Joana Vieira: “Everyone is a collection of everything they’ve been through, everyone they’ve met, every place they’ve been to, and everything they’ve lived.”
Designer by heart, adventurous by mind, Joana Vieira is a portuguese living in Boston, USA, a place where there are a lot of portuguese (around 300.000). With a music background as a bass player and singer, Joana breathes everything that is related with the arts.
1 – How old were you when you moved to Boston? What was the main reason to move?
I was 26 when I moved to Boston. The company I had co-founded had just gotten investment from a local VC, and it made sense to move there and grow our business in the US. I moved to Boston for work, and ended up staying for love.
2 – What kind of cultural characteristics have you absorbed from the USA?
The daily greetings. It’s a well rehearsed and memorized ballet that comes to you automatically: “Hi, how are you? Good, how are you? I’m good, thank you! (…) Thank you so much, have a great day! Thanks, you too!”, all the time, every day, in every occasion. That and greeting your friends with hugs rather than two kisses, I find myself greeting everyone with hugs now. I like hugs.
3 – Do you think your origins have influenced people around you?
Yes, definitely. I talk about Portugal all the time, share stories and traditions, show videos and photos. I really love inviting people over and cooking home food for everyone, and after the meal there’s always time for some portuguese songs on my ukulele. And another thing I do constantly is translate and teach portuguese expressions: “Unshit yourself”, “Trust the virgin and don’t run”, “It’s many years turning chickens” and the classic “You should’ve studied”, for instance.
4 – What are the biggest challenges of living in a foreign country?
The coffee sucks, the bread sucks, beer is expensive and you can’t drink outside. You were expecting really deep problems weren’t you? The kind of things you’re thinking would be problems, I see as adventures: adapting to the culture, figuring out how things get done, meeting people, finding places, getting around, speaking english all the time. All of these are great things, and discovering them is the best part of the journey. Of course I could say that paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with banks and embassies is a challenge, but it’s also a challenge at home.
5 – Name the most positive aspects of Boston.
The diversity. You can turn a corner to find ten people from ten different countries, that are there for ten different reasons, and have ten different stories. The amount of experience and lessons and life is overwhelming, and makes you want to take in as much as you can, and contribute in some way.
6 – During this time in a foreign country what have you learned about the human being? What sets us apart from each other?
Human beings are incredible resilient. The way we adapt and evolve and grow depending on our surroundings and circumstances, is astonishing. Everyone is a collection of everything they’ve been through, everyone they’ve met, every place they’ve been to, and everything they’ve lived.
7 – What is missing in your home country that your current one has and vice versa?
There’s a lot more opportunities and resources here. We still have some way to go to be able to provide the means to develop the kind of innovation that is being done here. But on the other hand, at home our lives are calmer, the sun is warmer, we can sit outside and have a glass of wine on the sidewalk. We don’t take ourselves so seriously, and life happens organically.
8 – Is there a favourite american dish you prefer?
9 – Which stereotype doesn’t make sense about the USA?
That all americans are dumb. I’ve met some truly amazing and brilliant people here.
10 – What were your biggest fears before you moved?
I honestly didn’t feel scared, and didn’t think of what could go wrong. I was just excited to go on an adventure.
11 – From the legal point of view, was the social framework easy? Do you have any advice for someone moving in?
It was all pretty standard. You spend a few days queuing around town, get a social security number, open a bank account, sign a lease to an apartment, get yourself a subway pass, and the services all “work” pretty much the same way, so it wasn’t a big shock.
12 – What are the greatest labor differences between Portugal and the USA?
The hours. They’re really adamant about their personal time here, which is great, but boy waking up at 6am everyday? No, thanks, I’m good, have a great day!
13 – What is your favourite city spot in Boston?
The esplanade along the Charles river. It stretches for miles, has some beautiful bridges, and the most breathtaking sunset on the Cambridge skyline.
14 – Where do you feel “at home” in Boston? Is there a specific place?
Faialense Sport Club in Cambridge! It’s like walking into a typical portuguese “tasca”. Everyone there is portuguese, speaks portuguese, looks portuguese, and you can sit down and share a Sagres and a pastel de bacalhau with the chubby, bald, old men wearing gold crosses around their necks, while you all watch the soccer game and loudly insult the referee. Home.
1 tuna fillet
6 small potatoes
2/3 pinch of salt
You grill the fish and season with salt and pepper;
Boil the potatoes in salted water;
Roast the peppers with salt;
Cut the tomatoes and cucumbers and season with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper;
Add the best bread you can find;
And eat outside.