Alexandre Rijo: “I would say that our background plays a major role into setting us apart, but ultimately its in ourselves”
Alexandre Rijo is a digital transformation consultant working and living in Abingdon, United Kingdom. Born and raised by the sea in the beautiful city of Setúbal in Portugal, he is passionate about life and everything else humans like: food, friends, family, arts and of course, his hometown.
1 – How old were you when you moved to Abingdon? What was the main reason to move?
I was 29 and I actually moved in during April’s fools. Totally not planned…
The main reason was to work in a more competitive environment, being able to develop as much competences as possible in the shortest amount of time, and the second one being able to learn more, in order to improve my CV in a country with a good working culture where people are rewarded according to their level of commitment, and constant improvement.
2 – What kind of cultural characteristics have you absorbed from the United Kingdom?
Respect your peers, be polite.
It’s a bliss to live in Oxfordshire, it’s the most polite region I’ve ever been in the world, so far… It’s all about civics, and it goes as deep as driving rules, for example, in the UK priority is given, not taken.You can feel this sense of civics and community everywhere in this region, and it embraces you, it feels good to be nice to people you don’t know, and you can tell by people’s faces how happy they are when they see a foreigner behaving in the same way as they do, people are not afraid to express their gratitude, neither shy away from someone who’s been polite to them
3 – What are the biggest challenges of living in a foreign country?
I’ve lived in Poland during Erasmus, and the fact that Polish is one of the toughest languages in the world added to the lack of English speakers in middle aged population without a degree was somehow challenging.
Being in the UK on my own it’s not as tough, although, I have to say that living alone in a region where rents for a single bedroom + living room flat range from £700 to £1000, makes it pretty tough. Apart from that, I have only one confession to make… I miss Portuguese food, I really do, being born in Setúbal with all its gastronomic variety, fresh fish and seafood, wines… and having a chef at home (parent’s home) makes it hard for you to live anywhere else in the world. It’s a fact…
In the office, unlike their fellow countryman, you need to prove a little more to achieve the same benefits as an employee, at least in this area not as populated and internationalised as London. A little bit like being a woman in a man’s world…
4 – Name the most positive aspects of the United Kingdom.
The UK is very well positioned, geographically speaking, making it cheaper to fly anywhere in Europe rather than from Portugal.
There is a huge market here, BREXIT hasn’t affected their business market as much as expected, so there is an increasing margin for opportunities as the amount of skilled employees diminished due to the fewer people coming from the rest of the world, and the ones that have started to be “sent” home. This means those who stay will have more to bargain for, due to the lack of skilled people this country will have in months to come.
Work wise, its people behave in the same way they educate their kids, they empower, they do not diminish, meaning, they will always increase your tasks and responsibilities based on your will power and achievements, progress and contribution so far, inside and outside your skillset. This helps you build up your skills, while making you a better and much more experienced professional for the same time as if you were in Portugal.
While in Portugal managers are more concerned with the time you spend in the office not the amount you produce (facepalm).
5 – During this time in a foreign country what have you learned about the human being? What sets us apart from each other?
The human being is a fascinating creature which didn’t evolve much since the agricultural revolution, we just basically went from hunting from place to place to settling and starting to store food, which led us to fight for territory which created nations. We are the most intelligent species in the planet and the only ones believing in Gods and Money, making us intellectual and physical slaves, isn’t that odd?
Theology evolved to bind people together and bind them from exercising their free will by subjecting them to certain rules.
Economy evolved to force people into debt and by doing so, allow just a few specimen to control the whole species.
The place where you’re born into the world, your education (I mean at home not at schools) and your experiences are, for me, the main factors into making us who we are. This can also be extrapolated into regions and countries, to define peoples.
So, answering your second question, I would say that our background plays a major role into setting us apart, but ultimately its in ourselves
6 – What is missing in your home country that your current one has and vice versa?
It’s cultural…You can’t change a nation’s lifestyle, improve it, yes… with time and education. I’d say the Portuguese need to improve a lot its civics, people in cities don’t know how to behave, and you just need to rent a car and drive witness that. People tend to behave like they have a lot of rights without thinking in their duties, like voting, or having political opinion.
