5# Things that are surprisingly hard to do once you move to (or visit) England

1 – throwing out trash

This task is hard for two different reasons. Firstly in big cities like London it is really hard to find a trash bin throw out your trash. This is really annoying for people that live there but also for tourists. If you need to find a trash bin, your best chance is to go to a public park. Secondly, the residents in England can only put their domestic trash out once a week and the recycling bags once every other week. For me this is not really a problem because we are just two in our house, but I can image that for a family of four or five people this is a nightmare.

2 – saying “hey mate” and other colloquial expressions

I have been studying English since I was eight years old and I am even doing my masters in English back in Portugal, but it is still really hard for me to use colloquial expressions in a convincing way. Expressions like “Hey mate” or “Bless” are very often used by all of my friends and co-workers but it sound really strange when I try to use them.

 3 – crossing the street

It is no surprise that in England people drive in the left side of the road. So it is hard to cross the street if you are used to look out for cars driving in the right lane. But that was not what surprised me once I moved to England, the truly hard thing to do when you want to cross the street is finding a place to do it. In England is almost impossible to find a zebra crossing and even in places where you see a small ramp in the sidewalk for wheelchairs, those are not a sign that you can cross the street in there and expect the cars to stop and let you pass. The only rare places where you can cross safely are at traffic lights, or the even rarer places where there are two bright lamp posts on either side of the sidewalk indicate that you have priority and cars must stop to let you pass.

4 – to eat non-spicy food

I know that India was an English colony so there were a strong cultural influence in both countries, but I would never guess how hard it is to find non-spicy food to eat in restaurants. From many curries to mexican food, or even chinese or italian food, there are always many dishes in the restaurants menus that are spicy. I guess many people will think of this as a good thing, but if you don’t like any kind of spicy food like me, it is really frustrating to see entire meals that look delicious except for the detail that they will make your mouth burn for many hours if you try them.

5 – Being able to eat dinner out

Still in the “eating out” category, to be able to eat in a restaurant for dinner is a true odyssey. I am not even referring to the ridiculously high prices in restaurants (it is almost impossible to go out for a meal and pay less that 15 pounds, which is more or less 21 euros). I am referring to two other facts. Firstly, you always have to make a reservation with some time in advance (from one week in advance to some hours, depending on the restaurant – not mentioning the ones I don’t go to because I am not a billionaire). You can say goodbye to your spontaneity. Secondly, if you think you can go to have dinner at 10pm (or event 9pm) you will be truly disappointed. In England it is perfectly normal to have dinner at 6h30pm or 7pm. If the restaurant is full until 9pm, they may ask you if you don’t mind to go at 9pm but they always say that in a very apologetic way, almost as if they were committing a capital sin. This is really strange for me since I am used to have dinner at 9h30pm or going out for a dinner with friends at 10pm in Portugal.
If you have any cool explanation for these things I found to be really strange since I moved to England, or you have more “Things that are surprisingly hard to do once you moved to (or visit) England” please share them by writing a comment!

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You know you are a Foodie when…

You know you are a Foodie when…

1-  You constantly think about your next meal

One of the main pleasures in your life is food. During the morning, at work or during your classes you anticipate the delicious lunch you are about to have and the same for the dinner, during the afternoon. Anticipating the pleasure of food can also happen when you are buying your groceries or cooking food, things that most people don’t appreciate doing.

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2- Your high moment of the week/month is when you eat in a good restaurant or you make your favourite food

Whenever you have some extra money you like to go to a new restaurant and when you have some extra time to cook you like to do your favourite and more complex meals. Money and time are scarce and valuable resources, but you happily spend it on food.

3- You compare/grade a lot of things with food

You know you are a foodie when you say things like “Your hair smells even nicer than the pork ribs we had for dinner” (my bf actually said this to me once!), when you associate colours with fruit (other than orange, obviously) or even prices of general items with the food you could buy with that money. For instance I would totally say: “That is too expensive! With that amount of money I could buy two packs of cookies”.

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4- When you eat out and sometimes you do it more for the food than for the company

This does not mean that you don’t enjoy the company! However, you take great pleasure out of going to new restaurants and try new kinds of food and a night out or a birthday party are the perfect excuse to spend an extra pound on it.

5- You love your Food Routines

You can’t get out in the morning without your typical breakfast or go to sleep without your cookies, tea or hot chocolate with milk. Your food routines are part of your day as it is your shower and you feel strange when, for some reason, you can’t do them. They give you comfort. It doesn’t have to be a daily routine, it can be a weekly Sunday brunch or a monthly visit to Mcdonalds.

Some of my thoughts on Feminism

Before you start reading this post in my Blog, I would like to underline that these are just some of my points of view on feminism and although I completely believe and defend this perspective I also respect other points of view on feminism that are different than mine.

