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The Exodus of Tech from Portugal (taoofmac.com)
68 points by iProject 1969 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments

The root of the problem is that developers in Portuguese organizations have little "political" power and low social prestige. They are generically put under the "técnicos" (technicians) category, not a very prestigious term.

It's kind of a class thing: high class people do not dirty their hands with manual labor and boring technical stuff. High class people should manage other people and do not really have any responsibility towards their lower-class subordinates. Responsibility only flows upwards, never downwards. This is of course not a uniquely Portuguese problem, but is probably a more widespread issue in unequal societies with ingrained class distinctions.

The cult of the MBA (as defined by Spolsky) reigns supreme in Portugal. Managers think it's perfectly natural to be deeply ignorant of the problem domain of their organizations. This might work when you're managing nail factories (or maybe not), but when applied to managing developers it is insulting, disempowering and demotivating.

Once Portuguese employees are always wanted everywhere in the world, I only can think that the root of our problems is the lack of good "bosses".

In Portugal, "bosses" are less educated than employees. 71,3% have a maximum of 9 years of school! http://economia.publico.pt/Noticia/qualificacao-media-dos-pa... (portuguese language, sorry) How can these people invest in something they don't understand? They understand about carrying bricks and painting walls, that's why we have thousands of empty houses in Portugal and Spain. There is no place for VC and marketable innovation.

We come from a time where we needed to be rich to study. Salazar regime didn't want people to study and emancipate. Now the old regime is over but mentality is still there, people are too used to obbey and are full of preconcepts.

2 wrong things my parents generation did bad because of their ignorance:

a) made children to only focus on studies (cause they never had that chance). People get completely out of the market till they are 23-24. Then of course there are no available positions for high skilled employees. We have no companies with that demand. They were never created! New companies were created by the uneducated bullies. If their families have no capital and they are having first contact with money and market at middle 20's they have no money to risk. 2 solutions appear: unemployment or emmigration.

b) strong left wing (as bare reaction to Salazar right wing regime, without any thinking and ponderation): For example somebody lower than 16 years old caught working is considered crime in Portugal. If these kids are not making it to provide for their families or skipping school I see no problem with this.

Education is not the problem, it's the solution. Even though there's a lot of brouhaha about educated unemployment, education really pays off in Portugal, compared to countries like Germany and Austria. Studies repeatedly show that the more educated you are (at least below Phd level), the better your life outcomes are, both in terms of years employed and of lifelong earnings.

I agree however that we made the educational mistake of putting all eggs in one basket by declaring university education as the universal goal. Perhaps a dual education model such as the German one would help in that respect.

I agree with you, before I just wanted to say that people were/are still educated in a anti-capitalistic education system while we still live in a capitalist country/world. This is very typical from south european contries and the root of their problems probably as escape to past right wing regimes mentality.

I don't think your bosses education level is deterministic enough of his abilities or skills to manage you and whether or not he has the smarts.

Managers should manage and should be effective at that.

As a software developer working in UK, I am managed by someone who has already been a developer in the past and he does not involve himself into any of the technical aspects of my job. He is caring after the larger picture, where I am only one of a group of players that he oversees. It's just like an orchestra, you don't expect the maestro to play all the instruments, but you _do_ expect him to know how to drive all the musicians. Having a manager that isn't smart (or whose education level + smarts doesn't meet the threshold of "can do more than just the mechanical aspects of the job" is a problem, however.) And as I've never been a developer in Portugal, because, education-wise, I don't qualify to work anywhere in Portugal, I cannot speak specifically how the landscape looks for software developers which during my 10 year stint was one area where a degree was an absolute must. However, as someone above said, there seems to be a lot of business leaders and while this is critically essential, it's unfortunately only a part of the much larger landscape and this is where it needs addressing.

You should read and maybe learn something on Salazar's education policies. The dictatorship was bad for many reasons, but as for education goes, you got it all wrong. The regime built thousands of primary schools across the country, and made 4th class mandatory for all kids, girls and boys. Before Salazar, our country had a 19th century mentality, derived from monarchy, whereas girls weren't supposed to need school and only "doctors" would be put through it. The vast majority of the population was not educated in any sense. For all its faults, Salazar's regime managed to change that and raise Portugal to close to the european education standards. That change took decades, it's not something you can do in 5 years. Just as a side note, the some goes for general infrastructures in Portugal. It was a dictatorship, yes, will all the crap that entails, but, after monarchy and the corrupt governments of the 10s and 20s that bankrupted Portugal, it was his regime that raised the bar here in Portugal, until we got fed up with the lack of liberty to express ourselves. Go learn something, buy a book. http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estado_Novo_(Portugal)

Yes, He wanted people to have 4(!) years of school.. During these times big percentage of Polish people were going to college. For example I said to a friend from Poland than 2 of my grandparesnts couldn't read at all. He thought I was making fun..

If I didn't explain good because I should have said that historically education was very bad in Portugal, not only with Salazar regime (that besides everything made a good job on this issue but still didn't manage to get European standards) I only can agree with you; but sentences like:"Go learn something, buy a book" just present an argumentum ad hominem, that is not relevant neither to the other readers neither to me. Please do not weaken this commmunity and consider to change your behaviour taking aknowledgment of existent high standards that you don't find easily in the web.


"It's kind of a class thing: high class people do not dirty their hands with manual labor and boring technical stuff."

There may be some regional variants. A friend of mine who worked with some devs from the UK said that there the split is between guys who only write code (the 'higher class') and guys who might actually know how to plug in an Ethernet cable (the 'lower class').

I don't know if this is true in general, or just of the organization where he worked.

As in most societies, there's bound to be a pecking order of some sorts, and I'm not saying that developers are at the rock-bottom of that order. And of course developers can be self-entitled, arrogant, obnoxious people — I might even be one of those :-)

Whether one appreciates or resents developers, the fact of the matter is that most moderately talented developers have some notion that they possess a valuable and hard-to-acquire skill which paradoxically doesn't empower them, due to the relentless effort by companies to commoditize developers and treat them as fungible resources.

Lacking power to effect any kind of meaningful change, developers with in-demand skills often end up voting with their feet, and organizations fail to accumulate and develop human capital.

Not surprising.

I left Portugal in 2003 to work in the games industry. There were still plenty of jobs in Lisbon then and salaries were not so bad.

At the time I thought I would be away for a couple of years "just to get some experience".

I would love to go back to be closer to my family and old friends, to enjoy the weather the beaches and nice food, but as another expat told me, our jobs just do not exist in Lisbon.

Setting up a business is hard with the asinine tax system currently in place ( taxes are complicated, very high and if your business has zero profits it pays a special tax ), a culture of late payment by clients ( it is so common to have unpaid invoices that you can give these to your bank in exchange for a loan ), the absolute aversion to risk taking by most businesses, the ingrained idea that what is foreign is better and the implied notion that to win a contract you need connections to a politician or a civil servant.

I know a lot of professionals in knowledge based industries that have left, some with their entire families. In a recent poll, more than half of university students plan to leave the country.

At this rate Portugal will become mainly a touristic destination.

The average tax burden for Portugal in 2011 was 39%, higher than the OECD average of 35% but not that high compared to the rest of eurozone. Belgium had 56%, Germany 50% and France 49%. Taxes are not the main problem in Portugal. Dysfunctional organisations and an ineffective legal system are.

And how are you going to help that? Or you don't care? The asinine tax system is more or less the same as I'm used to in NL/DE. Taxes are not for your pleasure. Sure it could be easier, but it's not easier in most civilized places. I'm not Portugese, but I would do my best for my country and not leave like you have no other choice.

I care. If I didn't I wouldn't post here.

But there is so much a single person can do.

And I am very involved with portuguese tech companies at the moment.

I just can't afford to live in Portugal any more.

But what does that mean? Portugal is very cheap (compared to mostly everything) unless you live in Lisbon. So don't live in Lisbon. What do you mean?

