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Like a rat fleeing a sinking ship

by Luis de Sousa Thu Aug 18th, 2011 at 05:00:08 PM EST

I can't help the feeling, it is a difficult time in Portugal and I'm leaving. At the turn of this year time started to run out for further financing of what was then my professional position. Back then I intended to create a company to provide services on Geographic Information Systems to state institutions, but the contract that could kick start that enterprise never came. In the first weeks of this year I started a series of contacts with acquaintances in the field, went to a few interviews but no effective job offers came up. By the end of February someone sent me an e-mail pointing to a research position at Luxembourg. With my PhD still going in its theoretical phase, emigrating really wasn't in the cards. I closed the e-mail but didn't delete it.

The following weekend I went riding my bike and when I came back home decided to have another look at it. It was quite remarkable how the requisites closely matched my profile; in fact, had I to produce a job offer for myself it might hadn't been so perfect. In all likelihood an opportunity in a lifetime, which I'd certainly regret missing later on. Besides, Luxembourg is not that far way, I should be able to proceed with the PhD without much trouble. Finally, 20% of the population there is Portuguese, I have friends and family there. The curriculum followed.

Days later I received an e-mail asking for an interview, eventually set to the 11th of March. That day I woke up to the news of an earthquake followed by tsunami hitting eastern Japan. Hour later news broke of a serious situation at the Fukushima nuclear complex; my e-mail box was overflowing, it was a busy morning. The interview took place right after lunch through video conference, a sign of the times. To my total desperation, the video call software went down every time I turned on the web-cam; but with a lot of good will at the other side of the wire the interview went forward in audio mode. It took more than one hour where my curriculum was thoroughly dissected. I had the opportunity to clear doubts of my own and said goodbye thinking it went quite well, better than I had expected.

The folks at Luxembourg said they'd take about a month to interview the remaining candidates and go through the decision process. April came by and no news; I pinged them and the answer was that I was one of the best candidates but that the decision process wasn't finished. Time went by and no more news, I devoted myself to the PhD, thinking this option wouldn't go forward.

June arrived with me preparing the Thesis Proposal, a checkpoint where the candidate lays the theoretical foundations, and presents a programme for the practical work. Within days of this event I received a new e-mail from Luxembourg, this time with an objective proposal to join their team. It was the moment of the truth and regarding my professional situation, a month away from unemployment, it wasn't hard to decide.

I'd already tried to move abroad, starting a PhD in another state, but the illusion of new opportunities in Portugal and the lack of immediate alternatives elsewhere lead me to start that endeavour here. Things are different now, and I have further reasons for this decision: the precarious working conditions in Portugal, the difficulty in introducing new technologies and the fragility of the Social fabric. Bellow I'll take these in succession.

Precarious work conditions

The first and foremost reason to leave. During 9 years of carer as a software engineer, only during 15 months did I enjoy the benefits of a full working contract. Research scholarships and independent work where the main schemes used to guarantee a regular income. The main problem of these schemes is the lack of proper social protection: no illness subsidy, no unemployment subsidy, meagre retirement plans and no right to vacations; beyond that, no right to the 13th and 14th monthly salaries. Part of this, like vacations, can be circumvented, but require the good will of the "employer".

All of this is largely illegal, but the produce of a broken labour market. After the 1974 Revolution legislators developed a working legislation directed at a Socialist state where a small number of large state owned corporations would employ the vast majority of workers. But the economic policy veered in a different direction, to a Free Market system, with increasing numbers of small companies and entrepreneurs and the progressive privatization of state corporations. The working legislation and the economic system simply do not match. Existing rules make it so hard to fire an employee that employers recur to illegal schemes whenever they can. It is the classical example of a restriction imposed on the regular equilibrium between Supply and Demand generating a black market.

