Who are you?
My name is Catarina and I’m a thirty-something Portuguese blogger & marketing freelancer.Where, when and why did you move abroad?
During my life, I’ve actually lived in 4 different countries. About 18 months ago, I moved to Philadelphia with my American husband for a change of scenery from our life together in London.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Logistically, packing up our lives and bringing them to the US was certainly not easy. The biggest challenge, however, was the long wait on my Green Card. We (perhaps naively) didn’t foresee the Green Card process taking so long. I wasn’t allowed to work for several months while waiting for the Green Card; but as I’m not one to keep still, I began writing my travel blog, A Portuguese Affair, to show others my beautiful home country.
Are there many other expats in your area?
None that I’ve met. There are a few Portuguese-Americans in the outskirts of the city, but no expats per se. (If you’re reading this interview and you’re an expat near Philly, please reach out!) Nevertheless, I feel very integrated into life here, so it really only affects me in the sense that I miss speaking in Portuguese with other people.
What do you like about life where you are?
There are lots of positives about life here. I like the space you have in American homes, which has been very useful as I accumulate furniture, and it meant we had enough space to welcome our rescue dog, Lucy, into our family 6 months ago. I also love how beautiful the US is and I’m making a point of going somewhere new once in a while. Finally, there’s a lot of good food around if you know where to look and Philly has a great restaurant scene, so I can’t complain on that front!
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I miss my family and country. I try to go back often but it’s not quite the same as being there full time. I definitely miss the food in Portugal, but it’s forced me to learn to cook more Portuguese food at home and guests love it because it’s different to what they’re used to eating.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The tipping culture here is something you have to get used to – it’s really bizarre from a European context where wait staff are paid a minimum wage and tips are a supplement to their income, not the other way around. People also drive more over here because there’s so much space, but I still try to walk around the city whenever possible. Overall though, culturally, there hasn’t been a huge adjustment.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Get legal advice before you start the visa process – in fact, do it before you’re even legally married, so you can plan things accordingly. If you find a good immigration lawyer, it’s worth every cent!
What are your plans for the future?
We are happy being here for now and have a lot of exploring and living to do in the US, but plan to return to Portugal in several years and see what adventures that will bring.
You can keep up to date with Catarina's adventures on her blog, A Portuguese Affair.
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