A few weeks ago someone from the PNR (a Portuguese far right party) commented on my last Blog post (On Dating a Socialist Man) the following:

“Your ideology smells like shit, go back to the kitchen and make me a sandwich, you understand fuck all about politics”

(free translation – It was written in Portuguese)

I have never been insulted like this in all my life. Actually what really offended me was not the idea that my ideology is not good, I also think that their ideology is awful. What really hurts me is the idea that in 2015, in Portugal, there still are people that think it is ok to send a woman back to the kitchen to make them a sandwich.

To be honest I was very shocked because I am lucky enough to say that I don’t suffer from sexism that often. Since a young age that I haven’t conformed with the girly-girl stereotype and I can’t say that it has a struggle for me. I quit my ballet classes and started doing Karate with my father when I was 10, I always prefered blue to pink and jeans to dresses and skirts, I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis and I really hate shopping and I definitely prefer action movies to romantic comedies. I do believe that there are women who self identify with the girly-girl stereotype and are better advocates of feminism than I am, so please don’t misread me. What I mean is that, although I have made different choices than most girls I know, luckily I can’t say that I have been judged or mistreated because of it. Unfortunately, I know that a lot of girls suffer from a different fate.

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I believe that we are reaching a very delicate point regarding feminism movements in which we should be careful to not overstep the line of the fair and necessary fight for our rights. In my opinion, if our movement wants to be taken seriously and be seen as fair and right, we should not demand a kind of treatment superior than the one we provide men. It is true that for many years (even centuries) women have been mistreated and denied their place in society, but to wish that for men today is not a payback, it is being unfair. I believe that this way of thinking feminism (to wish for women to have more power and more rights than men to over-compensate our past history) is hurting the overall movement and turning some men that could be our allies into our enemies.

In my opinion, men also suffer from sexism and their support to the feminist cause is not only necessary, but it is also their right. Expressions like “Man up” or “Grow some balls” are also said in an offensive way to men, as they also feel pressure to be as manly as they can because they are also afraid of not fitting the role that a sexist society believe is the one they should play.  It is important to have safe spaces for women to share their experiences and feel free to speak about their daily struggles on a sexist society, but it is also important to create moments in which men are welcome to join our fight. Movements like the #heforshe are a step in the right direction and welcoming men in our fight will only make it stronger and fairer.

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However, I feel that there are still a lot of men that don’t understand the struggles of women in a sexist society. Concepts like sexual harassment, emotional violence or even the overall concept of sexism are way too often unclear to both men and women. As I said before, some men also suffer from these issues, and, as the women that suffer from it, they usually don’t report it because they feel ashamed for being victims of something that is associated with “women problems”. Nevertheless, I truly think that part of the solution is a true discussion of these concepts and stronger legislation that protects both women and men.


*I intend to write a second post about this subject to share my opinion on how I think the current position of women in politics.*

On Dating a Socialist Man

All that I am about to write is the truth about my relationship with a socialist boyfriend or my thoughts about it, but it doesn’t make it truth for all of the socialist boyfriends that there is or even every socialists men.

The best way to get to know a socialist man is in a party or dinner of a socialist party. I met Miguel for the first time at the 40th anniversary of Partido Socialista (PS) at the party’s headquarters. Such a cliché, I know. We took a picture together with some other common friends and the PS leader at the time.

As Miguel is studying in England (I know, very “socialist” of him… but I think we can forgive him if he choses to apply his knowledge into the right cause), we didn’t talk for over a year. One tricky part of getting to know a socialist man is that the political man is polite, and a socialist man is polite equally to everyone. So how can a girl know if he is being polite as usual, or an unusual-I-want-to-date-you kind of polite? About that I can only advice you socialist guys reading this: make your interest clear, or you will be running in circles for months.

If you want to spot a socialist guy in a room you may find this information useful. The normal conversation topics, especially if besides being a socialist guy he is also a true intellectual (not the wanna be kind, please), are the economy, the daily news, foreign policy, usually they will use a lot of acronyms that you may never heard about, they will say a lot of names of people that you feel like you should know but you don’t (usually names of their buddies that you will eventually meet and you will figure it out that it was just stupid to assume that you should have known their names before)… and obviously, they will talk about politics. A lot.on a conference

The clothes vary a lot, so I won’t dare to enter that territory, but the body language usually tells you that they are confident in themselves (even if they are not, please go along with the role play), that you should know their names, that they have been reading a lot and not sleeping at all and that they know the secret to the salvation of mankind: socialism.

