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Immer mehr Europäer wandern angesichts der europäischen Krise aus und suchen Arbeit in den früheren europäischen Kolonialgebieten Argentinien, Brasilien, Mozambique oder Angola

Dezember 23, 2011

Portugal’s migrants hope for new life in old African colony

Increasing numbers of Europeans are going to Mozambique in search of work, but many have unrealistic expectations

Plaza Combatentes market in Maputo. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

It is Wednesday, and 31-year-old Maria Nunes is picking at her husband’s grilled sardines, laughing at a comment from her friend Carlos, across the table. This group of young professionals have gathered at the Associação Portuguesa for their weekly lunch. It is a reunion of sorts, for the group of expatriates to talk about all things Portuguese over the black and white checkered tablecloths.

All eight were born in Portugal but now live in Mozambique.

The southern African country is famed for its prawn curries, balmy Indian Ocean beaches and local jazz, but the former Portuguese colony is experiencing a resurgence in foreign investment – and foreign migrants – as coal reserves are discovered in the north, urban centres develop in a frenzy of construction, and Europe slides further into economic meltdown.

Maria, a freelance graphic designer, and her husband, Ricardo, moved to Maputo in 2006, interrupted by a brief spell in Angola for Ricardo’s work as a civil engineer. The couple say they love Maputo and chose to live there because it is so Portuguese.

„There’s so many new people arriving everyday,“ Maria says. „They just keep coming. Four years ago it was very quiet. But two years ago everything changed. It feels like it’s tripled in the last two years. Every week I see new people in the restaurants, the clubs.“

She shakes her head in bewilderment. „My hometown is small, in the middle of nowhere, but there are still three or four people from there who are here.“

Maria says there’s an email group of thousands online, made up of Portuguese expats living in Mozambique and those in Europe who want to make the move. „Every day there’s another CV from Portugal, someone else looking for a job, wanting to come,“ she says. And now finding work in Maputo is getting more and more difficult.

Her friend Carlos Quadros, a newly arrived environmental engineer from Lisbon, says: „Things aren’t so good in Portugal, it’s in crisis. There’s no work at all, and if you get work, you don’t get good pay. And it’s going to get worse.“

He says there are many more opportunities in Mozambique, but it depends on your area of expertise. If you’re an architect or engineer, or have technical skills, there are plenty of jobs.

There has been a 30% to 40% increase in the number of Portuguese migrants choosing to move to Mozambique over the past two years, says the consul general, Graça Gonçalves Pereira.

And while Portuguese nationals don’t have to register at the embassy so concrete numbers are hard to come by, she says the population is in the tens of thousands.

„We can see there are more people now,“ Pereira says. „It’s no surprise. It’s natural to look for something better, and Portuguese people always emigrate. It’s been a habit of ours since the 16th century.“

Many migrants arrive on fixed-term contracts with Portuguese companies who have invested in Mozambique, she says, but most will leave after their contracts end.

Sitting in his whitewashed restaurant on the bustling Avenida Julius Nyerere, Luis Carvalho agrees. „The new Portuguese, they stay for a few months, then they’re gone,“ he says. „Of 100 who come, 50 will have left within three months.“

His restaurant O’Porto serves, in his words, „nouvelle Portuguese cuisine“, and caters predominantly to rich Mozambicans and Portuguese migrants who come because the name reminds them of home.

Carvalho says many new migrants arrive with unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve in Mozambique. When they come they want to start at the top, have high-ranking jobs, he frowns.

„Some people get jobs, some give up, and others just can’t adapt to the Mozambican way,“ he says.

For Carvalho, Mozambican life is what you make of it. Gazing at the black and white photos of the restaurant’s namesake on the walls, he says, „Mozambique is a great opportunity for life. In Portugal it’s different, because everything’s invented already. In Africa you have opportunities.“

Down the road the owner of the more traditional family-run Restaurante Taverna, Nuna Pestana, says he’s also fallen in love with the country. „The sun here, it feels different from everywhere else. The colour of the day, the people …“ he trails off in reverie.

Despite Pestana’s love for his new country, his restaurant caters for those homesick for Europe. Taverna is an unassuming log-fronted establishment, with rough-hewn wooden benches and checkered tablecloths, but is one of the most expensive eateries in the city.

The food is traditional, home-cooked Portuguese – and business is so good. Nuna’s extensive wine list is handed out to patrons on iPads, a first for Mozambique. Out of the 960 wines on his wine list, 85% are Portuguese and, despite the prices, are still the most popular.

„This week 15 Portuguese people came for lunch. They were on a trip to see Mozambique, explore business opportunities,“ Pestana says.

Every day, every night, there’s a new Portuguese person coming to the restaurant, he says. And in the past few months at least 10 new Portuguese restaurants have opened.

Pestana says Portugal has a culture of emigration. „We are conquistadors. When things aren’t good, we go to where it is best. We’ve done it for generations,“ he says.

