João Faria: “I have also become more independent (…) with freedom of thinking.”
João is a portuguese architect living in Amsterdam. In the following interview we will first know how he has embraced a vegan lifestyle and, naturally, bikes too, and second what are the main differences between Portugal and The Netherlands. Read the full interview.
1 – How old were you when you moved to Amsterdam? What was the main reason to move?
I was 25 years old when I moved from Lisbon to Amsterdam, in 2015. I moved as soon as I finished my Master’s degree in architecture to start an internship. In addition my girlfriend also applied for her Master’s degree in Amsterdam, and we decided to move in together in this new adventure!
2 – What kind of cultural characteristics have you absorbed from the Netherlands?
Objectiveness, independence and resilience. Today I am more a objective person in general – I don’t like to avoid conversations or go around a topic fearing someone might be offended or think I am rude, and I don’t refrain from speaking my mind and the objective truth. I have also become more independent, not only financially but also with freedom of thinking. I am also, finally vegan! Becoming resilient was inevitable since I was faced with a lot of unforeseen events, typical from when you’re not fully familiar with a new country and culture, and was able to solve them and get through them.
3 – Do you think your origins have influenced people around you?
Not really. I like to try to make people interested in my culture, but I also don’t force it! Also, in a very international environment, everyone has their own story to tell, so it is important to let everyone have their own cultural influence. Maybe in an international environment you get to build a new other culture: one that has both yours, and the people’s countries around you.
4 – What are the biggest challenges of living in a foreign country?
“Saudades” — as you would say in Portuguese, to miss someone or something in a very special way. Dealing with the family Skype calls and your friends what’s app group conversations becomes the new routine, and helps with “saudades”. However, every time you go back for a short weekend or Christmas break, there is always some anxiety that you won’t have time to see everyone who wants to see you. It’s great to go back home, but it also quite exhausting.
5 – Name the most positive aspects of Amsterdam.
Cycling everywhere. Work-life balance. Food delivery companies and lots of alternatives regarding restaurants and supermarkets. Cash free wallet, meaning you can pay with card everywhere (sometimes it is even the only way to pay!).
6 – During this time in a foreign country what have you learned about the human being? What sets us apart from each other?
Culture and Education. And its very important to acknowledge that. A lot of people don’t understand it, and we should be very careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings unintentionally.
7 – What is missing in your home country that your current one has and vice versa?
Vegan and sustainability thinking. Access and openness to alternative foods are first priority here. Also governmental institutions and feedback response working perfectly, and housing conditions are reliable. In the other hand, houses are small, the streets are too crowded and people tend to be indifferent to you in general. But they also don’t care how you look, which is good too! The other way around, here we don’t have the sun, the friendly smiles, the people always willing to start a conversation with you, so typical in Portugal.
8 – Is there a favourite dutch dish prefer?
Unfortunately none. But since there are so many nationalities here, it allowed me to discover a lot of new different cuisines that I had no idea before and that I love now. Especially one with lot of influence since it was a former Dutch colony: Indonesian. Now i feel like eating ado gado!
9 – Which stereotype doesn’t make sense about the Netherlands?
That everyone smokes weed and act normal about it. Most dutch people hate their country to be known as the free country where you can be high and take soft drugs for recreation. In fact, most dutch people I know don’t even smoke.
10 – What were your biggest fears before you moved?
That I would be a different person, someone I couldn’t predict, that my friends and family disconnected from me or didn’t care about me anymore. It the end, change is good and people keep caring about you the same way as before!
11 – From the legal point of view, was the social framework easy? Do you have any advice for someone moving in?
No. But sooner or later you learn your way around it! Advice? Getting a house can be very difficult. Especially when you are studying. We always feared to be homeless at some point, but so far it has not been more than a bad dream. Luckily we managed to get a new home and settle again! Also, don’t get frustrated if you can’t make Dutch friends – there are plenty of other equally interesting nationalities here!
12 – What are the greatest labor differences between Portugal and The Netherlands?
Minimum salary definition. Here the minimum salary allows you to live with dignity, and the Government also has a lot of subsidies to help you if you earn a low income. Unfortunately in my home country, regardless of your job/position/title, is not a synonym of living tranquil with your finances, not at all.
13 – What is your favourite city spot in Amsterdam?
I love being lost at night cycling through the canals. There is no specific point since most of the times, in the beginning, I was always lost. But the feeling of those empty streets in the very late summer nights, shining reflexes of light on the water is something I will never forget!
14 – Where do you feel “at home” in Amsterdam? Is there a specific place?
I always feel at home when I go to any street market. It teleports me a bit to Istanbul where I also lived for a while. It was great times and I am always happy to remember that feeling again.
15 – Do you have a favourite restaurant in Amsterdam?
Maná Maná is my favourite restaurant in Amsterdam. It combines perfect Israeli food in the best environment! Not to mention that their hummus and polenta fries are delicious!
16 – What is it for you to be real? / What defines you as a person?
A tricky question requires a tricky answer. What makes your existence here in this life worth to live for? Can you contribute for a better evolution of the human being? Your opportunity to live “this” life means, enjoy it and add something good to the ones around you.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
400g of Lentils – One big can (cooked) or cooked previously
2 garlic cloves
1 hand full of green beens
2 cups of green peas
1 tablespoon of flaxseed powder or nutritional yeast 3 tablespoons of olive oil
2/3 pinch of salt
Peper, paprika and cumin to taste
In a medium sized saucepan, put the olive oil, chopped onions, and stir for a couple of minutes until the onion turns golden. Add the cooked lentils, the chopped garlics and the peeled tomatoes cut into small pieces, along with the flaxseed powder, bayleaf and a glass of white wine. Season with two pinches of salt, pepper, and if you like, paprika and cumin. Place the cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel, wash the potatoes and cut them into cubes. Peel, wash the carrots and cut them into small pieces. Wash the green beans, cut the ends and remove the strings. Cut the green beans into small pieces and set aside in a bowl with water together with the potatoes and the carrots.
After the lentils are cooked, remove the bayleaf. Add the potatoes, carrots, green beans, and finally the green peas. Then, pour water covering all the legumes. Stir and boil over medium-high heat. When it starts boiling, reduce to low heat and cook about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check again if it’s salty enough.
Turn off the heat, let it sit for about 5 minutes and serve.