Interestingly, the largest benefiter of this black market is the State itself. During these past nine years I worked mostly for the Ministry of Environment, through several of its institutes. Hiring by the State is subject to even stricter rules, de facto being impossible to fire a public servant. To make matters worse, a surge of hiring during the 1990s coincided with the first major bout of privatizations, creating an excess of public servants in many areas. A huge effort has been made during the last decade to reduce this excess, making it ever more difficult to hire new public workers. With different rules I'd be a public servant by now, but that simply never happened; those few that made it into the state work force did so largely not because of their competences.

This ill labour market has generated a class division between the lucky ones that managed to get a working contract and those that haven't; this is especially felt in State institutions. Those with a proper contract are usually beyond their 40s, lacking superior education, heads of middle class families, that crystallized in their jobs by the lack of competition. The others are mostly highly skilled young folk, facing huge competition between them for jobs sometimes paid below minimum wage, sometimes not paid at all, willing to subject themselves to the hardest sacrifices, abiding to humiliating exploitation. And the lack of incentives for professional actualization in the State makes the need for young skilled workers even more acute.

The false independent worker status is especially used by the State institutions. It works like this: if the state institution needs an additional worker a contract is made with a third party company as a service provider. This company then pays the worker more or less regularly as if he was providing ad hoc services. There's no formal tie between the worker and the institution, though the former works permanently for the institution, is subject to its working schedule and its organizational hierarchy. The third party company is a mere detour that allows effective hiring of additional workers by the State. The problem is that this detour is highly prone to disturbances, either when the State institution is unable to honour its contract timely, either when the company looses interest on something that can be a bureaucratic burden, it is easy for the illegally hired worker to not get paid timely or simply not get paid at all.

I worked under such conditions during the last two and half years. It was a huge hassle, not knowing when I would get paid, if I'd get paid. I had to take a frugal life, always expecting a sudden end to this difficult relationship. I was able to get to the end of the contract without missing wages, but for that to happen I was forced to take strong measures, along the way even loosing a friend.

This is a tragic situation, that has a great deal of responsibility on the State's budget deficit, with several hundreds of thousands of public workers crystallized in their jobs, without much challenge to their positions or incentives to production.

Reverting this situation cannot be easy. First of all due to the resistance by the favoured ones that today enjoy a working contract. About five years ago the Ministry of Employment launched a discussion on the transition to a scheme close to the Nordic Flexicurity. The reaction from Society, amplified by the media, was so repulsive that no proposal made it to Parliament. And secondly for a blind flexibilization of the labour could send straight to unemployment hundreds of thousands of heads of families lacking superior education, that in all likelihood also missed any sort of knowledge augmentation through the years.

Portugal is today living it's largest bout of emigration since the 1960s, when the Colonial War set many folk on the run. Whereas at that time they were young men and families with poor or no formal education, today they are highly skilled workers formed at good universities. Abroad they find better wages and yes, a proper working contract.


But this working experience during the last years also gave me the first hand experience of what is like to introduce open source software into the Public Administration in Portugal. Two basic problems: lack of planning and lack of informatics knowledge by users in general and especially by those that make decisions. In other states the introduction of new software is planned in a way that it doesn't interfere with the regular functioning of the institution. The first step is to assess if the software presents all functionalities needed by the institution; as a second step comes the development of those features specific to the institution and when maturity is reached a final step of user training takes place. In Portugal the software is simply installed on computers and each user has to sort out how it works by itself.

This ad hoc procedure created many problems and gave a hard life to many users, but also allowed the identification of deeper problems. It turns out that regular public administration users use little more than 2 or 3 software packages, one to read e-mail and a text editor. They expect the text editor to do a million things that it shouldn't exactly do: image edition, collaborative edition, data collection, etc. This is a severe symptom of de-alignment [note: Architect's talk] between the information system of an institution and its business processes. This is foremost a produce of the poor knowledge on information systems in the public administration, from the top decision makers to low end users. But it is also a consequence of a huge dependence that American software companies managed to created on their products by non skilled users.

