Constança: From one island to another

“I thought that moving to London would be just like moving to a new neighbourhood in Portugal. I was incredibly wrong.”

I met Constança at her home in Finsbury Park on a sunny Saturday morning, which is rare in London – even though we are in August.

Her house is the perfect location to take the first pictures – particularly the garden outside – and shake away the nerves. Constança is my friend, which makes the job much easier. Interestingly, we both studied in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, but it was in London when we started hanging out more often.

She organises BBQs, and I cannot think of any other place where I would feel more “at home” than at one of Constança’s get-togethers. An inspiring, joyful and honest human being, we spoke about her journey from Portugal to London:

1. Where were you born?

Terceira, known as the “party island”, in the Azores.

2. How did you get to do what you are doing now, work wise?

First I joined a behavioural consultancy in Lisbon. However, I really wanted to live abroad and was interested in social enterprises. As such, I moved to London, and took part in a programme to make the shift from the for-profit world, called the On Purpose programme. There, I realised my passion was in education. Two years ago, I joined an EdTech start-up company.

3. What were your expectations when arriving in London?

I was a bit naive when I first moved. I had worked in an English-speaking environment before and had been exposed to people from different cultures, so I thought moving to London would be just like moving to a new neighbourhood in Portugal. I was incredibly wrong.

The first six months were rough. I didn’t like my flat nor my flatmates; I didn’t like my job nor my manager – she would speak in circles and I would never really understand what she meant. That’s when I realised Portuguese people are quite straightforward!

The language was also a struggle, even though I never thought it would be, as I was confident with my level of English.

I soon realised that speaking English with foreigners is a lot easier than with native English-speakers. 

I also thought that in London, being so big and multicultural, would be easy to make friends. I couldn’t be more wrong.

I now love London. Once you understand the city’s dynamic, it all comes together. You travel the world without leaving London. 

People don’t judge and you live in a more egalitarian society. Your beliefs are questioned and it either strengthens you or it turns you into a better person.

Constanca 2
Image credit: Carolina Mesquita

4. One funny story in London?

In my first year, I was sharing a flat with two Englishmen. I was trying to learn as many new words as I could so whenever I didn’t know something, I would ask.

Once, my flatmate was using a hoover, but I didn’t know what the word for it was.

I asked him, and he said: “This? This is a hoover, love”. From then onwards, I added the word ‘hooverlove’ to my list of new words that were on the fridge’s door, and for a week I was completely convinced ‘hooverlove’ was an actual word.

5. How do you see in your life in 10 years’ time?

Someone who has lived in different countries and has grown as a result.

Probably living in Lisbon and hopefully contributing with different ways of thinking, learned in other countries. Be it professionally or with my friends and family.

Hopefully, I will not have lost the curiosity, impatience, and discomfort with the comfortable, so that I can keep exploring, learning and growing.

6. What is happiness to you?

To laugh without a reason until your belly hurts. The sunset. To do something that scares me. To play tennis. A BBQ out in the sun. To feel your brain growing, to feel yourself evolving. The sea from the Azores.

Inspired by Constança’s journey? Would you like to share your story with us? Get in touch here

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