It’s strange, the first thing that comes to mind – I don’t’ think much about what I miss – it’s a communication barrier, I think a little bit. It’s the British sense of humor, it’s the way back home you bond with people very easily. To have a kind of understanding that practically everything you say is a joke, in some way. It’s just a method of communication. And it’s not that people over here don’t have…
I don’t see things anymore as this is the way things are, but just, this is a possibility versus this is how you can understand it. I think that was one challenge and the other challenge, or the other thing I had to adapt was to make a much bigger effort than what I would have done otherwise in reaching out to people. One time a friend on mine use this metaphor that I kinda like: when you are abroad you are like a fisherman…
It’s true that someone migrates to another county to improve something about life, economics, maybe education, and culture situation. One migrates also for the tales of friends who have migrated before.
In my country, we think about Spain as the country of the dreams where you earn a lot on money, where you can also send money to your family. Where you’ll have enough money to build a house in Peru. You can send money to you brother, your father, your mother. You can give to your brother, your sister -or somebody else close to your family that you desire to help- a good education in a private school or at University.
So apparently, we dream, to move becomes a dream. It is usual to hear “Martin moved to Spain” “Carlo moved to US” “And after few years he has a big house” “his family, his sisters, his mother, they bought a car. They start a little business, they even went to University”. Yes, sometimes we think this way and we dream to move, to migrate. In my case, I notice that when I arrive in Spain I earned almost 1000euros and I used to send all the money to Peru, to give a service to my mother, my sister, my aunt..but then I found myself without money. I kept doing this for few months until I realized that ok, I send money to Peru and my family is happy They believe I have a lot money, or that I own a company or that I am a manager in the new country. But instead, in the new country I rent a house, or I lived with other families, and I have no education, no money. I just have a job, I am like a slave. I sacrificed myself to give money to my brother, but I don’t live.
You see. I don’t like it. I realized that in these countries I am going to work in the supermarket or the construction sector. I will remain poor because of these jobs’s salary. I will work all the day, leaving early in the morning, coming back in the evening. I won’t have time to go to University or to study.
Furthermore, even if it is possible to work, you can only live with precariousness of money to pay the rent, to buy something to eat, with restrictions on buying new dresses or shoes, with no plans to buy a little flat. Hence in my case, with the emigration comes a lot of confusion about all these aspects.
Because it’s true, you will migrate to a country where life is better, you will earn more money, but you will have higher expenses about food, rent, social tax and you will remain without money or poor or with the minimal wage. So it’s not true that you’ll become a rich, a millionaire, a manager of a little store. It’s not true. You leave your home country cause there you earn four or six times less, you move to another country in Europe where you will earn six times more, but life will also be really expensive, plus you have to pay the rent…and maybe in your country you already have a house, at your parents, at your grandma, at your grandparents, but in another country, you have to pay a rent, every months, and it won’t be less than 300 euros, every months, so you have to work.
The positive aspect I saw in Europe, is that here there is the a welfare system. It means that you find yourself unemployed, after you have worked for a period, the State helps you, for some months or years, while you are looking for a new job.
So I studied during the night and sometimes when I was unemployed, this financial aid gave me the possibility to concentrate on studying and I was able to go to University in Spain. I studied industrial electronic engineering, but unfortunately I graduated in the wrong moment in which Spain entered the economical crisis. I graduated, they gave me my diploma but there were no possibilities to get a job, because in that moment all the factories and industrial company were closed or they have moved to other countries, even a lot of banks closed the door. Thus, I scarified years of study for not finding a job in Spain. I stayed few years without a job or working as a freelancer, but it was not enough. I had to move to another country, and I came to Belgium. Here they gave me the possibility, not really to work in my field, to do my job, but to work, and it’s important, here in Europe, to work to survive. But you can also remain as a mushroom of society, without working, for some years. But this is not my aim. I want to work, to grow, and if it is possible, to improve the language and to find a job in the field I study for so long.
When you realized the truth about the dream, that everything you imagined in your home country about you neighbors that accomplished their dreams migrating…when you realized, it’s already a bit too late. Because when you arrive in a new country, you have to copy with a lot of preoccupation, to get registered, to find a job, to learn the language and find an accommodation…and then, we you have settled down and you can realize the truth, already some years have passed, but it’s in that moment that you say to yourself: “I have to stop to send money back home, because I need money too to live, because we are human beings. We need to live, to go out, to get dress, to save money to maybe build a house someday”.
For example, I migrated because I wanted to build a three floor house in Peru, I wanted that my sister and brother go to University. And I will pay their studies because I am outside, I am in a foreign country.
But I believe that to move abroad and to find a normal job that let you pay your living expenses, plus the charges of your family in Peru…you will have to work for a lot of years and maybe, you won’t make it. You wont’ build the house or pay the studies. Because when you live, you also have your life and you have to live as a normal person and to this, you have to add your charges…and I believe that to make up for all this, you need to work for ten, twenty years…and when you realize it, all your life has passed. Because you need also to consider that money is time.
