Sijie: Joie De Vivre
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Portugal, etc.
Olá fellow InterNations members! I am Sijie from Singapore and have been in Lisbon since June 2013. Unlike the polyglots out there, I am only effectively bilingual in English and Mandarin. That said, I am now learning Portuguese to better embrace this new culture and integrate into this new environment.
(By the way, olá is hello in Portuguese.)
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I stumbled into blogging – my boyfriend gave me the domain www.queridabonita.com as a birthday gift in May 2013! You can read more about my maiden blogging experience in this entry. Although half-hearted at the start, messages of endorsement maintained my momentum. Over time, I grew to enjoy writing “my electronic diary” and sharing tidbits of my life with friends. As such, my posts are not entirely on Portugal although they tend to be Portugal-centric since I am based here.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I like the series Mum & Sis in Portugal, which I have dedicated 4 entries to. The link is to Part 1 and you can simply click on the “Next” tab for Parts 2, 3 and 4. It is refreshing to re-visit tourist sites from time to time, especially with your loved ones!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Portugal differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Back home, life was faster-paced and people were more pragmatic. In contrast, the pace of life here is more relaxed and people are more laid back. The Portuguese are really warm, friendly and helpful! For instance, the lady at the café (which I usually frequent) knows that I am learning Portuguese and is extremely patient with me. She even corrects me at times!
Dinner gatherings in Portugal tend to start really late (around 9.30pm). Hence, I often find myself starving from 7.30pm. In addition, the Portuguese are impromptu and do not typically make reservations. If the restaurant happens to be full, they will settle for a neighboring one.
In general, I didn’t really have trouble adjusting to life in Portugal. This might be attributable to the fact that my boyfriend is Portuguese.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Portugal? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Nobody can ever be fully prepared, though I consider my transition to be extremely smooth. I already had glimpses of life in Portugal as I regularly travelled to this country for 2 years prior to my relocation in 2013. If I could, I would be more diligent in learning Portuguese prior to my move. Although you could get by with English, you might still feel lonely at a table full of natives conversing primarily in Portuguese.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One morning, I saw a group of around 10 to 15 people shouting in the streets. On the same day, I saw other similar groups at different locations across the city. My initial thought was that they were part of an organized protest. It turned out that they were first-year undergraduates and cheering in the city as part of their initiation program!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Portugal?
- Learn Portuguese – It’s so much easier to build rapport when you speak a common language, even if they are just basic phrases.
- Read up on the history of Portugal – This country has an interesting history. Knowing its past would make you appreciate the sights even more! For instance, my picture (above) was taken at Arcos de Valdevez. Without knowing its history, this would just be another ordinary small town. However, this was where Afonso Henriques emerged victorious in the Battle of Valdevez, which eventually led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Portugal.
- Ditch your heels (for the girls) – The streets of central Lisbon are inclined and cobbled! Apart from having some of my favourite heels scratched by the cobbled stones, it is a challenge keeping up with the guys while walking up those slopes in Bairro Alto in heels!
How is the expat community in Portugal? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I am lucky to have met many like-minded classmates in my Portuguese course. Like me, most are new in Portugal and we are all motivated to pick up the language. In addition, InterNations is a great platform to network!
How would you summarize your expat life in Portugal in a single, catchy sentence?
“I have never eaten so many egg tarts in my entire life!”