Once you are dating a socialist man, most of your days together will be on the road from conference to conference, from campaign to campaign, from meeting to meeting or from dinner to dinner. You will get to know people from all over the country, from young boys and girls to elderly people from whom you can always count on a kind word on your beauty or intelligence (sadly, mostly beauty) and how lucky your socialist boyfriend is to have you. I have to admit that I love it. I love always running for the next big thing and to get to know amazing people.10649956_735187556528966_4607777230461422771_n

To date a socialist man is to wake up at the sound of “The Internationale” every morning because that is his alarm clock sound and to have a “Socialist Youth” flag above the bed (where people used to hang some religious symbol). To date a socialist boyfriend is to go to conferences on post-Keynesian economics just because he is part of the organization or on the Socialists Parties around Europe because he is the speaker (not complaining, knowledge is always good). It is to move to England and realising that all of your girl friends (that he introduces you to) are from the “Ladies of Labour” and that they are amazing…

The list goes on and on. But I want to give you two pieces of advices as well.

  • Just because you may be dating a strong-minded socialist man, don’t let yourself be his shadow. You deserve to have a strong voice of your own, and I know it is very hard when you are next to someone like him, but instead of “behind every great man there is a great woman”, I believe in “Next to a great woman there should be a great man”.
  • A socialist man can be that “great man” and it may be hard for them to put their egos aside and take the risk to ask you out, so give them some strength or be the one that makes the first move.

In Queen’s Lands

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My family, my dog, my friends, the sun, my sofa, the Tagus River, the traditional Lisbon pavement… the list goes on and on. After almost three weeks in the UK, these are some of the things I miss the most. I am currently living in Leamington Spa with my boyfriend, Miguel, and so far I haven’t found any word (in Portuguese or in English) to describe this experience.

Leamington Spa will be my home at least until June. This is a small town right in the middle of England, one of the places furthest away from the sea in the UK. It does have a small river that cuts the city in half and the irony is that there is an “upper” part, in all its meanings, and a “lower” one as well. Miguel and I are renting a small 1 bedroom apartment in the “lower” part of Leamington. We can’t really complain: we are near the train station and the supermarkets, we are at a five minutes walk from the river and the city centre that surrounds it. I really like the city centre. It has nothing on Lisbon’s city centre, but it has a beautiful garden, a tall church and impressive building such as the town hall.

Sometimes I manage to force Miguel into a walk in the garden and those are the best times. Although there are pigeons as well, the parks in the UK (at least the ones I have seen) also have squirrels. Miguel always says that I will get used to them, but I do fear the day I won’t appreciate these small wonders. The cute squirrels, the delicious English accent, the snow that shyly falls not as often as I would like, the undressed and sad trees… All wonders of my new life that I refuse to get used to.

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I would really like to see more dogs on the streets. Where I live, it is truly impossible to go out without seeing at least one dog. Two days ago I saw a dog, a black cocker spaniel, just like mine, and I freaked out. Miguel had to remind me that the dog owner couldn’t wait all day for me to pet his dog. The “English night out” is also really different. Instead of going to a club, they rally into different pubs, and instead of being out from midnight until the dawn of the next day, they meet at 8pm and the night is over by 1am the next day. I have to admit that I do prefer the “English” style of nights out, although I don’t like their beers and ciders.

My everyday so far is a continuous look for a job. In Portugal I feel really well educated and I know I can add value with my work, but to work in a foreign country is a huge challenge. My bachelor degree is in Communication and I am trying to find work in a place where I don’t speak or write perfectly the native language and I don’t have any network of contacts: the two more important tools to work in communication, I think. I can now understand a little bit better the anguish of unemployment. Nevertheless I have job interviews in the next few days, and I am feeling optimistic. Miguel’s friends have been really nice to me and I am starting to feel more at home.

This is the first time that I have to do all of the normal house management tasks: cooking, house cleaning, taking care of the dishes and the clothes, going out to buy groceries… Maybe it is just because it has only been two weeks and a few days so far, but I love it. Because I have more free time for now Miguel always helps me when I ask him to (and, in his defence, sometimes of his own accord), but we are starting to find our own rhythm. So far, my biggest challenge is finding the right match for Miguel’s socks… a true nightmare. We have been having some problems with the house, but nothing we can’t handle: a broken light switch in the bathroom, no hot water in the kitchen, broken wardrobe shelves in the bedroom, only one chair at the dining table… All part of the adventure.

And the adventure has just started…

The Heroism of Being Party Political

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I don’t usually write about politics and I guess you already want to stop reading this post after finding out that I wrote about it this time, but, please, give me a shot.

 

I bet that if I ask a bunch of children what they thought is a “heroic” job, most of them would say “fireman” or “police officer”. They are right. If I ask them why, they would probably say: “because they try to make the world a better place”. Correct answer once again. However, aren’t there plenty of other professions with the same goal? Like teachers, scientists or even politicians? I might sound naïve to you, but give me one more chance to make may point.

