Seeking Happiness – Brazilians on their way to Portugal

Portugal has been a popular country for migrants since the end of the 20th century. Especially Brazilians repeatedly find their way to the sunny country on the Atlantic coast. According to the International Organisation of Migration, with 183 000 members, the Brazilian community is the largest migrant group that represents around 27 percent of all the foreigners living in Portugal. The two countries share a historical and cultural background, and in the last ten years the immigration of Brazilians has increased significantly.

The reasons for Brazilians to leave their country vary, but young people in particular see an opportunity for a better life in Europe. Sophia Mizinski, 22, and her sister Clara, 20, left

São Paulo to study in Portugal, as many of their friends had done before them. „I knew a lot of other people that study in Europe and their life looked so easy: They travel a lot, party a lot, they meet a lot of people and also the quality of life is better than in Brazil,” Sophia explains. She came to Portugal in 2019 and one year later her sister Clara followed. “I didn’t want to go to college in Brazil because the education there is terrible and since my sister was already here, and I always heard that in Europe the education was higher, I followed her,” she says.

Another reason for leaving Brazil has been and still is the economy. Statistics of the International Organisation of Migration show that every time the Portuguese economy was on its peaks, there were a lot of foreigners and especially Brazilians migrating to the country to work there. The Brazilian student Clara recounts that the economy In Brazil is another factor why she wants to stay in Europe. “In Portugal, you have, especially for my engineering degree, way more opportunities than in Brazil for your later life.

Back home, people with my degree often work below their qualification while in Europe there’s a good possibility of getting a nice job,” she explains.

Besides the economic situation and part of her family being already here, the issue of safety also played a major role in Clara’s decision to leave Brazil. “The safety in Brazil is in an awful place, and especially since the pandemic and the Bolsonaro government it’s even more terrible. “For as long as I can remember, I was always told that as a woman, I should never be outside alone. Here in Portugal, I was suddenly able to move freely at any time of day, go anywhere without fear. That’s a great feeling,” she says vividly.

For Bruno Monteiro, 20, safety was also one of the main reasons to leave São Paulo.

“My mom was born in a very poor district of São Paulo, so she knew how dangerous going out alone can be. You just have to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it could end bad for you.  That’s why I was almost never allowed to go out alone or was even afraid to walk alone in the night, even as a guy. When I arrived in Europe, it felt incredible when I realized that I don’t have to be afraid anymore, and I really enjoy it,” the psychology student explains.

Apart from the economic, educational, and political factors that push people out of Brazil, Portugal has a lot to offer that specifically attracts Brazilians. Vasco Malta, head of office in the International Organisation of Migration in Lisbon, believes that a very important reason why Brazilians choose Portugal is firstly the Portuguese language. “I think for a lot of people it’s essential to make sure the integration process is easier, so the fact that Brazilians speak the same language as the Portuguese is one of the main reasons why they decide to migrate to Portugal over other European countries,” he explains.

According to Vasco, the fact that many migrants have family, friends or acquaintances who are already living in Portugal is another reason for the steadily growing number of Brazilians in the foreign community. “I could image that if you already have someone that is integrated and part of your family around here, you will just think that it’s easier to come here as well and make sure you profit from the same path for the integration,” he states.

Furthermore, Bruno Monteiro confirms that these two factors are the reason why he chose Portugal over other European cities. “It was a mix of knowing the language and doing my studies here. I also had a Brazilian friend that lives here, so knowing that I have someone to talk to and to go out with definitely helped my decision,” he further explains.

Leaving your home behind and starting a completely new life in a different country is never an easy decision to make. But most of the time it helps you to grow and to take new opportunities. For Bruno Monteiro, moving to Portugal was one of the best decisions he made so far. “I don’t think about moving back to Brazil. I feel like the Portuguese actually appreciate my job as a waiter and that I have a brighter future here,” Bruno explains. “I think I want to spend the rest of my life in Portugal and get old here,” he says with a smile.