He said he was raised with a set of expectations familiar in the developed world: Study hard, learn a technical trade like architecture, and the path to a solid standard of living and a comfortable retirement would be set. In today’s Europe, he said, that narrative is urgently out of date. Some of his school classmates are narrowing their vision, settling on makeshift jobs like furniture repair. Others search the globe for a better foothold.
“You can find work in Portugal . . . but nothing that offers a career,” the 29-year-old said as he sipped juice in an open-air cafe in the shadow of Sao Paulo’s art museum. “It all happened very fast. I came over for two weeks. In two days I had settled on a job” and also enrolled in an MBA program.
After five years of slow growth or recession and an increasing sense of Europe’s limits, Lambuca is not alone. He and other young Portuguese professionals have begun turning to Brazil, a former Portuguese colony that shares the language, as a culturally familiar way to escape their home nation’s doldrums.
He and others recently interviewed in Brazil were not unemployed at home. They all spoke of internships, year-long work stints in other euro-zone countries, and other jobs they had held despite rising regional unemployment. But they were deeply disenchanted with the opportunities that Portugal, Spain or other European nations held for them to build their careers, and they felt the continent had become a dead end.
Exact statistics are unavailable. Data from the Brazilian Foreign Ministry show a sharp increase since 2010 in the number of work visas granted by Brazil’s consulates in Portugal. But several groups of possible Portuguese émigrés are not captured in that information, including those who get a visa from a Brazilian consulate in another country, and the probably large group who arrive on tourist visas but later switch their status after finding a job or enrolling in a college or university.
The anecdotal accounts of people like Lambuca and other recent émigrés suggest a steady movement of skilled Portuguese looking to resettle in one of the world’s dynamic emerging markets — a place where commodity wealth, an energy boom and upcoming events like the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and 2016 Olympic Games are creating a shortage of engineers, architects, consultants and other skilled labor.
They speak, not without misgiving, of a “brain drain” from their home country; they fill Facebook groups with other 20- and 30-something professionals who also recently arrived; they field e-mails, sometimes several a day, from friends and classmates who want to join them.
Joana Oliveira, also an architect, said that over two years here, she has gotten a steady increase in responsibility. The office she works for was recently reorganized to rely more on younger staffers like her to contribute to the initial creative design work, giving her opportunities she was likely to have gotten only much later at a more staid European firm.