Most (all?) tech jobs in Portugal are in Lisbon. I know companies in Oporto (Portugal 2nd biggest city) that have problems hiring people because everyone flees to Lisbon when they finish their degree. I tried to move to a smaller city (I'm not a fan of large cities) but there were very few oportunities, mostly PHP positions where you spend all day coding crappy CMS/CRM/ERPs. Sad but true.

Yes, the big companies are. What is that fascination with big (consultancy) companies? The work there usually is like seeing grass grow. And you'll be 'dispatched' to a client. If you want to live in Castelo Branco please mail me, you can start tomorrow :) (and you won't be making boring stuff either)

I thought Lisbon was cheap as well, greatest cups of coffee I had for .50 euro.

Cheap? Yes, if you come from a country like the US, UK, Germany, etc. The problems is that salaries for tech jobs aren't very good compared with said countries.

But it's much cheaper, so why is it a problem? Why do you need to earn a salary to pay for a E4.50 coffee if you buy it for E0.50? It's only a problem if you earn much less than other countries but your expenses are the same, right? I mean Lisbon is expensive compared to other cities in PT, but wages are also higher to compensate. They are not 'high enough' (with the '' to say ofcourse they are never 'high enough', but you know what I mean?)?

We decided not to go to Lisbon because of the sheer amount of 'jumpers' (I don't know the proper term): people who will go to another company for E100/month more (probably because there is so much choice there). It's too hard to filter them out and we don't want them. We tried it for a bit but people coming to interviews with proposal letters from other companies in hand to get you to outbid is just not what we want. It's like cheating; you'll know they'll do it again.

I am from Lisbon, not a cheap place by any means. Granted, coffee outside is cheap and going out at night is also affordable, but when you take into account the average IT wage living in Lisbon is expensive. And what is the point in moving to another part of the country and staying away from my friends and family like I do now just to pay a bit less in rent?

Even with the high costs of living in London I can save more money than when I was living in Lisbon, but crucially I am exposed to more work opportunities that increase my experience and value as a developer.

The kind of stuff I have done abroad just does not exist in Portugal, at least at the time it did not.

And with regards to the patriotism aspect of your comment, I regularly send money to my family and take vacations in Portugal. All this money was earned abroad. Also, I regularly work for Portuguese customers in projects for foreign clients which means that I am helping with the exports of the country.

Finally, I am not nationalistic and I think those kind of feelings are detrimental to the evolution of civilisation. If anything I consider myself European, and I can't wait for a democratic centralised european government that brings some proper law and order to clean up the corruption and ineptitude of the politicians running Portugal, which is now the most unequal country in the EU with the lowest social mobility and an education level below Mexico.

I think you will find that the tax system (and permits etc) are worse. Tax rates are higher in de/nl but the system is somewhat simpler. Spain, just to pick a random example, just removed a six month process to get a permit to open a retail location. And it is not like you can apply online or anything. I am in the UK where most stuff is even easier (was looking at setting up a company in different European countries, which you can do in the UK for £4.99, but is much more complex elsewhere, and requires a lot of capital).

Well I have companies in NL/DE/ES/PT and I don't see much difference. There are differences, but frustration wise, they are just all at the same level. In Spain I go with the flow which basically just means stuff takes forever, but everyone seems fine with that.

Why are you talking about "staying and fighting" for your beloved Homeland if you've got companies in various countries? Shouldn't you be happily shoveling truckloads of tax money into your own country's coffers instead of giving it away to others?

I do :) They are all owned by the mother company in NL; they pay a bit of tax everywhere but most in NL.

Also, your beloved homeland IF it is your beloved homeland (it usually is). I'm not a big patriot; I like ES/PT more than my own country.

I'm not a big patriot; I like ES/PT more than my own country.

Well, why have you been talking like a "big patriot" that frowns upon non-patriotism then?

A personal anecdote. I know a pretty good PHP developer from Portugal who moved to Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine recently. He started dating a girl from there some time before and visited the country several times. So, when they decided to move in together he preferred to move to Ukraine himself since he could find a much better pay here. For a record, Dnipropetrovsk is not a capital but still a fairy large IT center (one of the top 5 cities) with about 2000 software developers employed in total (growing by 500 each year).

Ukraine might seem a surprising choice to somebody but the tax burden is generally much lower and as a result one can get a pretty good deal salary-wise. For example, right now I'm making significantly more in Kiev than I used to do in Oslo, Norway, which is considered to be a pretty lucrative place to work and live in Europe. The development community is pretty large and thriving. Large part of positions is in outsourcing but there are a plenty of product companies or research centers, too.

The company where I work now started hiring people form US and Western Europe. We are working on NLP systems and there's a lack of local talent with ML and AI skills. For example, we recently hired a machine learning specialist from Spain and we are very happy to have him on board. We also work with linguists from the US.

The world is sure a very different place now!

Now you sir have blown my mind! I've been to Kiev and the Crimea in the summer... very lovely country, with even more lovely girls, not to mention great food/beer. If it wasn't for the dreadful winter I'd call it paradise lol

And apparently ML/AI skills are in high demand everywhere.

I'm one of those about to graduate students from a technical university in Lisbon, and for me, there is no doubt anymore, I'll start to work outside of Portugal.

When you look at it from one side, South European countries have everything: they have the food, the weather, good universities, kind and welcoming people (not to say that other countries don't), talent. They have the potential to be the best countries to live at. What's missing then? For me what is missing in Portugal, and what makes me want to go away from it is mostly bad working conditions: the notion that the IT guy is the new slave. I have had older colleagues saying to me that they were working on a Sunday at 11pm and have seen people from consulting companies coming to my university and proudly saying that when we would be working at their company "we could say goodbye to that cinema evening with friends". These consulting companies, some of which are always eager to hire (which leaves us wondering what is happening to their workforce), exploit the fact that these graduates are used to semesters of constant crunch time and exploit them by putting them in the same state in their companies. People are expected to work past their time, and most of them do... and for what? 1200 euros before taxes and you are considered lucky. If you don't accept that paycheck someone else will.

I did in my last college year an Erasmus in Sweden that came now to an end, and I'm not coming back to Portugal. I've found things to be very different here. There is a huge respect for life outside work, and the jobs actually pay the graduates with the salaries that reward them for their effort and knowledge.

The problem is maybe precisely this one: graduates feeling that there is no reward waiting for them by the end of college.

Whatever others say, I suggest you take your talent overseas for a while. Portugal will exist and in 10 or 20 years you and the rest of your generation will return - and demand change.

Look at India's vast middle class / consultancy fodder. They are returning home and not simply demanding, but expecting things to be different.

I've grown so dispassionate about the tech industry in Portugal that I've been thinking about quitting and doing something else (I'm 28 and I always wanted to be a software developer). I can't change countries (my girlfriend's profession doesn't make it easy to change) so I don't have that many options, so it's either put up it with or quit.

My advice is go and don't come back. The industry around here won't value your skills, you will be considered a tech janitor and after a few years you'll lose your passion and become jaded or just conform to the status quo.

Change comes from the people of the country, not the people who run away. You should fight for change, not take the way of least resistance. Look beyond your personal gains and to the remaking of a whole country. If all brains leave, your country will be dead soon. And yes, of course you don't work for big consultancy companies :) That I have notices a lot; people in Portugal, especially students, seem to be overly occupied with career and such and want to go to 'the big companies'. They are not fun; Logica, Cap gemini or even Outsystems (who are 'small' but SHOULD be PT pride!); these are stable companies but they have a lot of experience how to manipulate and exploit people. The cultural thing (apparently?) that all students want to have for-life jobs (never occurred to me during or after university) and careers is a problem, as this won't happen in the north either. You'll get a contract 'for life' here because it doesn't really matter for the employer to give you that or temporary; you are protected mostly, so it's easier to just give you an eternal contract and use the court to force you out if need be.

Look beyond your personal gains and to the remaking of a whole country. If all brains leave, your country will be dead soon.

