It was a sunny day in December as I wrote this, I sat in my flat in Portugal, contemplating a stroll outside. Donning sunglasses and a chic winter coat seemed like an apt choice—a stark contrast to my upbringing in London, where the mere glimpse of the sun felt like a rare privilege in the winter months. This sentiment may sound dramatic, but it is undeniably true. London winters are not for the weak – they are cold, sharp and there is little to no daylight. So, this might explain why I moved to Portugal.
Weather was a major factor but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The pandemic was harrowing in numerous ways, but it also revealed a fundamental truth about our jobs when stripped of the perks—free coffee, post-work drinks, and Christmas parties. What remained was the essence of our work, laid bare. In a country like the UK, this revelation started to feel oppressively dismal. I began questioning whether this was what I was destined for in the next five decades. Was there an alternative? I chose to carve a different path, one that sparked excitement and passion. I ventured into freelancing, focusing on writing, podcasting, and consulting in fintech, publishing, intersectionality, and social impact.
However, my decision to move was influenced by more than just the weather. The UK has become less appealing for several reasons: the escalating cost of living crisis, a hostile anti-immigration environment, political instability, and the somewhat out-of-touch royal narratives that seem increasingly bizarre. Lastly, there’s also the uncomfortable reality of a country still basking in the glory of its former colonial past that for me as a Nigerian just never feels right.
This societal backdrop significantly impacts what it means to be a young person in the UK today. We were promised prospects of a house, a spouse, a family, and children. But in today’s Britain, where survival is paramount, one wonders where these dreams fit in.
Statistically, the UK has seen a notable increase in the cost of living, with inflation rates reaching their highest in decades. Moreover, a report from the Office for National Statistics indicated that the number of young adults living with their parents has been steadily rising, reflecting the challenges in securing affordable housing. These factors, among others, contribute to a milieu where the traditional aspirations of young Britons seem increasingly unattainable.
In many ways, for Portuguese natives, it’s not. The minimum wage is alarmingly low. Statistically, Portugal’s minimum wage as of 2023 is indeed lower than many of its European counterparts, emphasizing the economic challenges locals face.
Moreover, with an influx of freelancers and expats, gentrification looms over every corner of Lisbon, reflecting a strange irony when considering Portugal’s colonial past. Perhaps this is part of why I chose it—not because I desired to live in a former empire (after all, I moved from one to another), but due to its historical connections with Africa, including Nigeria, my country of origin. This link has fostered a thriving Black community in Portugal, where being Black isn’t seen as peculiar or noteworthy. This aspect was crucial in my decision, especially when considering other PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) countries, where ties to Black migration are newer and racial tensions more pronounced.
The ability to go to Amadora for fresh braids or to see people who look like me everywhere makes Lisbon feel like a potential home. I’m not sure if it truly is yet, but now it seems to offer more opportunities than the UK.
It’s only been a few months since my move to Portugal in September, and the journey has been an intriguing blend of challenges and joys. While I deeply miss the efficiency that characterized life in the UK—the straightforwardness and predictability that I once took for granted—navigating the Portuguese bureaucracy has been nothing short of a labyrinthine adventure. Securing housing here often feels like dealing with a secretive, complex system, akin to a ‘mafia’ of sorts, where understanding the unspoken rules is as crucial as the official ones. But despite these hurdles, I’m genuinely loving the experience. It’s a life replete with new lessons, vibrant cultural encounters, and a sense of community that resonates deeply with my spirit. As I continue to settle in, I remain curious and optimistic about what lies ahead. This chapter in Portugal is still unfolding, and while it’s too early to make any definitive judgments, the journey so far has been an enriching tapestry of growth, learning, and delightful surprises