At the Associação Portuguesa the group are finishing their lunch. Maria shakes her head. This is not my country, she says. „I love it, but my family’s far away.“

She says that she’s learning Mozambican dancing, but, glancing at her tangerine shirt and slimfit blue jeans, she shrugs. „I still buy all my clothes in Portugal. We go home every Christmas,“ she says.

Maria and Ricardo are newlyweds and want European passports for their children.

„We may live in Mozambique, but we will die Portuguese,“ Ricardo says.

At a neighbouring table a group of older Portuguese men have been sitting since mid-morning, sipping neat whisky and gazing at the Jardim dos Namorados across the road. In their swirl of cigar smoke they’re oblivious to the raucous chatter with a smattering of accents from across the Lusophone world.

Most have been in Mozambique for years, watching the younger ones come – and go.

Young Europeans flock to Argentina for job opportunities

Thousands have left Europe this year in search of employment and a more relaxed lifestyle in Buenos Aires

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Uki Goni in Buenos Aires, Thursday 22 December 2011 16.23 GMT
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On an old building in San Telmo, one of the most popular neighbourhoods with Europeans, a group of anonymous graffiti artists have reproduced works by British street artist Banksy. Photograph: Cezaro De Luca/EPA

The newly elected prime minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, caused a minor scandal during his electoral campaign earlier this year when he claimed that „1,200 young Spaniards are emigrating to Argentina each year“ due to his country’s economic crisis.

Rajoy’s claim was probably exaggerated, but the mass arrival of young Europeans is nonetheless clearly evident in the streets of Buenos Aires today.

Most of them come from Spain and Italy but some are from Britain.

„There’ve been evenings in Buenos Aires coming home on the underground where I ride listening to English conversations on the train,“ says 28-year-old former London stockbroker Jeremy Hanson, who moved here two years ago. „Then I get off at Carranza station and I come up the stairs and there are people ahead of me speaking English and then I’m walking down Campos Avenue to my apartment and there are people walking towards me and as they pass they’re English too.“

Mixed Italian, Spanish and English accents stand out in colonial San Telmo, middle-class Belgrano or the trendy boutique-lined streets of Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho, the neighbourhoods most favoured by the growing number of young professionals who have come here seeking jobs and a more relaxed lifestyle.

„In Barcelona I didn’t even bother looking for a job because there just is no work in Spain,“ says Montserrat Fabregas, a 30-year-old architect who came here last year to join one of the most important architecture studios in Argentina.

Fabregas is ecstatic at her success in Buenos Aires, where she combines working on projects for the MSGSSS studio with serving as a volunteer for a non-governmental organisation that provides improved homes for poorer areas outside the city. „I have already built my first house, even if it is just a humble nine by 18-feet one in a poor neighbourhood,“ says Fabregas. Every weekend she climbs the scaffolding with construction workers, building wooden homes to replace the aluminium-siding shacks of shanty-town dwellers.

For Chiara Boschiero, a 33-year-old film producer from Italy, Argentina has provided a similar escape. „In Italy, with the crisis, people my age have closed up inside, you feel there is no more hope,“ she says sitting at a café near her home in the tree-lined neighbourhood of Belgrano. „Here people are still willing to put their heart into what they do. Italy is a country of old people, it is very difficult for a director under 40 to make a film. But Argentina is young and there are many directors and producers here younger than I am who are very successful.“

Two years ago, Hanson decided to leave his job at a London financial services firm to teach English privately to business executives in Buenos Aires. The effects of the crisis on his London firm had become unendurable. „The company was adjusting, making redundancies, tightening everything,“ he says, relaxing at an ice-cream parlour near his shared Belgrano apartment. „I was completely asphyxiated by ridiculous things like measuring how quickly you responded to phone calls.“

Sunny Buenos Aires has proven a welcome change from that stress. „The climate is perfect, getting a job here was pretty easy and the people are great.“

The large majority of young Europeans here work under the radar of the Migrations Department, residing as students or travelling back and forth to neighbouring Uruguay to renew their tourist visa every three months. But figures for official residency permits for Europeans have about doubled in the past five years, to a projected 2,000 for this year. The real number of new residents is much higher, with Spaniards leading the wave, followed by Italians, French, Germans and Britons.

Few plan to return home any time soon. „Mine is a lost generation in Spain,“ says Fabregas. „I had planned to stay two years and go back, but now I realise I won’t because the panorama is too bleak. My friends still have no jobs. I am very lucky I moved to Argentina.“

Hanson is thinking of buying an apartment to stay permanently. „I’ve read stories on the internet from people with bad experiences, but I think a lot of it comes down to the effort you’re prepared to make on a personal level.

Some people come without learning Spanish and they expect to start a life without knowing the language and when it doesn’t work out they go on the internet and they give it a bad press.“

Boschiero agrees. „The bureaucracy here is horrendous but if you take the time to sit down and have a coffee with someone then the doors open magically. It’s a country with a complicated history so people are used to helping each other out, I do this for you and you do this for me and together we form a human chain to help each other out.“

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