Who are you?
My name is Ana Elisa, I’m from Brazil and I’m a teacher. I taught English as a Second Language before I moved abroad for the first time.After two au pair experiences I went back to teaching and today I work at an international school.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
As an English student and later teacher I’d always wanted to experience life abroad. In 2009 I went to the USA and worked as an au pair for a year and a half. I still wanted to see more of the world, so a few months after going back home I moved to Belgium to be an au pair again for one year. During that time I met my partner and eventually decided to return.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Coming back to Belgium wasn’t easy. I hoped getting my residence permit and finding a job would be a smooth transition. It took quite a (frustrating, stressful) while before I had my identity card, learned Dutch, went through the integration program and found work.
That lack of work, purpose and belonging can really challenge anyone’s self-esteem.
Are there many other expats in your area?
I live in a touristic city, home to universities and international companies. The atmosphere is highly diverse – you find all kinds of food, stores, languages and events.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love that Belgium is in the heart of Europe and you can easily go anywhere. We can take our time exploring neighboring countries, going back whenever possible. At the same time, my city still has a comfortable and calm atmosphere. I’m not a big city girl and I grew to love cycling everyday.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I’m used to living abroad now; but to me the worst still is missing out on important things that happen back home as well as just being part of my family’s daily life.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
I’m very open-minded and adaptable. That might be why I haven’t experienced a really big cultural difference. Of course I can’t deny the huge social and economic gap there is between Brazil and the US or Europe, which affects lifestyle and behaviour. However, I have never encountered a truly baffling situation.
On a personal level I feel that Brazilians are much more open and warm than Europeans or Americans. We hug, we touch when talking, we become fast friends. I grew to enjoy and respect personal space boundaries, but some days all I need is a friendly hug and a caring conversation.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Belgium makes the highest variety and some of the best beers in the world!
They’re also known for their fries and waffles, but there’s much more on the Belgian table than that – lots of international influence as well as local produce. I love the typical Flemish stew (stoofvlees) and mussels but I haven’t acquired the taste for chicory (witloof) yet.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Be brave. Be prepared. Be patient.
You can keep up to date with Ana's adventures on her blog.
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