So what? Why should you care about the health of "your country"? That's just an attempt at emotional manipulation.

You can help Portugal with your IT skills, or you can help a similar number of people in the US/UK. If you get treated better doing the latter, there is no reason to stick to Portugal. The people of the US/UK are no less deserving of your skillset than the people of Portugal.

Most people have a bond with where they are born. Indeed it doesn't matter who you 'help', but if you feel drawn to your motherland and your family lives there you would be better off helping there than in the US/UK. If you have no bond with where you grew up, then of course. One country is no better than another. If you do care, you moving out is neither needed nor beneficial.

And 'treated better' is just how you manipulate your own existence; if you don't want to be treated badly (or being treated better), anywhere, you can accomplish that. Except of course in state of war or oppression, but none of these countries have that (at the moment).

Portugal has a long history of oppression that was removed less than forty years ago. Some things change, but the mentality of people doesn't change that fast. There may be no open oppression but a silent one for sure. It's easy to be brave in an organized country ruled on laws. In a highly corrupted Portuguese society it's not that easy. (https://www.google.com/search?q=corruption+in+portugal&s...)

I can see that, and that is easier talking from my side of the table. However, someone needs to set changes in motion. Spain is extremely corrupt as well and when we opened up in Ukraine 15 years ago we had to pay the fire men (?) and the taxes guys a few 100 hryvnia every time they came by so they wouldn't actually close the company down. Bribing everyone was required to run anything in Lviv. It's not that bad in PT/ES.

If enough people persist though, changes happen. If no one does it, it stays the same. At least longer. And I know not all think like that; I made great entrepreneur friends in PT who run great companies with great people. They are changing things. And people are listening; we have coffee and beers with the major and university director and so forth because they need their town to change and they want to stimulate this change all they can. A lot of people want this, the fact that some are stuck in their ways has to change. If I can contribute 1 millionth of a % to that, I am happy.

>So what? Why should you care about the health of "your country"? That's just an attempt at emotional manipulation.

No, it's an attempt at appeal to a pre-existing emotion. Not the same at all. Not everyone of us is a rootless opportunist that will go to any place he might get an advantage from going at a moment's notice.

Some of us have bonds with the place where we grow up, and the place were our friends and relatives live. We also have bonds with our culture (from the language, to the music to cuisine). It would be a sad world if everybody was only thinking of his own marginal benefit and could not care less about such things.

Plus, beside the emotional and cultural bond, a lot of us want to give back to our community and improve it for the future generations, and not flee at the chance of a better salary elsewhere.

For an American it might be "freedom", but for a lot of world cultures, the ease with which an e.g American changes states is a sign of lack of roots and fear of emotional attachment, not to mention selfishness and lack of care for one's parents. Plus the mighty appeal of the dollar and the "american dream" of making it big, ie the opposite of actual freedom.

Not that there aren't tons of American's deeply connected with their state and city (mostly people in the South, in my experience, but I also know New Yorkers and Chicagoans that wouldn't change their city for anything).

Change comes when a paradigm no longer can support the evidence of its failure and a new paradigm can replace it. All these countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece Spain... PIGS!) are now discovering that the "quality of life" was sustained in a false growing paradigm based on subsides and abuse. The new paradigm will be brought by all the people living outside that will bring back a different work culture and have probably broken links with the establishment in their countries.

Or at least that's my hope. Maybe all this is really a healing mechanism.

To be quite frank I wonder what is better for the country: staying there, working your ass off and getting just enough to survive, or being outside, opening your horizons, maybe being exposed to new ways of thinking, technologies or ideas, and one day come back and strive to offer to the country what you learned outside.

These people that are leaving, they still love they country, and I'm sure most of them still think about returning to it sooner or later.

But I don't think that's true. Portugal (and the other southern countries) have a lot of talent; why let that talent be bought up by outside countries (like mine)? The world is very ripe for near shoring and actually good programmers are incredibly hard to find. For anyone. People are getting tired with Asian 'factories' with people who, usually, derive no pleasure from their work. Simply; if you open a company NOW in PT and you train 10 Outsystems guys, you and those guys will be able to live a GREAT life. You can sell them in NL/DE/FR for E100/hour and they don't expect you do 'work nights'. It's just the business sense which seems to be lacking. You need to USE the fact that it's a crisis, PT is going under; it means you don't cost E200, you 'only' cost E100 or E75 an hour. How much do you think the US army is paying per hour to Outsystems for the engineers sitting in Lisbon?

One of the big problems in Portugal, aside from all the economic issue, is the "employee syndrome" ... at least it's what i call it. In Portugal, it's hard to find people with a entrepreneur'ish spirit.

Everyone want's to be employee and expect the salary at the end of the month without ( and the salary must be really interesting too ).

Oh, and another thing ... people just can't understand that you need to be offer something for the company success other than just sitting on you desk doing what you're told to. It's all about being a worthily asset for the company, other than just being an simple asset.

Yes... i own my own company. Yes, i did employ several people with and without superior degrees. What i found out is that people without superior degree in Portugal are more productive ( of course, there are exceptions ) and in general, have better technical skills than those who just finished university ( this is another problem in Portugal, universities are all about theory ... although, slowly, we can see some changing... ).

Juniors just can't expect to earn the same salary as someone that has more experience. It's all about return of investment. .. and in the IT world, you need to have to be a good ROI.

Of course, salaries in Portugal can't compare to bigger countries as France, Germany, US ... or emerging IT capitals that are living a wave of venture capitals. We are a small country, that is growing in the IT world. And if you think about it, we are really newborns in this world...

Yes, there are great professionals in Portugal ( and prospects too that are in the university ) ... but there's something about the mentality that we must change.

It's all about what you do for a company what they can do for you.

As for the emigration, i think abroad experiences enrich people and sometimes change their way of seing things. Usually, in the principal external markets targeted by emigrants, there's a higher money flow, and the experience of working in a bigger/wealthier company, makes us grow. But the same problem persists ... you need to be a added value for the company... and in most cases, people only understand that when they are faced with the cold reality that they really need to work had to make a difference. :)

Of course, since they earn more money, they will take that with a different spirit.

( and yes, there are really bad companies in Portugal that are full with "professionals" and "directors" that, often, know less than a junior or someone with 5 years of experience in the market. It's the difference between working for money without much enjoyment and working for something you really enjoy while earning money doing it)

While I think I understand what your point is, I'm not sure I agree.

In the company I work for (about 80 people here), it's not the university rookies that I have problems with: some are weak, some are excelent. But most of them come with a desire to learn, and will in most cases be exploited by PHB project managers that make them work very long hours. Have seen it happen again and again, with no productivity gain whatsoever.

But then, when that really excelent rookie hire appears, with an outstanding ROI, we just can't hire him/her or give him a decent salary, because of all the 'historic' figures that are on the company forever. That's why I cannot agree with a simplistic "juniors can't expect to earn the same salary as someone that has more experience". Some fully deserve it, don't get it, and then become just another layed back demotivated worker.

Thus, "It's all about being a worthily asset for the company, other than just being an simple asset.", can I assume that you offer stock options? Clearly defined rewards if success is reached?

Of course that its not all about the money, but so many portuguese bussiness owners like to forget about their employees once they reach success, and maintain the 'just an employee status'. Thus, it goes both ways. I'm not saying it is your case, but I could not infer otherwise from your text.

And finally: "that they really need to work had to make a difference" What's working hard? To so many people working hard is working long hours almost every single day. My personal experience tells me most of the people that work long hours are either slackers (lots of coffee, lots of talk) or workaholics that do not always play well with others.

> have better technical skills than those who just finished university ( this is another problem in Portugal, universities are all about theory ... although, slowly, we can see some changing... ).

That is normal; in the Netherlands we have a distinction between practical and theoretical higher education. Universities were not meant to be very practical; they are meant to 'shape your mind' with solid foundations for learning new things and for an academic career. Now this is much different and the actual function of a university, because it's so common to go there, moved from that old view to the realism of the day; students need to actually find a job in corporations. It'll change, albeit slowly.