With time it was possible to fully mature several software packages, especially those that support business process without direct intervention of the end user, like data base systems or map servers; we also managed to create an healthy relationship between several dozens of users and a GIS interface. Eventually the institution's core business would became fully reliant on open source software, that users access through a web interface. On the other hand, electronic office applications, indispensable to administrative personnel, remained a problem, not fulfilling several important requisites. At some point I started to note inside the institution a certain resistance to open source software; certainly the way it was introduced justified some repulse, but it started hitting exactly those areas where it was being more successful. Proposals for the introduction of corporate software started flying, that if realized, would cost heavily to the institution, not only in financial terms but also in the time to reach product maturity. I started suspecting American companies have moles inside the public administration, "public servants" whose sole existence is to harness contracts to their expensive products. I have no way to prove this and can't go much further on this topic, but several events, by their illogic nature, can only lead me to think this way.

My college education was almost entirely based on open source software, it has been with joy that during the last few years I have been able to found my professional activities on such paradigm. At a very small scale I helped closing Portugal's trade deficit and that way limiting the risks of sovereign over-indebtedness. Unfortunately decision makers in our public administration largely lack the education to understand this situation; I doubt I could proceed a professional carer fully committed to open source software in Portugal.

My move to Luxembourg owes much to my familiarity with these technologies, that at least in Europe will be the future in information systems.


Beyond these professional issues I face another challenge living in Portugal: I like to ride my bike. It is a very dangerous activity, especially for me, who prefer the constant exertion on the asphalt. The legislation is so penalizing on bike riders that in any encounter with a car the guilt will always rest on the rider. In Portugal you can't ride side by side, a bike has to give way in every situation, even when signalling may tell otherwise, few roads have side lanes and many are littered with holes that prevent safe riding to the right, and on and on. This lack of protection also means that ill intended drivers are free to due their deeds, at worst, if a driver kills someone, he may get convicted to three years in jail, a sentence that for its short time is usually suspended.

This is but a manifestation of a Society where respect towards fellow citizens and the common good is very thin. It was the first reason that lead me to desire leaving, though today is not the primary.

Especially at a time like this, when the economic setting puts the strain on the Welfare State, it becomes apparent why this social arrangement never worked very well in Portugal, it seems that most citizens act in ways that boycott its very existence. A little story: analysing the data for 2008 the Ministry of Wealth found out that expenses on pharmaceuticals by retirees had been somewhere around 60 million €. Though a huge burden on retirees' budget it is actually a small figure for the Ministry budget. A programme started in January of 2009 whereby pharmaceuticals prescribed by the national health services to retirees would get paid in full by the State. In the beginning of August of 2009 the programme was suspended when expenditures passed above 100 million €. Retirees would go to their doctors and ask receipts for the whole family; given the scale of the fraud it can be concluded that almost everyone was participating. The most disconcerting thing about this story is the doctors' participation, for it wouldn't have been possible for every single retiree to trick them. Enjoying above average wages, doctors are net contributors to the national health system, why would they want to boycott it? Especially when employed by that same system?

I wont go long on the reasons behind this lack of social cohesion, one thing that I'd note though is that Portugal withstood the longest Fascist regime in Europe, spanning for almost five decades; prior to that it had withstood 3 centuries of inquisition. Today an intrinsic distrust towards most forms of authority and administration plagues the largest part of the population. A population that is still poorly educated and remains largely passive in face of Social challenges that it doesn't understand.

Knowing that what we are living is just the first phase of a Transition to a different Socio-Economic arrangement, that will have to be based on entirely different biophysical foundations, I fear that a state like Portugal may find it way more challenging. In fact, its geographical location and vast maritime resource places Portugal in considerable advantage over states less climatically favoured. But the Society within is weak in many aspects and could crumble easily.

It seems wiser to face this Transition at a state with stronger Social cohesion. Thus the feeling that I'm escaping, abandoning my homeland, like a rat fleeing a sinking ship.


The last few weeks in Portugal have been quite stressful, many bureaucratic woes and loose ends to tie; along the way saying good bye to friends and family. Packing all the gear in my flat has been quite a deal, the amount of useless stuff one can gather is quite striking; the recycling will be working overtime. I'm also facing a 40% reduction in home prices, which right now prevents me from selling the flat for a comfortable price. This is an issue that I'll have to leave unsolved, and I'll remain indebted to the bank.

