me stumble upon my words. The most difficult Portuguese word for me is: “Espelho” — with that particular “lhe” sound – and my favorite expression is: “Ah, pois!”.
It is not easy to move to a different part of the world. I miss the selection of food from home, especially Salvadorian and Cuban cuisine. I also really miss my family, friends, and pets. Yet, I know in the back of my mind that if I wanted to go back home I always have that option available to me — I feel very lucky to have that choice."