One of the biggest problems I found in PT is the difference between Lisbon and 'the rest'. I don't know what the fascination is with this city (I have been there many times, but disclaimer: I generally don't like cities at all) besides job opportunity, but outside Lisbon, it's really nice and cheap while in there it's not. So you have the 2 camps; 1 who want to live in Lisbon, 1 who want to live anywhere else. And those two have very different wishes.

Where are you? What does your company do?

Maybe the fact European Southern Countries have food, the weather, good universities, and welcoming people makes people not to have to elaborate as much in order to enjoy themselves and live another day. That's one of the factors which contribute for them to be more laid back and invest less in work and organization, leading to competitive disadvantage over the years in other fields.

He is not complaining about a technical disadvantage. The problem they are complaining about is about the current management culture and sunshine and good food doesn't make it any easier to deal with it.

1200 euros for which time period? That's critically important!

1200 gross per month is not weird in PT. It's on the very low side though.

Thanks - I wasn't sure if it was per week or month. Per year sounds weird unless it's a 3rd world country.

Same situation in Spain, incredible brain drain of IT people. In the last months ~ 40% of my IT colleagues in Spain have decided to move to other countries (UK and Germany mainly).

In Spain people a few years ago said stupid things to justify not moving to other countries where salaries were like 3 times Spanish ones: weather, food and «quality of life».

There is another factor for this delayed and flood-like emigration... FAMILY!. In all Mediterranean countries family is very a strong influence. I even can say that individuals doesn't exists as they are in other countries. A 18 years old in Spain is like a 13 years old in UK. You can be in your 30's and the family will still be pushing you to be in the «right path».

For many, many years family decided that the best prospect for their young college graduates was, without any doubt, working for the government. In Spain it means a decent salary and a job for life (you cannot be fired under ANY circumstance, ANY AT ALL, you kill someone, go to jail and when you get out your job will be there waiting for you!).

Once this absurd situation ended (the government in Spain duplicated its work force in 3 years) the «family» didn't know how to react. But the government knows better, in the last 3 years the tv programs «Spaniard around the world» showing happy people living in other countries. So now, the «family» is pushing their children to go outside.

My company is hiring people in London and we only receive CV from Spaniard and Greeks. My boss told me that 1 year and a half ago it was really rare to find people from these countries in selection processed but that now the recruiters are flooded with their CVs.

I suspect that the mediterranean IT guy/pal will be the new Polish plumber in UK

> In Spain people a few years ago said stupid things to justify not moving to other countries where salaries were like 3 times Spanish ones: weather, food and «quality of life».

I don't think that's stupid. I get seriously depressed when it's gray, gray, gray all the time, which is one of the reasons I moved from Oregon to Italy many years ago. I also like how some interpersonal dynamics are here: all my 'nerd' friends here have always fit in pretty well, and don't seem to have the stories that people do in the US about cliques and being excluded and intellectual achievement being looked down on. Maybe some teasing, maybe not being the most popular people, but they all seem to fit in pretty well.

It depends on who you are and what you like, and how much you're willing to sacrifice. Currently, the sacrifice is much larger because of how poorly things are going in many Mediterranean countries, so it makes more sense to leave.

Yes Davidw, but I can tell you something about quality of life... it doesn't exists if you don't have money :) Salaries in Spain for IT are so absurd: 600~1500 EUR/month in the south. If you are in the 1500EUR/month salary you are a lucky bastard!

Spain is going to change in a really bad way in the next one or two decades and no one wants to be there when they can stay at 5 hours of flight in UK (including bus/train to the airport and arriving home in Spain).

The real question is why companies are still not able to compete even with these lower costs. Other inefficiencies and being in the wrong markets?

In a word: yes.

I'm subcontracted, so even if my salary is half what it would be in UK, Germany, the cost for the company I work in is not so different. Their fault anyway, why don't they contract me directly?

Add to that that rotation is wild. They hire the cheapest people: those who are unemployed and would take any offer. As soon as you're employed, it's orders of magnitude easier to get a job, so hasta luego, Lucas!

Companies also have a huge burden treating with other companies or government that work terribly and terribly slow, pay when they will and often simply don't answer the phone.

There is little competitive spirit. Virtually all the big companies are there because some concession or "too big to fail" (utilities, banks) so their way to raise profit is to exploit customers and employees.

Beware! There are exceptions to all of these traits! There are good innovative companies, competitive people and internationally successful ventures. But not enough to sustain a disgruntled IT workforce that are treated as spoiled clerks.

Why don't foreign companies go there and hire people, though? They can hire people cheaper than having them move to the UK/Germany/US even if they pay above average local rates, they can hire people who otherwise wouldn't move (and even some of the movers will be happier closer to home), and since they're hiring them as part of a large, or at least multinational company, they don't necessarily need those people to have much at all to do with other Spanish/Italian/whatever companies or government.

I think that's precisely the point the author was making. Google could set up shop there and build a massive development centre that would make it easier for them to do stuff for Latin America and Africa - and yet they don't, other than a dinky office selling AdWords.

That's the takehome pay - there are pretty high taxes, so the total that the company is paying might be much higher, and the labor market is very rigid: at least in Italy, it's very difficult to fire someone once they have obtained a 'permanent position'. Still though, I think there are opportunities to be had; things like what Fabrizio Capobianco did with Funambol. I can only find stories in Italian that focus more on the Italian aspect of their operations:


Well, both taxes and salaries are higher in Northern Europe and our companies are still competitive so that is not the reason why the Spanish IT companies are not competitive.

Taxes as a % of GDP are not that much higher, if at all, in northern Europe than in Italy.


And you get a lot more of them back in various ways in northern Europe.

I think it's a fairly complex question, and that's part of it. Maybe there's actually an opportunity, because I know a bunch of smart developers in Italy who work for less than they would get elsewhere. I know Italy very well, and still wonder what I'm missing, because like you say, there are taxes elsewhere too.

Actually, tax incidence in Italy is even worse than that:


Severance pay has been cut in half in Spain some months ago.

I agree: it's a tradeoff. Some people aren't bothered by the weather in Berlin, and so the extra cash is great for them. Also, like I said, right now things are particularly bad in many southern European countries, so for more people, going abroad is going to be a more attractive option.

"I suspect that the mediterranean IT guy/pal will be the new Polish plumber in UK"

That actually made me laugh. I will be a stereotype!

98% of Portuguese IT industry are consultancy and solution development. We have very few product and services development. The game industry is almost zero, applications made here are very rare and services are just copycats. We have a lot of public institutions IT back office projects executed by the same big companies. For a programmer who loves programming: what is the motivation in doing back-offices?

Well there are some efforts in entrepreneurship but most of "startup" ideas falls into the same bin like social networks for cakes or events, project tracking systems or business cards mobile apps. There is much buzz around the startup concept and the idea of having your own business but not on ideas for products that offer real value to people.

In an environment like this it is difficult for a programmer to evolve

That's so right. One classic "success" story of the Portuguese web is http://www.adegga.com/, a social network for wine... :( Other classic success stories are the ubiquitous service-consultancy firms, always recruiting developers for Sharepoint, COBOL, SAP... Every year I hear about some 3 new of these successful firms.

You can also see so called "startups" whose "business" consists of organizing dinners of 20 people, once a week. And there's always the team wanting to open a spa and bringing their "idea" to all incubators.

My solution was to work in close relationship to the university and a university spun-off company. Some interesting computer-vision stuff is made here, from time to time.

But Addega is not of technological nature. We cannot call it a technological service just because it's on WWW.

On the other hand Outsystems is one rare example of successfull, portuguese technological product.

I never used it, so I cannot comment on the technological nature of Adegga, but I imagine it's as technological as any other social network.

Outsystems seems to be pretty successful, yeah. But it's a software development platform, in which you drag an "if" block from a palette and drop it in a canvas. Most people prefer typing "if".

