Belgium

is a love story that started in 1985. I first arrived here on August 27 1985 and stayed for 7 weeks. I immediately fell in love with the country and the people. Everything was so different from everything I’ve experienced so far in this tiny little nation. I met wonderful people that became my friends, I was astonished with its parks, the long and wide avenues with the beautiful trees, the trams, the metro, the clothes, the food. I felt like Alice in Wonderland!

When I returned to Portugal there was only one subject in my conversations: Belgium! My friends kept asking “when are you going back?” Each time I came I took many pictures because once in Portugal, I really missed being here! I visited Antwerp, Liège, my dear Brussels, Leuven and Mons. Each time I took the plane back to Portugal, my luggage was full of bread, chocolates, shampoo, mustard, orange juice, books and pens for school and of course, many memories. Belgium became my life.

In 1993 I finally moved here and I’ve been living here ever since. I got married, I had three beautiful children, and I became a citizen in 1997.

In June 1994 I left Brussels and I moved to Louvain and that was one of the biggest challenges in my life. Dutch is a totally different language than French and I had a very hard time with it. It hurt me when a few people told me to learn Dutch or to go back to Portugal. I was doing my best but it was never good enough for some. I was bullied and I heard racist insults. However people in shops and at the pharmacy were always very kind to me and helped me a lot because they saw I was doing my best. One of the best compliments I got was at The Standaard Library in Louvain when a member of the staff told me “You can speak better Dutch than our King!” I am still greatful for that comment, that lady doesn’t realize how much she helped me. With time I met other people that helped me with Dutch and after 2 years I could have a normal conversation.

Belgium became my home and in spite of everything, I love it with all my heart. Once a year I still try to go to Portugal but after a few days there I start to miss the country that I have chosen to live in.

My best contribution to Belgium are my portuguese values, my commitment to make it a better place for the future generations, is being able to speak the three national languages (German less) and paying my taxes on time. Yes, I love playing taxes because they remember me that I am blessed with a job and that I can somehow payback all the good things Belgium gave me.