Saturday, November 3, 2012

I am an immigrant

I am living abroad, away from Italy since 10 years. It is a long time. I have been living in a lot of different countries and only in few of them I didn't feel that I was different, not belonging.

Here in Portugal, despite the cultural differences, none ever made me feel like I was "different" because non-Portuguese. People in general are doing a lot of efforts to understand me in my mixed mostly-spanish-a-bit-of-Portuguese spoken language...well of course, except for my landlord....but I can live with that. This until this morning.

I went to the farmers market as I do every 15 days on saturday. I love going to the farmers market here, it is one of the things I love more of living in this small Portuguese village. I like chatting with the people there, they all know me by now. They even remember my mom. They know what I like. It is a familiar environment. I really enjoy it and since there is only every 15 days on a saturday, I always look forward to this regular appointment.

However, this morning I had a not too pleasant conversation with one of the vendors. He was telling me that just a bit before me there was a Spanish girl who bought something and that he was surprised that there are so many foreigners, Spanish, Italian, etc living in this small village, because we are not here just for the holidays. I told him that we all work together in a research center nearby. He was surprised, but not pleasantly surprised. I like to state here that this guy is normally extremely nice and friendly, so it was not that he is rude or anything like this.

The first thing he said was:
- I hope that the money to pay your salary come from abroad or from the European community.

I stared at him......and only said "sorry?" I was not sure I understood well.

- I mean, why should Portugal pay someone who is not Portuguese? and even more, why should Portugal pay so many foreigners?

I understand that this may be a difficult concept for people who are not familiar with how the research world functions and that the foundations of our work are based on shared knowledge, independently of the nationality or race of the people doing research. I understand that with the current economic situation people are less tolerant. But the thing is....I have a salary, I live in Portugal, I pay my rent in Portugal, I do my shopping in Portugal, my life is in, it is not that someone is paying me to bring the money to Italy and spend it there. I am part of this economy, I am part of this country until I work and I live here.

I don't understand this growing intolerance toward giving a job to a foreign person. I am not talking here about an illegal immigrant. I am talking about a person who is legally allowed to work in the country, who lives in the country, who may even pays the taxes in the country, etc. It is not that the money that the country invests on me are thrown away.....I just don't get it.....

The guy actually only chilled out when I confirmed to him that yes, a large part of our salaries come from the European community......

I am not very favorable in general to globalization, but local and narrowed thinking is a very dangerous thing, I feel.

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