I could not agree more! This, among other things, is one of the things that puzzles me the most: almost no products. To that I'll add lack of capability to scale.

I've worked at a startup here once, and have seen this lack of capability to scale happen in first hand: unfortunatelly, at the time I was to focused on just being the 'technical guy', and did not have any real input to give (mind you I was just an employee - there is no concept of equity shares to employees in Portugal, thus no economical incentive in this regard).

Now that I have the will to actually be a part of a startup, I'm 'too old', have a family, and honestly, don't know where to look.

We are never old to do what we like. We just need to find the right environment. This environment exists but, of course, we must do something in order to find it. Going to conferences, meet the right people and address the issues of portuguese entrepreneuship. Without effort and some positive criticism we won't be able to change the panorama.

Although the scaling issues is due, in some part, to lack of investment (in other words green dollars) we could address it if professionals were willing to work on ideas they don't own. And many are. People are not motivated only by money but also by achievement.

Unfortunately we are transmitting that to do entrepreneuship you need your own idea and not joining someone and improve his idea, helping him to scale and turn it in our idea (and not only his idea). This may be the reason why there are so many ideas which are derivates of what exists is in the market.

I agree with the difficulty to obtain investment. The ones with the money are the big banks, that still prefer very conservative (patent based!) bussiness, and there isn't much else.

Not so long ago, the dream of a student finishing college here would be an internship on any given big company, even if not paid (and hence, supported by its parents, 95% of the cases), in hopes of then getting a paid job in the same company.

It's incredible how this seemed excelent, but spending the same amount of 'parent money' in trying a startup of your own (or someone else's, I agree with your point) seemed utterly irresponsible.

A 'directory of IT portuguese startups' would be an excelent point to start: perhaps someone already has a cool idea that you not mind working on. Right now I find this kind of information to be really scattered. I've thought of doing this myself, perhaps I should return to this idea.

I've been at the first TechMeetupsLX meeting, it was interessting if not a bit long - seems this was sorted out in the next ones. I hadn't the chance to return, but hope to do it soon enough. Any other suggestions? I fear that the some of the paid conferences are still dominated by the 'big sharks', and no real opportunities are there... is this just an illusion on my part?

Check Entrepreneur's Break on Facebook!

So why not open up shop yourself? There will be even a 'better' time when the EU tanks, but now is a great time to get great people and make new companies. You don't like the way it is now, so, why not start something to do cool stuff. Make original games and apps? Do 50% client jobs (but only in your niche), do 50% your own. Few friends, small office and have fun.

I couldn't agree more. And some of us are doing that. Changing the career paths in order to build something different and interesting.

We just opened up in PT http://appsalad.com/appdesign/nieuw-appsalad-portugal-is-een... (Dutch) and we'll be opening a second office in Faro soon. Most devs want to stay in their country and we don't mind giving them that opportunity.

I never understood why people would leave what they love though; be that India or Portugal or whatever; there is plenty to do and live for if you are resourceful and the Portugese I met so far definitely are.

It's like when we tried to open an office in Spain; everyone (from the uni there) was complaining there are no jobs and they have to move to Germany. So we opened a company and started recruiting. The people who applied didn't want to work actually. So I asked the university dean and he said; they want jobs for eternity they won't 'risk' anything else. The logic eludes me, but suffice it to say; there are plenty of jobs, there is simply a mismatch between expectations and the jobs provided. Naive expectations. When people go to Germany, expectations lower because it's the promised land. Wages are higher, but the conditions are not better and definitely not what you would have gone for in the 'home land', but they take it anyway because the grass is greener.

Having talked to so many people in the south, it's a thing only few people 'get'; you have to embrace the crisis and see the things you can change. It's a turnaround point for all those things which are not well; small things like the difference between the staff in Worten and Mediamarkt. The way to fix the economy must come from many places and this crazy way people treat clients in the south must come to a complete halt. Changing the system from within will work; leaving the country won't, that's just selfish and lazy in a lot of ways. And you have no excuses; there is work, there is opportunity, you just need to try a bit harder as well, it's a crisis.

Coming from Greece and currently working in Australia, I see what you mean. Nevertheless, even if there is opportunity for creation there is no such opportunity for survival. When you are in a market with shallow liquidity, the best intentions will not get you far. The near-shoring of course (absorbing liquidity from outside your country) is a potential solution, an attractive one too, but there are significant obstacles still. E.g. the fact that Northerners have attributed all woes to the mentality of Southerners is such an obstacle.

Therefore, you may find opportunities as a Dutch with Portuguese or Spanish employees but I would not expect the same access to market for a purely Greek, Spanish or Portuguese entrepreneur. I assure you that as a Greek I hear derogatory comments even by people who can see and witness the quality of my work. The best case scenario is when they consider me an exception amongst the Greeks. I am not one.

Accusing those who leave that they do it selfishly is not very nice. I can assume you selfishly want the best developers (those who can find work abroad) work for the 500 euros or whatever you offer. It is a crisis and the best anyone can make of it is to survive and in the process work to get the necessary experiences to go back when the conditions are better.

It is a crisis, and the 200-300 euro slavery northerners envision for us is not the solution. It is the problem. If as the "Dean" told you, people avoided risk, they would not risk moving either. The grass is not greener. The money is more. After all, EU is supposedly encouraging mobility. It is a free market, or is it not? Are only companies supposed to move?

You assume wrong; I want to pay fairly for what you are capable of. I always offer wage + % IF you want. I have been in this business for 20 years and I don't really care about money very much. I need it to feed my chickens, brew my beer and play with my ancient electronics. I actually take pleasure in seeing people become something they never thought they could be. I wake up in the morning thinking about some great project we are doing. And I definitely want my employees to share the wealth if there is any to share.

500 euros (200-300...) is crazy, people going for that we would not hire because they have no idea what they are doing and that reflects in their work. And you can hardly live of 500 euro/month here in the mountains (and it's really cheap here), let alone in a city. So don't assume too quickly :)

I stand by my comment that I think if you have a warm heart for your country you should stay there and help (re)build it. I told this to my former Ukrainien partner who had the choice; go to the US or run the company in Ukraine. He choose the latter after many talks and he is a very rich guy now, having helped around 1000 people to a job in his poor city. That was not me ; that was him, but I do tell always to stay IF your motivation is career/money/happiness. Those are fixable, and even more so, in your own country especially in a crisis.

I am not a patriot by any means; I love the south of Spain, the east of Germany (saksische sweiss) and Portugal (esp Madeira) much more than my country the Netherlands. I am making companies in all these regions to be able to move freely and with pride between them. I am assured i'm helping in my own (little) way and all the regions I like are poor and yet I haven't found any lack of money resources, even in the regions themselves. I can make enough money to live happily WITHIN the regions I like even though people say there is no work/money. It's not me being special or gifted; it's other people are so non-creative, it scares me often.

And no; moving to Germany is not considered a 'risk'. Working for a small company with a year contract is. It's pros/cons; my assumption (which seems to be right with most people) is that people want to live close to family and friends and not move 2000+ km away.

500 euros is not crazy. It is the normal first job wage in Greece and the way things are going will be the normal in many European countries. I do not think the reason people do not join is the year contract. The days of severance payments are long gone. The commuting is more plausible given the high cost of fuel. So you should consider work from home arrangements. As for creativity, I think it is something that is special in all countries. Your average person, including me, does not have the courage to be creative (in the sense of creative you are employing.) Entrepreneurship is an exclusive club everywhere, and if you look I am sure you can find its members in every country, including the poor countries you mention.

There's also a selection bias at work, since the type of person who is likely to move to improve their career is likely to overlap pretty heavily with those who want to work hard. But you're definitely right that it's not just a matter of "companies getting it", but rather a whole culture feedback loop.

"small things like the difference between the staff in Worten and Mediamarkt"

I'm curious, what do you mean? Having bought from both stores (in Lisbon) I have noticed no difference.

