InterNations Top Expat Blog Portugal :)

InterNations has recently surprised me with the “Top Expat Blog Portugal” badge, which I’ve added to my sidebar :)  Thanks Celeste, Dimitris and team for your vote of confidence!
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This is totally unexpected! It also made me realise that when you enjoy what you’re doing, rewards will follow when you least expect them.  Back in May 2013 when this blog was born, only a very select group of close friends was aware of its existence and I was doubtful if it would survive its gestation period.  It’s amazing what a huge difference 5 months have made!

Drawing a loose parallel, my current stage of life is also pretty much characterised by following my heart, taking the road less-travelled and praying that faith will yield intangible rewards in the long haul.  Trust me, it is not easy for a stability-craving Taurean to be leading such a fluid life.  It’s even more difficult since I am a “super planner” by nature.  That said, during moments of exasperation, I’ll ask myself if I’ll rather be bowing down to societal norms, leading a routinized life and at my deathbed, questioning if I have indeed lived.  Rhetorical.

Life is full of surprises and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns. Just find your next adventure – do it well, enjoy it – and then, not now, think about what comes next.

Condoleeza Rice, 66th United States Secretary of State

By the way, InterNations is a community of expatriates.  It has just celebrated its sixth birthday and has close to one million members!  There is a wealth of useful information for expatriates, ranging from taxation to lifestyle topics.  Personally, I’ve corresponded with some like-minded expats on adjustment issues.  It is a nice feeling to know that you’re not alone, especially during your initial days in a foreign land.  In addition, I also found my yoga school through InterNations!  My yoga teacher is a fellow expat and conducts her lessons in English.  Naturally, her students are also fellow expats.  As much as I’m trying to immerse into the Portuguese environment, it is nice to spend a couple of hours a week in a pure English-speaking environment :)

If you happen to be relocating, I strongly encourage joining InterNations :)  I’m particularly impressed with its constant stream of activities.  It reminds me of the social and recreational club at school/work.  Great way to meet new friends and navigate your way  around a new country!Screen shot 2013-10-11 at AM 06.46.54

InterNations also did a short feature of my blog and I’m reproducing it below :)  Screen shot 2013-10-11 at AM 06.25.50

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 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 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?  (1) Learn Portuguese – It’s so much easier to build rapport when you speak a common language, even if they are just basic phrases.  (2) 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.  (3) 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!”

Before ending off, to my friends in Singapore: Enjoy what’s left of restaurant week!  Your facebook and instagram pictures are making me drool.  Now, I need to satisfy my jealous tummy this weekend too….

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