One of the things I'm not very comfortable with is the language. I studied French at high school, can read the news and understand most of what's in the radio, but speaking it is another matter, there's always that term that I miss and the speech runs into a stand still. There's a lot of folk from here that is or has been in France or Luxembourg and they tell me not worry with it, but if my fluency was as good as with English I would feel more comfortable.

Finally one issue that very much concerns me is latitude. Not only the number of overcast/rainy days are much higher than in Portugal, moving from 38º to 49º North means a terrible loss of natural sunlight in the Winter, both in time as in strength. Allied to the natural longing of being way from friends and family, there's a huge potential for depression. The coming months will be harsh but luckily I'm not moving to a totally foreign land and my folk there should provide the needed support.


So these are my last days here. I hope that Portugal finds its own way through the Transition and that I won't be missed much in that [grin]. Thirty years ago Portugal was also forced to request foreign aid, in similar terms to those in force today. By then the popular composer Jorge Palma wrote a song that became a sort of shadow national anthem; apparently about the fall of the empire, it's actually a wake call to a dormant society. Here's a recent live interpretation at a subway station:

And here's the lyrics with a free translation:

Tiveste gente de muita coragemYou had folk with plenty of courage
E acreditaste na tua mensagemAnd you believed in your message
Foste ganhando terrenoYou made up ground
E foste perdendo a memória And you went losing your memory
Já tinhas meio mundo na mãoYou had half world in your hand
Quiseste impor a tua religiãoYou tried to impose your religion
E acabaste por perder a liberdadeAnd you ended up loosing your freedom
A caminho da glória On your path to glory
Ai, Portugal, PortugalAi, Portugal, Portugal
De que é que tu estás à espera?What are you waiting for?
Tens um pé numa galeraYou have a foot on a galley1
E outro no fundo do marAnd another on the bottom of the sea
Ai, Portugal, PortugalAi, Portugal, Portugal
Enquanto ficares à esperaWhile you are waiting
Ninguém te pode ajudar No one can help you
Tiveste muita carta para baterYou had plenty of cards to play
Quem joga deve aprender a perderWho plays must learn to loose
Que a sorte nunca vem sóBecause luck never comes alone
Quando bate à nossa porta When it knocks on our door
Esbanjaste muita vida nas apostas You spent many life on bets
E agora trazes o desgosto às costas And now you have sorrow on your back
Não se pode estar direito You can't stand upright
Quando se tem a espinha torta When your spine is bent
Fizeste cegos de quem olhos tinha You made blind those who had eyes
Quiseste pôr toda a gente na linha You wanted to set everyone straight
Trocaste a alma e o coração Traded your soul and heart
Pela ponta das tuas lanças For the tips of your spears
Difamaste quem verdades dizia You difamed who told the truth
Confundiste amor com pornografia You confused love with pronography
E depois perdeste o gosto And then you lost the joy
De brincar com as tuas crianças Of palying with your children
Chorus x 2
1 Meaning a fast ship

What are you waiting for Portugal? Is emigration the only way forward?

Here's the same song on the piano. I was hesitant between the two versions and chose the subway for diverse the public reaction.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Thu Aug 18th, 2011 at 05:03:05 PM EST
Like a rat, I don't think so. All the best, Luis!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2011 at 02:29:22 AM EST
The basic tenets of the EU are free movement of goods, capital, people. You are being a good European!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 19th, 2011 at 03:03:02 AM EST

Whereas at that time they were young men and families with poor or no formal education, today they are highly skilled workers formed at good universities. Abroad they find better wages and yes, a proper working contract.