Edit: never mind, I just saw your answer to this comment's sibling.

Maybe they actually have a Worten company chef who knows what he is doing, or maybe you are just unaware who customer service should be. I don't know. The natives here (south of Spain) don't see that everyone is downright rude to you. Until you go to a scandinavian / north eu place and you see the difference. But it might just be the people here; there is a huge difference between the two.

"this crazy way people treat clients in the south must come to a complete halt": Care to specify you mean here?

Well if you live in southern EU you have, as an example, Worten and Mediamarkt => they both do electronic 'stuff', games, tvs, washers, etc. They are quite comparable, except Worten is Portugese and Mediamarkt is German. And that difference is a huge gap. The staff is Worten, in all branches I have been, and, when I had enough, my friends have been, is downright shit. We are talking girls with braces talking to their boyfriends, not even looking at you, or looking at you annoyed, when you ask anything (which they have no answer to). Mediamarkt, again, all the branches I have been in, the staff is friendly and if they are not and you complain, you get something as compensation. Not so in Worten. They spit in your face and they don't care.

I spend a lot of time in Spain, Germany and Portugal, but I live in the Netherlands and the quality of service in Spain especially is of such a level that in the Netherlands you would be, as a company, on national television every night. It's appalling. Almost every company, especially big ones, don't care at all about customer service. The electrical company in the south, Endesa, just hangs up randomly. They don't have a CRM or anything, just non-caring students who don't know anything about the subject matter and they'll just tell you it's your problem and hang up (after you have waited for 1 hour with shit muzak). Whatever you are complaining about. In the Netherlands, there would be an outcry and it would be fixed (this has happened with UPC, but that was over 10 years ago... and they now lick your feet when you call).

In the average bar it's like a 'tourist attraction' to have the 'angry/shaggy/shitty bar guy'. They usually look like they hate you. And they never saw you. If your Spanish is good enough, you can just pelt them with derogative stuff as they seem to like the insult. But if you come with your family for a vacation, you might not want to verbally fight all the time. Besides some ancient bars in Amsterdam, you would not get away with that in the Netherlands. Your money is tourists; be nice. But no, besides some well trained staff in some hotels/restaurants/bars, the average way to treat someone you never saw is to be shortish or downright hostile to them.

The cases we had in the north (NL/DE) resulted in companies going bankrupt or public outcry; I have seen in Spain/Greece (less in PT so far) that it is very normal to treat people that way. And that doesn't work for people from the north, who are, accidentally, the people who have the cash. So maybe adapt? It'll make life better as well; I don't think being angry works well for your person either.

Having said that; ofcourse there are plenty of exceptions, the village I go to often has very friendly people. Unfortunately those are usually the older people. The younger generation is fat and spoiled and angry. Why? The news probably? Hearing every day your country is going under is not stimulating while the older generation lived with Franco / Salazar and know that this is the best they every had.

Edit: I know about southern Spain; Andalusia, so the comments I make are about that region of the country. I love that place and I'll die there, but it's something different if you are used to the north of EU.

Service culture can change relatively fast with the right catalysts, which include better management and getting people more involved. The UK used to have terrible service (Fawlty Towers was based on real life), but has got much better. Immigration helped a lot though...

Southern Europe is going to have to change a lot, fast. It is a huge opportunity if done right, but people dont even understand whats going on fully yet.

The waiter of Fawlty Towers was Spanish :)

And he was friendly :)

Portuguese actually.

«Manuel, a waiter played by Andrew Sachs, is a well-meaning but disorganised and confused Spaniard from Barcelona with a poor grasp of the English language and customs.»


Wikipedia dixit :)

In the Spainsh translation of Fawlty Towers Manuel was Italian (that way us, poor Spaniards, will not be embarrassed by watching one of us strugling xD) and I suspect that in other countries they changed his nationality too.

Everybody hates Endesa. In Spain is highly probable that when someone takes your call to a company he/she will be in South America ;)

And about Spanish companies and how they treat their customers, I'm with you. This is ingrained in many mediterranean countries: no ones got rich doing hard work or through a strong work ethic. You can only get rich stealing, abusing and lying. The rate of people who evades taxes is so high that in countries like Greece it's seen as normal. In fact in Greece you are a malakas («stupid/loser» yet the literal translation is «wanker») if you paid all your taxes.

But the fact that everyone 'hates Endesa'. That wouldn't fly in NL, why does it fly in ES?

For many reasons. Firstly, it's a monopoly. Secondly, it has to survive under ridiculous regulations.

The government is dysfunctional and it shows in many ways.

If you're interested in the subject you can read this (PDF): http://newsletter.epfl.ch/mir/index.php?module=epflfiles&...

Long time ago, as a kid, my uncle took me to a soccer match in the Santiago Bernabeu. I've never liked soccer, so I spent much more time looking at people than the game. When the game ended, lots of people were red-faced, incredibly angry, neck veins sticking out, shouting all sorts of rude and terrible stuff at the ref. I was scared, I thought they would riot, jump the fences and kill him or something. As soon as he disappeared from sight, everyone relaxed and smiled, laughed to each other and said things to the effect of "that'll teach him."

In Spain most people are more preoccupied with being seen complaining than with doing something about that which they complain about.

Curiously my answer (I don't know if it's THE answer) is that Spanish people do not like conflict. We don't have class actions as in other countries and people are not used to claim for their rights against big companies. I think we still need a bit of this crazy david-vs-goliath mindset I've seen in other countries where people fight big injustices to the death.

The Spaniard is too preoccupied about what the other will think of him if he makes something... abnormal, which here means anything that will distinguish you from your neighbors . Spanish society is very very alienating and this is why so many foreigners find it so close and unfriendly to people from other cultures.

I have noticed that. So it might be a part of the problem. But in NL we don't have class action suits either; you can sue but you'll never win much if anything and it'll just cost you money. I think the Dutch were just fed up when the whole UPC thing happened. I don't even think they know what they did for consumer support for big companies in NL. When I call someone from Nuon (electricity) or internet (XS4all, UPC, Ziggo) or something else, they ask me if i'm ok, if i need more, would I like discounts and such. If I do get a rude person, I ask for their complaints service and as their is always a 'superior' listening in, this escalates fast. Usually ends in a discount of some sort and an apologetic mail. I don't need that; i'm not made of sugar. But I would just like people treating me like I'm paying them for something.

For UPC it was the national press who did it; they kept publishing horror story after horror story and after a while it started hurting the bottom line.

There was no Twitter and such yet; now it goes much faster. I'm surprised how little effect it has in Spain though; I had companies closing their Twitter or Facebook page after complaints and just opening a new one. Not big companies (might work there or don't they do social even? Never checked...), but smaller ones like furniture delivery companies who actually just deleted everything from their facebook page and got another one with happy stories...

I'm afraid that's not the answer. In Italy a lot of people LOVE conflict, but with call centers there are very similar problems!

That's funny, I've always felt that we Portuguese are more eager to avoid conflicts than the Spaniards, who always seem to be more assertive and self-confident than us.

This even seems (to me) to be mirrored in your politics, where the left-right divide is way more polarised than in Portugal

I understand now. So, that would be more of a management thing than a people thing, if the workers of Mediamarkt are still Spaniards...

Oh it's definitely management. There is a great 'beach club' here ran by a guy I know. The first time I met him, he reminded me of a friend from NL. Unlike other 'clubs/bars/etc', this place is insanely good. He does what the others don't do; you get almost american service; everyone is nice, if there is something wrong they'll replace it without even blinking (I know a Thai restaurant on the coast; if you complain about the food, they'll throw you out and you can never return) and they are fast. If they don't deliver in time , your drink is free etc. With standard Spanish waiters, however they are actually trained. What both the Dutch friend and this guy do is the following; in their first place they work day+night to make it work, but after that, the process is 'simple' (it's not but he, you don't become a miljonair that easy); you take the people from the previous place and have them train the new people in that place. Then you take the people you KNOW who are good to the new place and the new people working the 'old place' (it's already a hit so you can have a few mistakes). He stays on top (there EVERY day it's open) for 1 year and then he leaves to open the next one. The staff in all his places is great and he does (surprise surprise) better than all others in this crisis. Places left and right of him are closing and he thrives. It's one of the great examples that it's a) not the people b) tourists want nice, pampering waiters.

