The loop and thrill of change

There is something quite exhilarating about new beginnings. It is a mixed roller coaster of anticipated “saudade” of what you will leave behind, and excitement for what is coming where daydreaming is almost a teleporting experience.

I am now in my 5th country! Moved this month to the Midlands in England from the rainy Wales. The reason: work at a new site for my company. It was a strange move, with lots of unknowns and last minute job demands that really didn’t allow the normal moving process to unfold. Didn’t have time to say goodbye to everyone, or know exactly when would my last night at my old house be.

When reflecting upon the subject, these are the consistent stages I face whenever change is on the horizon:

1 – The plateau

When all is too settled, the sea is flat, no wind, all is in cruising mode… but underneath a swell builds up, craving for novelty and bumpy rides. Calm seas never made a good sailor, they say. This is a very familiar sea I encounter after being in a place for a while. This plateau has a second phase called “the wait”. When you know a wave is coming, but you are unsure when and where it will lead. Time stops in this period. Personally, it feels like a limbo. Focusing on the current task needs becomes extremely hard, it takes a lot of mental power to stay conscious and not drift into a “wandermind” state.

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2  Land on sight

When you know where and when you are going. The level of difficulty to focus on present life increases. Your mind goes from a wander state, into an investigation mode. New tasks start to appear on the horizon and some juggling skills come in handy. This is a short phase, I tend to immediately jump to the next one.

3 – The hunt

My favorite. Research, research, research, house hunting, town hunting. Despite the excitement, there is this subconscious certainty that all will be good. I usually let the places surprise me and not plan too much (which plays in my favor. I suck at planning!). Still the research of the new place and of the mundane tasks that you probably never realize anyway (such as, I need a house close to the gym), play some weight in the decision making of house hunting.

At this stage, the first instinct of the place to live is usually the right one. It happened to me the last 3 times. Still all the hunt in between makes it fun and confirms your initial hint.

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4 – The shift

Again, my last house move was a weird one, but nevertheless, it still felt like the familiar  paradoxal phase of extremes and calmness. It is surprising how quickly one adapts to its new surroundings. Must be the human nomad brain kicking in. Is like you feel at home only when change is present, but at the same time you embrace all the other changes you experienced. You miss some of those, but you do not wish to go back, for each change has brought you closer to some ideal, whatever that may be (haven’t figured out mine yet). Whenever you move, you leave something behind, a little piece of you is in the places you will probably never see again, and the friends you will speak occasionally, and you bring those places with you. It’s a nostalgic exchange.

The only downside of moving: packing and unpacking. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in a single year. Maybe next time I will opt for a minimalistic way of life! However, my need for change has never reached the digital nomad way of life… yet. I’m still more in a “hermit crab” phase.

 

On a final thought, is not about new life vs old life, for each chapter is part of the same book, of your own story, and all of them are important trails that lead you here. Is not about running away from something, but towards your own quest. For me, the need for change is something deeper that I am not quite able to explain.

 

 

 

 

 

A Portuguese never ending adjustment to the UK

When you speak to a Portuguese in the UK, 3 topics will come up:

  • How great our weather is: you could never fully comprehend the impact of 300 days of sun. “Boiling” is quality of life. Fair point to both our nations, we both like to talk about the weather.
  • How amazing our food is: we actually feel sorry for 95% of the population that has been deprived from our culinary goods. You have not lived! Except if you are a vegetarian, then we have nothing for you.
  • How impressive our landscape and history are, and we will tell you all about how our small nation has influenced the world and how we have taught the British to drink tea.
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A normal winter day in Lisbon!

Some other differences and remarks I have found along the way:

  • We work to live, British live to work. Or some people say. Despite Portuguese low salaries, we appreciate life to the fullest. Surprisingly, statistics say portuguese work more hours too… of course these statistics probably include all the time we spend chatting about football and the weather while having our 5 daily espresso work breaks. Doesn’t mean we are less productive, we just sense time differently. Since I came to the UK, I do live to work and more hours too… is this what happens when you migrate?
  • There is no such thing as “it’s boiling”! C’mon, heatwave with 27Cº? Do I need to say more?

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  • No driving latin fever. How I miss calling people names and judge heavily others driving skills! For us, orange means “speed up before it turns red”. Red means “You have 2 seconds to go”. Speed limits to us are more like recommendations. Learned the hard they are not in the UK! Had to attend an extremely boring speed awareness course within my first 4 months here. The crime: I was driving 35mph instead of 30… The lesson effect lasted exactly 10 minutes.
  • Fish and chips is not food! – When we speak how amazing our fish is, don’t try to empathize by saying you have Fish and Chips… it is not comparable at all! Is like telling an Italian that Pizza Hut is the best pizza in the world, or to serve you microwaved tea. We have 1000 ways to cook codfish, and only 2 include chips. We still have all the remaining dozens of fish and sea food cooked in every imaginable possible way.
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Portuguese version of fish and “chips”
  • Banter – I still don’t get it. Or maybe this post is a proof I’m getting it now? (some people took offense with this post, which means I’m learning the skill). We make fun of our close friends, and comment on people’s lives, but we know exactly that we are joking. Here I never know if people are serious or not. Strange British humour!
  • Night out – This deserves a whole post, but here is a summary of my Swansea experience:
    • Portugal: Dinner starts at 9pm. At midnight, after a large meal with proper food, a few beers and a coffee, we go bar hopping until 2am, have a few beers on the street (yes in the open), followed by disco until 6am. For this, we bring extra clothing because it’s cold outside.
    • UK: Dinner at 8pm is late. Most places stop serving food at this time. The girls are hugging themselves in short summer dresses and open sandals with no coats (with 3ºC), walking in zigzags down the street. No one drinks outside because it is illegal. Drink as fast and as much as you can seems to be the motto. Night ends at midnight. At 1am only a few remaining souls are left in the pub, mostly those who are unable to walk home.

I have to admire though, the strange comfort Britains have from beans on toast for breakfast, horrible weather, package holidays (Portugal will always welcome you in our beautiful Algarve) and little dogs. Also, I have to say I was happily surprised by the warmth of the welsh! Very nice folks with awesome welsh cakes!