This is happening in UK (huge amount of Brits are coming in Australia everyday) and I suppose other European countries are seeing this too. American young professionals are fleeing to Hong Kong and would you believe it China...Serbs used to flee all over the world during the war and even more because of economic crises. Now those companies from west are investing and moving to Serbia and Croatia because of cheap labor...they are European China/India haha.
Many jobs are cut here in Australia because they moved jobs to China and India...Qantas is doing it right now...It's a worldwide story. People here in Australia are losing jobs too as we speak and if they work overtime they work without being paid for it. As my husband famously said 5-6 years ago: `we are all going to work "on call"...meaning they will call people to work ONLY when they have a job to be done. No full time positions. Howard had legislation that would soon allow this but luckily he lost election because of it. Well they may easily win next election and here we go again...Hard times everywhere. Especially bad for young people cause they will not be able to start family even longer in life.

I understand how you feel...look where am I...THE END OF THE WORLD...At least you'll see your family and friends frequently...I saw them 3 times in almost 17 years...damn...I could cry...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein

by vbo on Fri Aug 19th, 2011 at 08:56:18 AM EST
Not only the number of overcast/rainy days are much higher than in Portugal, moving from 38º to 49º North means a terrible loss of natural sunlight in the Winter, both in time as in strength. Allied to the natural longing of being way from friends and family, there's a huge potential for depression. The coming months will be harsh but luckily I'm not moving to a totally foreign land and my folk there should provide the needed support.

Imagine we moved to windy Wellington New Zealand , there is no place further then that ..."where ever you go you keep coming back" friend said...(that place even they call "devils hole") where 8 months a year it was a cloudy and rainy...and we did not know single soul there...Depression...huge time. That's why I fell in love with sunny Brisbane at first sight.
Homesickness yes...but it will pass...and you'll be home every second weekend, ha-ha. You lucky guy.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Aug 19th, 2011 at 09:12:20 AM EST
You are doing what you need to do, however painful. Congratulations on your new job and on your reunion with family and friends.

Your suspicions about why the government made a pointless and costly conversion to proprietary software are probably well founded. I think that is covered in the grad school version of Bribery 401. I recall my dismay when Los Angeles Unified School District "standardized" on Microsoft and thus forced me to start using Word instead of Word Perfect. Then, years later, I was describing the situation to co-workers when one of them laughed and told me that is partner had been the Microsoft sales executive who brought that about. Probably gave them a short term "deal" on all MS products and the rationale along with some special 'spif' for the decision maker(s). This can only really be dealt with by curbing the power of corporations.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2011 at 09:43:54 AM EST
And its a short term investment that is soon replaced by "educational discounts" that amount to nothing more than a profit seeker selling at a price low enough to avoid losing that particular market segment.

And indeed the extra vig is often only a bit of extra push on top of the nonsense that has been spread by the professional opinion makers.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Aug 20th, 2011 at 09:38:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good luck. At least in Luxembourg you are better placed to attend ET meetups ;-))

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 19th, 2011 at 10:31:55 AM EST
I surely hope so, never been at one of the meetings :)