> The younger generation is fat and spoiled and angry. Why? The news probably? Hearing every day your country is going under is not stimulating while the older generation lived with Franco / Salazar and know that this is the best they every had.

Way to keep it classy..

The younger generation is not fat, nor spoiled, maybe angry. You just see the most blatant cases, and decide that's the general rule.

If the average bar you were in was like a 'tourist attraction' it was that you just fell in all the tourist traps available. There are plenty of nice places to spend the day (and the night) in Spain.

About the Salazar/Franco line, I do not understand exactly if you are implying the older generation lived through a dictatorship, and now is the best they ever had (since there's no dictator), or you mean things were better during these times.

Where do you live? I live in the montes de Malaga and I travel a lot to the Alpujarra, Cordoba and Ronda. The youth is 'a few kilos' too heavy. If you walk on the beach here the Spanish youth IS fat. It's a HUGE difference from 20 years ago. And their parents buy EVERYTHING for them; a lot of my Spanish friends with kids waste their own life to pay for their +20 year old kids because 'they cannot find a job'. So no, i'm not a tourist and I don't live in or go to tourist traps. Maybe you live in the north of Spain, I have no idea how it is there, nor did I ever pretend to know, I use the word "SOUTH" quite a lot if you didn't notice.

And it was worse during the dictators; old people remember and they tell me.

Edit; Oh and i'm not trying to insult anyone; you can ask my local bar guy; he'll tell you he is a angry sod; he's proud of it. He likes to piss off tourists. He just cannot explain why. Others as well; most are kind of proud of not being nice to tourists. While they know it's their bread.

Being from Málaga, and my wife from Ronda, I can confirm what you say xD.

Well, 'a few kilos' too heavy is not that bad compared with USA people :p. It's all about the change in the customs and the way we eat. Spanish gyms are full of very healthy people, yet running and going to work in bike is still strange in Spain (which is a culture-shock for someone from NL).

And about asking for the past and Franco... Ronda is not representative of Spain!!! ;) (and yes they are still proud of been in the right «band» if you ask in a bar)

The Ni-Nis (translated as "Not working Not studying") are all around Spain, but in Málaga is worse as the unemployment rate there is the nearly the bigger in whole Spain.

It's not that bad compared to some parts of the US no, but it pains me. One of the best vacations I ever had was to Madeira (which is Portugese) many years ago. It was the time when Brasil (and some parts of PT) had metal music in the top-40 a lot and this is what they were playing in disco's. While in NL we had utter crap (depending on taste, i'm telling my story here :) going from 1-40 (or 100 for that matter), on Madeira I stood in a real discotheque with extremely pretty girls (who I only saw in these big discotheques in Amsterdam normally dancing to crap) headbanging to Slayer and Sepultura. I never saw something like that again. In one of the town squares (of Funchal) they had a deadmetal band playing and all these young and old people where standing there watching, not calling it shit, but just looking at it like it was the marching band.

Almost all girls looked amazing (I have pics, I wasn't dreaming ;). Now I went back the odd 20 years later and mostly everyone is overweight. And not 'just a bit'. It's such a contrast. Same for Spain (Andalucia) and I also saw it in Guatamala as well. I'm not condemning this, but I'm referring to the amazing difference here in 'only' 20 years.

This is caused by the change in food prices/availability. Traditional "mediterranean" diet is healthy and didn't cause people to get fat. Now unhealthy food is much cheaper and readily available. People hasn't still learned how to manage the change. Eventually they will... I hope :-)

Also; people moved more. In Malaga I see people driving to the shops at the end of the street. No joke (and i'm not laughing). Some people walk/cycle but the majority is in the car for everything. With the crisis it became less because gas prices jumped up (they are E0.50 higher than a few years ago as you know).

    # occurrences of the word "south" on your post[1]: 2
If you were referring to Malaga and Andalucia, it's a different game. Most people often forget Spain is about different cultures living together in the same country, and the southern culture in Spain is kind of special and unique.

For me it's similar as Naples in Italy. Most people that have spent time would say it's a chaos and terrible, but for me it is just too real and vivid to pick on them. I like them as it is.

I don't really know how to express myself better than Larra himself[2] "Vuelva usted mañana". I have tried to find a translation but they do not really work together..

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4438154

[2]: http://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Vuelva_usted_ma%C3%B1ana

Ok, point taken. In my mind I said it a lot more than I actually did :)

I love Andalucia and if I could I would live there forever. I will retire/die there. Like said; I'm not trying to insult people, I'm just saying how it is here. And it's rather crazy. If you are on a permanent vacation, it's the best, but I've tried doing serious things and it just doesn't work.

My point is that there are bunches of talented people rolling out the CS dep of Malaga uni who scream, every option they get, that there 'are no jobs'. When I provide jobs, they use another excuse not to take them. NiNi's is apparently the word (I heard it before, but it didn't stick, now it will); it's very prevalent and I do not understand it. I have discussions with these guys & girls and over a truckload of rum-cola they understand, but the next day, it's gone.

NiNi is a pejorative word used to refer to people that "Ni estudia Ni trabaja" (do not study, do not work).

I hope this word just stops being used. As a young person from Spain that have studied and is working (and have been since I was 18), that term used in spanish people is terribly insulting.

You seem to be an angry young person :) But you are working and you have studied; so why do you find this insulting? If you are not working and not studying, what are you doing? Why is it not ok to call the problem by it's name? Again, I don't know about the north, but here there are TONS of jobs, just no one takes them, and this NiNi seems to be an apt description of that. Sure, if you actually cannot find a job and you did everything to try to get one, then it's much different. But if you turn down jobs because 'its a 30 minute drive' or 'the contract is only for 1 year' then you are not really a very cool person right? I think that's what this term refers to?

I guess he finds insulting that the term is thrown to every young people "generation nini" as if being of a certain age is synonim of being a slacker.

There are a number of other subtle generalization in your comments to this story that I find moderately annoying, even if (or maybe because) some of your points are true.

I won't go into them in detail, it would be a very long conversation. Just let me say that you're seeing it from an entrepreneur POV, that I bet started your business in your country and then "exported" it to mine and others.

I have zero incentives to waste time swimming crosscurrent. If I find a decent job abroad, I couldn't care less about the country going where it's going anyway.

Ah I did not know it was used in that way. Still, it seems that you both have very long toes. Generalizations often are there because they go for a large part of the population. And things I see happening here is simply something I say out loud. Of course they don't go for everyone and everywhere, but I'm not a hermit, I spend a lot of time with people who live here and have lived here for generations. In the village where I live all but one (yes, all but one) of the guys under 25 are NiNis. And proud of it. Card-carrying NiNis. They seriously ask me why they should work as they get money from the state and their parents; what's the use? I try to explain them things best I can, but (because of dubbing?) their English is bad/non existent and my Spanish is ok for day to day use, but not for deep conversations like this. And usually discussions end in them going 'pffff, that's no reason, I get free money, I don't need work and oh yeah, there is no work anyway'.

I can see you might find it annoying to hear because it might be different in your part of country. As someone said already; Spain is a BIG country with a lot of different cultures, I'm seeing only one up close.

And swimming crosscurrent; isn't packing your bags and moving crosscurrent? It's quite a big step. My point is that there is enough work IN Spain/Portugal if you want it, and although you won't get paid as much as in Germany, you don't live in Germany; prices are simply much lower and you do have all healthcare and such covered. To the extend, if you carefully check, that you can find an insurer and make terms which allow you to go to Germany (or wherever, even the US) if you have something bad. Of course you should get a job abroad if you like it, but only for money it, to me, doesn't make sense.