It means that you can build the three floor house, pay the study for you brothers in Peru, but you need money that is equal time. It means you will need 10 years of your time. And it will be the same if you work for 15 year in Peru, staying with your parents and not paying the rent. It is like the electric tension: you can work at 230v, but you can work also at 400v. If you work at 230v you use 10A, instead if you work at 400, you imply 5 or 4A. The power produced is the same, we only change the tension. It means that the factors doesn’t change the product, the power, the energy, remains the same.
I know a woman who has been working here for eight years and earns 1300euros, and every month she sends the 1300 euros home. I’m amazed. She works as a cleaning woman and she has the chance that she lives in her own house, she sleeps in her house, she eats in her house. Then Saturday and Sunday she also stays in the house. Tell me, his son build a big house, her daughter went to university and started a career, but the mother works every day as a slave and sent all the money back home. This is a really precarious situation, a situation of sacrifice. I don’t know if it is possible to avoid it or not, because she feels as she has to send the money home. But for me, this is also a cultural and education issue. Sometimes you work and give all your money to your son, your family, but you cannot know if they are enhancing it. If they make a good use of it. You cannot know. And you sacrifice yourself, you become the image of the holy virgin of the sacrifice. But not everybody can do that. This is not the life of an human being, an human being has to live, to grow and to seek for the quality of life. What does it mean the quality? The quality is that everyone has to feel at his/her place. Also if you work in a baker shop, in a supermarket, you must never feel less than another person. If you walk on the road, you walk. If want to enter in a bakery, to go to a restaurant to eat some food typical of your country, you have to be in the economical condition to do it. This the quality of life. Not have to stay at home because it’s cheaper. Because you’re an human being.
It is also the mentality that creates illusions in the poor countries, because one sees the neighbor sending home 1300 euro -that are a lot in a poor country- and someone thinks that maybe the neighbor earns the double, but not, that is the whole salary.
These are the problems that make you think that US and Europe are the country of your dreams. Because there are a lot of people with the same mentality. It’s not their fault, probably the reasons have to be looked in the society or the politics, but these are the facts that deceived the one that migrates.
Furthermore, I tell you that the local people fear migration and there is also racism. We cannot hide it anymore. We cannot mask the racism and the fear. The are local people that don’t like to give you a job because you are an immigrant, or you skin has another color. It means that you have less possibilities to find a job. It also means that you have to work harder to keep your job if you have one. So sometimes the situation is tough -it was better before the crisis- and the more affected are the immigrants.
Let’s start with what I did to integrate myself. When I arrived in Paris, the city was not new to me, I had visited it several times before and my sister was living here. However, the decision to leave my country for a non defined period of time – three years now- had a strong impact on me.
As you decide to stay in a new place and to study its language…this implies, from my point of view, what I did for one year and half: to avoid to spend time with Italians in order to immerse myself totally in what can mean being French. I met some french guys and started to go out with them to know better the new cultural and social context in which I was living and also to learn the new language. They are now good friends of mine and they had the patience to stay with me and listen to me even when I did not know much of french. So, my first adaption, that I did with pleasure, was to leave the idea that when you go to a foreign country, you have to bring your way of thinking to the hosting people. I chose that I was the one that had to get into their world…going out at the beginning only with french…and also going out alone debunking the myth that big cities are made of persons that do not communicate to each others. For me Paris, differently from what the stereotypes say, it’s not like this. I met my friend in a bar in which I went alone, we chatted and then we started to go out.
The least pleasant part is about the stereotypes that being Italian carries around Europe. For the ones living abroad, making efforts to be themselves in a place where they were not born, these stereotypes have a weight.
What changed? The positive thing for someone that migrated is to go out from its previous context of the real, you become a new person while still holding on to yourself. I believe that when you’re abroad, slowly, you are always into a formative process.
Adaptation in the sense that you test your possibilities.
For example at work I have a colleague born in France from Chinese parents who does not consider himself French, for me it is paradoxical. You lived for forty years in a state, and you don’t feel part of that nation.
The integration must to take place in both the two parts involved, and this is the fight that some of the persons that lived abroad commit themselves..perhaps even without knowing it or unconsciously..in a night with friends from different nationalities.
I recently spoke with a French friend of mine and I told her that after three years, I feel that there were certain things that was right from me to adapt to, but there are others that I can never tolerate for those that are my principles.
I had an episode in which I think I was fired because one of my colleagues was not inclined to have Italians, Greeks, Spanish or southern Europeans working with him.
I moved from a town to a big city..the time..how you perceive time..when you move you think time in a different way, it acquires a new importance, it goes faster because you get involve in more activities.
I think adaptation is to consider a different dimension of time.
It’s not very easy to integrate in a new country, but it’s your choice if you want to stay isolated or go out and meet people. When I came here I did not know many people, so I started to search on internet some websites for expatriates and I started to meet people in this way ….