Marta Ribeiro: “No country is the best of all countries and there’s good and bad everywhere. Modesty, comprehension, embrace and intelligence are some of the characteristics that can make a difference and should be more commonly spread.”
Marta left her lovely country, Portugal, to find a better way of living in Paris. The differences between both countries are obviously big, although they are both european countries and France has a lot of portuguese people. Paris is a special city for Marta, almost a love and hate relationship, because like she says “No country is the best of all countries and there’s good and bad everywhere.”
1 – How old were you when you moved to Paris? What was the main reason to move?
I was 26, almost two years ago already! The main reason was to try improve our standard of living. Also to experience something new, learn a new language and adventure ourselves in a new environment. I probably wouldn’t move alone, it’s so much easier to share this experience and support each other along the way.
2 – What kind of cultural characteristics have you absorbed from France?
Probably having drinks before dinner. What they call “apéro time”. It’s really wonderful, I actually prefer it a lot more than going out at 11pm. Although nothing changes for me, It’s also cute that men kiss each other on the cheek when they meet.
3 – Do you think your origins have influenced people around you?
The Portuguese don’t have a good reputation at all around here so the French tend to be a bit surprised when getting to know us. But in fact it’s such a similar culture that I don’t think you notice the difference right away. It’s easy to blend in and when it comes to Portuguese words, it’s always the curse words that come into conversation!
4 – What are the biggest challenges of living in a foreign country?
You don’t have all the things you were used to your whole life. Starting by the language: there’s no escape, you have to try and communicate with what you have.
The continuing research for trustworthy places and people: if you have something to fix, something specific you want to buy, all the places you knew are not nearby. Your family is not around: if something happens they are all a plane trip away and it’s the end of weekend lunches with your family.
5 – Name the most positive aspects of Paris.
Transportation works really well around here. Not just inside the city but it also becomes easy to explore the rest of France or some other European countries by train. There are lots of museums and art displays all year long. The cultural environment is rich, including plenty of concerts, a lot of them in beautiful venues. The country itself seems splendid with lots of different areas I still have to explore. At the end Paris is a very attractive city, I feel good wandering around and getting to know new things every day.
6 – During this time in a foreign country what have you learned about the human being? What sets us apart from each other?
My opinion about the Parisians is not the best. They always give me reasons to believe in envious, selfish people. I think being a bike commuter has a lot to do with it because you get involved in small unnerving situations everyday. I believe everything is related to the history, the past of the country, the weather and the impact you have on other countries as well. No country is the best of all countries and there’s good and bad everywhere. Modesty, comprehension, embrace and intelligence are some of the characteristics that can make a difference and should be more commonly spread.
7 – What is missing in your home country that your current one has and vice versa?
The sea! How I miss it. But again it’s missing in Paris because there are really nice sea areas in France. And I guess I can say I would miss the cultural diversity and richness of Paris.
8 – Is there a favourite french dish you prefer?
The big variety of great cheeses, different from the Portuguese ones but some are really good. I also have to say the crêpe bretonne with it’s homemade cider and my favourite French pastry, the millefeuille!
9 – Which stereotype doesn’t make sense about France?
French people smell bad or wear berets (but men do wear scarfs). All the others I can remember pretty much make sense, for instance the level of politeness. Of course I’m speaking exclusively of Paris.
10 – What were your biggest fears before you moved?
My biggest fear was not finding a job and maybe not being able to speak the language.
11 – From the legal point of view, was the social framework easy? Do you have any advice for someone moving in?
It was not easy at all. Everything is complicated around here from having a phone number to renting an apartment. The basic things are hard to get and the list of papers you have to fill in is always endless. I didn’t know you could still do everything by actual letter at the post office with the technology we have today. My advice is don’t be afraid to call or go directly to a place and ask all the questions. They can be rough but you have to be persistent.
12 – What are the greatest labor differences between Portugal and France?
In comparison, basically all is advantages. Everything works with contracts (long term or short term) so you always have this security, as well as food allowance, work-related health insurance which is mandatory but works great. Also you feel like they value you, no one is waiting for your contract to end to have someone new come in.
13 – What is your favourite city spot in Paris?
I love going to Buttes Chaumont park during summer or spring, sitting on the grass and having some wine or beer, baguette and cheese! It has some hills so there’s a beautiful view of the city and it’s super big, you can walk around and hide inside nature.
14 – Where do you feel “at home” in Paris? Is there a specific place?
I can immediately think of a bunch of places in this city where I don’t feel at home at all. It’s not that I don’t feel good here, there’s just no specific place I can identify. If I say my apartment, does that count? They say home is where your heart is and my heart is with me everyday.
15 – Do you have a favourite restaurant in Paris?
Bob’s Bake Shop. This is not a French restaurant but it’s definitely one of my favourites. Everything is home made from the best pancakes I ever had to a great coffee, wonderful cakes or freshly cooked vegetables. You can have anything you want and mix sugar and salt, share everything you have, it’s just delightful.
16 – What is it for you to be real? / What defines you as a person?
To enjoy the good things, to explore, to travel as much as you can, to share your love and experiences, to love and be loved. Try new food, meet different cultures, see lots of movies and have someone special to share it with!
So this is not entirely a traditional recipe as I replaced the main ingredient in order to please the vegetarian home we live in! Still, I love this dish because it evokes family memories and cultural sensations even without the codfish.
Half cup of milk
I started by thinly cutting and frying the potatoes. Add salt while still hot and put them aside. Start braising one whole big onion or two small ones. Add one leek thinly cut and continue to braise until its tender and moist.
I add a bit of white wine and a bit of milk during the process as well as seasoning (salt and pepper).
When you feel it has absorbed everything, just add the thin fries and, while mixing, add 4 eggs mixed outside already. I like it very moist so be careful not to leave it for too long, 1 minute will be enough.
Final important touch: fresh parsley on top (that I didn’t have so I used dried one). Enjoy!