How to move from Israel to Portugal

Why did I choose to immigrate? It makes some space for new stuff to come into your life.
8 min
April 12, 2024

Dor Halevy is from Israel. He work for customer service and social media and came to Portugal four months ago. What could he share with the immigrant community? Let's read the interview!

Why did you choose Portugal for your immigration?

First of all, it's a country that I have never been to, and that I always wanted to visit. Аlso, Portugal is a very beautiful country, so that is one of the main reasons why I came here.

Are you satisfied with your decision?

I can tell you that It's not always easy. But I came to Portugal to get out of my comfort zone, and explore new things. And sometimes, it can be difficult, but at the same time, it teaches you life lessons that you won't get in your country of origin. 

Why did you decide to emigrate and not just stay in Israel?

When you’re in your home country,  it very comfortable but things were always the same. And life is too short to be the same all the time, to always be the same.

Many people think an immigrant's life is like a fairy tale because you get to live in the country of your dreams. But is it so? What was the hardest thing for you?

Honestly, I have always grown up near my family, and I always had support. And now, I’m in charge of myself. So that’s a big change, and I’m still getting used to it. But at the same time, it's an amazing feeling. So, it has advantages and disadvantages.

What helps you cope with the challenges?

I can say that I've been in some situations, where I was deeply confused about those emotions that come up when you emigrate to a new country. But in the end, it makes some space for new stuff to come into your life. So, those voids will always somehow get filled. 

What advice do you have for someone who arrived yesterday in a new country and is starting a new life? An immigrant at the beginning of his journey?

I can tell him that he made this decision to go on a journey… And he need to always remind himself that it is not his comfort zone, and sometimes  situations will be difficult, but he chose that to make better decisions in the future.

You are from Israel, a country that has been at war for a long time. And we have seen a new war started in Europe, between Russia and Ukrainе. What do people worldwide need to fix so there is no war anywhere, ever?

Well, I'm very sad about this situation. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter which religion, which gender, which nationality. It doesn't matter, we are all human beings, we must care about one thing: is the person a good person, or not? People need to flip this switch in their heads,  because we are living in very progressive times. And I think that… It's basically ego. I'm sorry… But I want peace in the world. 

I have been meeting this a lot of times and learn new things almost every day.  And I think it's good, because once we realize there's no one mentality as other mentalities, it really opens you up to the world, which is amazing. 

Do you feel support from the immigrant community?

Sometimes yes, and sometimes not. The thing is that, if you come to Portugal, you must create your own community. It won't happen just by going to some events once or twice. It takes a lot of work, and sometimes you find yourself alone. But after a few months, it starts to get better, you’re starting to get used to it. The beginning is always rough, but it gets better.

Now you're in Lisbon. How often do you pause and say to yourself, "Wow, now I live here!" 

Actually, in the beginning I came with this mood like: “Okay, let’s start doing this, and this, and that…”. And after this mood passed, it made me a little uncomfortable, but I had to fill up this void somehow. And after a couple of weeks, it started to get better. So, I had to take some pauses. If anyone feels like the situation is pressuring him a little bit, I really advise him to take a break. It’s very important.

I'm starting to feel more comfortable here. In the beginning, there were always doubts, but Portugal is a very easy country to immigrate to. Sometimes,  because of bureaucracy it can take a long time. But other than that… There is a big community of internationals here, and if you're active on social media, you will probably, at some point, have a lot of meet ups and it will ? get easier?

What do you like most of all in Portugal?

I like the fact that here, people have the same state of mind about peace that I do. People just live by: “I will live, and you will live, and we will have mutual respect”. And that is beautiful, because not a lot of places have that anymore. 

Do you have any new hobbies here?

Actually, right now I’m searching for what I want to study, and I’m saving some money for that. And also, I haven't tried surfing yet, but I definitely will once the summer comes. 

Do you think that going to live in another country helps you to know yourself better?

If I had the opportunity to go back to the time just before I left for Portugal, I would probably just say to myself that you create your own reality, and that at some point, you will simply get the results of your actions. Don’t stay at home and expect that something will come. 

John Lennon once said that “happiness is the key to life”, what do you think about that?

Yes and no. Yes, because we always need to think positive in some situations, and no, because even though we have the good things, we always have the bad things. And life is about finding balance between those two things. We have two sides of the same coin. I’m an optimist.

What advice do you have for someone who arrived yesterday in a new country and is starting a new life? 

I would advise them that, when they feel sad, and they start experience some things that were not present when they were in their comfort zone. And that’s okay, this process is especially difficult in the beginning.

And that is what happens when you decide to live alone. It’s life changing, and it always has advantages and disadvantages. But if you get through it, you'll be stronger than before.

In the past century, people were shaped and influenced by their surroundings , their nationality, the country they lived in, and different societies treated people from another country differently. 

I can definitely say that I’m a person who doesn't look to the past, I'm always looking in the future. And right now, I can tell that people are not being separated by their religion, gender and stuff like that. Living in a new country among people with different mentalities, with different nationalities is something that is nor very common, and it’s a very valuable and good experience to have in your life.

Did you start to learn Portuguese?

I'm starting to connect the words in my head a little bit. So now it's a bit easier.  But when I just arrived in Portugal, it was very difficult, because not a lot of people were speaking English like I expected.  And when I’m at the supermarket, I use Google translator on my phone to translate the name of different products. And when my phone’s battery runs out, then it’s a big problem. But other than that…  Even if you speak a little Portuguese in the beginning, and people see that and understand that you are a foreigner, they will switch to English. 

Do you think people in Portugal are friendly and open to foreigners?

So far, I haven't had the chance to meet a lot of locals. But in my experience, Portuguese people are very nice people, very welcoming people. And I feel very welcome in this country. They are very welcoming to people from other countries.

For your birthday last year, you asked for donations to UNICEF Portugal. Why is it important for you?

First of all, it's my dream to work for UNICEF, I was always interested in that.  And then, when my birthday was coming up, I saw that post and thought “Well, okay, that's for a good cause”. And I don't know, I haven’t checked how much people donated to UNICEF via the link, I don’t think I have that option. But I still decided to do it, even if it will only raise a small amount of money.

There is an opinion that even a small step can change the word, do you agree with that?

Of course, it starts with the little things. It’s an energy that you’re providing. I can tell you something that I learned, and a lot of people know about it, but people can read you energy even if you don’t want to show it up. So the energy that you’re feeling inside, is the energy that you’re providing. So little steps like a smile, being kind can make a big difference.

Did Portugal teach you some sort of lesson, did it help you to understand some things better?

I will give you an example. When I just moved to my apartment, I found out that there was a place that serves the most delicious cakes in my neighborhood, just about 100 meters from my apartment. And every day before work, I would go there to grab a bottle of water and some pastry, that’s a habit that I have. And they don't speak English. So every day, I’ve learned something new just from looking and talking a little bit. And now, after one month, I can order “golden ears” which is amazing. 

I think every immigrant should give himself some time to get used to the way of life of his new country. For example, I came from a country where people are used to doing things quickly. And it took me a while to get used to Portugal. I sometimes say to myself: take a breath, take a break, this is not that urgent. So if you come from a place where life is very fast-paced, you will need to find balance. Here the pace is much slower, and it took me a while to get used to it.

Photo: Julia Vasutenko

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Yulia Bykova
Immigrant and writer
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