On the opposite, I’d bring our gastronomy and wellness, it’s just Mediterranean… We know how to eat, drink, and enjoy a lovely sunny day.
7 – Is there a favourite british dish you prefer?
Well they have this Sunday Roast tradition which implies sitting with family of friends and cooking a variety of meats. Other than that… meh…
8 – Which stereotype doesn’t make sense about the Portuguese in the United Kingdom?
Southerners are lazy people who don’t like to work!
Of course there are cases, everywhere, not just in Portugal. But this is wrong for so many reasons.
We have so much to do and so much to show the world, that we were forced to seek better working environments and labour conditions elsewhere.
9 – What were your biggest fears before you moved?
I moved without a job, but with enough positive engagement for a better future, and planned ahead to withstand months of unemployment. Happily I closed some deals pretty fast after uploading my CV in some major recruitment sites.
Call me naive, I never though something could go wrong.
10 – From the legal point of view, was the social framework easy? Do you have any advice for someone moving in?
Oh that’s a bliss… I got an interview at the job centre. It’s the place everyone has to go to get a National Insurance Number, the equivalent to our Número de Contribuinte, in order to work and be part of the social framework. You don’t need to deal with your spendings, specially if you use credit or debit card for your payments, this country is pretty much ready for a cashless society in that sense.
Search for housing prices, check the cost of living (which is surprisingly low compared to Portugal).
The housing market is quite similar to the labour market in Portugal, you have lack of housing so the agencies get the best deals, and there isn’t much negotiation one can do, so, if you know someone who’s renting their place, go for it.
11 – What are the greatest labor differences between Portugal and the United Kingdom?
While in Portugal managers are more concerned with the time you spend in the office not the amount you produce (facepalm), in here, so far, I have had the freedom of working from home whenever I’m not needed in my clients.
I still can’t understand why in Portugal people from IT and some other Engineering sectors NEED to be in the office when they can perfectly work from home given the opportunity. I have that privilege and I still go to the office sometimes, not because it’s expected of me, but because I like to go there from time to time.
The salary expectations are also higher for experienced employees, if you look around you’ll find lots of middle class people, an endangered species in Portugal.
12 – Where do you feel “at home” in Abingdon? Is there a specific place?
When it’s sunny and warm during weekends, sometimes I go to a place called Nag’s Head which is a pub in a very small island surrounded by the Thames. It’s the closest I have to being near my beautiful Sado river.
13 – Do you have a favourite restaurant in Abingdon?
The Crown & Thistle – the english are not known for their cuisine, but in this restaurant I find a good variety of dishes and very well prepared too.
14 – What is it for you to be real? / What defines you as a person?
I think therefore I am…
I’m as curious as a 6 years old… the day we quit listening to each other and start to conceit everything is the day we die, and you can see a lot of dead Man walking right now, and in scarily powerful positions worldwide, Presidents, CEOs, etc…
I’m a traveller, a sportsman, an arts lover… from painting to movies, from theatre to festivals. Some of the best things in life are shared experiences. You can value a very good painting or sculpture and achieve personal satisfaction but, for me, nothing beats travelling the world with my friends or girlfriend.
Abingdon, United Kingdom
600g of red beans
100g of chorizo
300g of Portuguese cabbage cut into pieces
125 ml of olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 minced garlic
500g of potatoes
50g of noodles
A little bit of salt
In a saucepan with water, season with salt and cook the chorizo and beans about 35 minutes.
After the beans are cooked remove the chorizo for a dish and reserve half of the beans.
In another pan, bring the onion, olive oil, garlic and bring to the boil.
Add the potatoes and half the beans with the cooking water.
Let it cook 25 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
Once cooked, wipe with the magic wand.
If necessary, add more water.
Add cabbage and cook 15 minutes.
Add the carrot and cook for 10 minutes.
Finally, add the noodles and reserved beans.
Let it cook for 10 minutes.
After all is cooked it’s ready to serve.
Serve this hot soup with the chorizo slices on top.