Ignore what the prime-minister said: you don’t have to leave Portugal. If you want to be 20 minutes away from your friends’ birthday celebrations, to be with your family every weekend, to be the local with all the answers instead of the inquisitive foreigner, stay. It’s OK to stay. I wanted to. Until my comfort zone became too uncomfortable and I had nothing left holding me back.
If you would have asked me two years ago if I would consider moving to Singapore, my reply would have been a decisive “No”. How about without a job waiting for me on the arrival? “No way!”
It’s been over a month since I moved here and I haven’t had a single moment of regret. I’m told that the first three months abroad are the honeymoon phase, so I’m only half way. But I know I thought this decision thoroughly. There is a portuguese advert where Cristiano Ronaldo says “Invest in yourself”. It’s for a bank, not even mine, but I did it anyway. I bet all my savings in my experience, talent and determination, and here I am.
Life in Singapore is very different because my attitude is too. I do things here that I never did in Portugal, from sharing an apartment with four complete strangers to reaching out to meet as many people as I can.
If I had to give any advice it would be: be prepared. Visit the country first and gather as much money as you can. Don’t come if you don’t like the weather – I love it. Prepare to be humble. When you are the outsider you don’t know better, you know different. And they may or may not care about your points of view (it’s in their right not to). You are away to learn and to accept new rules. Not to complain about the prices of beer, wine, coffee, cheese or rent (though you certainly will). They will be nice and show interest in your culture at first but don’t expect it to become the beginning of a lasting friendship.
When leaving your own country, it helps to think that you can always abort the emigration mission or that it’s only temporary. I understand now that – for all of us – the odds of going back to Portugal are very slim. After broadening your horizons chances are that you will either stay here or go somewhere else, while the dream of returning to Portugal drifts away.
And that is why it’s more than OK to stay in Portugal. But if you do, please don’t whine so much. Enjoy it for me. Keep it a good home to come back to.
Claudia Ribeiro, Creative Copywriter, Singapore