Photo credit: IOM/Tiago Figueiredo
“Mãe (“mother”) is my favourite word in Portuguese. When I arrived in Portugal, I once saw a very young girl shouting “mãe” repeatedly to her mother, with a particular sound that I had never heard before. I was immediately curious about the meaning of that word. I come from Bangladesh and my mother tongue is Bengali, a language which is very dear to me. I find Portuguese to be very beautiful too, with very distinct sounds and qualities.
I was born in Bangladesh and I had many artistic hobbies growing up. When I got married, my family and children became my utmost priority. I have always done everything to provide them with the best possible education. I first moved to Qatar to find new job prospects and worked there as a banker. Despite the opportunity and the years I spent there, I was never happy. My health also deteriorated considerably. I then moved to England, but I couldn't meet the requirements to remain there legally. At that time my younger brother was working in the fields here in Portugal so I decided to move to Lisbon to look for new opportunities.
Coming to Lisbon three years ago completely changed my life. As someone who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, I strongly benefitted from Portugal’s healthy food (especially grilled fish!), the quality of its drinking water and its weather. I now exercise more and have a healthier lifestyle. I also feel safer here. It is easier to be a migrant in Lisbon, because everything you may need is located in the city center. This makes it easier for those who do not speak Portuguese well yet.
My greatest challenge here has been finding a job. I am learning Portuguese and have already completed two courses. My understanding of the language has improved but I still need to practice speaking with others. I also find it difficult to be away from family. I especially miss my mother, my daughter and my son. I am happy that they are both attending university in Bangladesh studying accountancy, but I fear for their safety there. I also miss visiting my father's grave. Visiting our loved-ones’ graves regularly and praying for them is a tradition in Bangladesh; graves are always located close to our houses.
Overall, I have enjoyed my Portuguese experience here so far. I find Portuguese people to be very similar to Bangladeshis, especially the older people. Seniors always smile to me. They do not seem to care for age or race, and they just greet everyone. It is a lovely habit that all generations should practice!"