Between 2011 and 2014 more than 485,000 Portuguese people migrated into other countries, mostly countries of the European Union. So did Luís Veiga: ‘Even though I was suffering in Switzerland, I said to myself that I couldn’t give up and go back home.’

© Ekaterina Korneva

‘When I was 18 years-old on my way to finishing school, that was in 2013, Portugal faced a massive crisis. My family couldn’t pay for my studies, and I wasn’t able to find a part-time job. So I was thinking about what I could do. The best friend of my father lived in Switzerland, and as a joke, I asked him if I could go to his place for a couple of months and try to find a job. He agreed, and the plan was that I would move to Geneva, live at his place and when I had enough money, start living alone.’
‘My parents doubted that I could live in another country and put money aside for my studies. However, they didn’t say no. I moved to Switzerland and the first 1,5 years were incredibly tough for me. As a foreigner, I needed a permit from the government to stay there, to find a job. If the Swiss government does not accept you, you are obliged to go back home, in my case to Portugal. In the beginning, I was jumping from one job to another, worked a couple of days per week because employers weren’t able to sign a contract with me for a full-time job. I worked kind of illegally.’

‘But I was ambitious. Even though I was suffering in Switzerland, I said to myself that I couldn’t give up and go back home. I found a job at arestaurant, and after three months of internship, they hired me. However, without help of my father’s friend, I wouldn’t have been able to stay because life here is incredibly expensive . So I paid just a little bit for the room and tried to save as much as possible.’

‘Usually, Portuguese move abroad over 25 years old after finishing university and being unable to find work. I have friends who still live in with their families because their parents pay for them.
Another example is my cousin, who is 27. She constantly changes her job because companies make more profit with temporary-contract workers. So she lives with the feeling of anxiety that at the end of the period employers won’t prolong a contract with her.’

‘Even though my parents doubted this idea, now they want me to stay as well. I don’t have money problems; I am independent. They told me: “Look at your cousin, who jumps from one job to another, look at your friends, who finished universities but can’t find a job. Look at places where you have been, look what you have done, most of the people in Portugal can’t afford it.” They are proud of me.’

© Ekaterina Korneva

‘I am afraid to go back to Portugal. What if I don’t find a job? What if I can’t study? As long as I can live here, I will stay here, even if I don’t have a dream job. In Switzerland you can have a good quality of life even working in a restaurant.’

‘Studying is my goal. However, it’s tough to combine work and studies. It starts at the same time in the morning, and I can’t just quit my job because I need money forliving: to pay for my apartment, my bills and food. I feel a little bit stuck because I don’t know what to do with this.However, I know that the life is beautiful, and I am lucky to have what I have. I am sure that one day I will find a solution’

Text and photos: © Ekaterina Korneva