 

I believe that some people see politics as something external; something that has serious implications on their lives but that seems to exist in a remote and untouchable reality. Politicians are just characters of that reality, who, just like those in a movie, appear on our TVs once in a while. Who are they? What are their motivations? Why do they do what they do?

 

I can’t answer all the questions, but as in any other profession (if politics should or not be a profession is a discussion for another day) there are different people with different motivations in politics. It seems really logical to say so. However, when I say that I’m in a political party, people often answer something like “Oh god! Why? You are such a good person!”. Since when is being a bad person a pre-requisite to have a political life? And what can we call a “bad person” in politics? Sure, I don’t always agree with everything that happens on a political level in Portugal. Actually, I disagree most of the time. But do I think that everyone involved with it is a “bad person”? Couldn’t we all just be good people trying to make “the world a better place” but with different ideas of what a “better place” is like? Ok, I admit I may be being naïve in this point once again, but even so, wouldn’t it be a good reason to try to make it differently instead of just complaining about what I don’t agree with? I think so.

 

I find it very difficult nowadays to find a teenager interested in politics. I can guess why. Every dinner they hear their parents complaining to the TV as if the prime-minister (let’s say) could hear them that way. “These politicians are all the same”, “I can’t believe someone voted for this clown” and “We are all doomed with these people in control of our country”… I can hear it as well. But I also can ask myself “What would I do differently in their position?”, “What is my opinion about this topic?”, “How can I make my voice heard, instead of screaming towards the TV?”. My answer was: Instead of seeing political parties as something distant and external to me, I will see them as the platform to make my voice heard and my opinion count.

 

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Sometimes I think I am just a dreamer – a “good girl” who wants to play someone’s else game without understanding the rules – but when that happens, I like to think that some of most influential people in the world were also called “dreamers” at some point in their lives. So I will keep on trying to making “this world a better place”, in volunteer work, in associations and social projects, and, yes, in politics.

 

The Single Girl’s Stages

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Attention: What I’m about to write will not apply to all the girls. There are no rules for what happen in the crazy real love life, there is no script. However, after talking with some friends that have been single for sometime I got the feeling that there is a kind of pattern here. This “stages” don’t have a specific time schedule; for some people each stage can take months to pass, for others just a few weeks.

The “Crazy Freedom” stage: When a girl is single after being in a serious relationship for a while there is this crazy feeling of freedom. Of course that relationships are not “prisons” but I guess that most of us spend some time thinking “Oh, if I were single I could be flirting with that guy” or “I bet that there are some guys interested in me that don’t say it because they know I’m in a relationship”. There is also the question of the “single friends” that are always going out and going on dates and you have to be the “wing-girl” or the “If I were you…” kind of friend. So, when you find yourself single, there is a lot of expectation towards what is going to happen in your love life: all flirt (with no guilty) you can do, all the dates you can go to and so on.  Please note that not all the girls like this stage, but I believe that even the more “serious relationships” type of girls have some degree of craziness in themselves.

The “Is there anyone for me?” stage: After a while (it can be weeks, months or even years) most of the girls will have the need to know if there is any right match for them. It is the stage in which we start to look out for potential “relationship-material”. It doesn’t mean that we want to have a serious relationship again; it means we want to know that if you wanted to, we could have it. Of course it is all about the ego and the reassurance that we are still object of desire for a relationship.

The “This is not so easy after all” stage: Maybe this happens because of all the expectations, or maybe it is just the fact that we have been “out of the game” for a while, but (unless you are a crazy hot girl) most of the girls find themselves lost in this “perfect match” quest. The “he likes me and I don’t like him, or I like him and he doesn’t like me back” situation may be normal for some, but for the girls who have been in a serious relationship it didn’t seem to happen so often.  This is a very frustrate stage, It almost seems like there is something wrong with us, or that the game change and we can’t find the instruction manual anymore. We start wondering if all of our single-friends (that we envy) were single because they wanted (what we though it was the case) or they also sucked at this. At this point some girls can feel tempted to get back with their ex-boyfriends. Beware!

 

The “I don’t give a crap anymore” stage: This is my favourite stage. After a while, girls realise that they actually don’t need a guy in their lives. Attention: this feeling must be real, it doesn’t count if you say it to yourself and then go crazy because some guy took more than one minute to reply your text message. In this stage you take time to go to places you like (and not the ones that you think cute guys hung out), to work out (and not go to the gym just to see the “view”), to be ridiculous and dress what you like and feel confortable with (and not behave and dress like a doll)… But we can’t forget that being relaxed and being lazy are different things.

I must confess that I don’t know exactly the next stage by personal experience, but most of the cases that “I don’t give a crap anymore” attitude towards relationships is very effective in getting one relationship. It is somehow ironic, but I guess guys feel more attracted to girls that are not obsessed about getting a boyfriend. Can’t blame them.