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Sun Aug 21st, 2011 at 03:06:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We were amongst first that left Serbia for New Zealand at the beginning of 1994. Leaving my family and friends there I felt that I am leaving them in very dark place with very dark future and I felt sad and guilty. And yes they had to go through very dark times. We tried to help at least with some money (not that we had much but still...).
We came to New Zealand on point system, meaning we had to be university educated, with some work experience and still young...and we had to speak English. I was 39 when we came there with two teens. It was a hard ride for all of us. My husband was lucky to get his professional job after 5 months. Not everyone was that lucky. During next two years hips of people from Serbia came to New Zealand. We were not welcome anywhere in Europe. Canada and New Zealand were our destinations. Australia had refugee program for people from Bosnia and Croatia (mixed marriages) and it was much harder to come to Australia straight. Most of us had to move to Australia for better life later. Being well educated we were big surprise for New Zealanders. They were used to mostly uneducated immigrants previously and when they learned how many of us were engineers, doctors, pilots etc. they were shocked and I remember how they kept asking us "how is it possible that your country LET you go in so big numbers"...meaning that it must be a big loss for any country to lose so many professionals, let alone little Serbia, so they should do anything to keep us there. "They do not care" we said and Kiwis were shocked. Trouble with New Zealand was that there were not enough good jobs for those professionals or conditions for registration were too tough so some people (especially doctors and pilots) had to drive taxi for living. It was New Zealand loss. Most of us moved to Australia after we have got passports. Also salaries were not adequate because of high cost of living...not to mention bad weather.
You are going to Luxemburg (I have been there about 40 years ago, ha-ha) ...you can almost "spit" to your home in Portugal how close it is. You have relatives there, wow what a bonus and really you can visit home very often. So do not be so sad. Language really is barrier but I am sure it's not going to be a big problem.
Emigrating is never easy...and it's not for everyone...but you are still in EU and that's almost the same like if you are in USA and you go to different state to work ( many Americans have to move for job and always had to)...Similar here in Australia...big country, many states...
This is a time of movements and I am afraid future will be even more. Irony is for example with us Serbs here that we came here because of our kids and now when our kids finished universities they are moving all over the world without us and we have to stay here, ha-ha. Many of our kids are in UK/London, USA and interestingly quite a few are back in Belgrade working for foreign companies...What a bizarre world...and our destinies...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sat Aug 20th, 2011 at 06:30:25 AM EST
That's an interesting story, I hope you feel it was worth it. I know a few stories alike from folk that left from here, some of which I never saw again. All in all my move is much less challenging than that undertook by my kin during the 1960s. Still a hugely stressful moment. Best.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Sun Aug 21st, 2011 at 03:09:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I always have been adventures, ha-ha and always wanted to move around the world. Was it worth it? Can't say...but I do not regret and I simply feel I had to follow my destiny. It's a ride...jump on it.
You'll be fine!
I wonder what happened to De Anander. I believe she have moved from USA to Canada at some point. Does anybody know where she is now?

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Aug 21st, 2011 at 11:14:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Far as I can tell, she moved and appears to like it on her boat in Canada. Her woefully sparsely updated blog Hubbert's Toboggan had a post in april about why she posts only rarely.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 22nd, 2011 at 03:17:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope all goes well for you - getting out of an impossible situation should prevent rather than induce depression.  Remember to take a walk outside at mid-day if possible to get your sunlight when it's about.

So much of what you say echoes Ireland.  We also have:

a) A set of public servants and incumbents in private industry in middle and higher management who are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their privileges with no solidarity whatsoever with casual, contract workers or the unemployed.

b)  Open source is an uphill struggle, despite often being better and cheaper.  It doesn't help that Ireland is the major centre for corporate tax avoidance for Microsoft and others within the EU.

c) Cycling - you are taking your life in your hands here.

by Pope Epopt on Sat Aug 20th, 2011 at 05:52:02 PM EST
This is a fascinating diary. Thank you so much for it.

I've always felt more like a citizen of the world than of a particular country. If I could live in many places rather than just the two countries thus far (USA almost 60 years, Germany almost 2) I would gladly do so.

For what it's worth, I also made the latitudinal change, from Austin TX to the Bavarian Alps, without experiencing seasonal affective disorder. Hopefully that will be your experience as well, though you may not have the altitudinal advantage one experiences in the Alps.

French is such a beautiful language, and you are so intelligent, I'm "putting my money" on your making it your own in record time.  Good luck to you.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Mon Aug 22nd, 2011 at 04:24:45 AM EST
Totally agree. Fascinating diary, thanks Luis!

I, too, have always felt more like a global citizen than a citizen of a particular country. After living in the US for 50+ years I moved to Finland, where I've lived now for almost 10. If I had the opportunity to live elsewhere in Europe, I'd like to try that out too.

The change from foggy San Francisco weather to bitterly cold Helsinki winters took some getting used to, but really wasn't that bad. All of my friends were pretty sure I'd come down with seasonal affective disorder and become depressed, but nah, never happened. Winter turned out to be one of my favorite seasons, together with spring, summer and fall.

