Reinvention through Migration: Carlos’s story

Published by: Isy Paton

Published on: 8 Aug, 2020

‘I wanted to the opportunity to reinvent myself’

A thought provoking story of how one migrant embraced change and through resilience, adaptability and courage forged a new path and found success and happiness.

Carlos moved to London from Lisbon, Portugal in 2005. His first job in the UK was working as a Caretaker for Tower Hamlets in East London. He now works for a South London pub group as a General Manager.

Starting out

Despite moving from the busy and popular city of Lisbon, one of the things that surprised me when I first arrived in London is how big it is. Lisbon is a relatively small city and I had lived there all my life and knew it well. I had not really travelled to many places before coming to the UK and so it was all very new to me. In Lisbon the Metro has only 4 lines, so it is pretty difficult to get lost, as opposed to the London undergrounds which have 11 lines. London is also a lot more metropolitan than other cities, it is not just the sheer amount of people, but the diversity of those people too.

I was lucky that I had a friend who was living in London already and a job waiting for me, although it was not the greatest job it still meant I was able to start working and meet people and my friend was able to tell me how to apply for a bank account and get a National Insurance Number, I think the systems for migrants arriving in the UK now have improved a lot since I arrived 15 years ago. You can now find a lot of information and even apply for certain things online. I found it a little tricky at the start as the bank wanted documents I didn’t have such as proof of address or a utility bill. My employer was able to write me a supporting letter which helped. I feel like more employers are open to hiring migrants now and there is less of a stigma associated with it as opposed to a few years ago. I also think there are more migrant managers now, like myself, who know what it is like to move to a new country and are willing to help.

My career path

I started off working as a caretaker alongside an older English lady who would chat to me in English and this really helped me develop my language skills. I quickly realised that the English that you learn in school is not the same English that people speak, and no one has a ‘British’ accent, except maybe the Queen! I was also careful not to spend all my free time with the Portuguese people I knew in London, because I knew I would just go back to speaking Portuguese and my English would not improve. Once I felt more confident about speaking English, I was able to apply for jobs where I could interact more with people. I was a carpenter in Lisbon and left school without any qualifications, so I knew that wherever I went I would need to start from the bottom and work my way up and I was lucky to get a job working as a bar back in a pub and from there I worked my way up to be a Bar Man, then Assistant Manager, then Deputy Manager and now I am a General Manager.

Why I migrated

I left Lisbon because I was struggling to find my path and it was easy to go partying with my friends and not have any real direction, I knew that by moving to another country it would push me to figure out what I wanted from life and to work hard to get it. The thing I love most about living in the UK is the opportunities that are available here, that are not so available in

Portugal. I was given the chance to reinvent myself, I made lots of friends and worked with wonderful people from all over the world and was able to forge a career here. It also opened up the world to me, and in 2013 I was able to take a year off work and go travelling around the world visiting China, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and many other places.

My top tips

Although I miss my family, and the food, and the weather back in Lisbon, I am really grateful for the life I have built here in the UK. My advice to anyone moving here would be to practice your English, I used to watch my favourite TV shows in English and I would have conversations in my head in English too, if there was no one around to practice on. Also use the resources that are available to you now, especially websites offering tips and advice and do not be afraid to ask for help.

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