I answered a few questions about my expatriation to Portugal on the local Reunion Island’s news website linfo.re.
Below are the full answers, and at the end of the article you can find the link to the interview on their website.
Which town in Reunion Island do you come from? 🇷🇪
Can you tell us about your background? 📖
My name is Claire Gapais, I was born in Saint-Pierre 32 years ago and I grew up in Saint-Leu.
I work in the field of digital marketing, a field I turned to as a self-taught person 10 years ago. After 2 first professional experiences that did not meet my expectations in terms of professionalism and human values, I decided to start my own business.
At 25 years old, the desire for space and new experiences pushed me to leave Reunion Island. I spent a few years in Paris and Brussels, and I have now been living in Portugal for a little over 3 years.
A little bio that defines you/ A quote? 🖋
A creole expression that says “Pas capab lé mort sans essayer”. Meaning you can’t know it’s impossible until you’ve tried. Everything that seems impossible today is just waiting to be experienced, invented, tried.
Why Portugal? 🇵🇹
By chance and word of mouth, I visited Portugal 2 times in 2018. The simplicity of life, the authenticity of the country and the climate won me over. Especially after living in Paris and Brussels for a few years, where the constantly grey weather and lack of nature was sorely felt. Here you can still live quietly in the back country, in tune with nature and with the sun shining for three quarters of the year.
The Portuguese are both very welcoming and very unobtrusive. They are pleasant and will take the time to explain something to you even if you don’t know their language, and even take pride in knowing how to answer you in English or French. On the other hand they let you do your life and they do theirs. There is no constant conflict or insecurity as there may be in other EU countries. Also, a lifetime would not be enough to discover this country, as there are so many interesting places to explore.
Your way of life in Portugal ? Your adjustment? 🏠
Living in Portugal on a daily basis often reminds me of the Reunion Island of my childhood: the gardens filled with all kinds of plants, the hydrangea alleys like at my grandmother’s house in La Chaloupe Saint-Leu, the small villages where the elderly wash their laundry by hand and grow their vegetables with very little means… My favorite activity, hiking, allows me to discover places where time seems to have stopped. I always carry my camera with me to keep these precious moments in memory.
Regarding real estate: When you move to Portugal, you discover that the low density allows you to live away from the others, but that houses for rent are very rare when you leave the big cities or areas with a high concentration of expatriates. The property market here is mainly geared towards buying, but most properties are not insulated and not equipped, so you have to hold on to find the perfect property!
Regarding food, I don’t feel lost here: I can easily find all necessary to reproduce my favorite recipes from Reunion Island. The availability of good fresh produce and plant-based alternatives allowed me to become a vegetarian a few months after my arrival here.
Leaving Reunion Island, a choice or an obligation? ✈️
In my case it was a choice, a desire to open my mind and horizons, but also a strong desire for space.
What do you miss most about Reunion Island? 🇷🇪
Something that we call “Bredes chouchou”! It’s the leaves growing from the vegetable “chuchu” here in Portugal that we have too in Reunion Island. But I recently found out that it grows here too so I’ll give it a try 😄 Otherwise obviously I miss my loved ones.
Can you tell us about your current activity? Do you have a particular project in Portugal?
Today I work alongside my partner in our digital marketing agency (Niaoli) and in my spare time I keep a diary about my expatriation (Greenery Corner).
Being lucky enough to be able to work from just about anywhere (as long as I have access to the Internet) I divide my time between my activity as a digital marketing consultant and discovering Portugal.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you did? 🤔
To try, to get out of their comfort zone. To not let fear, the way others look at you or social pressure disturb you. To get out of the family and professional patterns that we know and to evolve with the world around us. To innovate, based on the fact that we can no longer live today as we did 10, 20 or 30 years ago without thinking about our responsibility and our impact.
What are your short and medium term plans?
- Identify and participate in projects that aim to protect, reforest and restore the country’s biodiversity, as fires and drought are increasingly present.
- If the ideal location presents itself, build a house in the middle of nature.
- Finally visit the Azores and Madeira when there are no longer restrictions.
What would you like to add to this interview, a message for the people of Reunion? 😉🇷🇪
Believe in yourself and your potential. Growing up in Reunion Island makes everyone from there a unique being capable of adapting and bringing added value to their host country.
There is no shame in wanting to leave the island to be inspired and to grow. There is no shame either in blossoming elsewhere and returning not by obligation but by choice, to enjoy your loved ones during the holidays. The important thing is to be aligned with yourself and to decide on the direction you wish to give to your life.
Read the interview about my expatriation to Portugal in the #MOUNDOUVOU section on the linfo.re website by clicking here.