I'm certain you'll do just fine in your new home Luis, best of luck to you!

by sgr2 on Mon Aug 22nd, 2011 at 03:16:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"French is such a beautiful language, and you are so intelligent, I'm "putting my money" on your making it your own in record time."

Ah, but the people there will actually speak Luxemburger, which is a mix between German and Dutch. That will be way trickier ;-)

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Aug 23rd, 2011 at 12:57:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did not know they have their own language.
With language ( if you have talent for it) it's pretty easy to pick up basic stuff but what I found as a problem (even after all these years) is that it takes a lot ( if ever you can do it) to express yourself rightly like you can in your own language. Pretty often I feel like a child (or idiot OMG) because of how I speak and I can only imagine how I may look to people here :(... Well I learned not to care ;)

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Tue Aug 23rd, 2011 at 01:48:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the U.S. of A., moving 5000 km from one side of the country to the other to get a job or go to school is quite common. And then we jump in the car and drive home at Christmas.

Can you squeeze in your dissertation proposal and then work on it remotely? That's also pretty common here. You have to put in a couple of years to satisfy a residency requirement, and then your'e pretty much free to go where you want...depends on the department...not familiar with the system over there...

by asdf on Mon Aug 22nd, 2011 at 08:30:18 PM EST
Thank you for an interesting and worthwhile read.

As Wife of Bath and sgr2 said, I don't feel tied to any particular country, more like a world citizen. Maybe that's something that comes with the times? So many of us seem to be changing, migrating, going to other places.

And it needn't be forever. You'll be close enough to Portugal to go back fairly easily and quickly.

On light, or lack thereof, you can get lightbulbs that mimic the full spectrum. IIRC they were invented in Sweden. I've used them in winter, living close to 44 degrees north, and they've been very helpful.

by Mnemosyne on Mon Aug 22nd, 2011 at 08:48:54 PM EST
You're absolutely right about the benefits of full spectrum lights. They are a tremendous help getting through the winter.
by sgr2 on Tue Aug 23rd, 2011 at 08:40:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the tip on the lightbulbs, I'll see to it once I find an apartment.

It is hard to stop thinking of one self like a portuguese. A small country with so many history and cultural heritage. Perhaps the same reason that compels Luxemburgers to speak their own language.

But I also feel very european, always have felt that, especially since dealing more closely with other folk throughout the continent.


by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Fri Aug 26th, 2011 at 05:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Luis, if you were to send me your details by email I could put you in touch with some nice and interesting people over there -who would welcome someone nice and interesting to hang around with.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Aug 23rd, 2011 at 12:59:16 AM EST
Maybe we can't change the world to our liking as quickly as we'd like, but that shouldn't stop us from doing what we can in the meantime, like helping one another. It's posts just like this that give me hope, a sense a community, and reason enough to spend time at ET.
by sgr2 on Tue Aug 23rd, 2011 at 08:49:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cyrille, my email is in my signature. I do not yet have a phone number or a proper address; I'm staying at Bettembourg at my uncle's. Thanks for helping!

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Fri Aug 26th, 2011 at 05:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks to all for the kind words.

I've been living at Luxembourg since last Wednesday and so far I haven't been able to register as a resident. I seem to be going the exact opposite path, at each step I need some document that I should have requested before.

Today I went to the Portuguese Embassy, trying to get a missing certificate but it was closed. By the good portuguese way, it only opens to the public during the morning and people tell me it is constantly crammed with people; a 2 hour wait next Monday seems guaranteed.

There is portuguese folk everywhere and some supermarkets have their own portuguese stuff section. The urban setting is strikingly different (for the better) as so the weather - it rains when there's no wind and I've seen some cloud patterns I've never seen before. In spite of the rain I hope to take some time during the weekend for promenading.



by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]protonmail[dot]ch) on Fri Aug 26th, 2011 at 05:39:28 PM EST
Thanks for information. Keep us posted, please...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Sep 2nd, 2011 at 01:59:50 AM EST
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