Still, it seems that you both have very long toes.

I'm 48, so my toes are not specially affected. I simply dislike when a bunch of journalists and pundits with vested interests blame the victims.

Older people have built a dysfunctional society and still the culprits seem to be the newcomers.

'pffff, that's no reason, I get free money, I don't need work and oh yeah, there is no work anyway'

And that, by the way, is exactly true. Why study if, after all the effort, graduates are paid less than unskilled workers? Why, if the important thing is who you know, not what you are capable of? The work thing is even worse, but I get angry only to think about it. Just think who their role models are.

I'm from a town not very far from there, in Cádiz. I had to come to Madrid 16 years ago, because there wasn't virtually any job for me there.

you don't live in Germany; prices are simply much lower

Sorry to be blunt, but you have no idea what you're talking about. Price difference may be significant WRT small villages near Ronda, but it's negligible compared to Madrid. And there is no decent work for a programmer in a village. And even in Madrid salaries are half what you earn in London.

Trust me that cost of living is not nearly double in London than in Madrid. You don't think it makes sense? Ask anyone anywhere if it makes sense for them to go elsewhere and get paid double.

Ok, I typed a whole rant and deleted it :)

You moved from Cadiz to Madrid for jobs? What do you do if I may be so blunt? Because, as I have been typing in this thread all day; there are tons of jobs in my field (programming) all around here. You just need to be creative in finding them.

There are so many people working 'from home' here as programmer and work is so easy to get it's scary. I don't think you realize how incredibly crap most programmers are and how unreliable they are. To hire a reliable western programmer is something which takes a bit of beating and losing money on crap programmers, but after that you'll have a job for life and you only notice the 'legacy stuff' with the first project (clients will panic every second they don't hear from you but that passes). But it won't be with a contract and such, it will be freelance. I imagine some people are not ok with that. On the other hand, you live only once and in this stint of a life, I would rather live under a bridge than move from Cadiz to Madrid. That's just me of course, but you might not have to depending on what your trade is?

Some unsorted facts: Madrid is a very nice city, four hours from Cádiz by train. I'm a programmer. I have dozens of data points of univesity mates (more than half also moved) and people from my hometown. Please notice that I moved sixteen years ago, situation and myself were not the same, but I guess I would do it again now in a heartbeat.

I worked four years as a freelance some time ago. I wouldn't leave my day job to do it again, maybe would do it on the side. Anyway, I'd rather take a full-time job abroad though (there are flights from London or Dublin daily), and I wouldn't need to deal with customers' bureaucracy, internal fights, and late payments and requirements.

I think that you have many facts right and a passion for what you do. But there are many facts you ignore and tend to arrive to rushed conclusions and some contradictions. Don't take my word for it, just see how many things you find incomprehensible about people's behaviour. That's not a coincidence! :-)

I find it insulting because the word NiNi is just a generalization on young people (as me) that politicians and media is throwing around to make us feel bad, and to portray a group of people that does not represent the majority.

The average age on Spain is 40.5. It's so easy to just say, fuck it, young people is lazy, so let's let the government pass this or these other bigoted rules, or even let a bigoted party rule, because it's the only way they will learn.

I was not saying you are not right (heck, we are in 28.4% of unemployment), I was pointing out that generalizations are incorrect and biased.

PS: I may be angry, because the government decided to increase taxes on self-employed people (with unreasonable numbers), making it harder for me to enjoy working and living here.

That is a reason to be angry; tax increase is needed to 'save Spain', but... What pisses me off is the corruption levels; if I can be assured my tax money goes to better roads, healthcare, stabilizing the economy and so forth, I am happy to pay increases. But i'm not sure of that and I really don't want to pay for the new private helicopter of some gov contractor CEO who happens to be friends with some gov official (and delivers shabby work as cheap as possible).

In the town I used to go to in the Alpujarra (Sierra Nevada) they 'lost' E2 million town hall money. Lost. And what's being done? Nothing. Someone is driving a souped up Veron drunk into a canyon while the children in the village might be losing their school. That makes me angry.

I've been living in Portugal for ~6 months, working remotely for my previous employers in Brazil (I'm 1/2 portuguese). The quality of life I get here is 10x what I had in Rio, while my cost of living was almost halved.

Indeed I've never understood why the tech industry here isn't 100x stronger. It's a very attractive place to live, with low cost of living, lots of space for offices and buildings, fairly decent infra-structure, etc. Somewhere the portuguese politicians must be screwing up big time.

Sounds quite similar to Italy. About politics: you can loathe it all you want, but unfortunately, you'll need to get your hands dirty if you want to fix things - and even then, even if the laws and economics are better, it'll still take time. Just leave the actual discussion of politics to some other site:-)

They finally passed a very weak-sauce, complicated version of a law that some of us are pushing for here in Italy: reducing the costs of creating a limited liability company ( http://www.srlfacile.org ), but it does show that if you work at it, you can accomplish things.

The situation is really preoccupying, because if the best tech talent emigrates the economic potential of a country is immediately reduced, and this is not going to help economies that are already stagnating.

I'm wondering myself if it would be possible to start consulting part-time from Italy to finance my startup attempt. I wouldn't like to be forced to leave, but that is becoming more and more likely at the moment.

The best thing is to make sure there is a reason, and support for returning: people going abroad and bringing back knowledge and money can actually be quite beneficial. In India and China, tons of businesses are started by people returning home after some amount of time in the US, for instance.

In terms of being pleasant places to live, Italy and Portugal are lucky, but they need to fix some other things...

This is a good book detailing some of what needs fixing, although it's mostly "old hat" for anyone who lives in Italy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008F86HBK/?tag=dedasys-20 so it may not be worth reading if you're Italian.


[ Someone, from a southern European country, talks about incorporating in Delaware ]

There may be some tax issues with that, though, if you live and work at home, but have your company in the US. It's something to be careful about.

I'm a soon to be MSc graduate from a top university in Portugal (Technical University of Lisbon). I've been thinking about my options, and right now I'm pretty sure that I'll try to find my first job outside of Portugal. I've got very few colleagues that I know of that will do the same. Most will go to consultancy companies - that's the market in Portugal. The remaining will go for PhDs.

However, one thing that they all have in common is that they have spoken of leaving Portugal sometime in the future. Be it after their first year or so in consultancy or after their PhD, the thought of leaving has crossed their minds.

Given that other industries are a lot worse than tech right now (civil engineers, lawyers, etc) I'm not really sure how this will turn out for the country.

Isn't this inevitable given the freedoms given to people to work and live where they like within the EU?

Doesn't something very similar happen within the US where, in general, the brightest and best are drawn to locations where they can get the best opportunities?

That is correct, but it takes more energy for a European national to move country because of the barriers of language, customs, laws, tax systems, etc...

As an example, I have worked in Portugal, Spain and now the UK and I don't know if I will ever be entitled to a state pension when I retire even though I payed pension related taxes in all of these countries.

In the US, AFAIK, it's a bit more homogeneous, no?

The pension rights you earn will follow you (at least in EU):


There will not be any state pensions in any of those countries by the time you retire, make your own provision. This debt crisis is about unpayable liabilities, among other things.

Yea, it's just that we Europeans fight it. National sovereignty and all that.

EDIT: And let me add - the usual weapon is taxpayer money. ;)

«Oh, there are plenty of entrepreneurs, mind you. But many of them are “serial” entrepreneurs, whereby “serial” I actually mean lazy, ineffectual bums living off subsidies for years on end while they latch on to one incubator after another and leech them for all their worth.»

That was a good one, a perfect description of the standard Spanish entrepreneur :)

You have to innovate and innovation is something decided by a committee of bureaucrats who have never worked in the private sector in their life!

No real VCs, there are a few in Spain but they invested in risky things like construction, subsided agriculture and in companies with government contracts.

It's so easy to flight to London and meet real investors instead of doing all the ass-kissing of government agents and banks to get subsides... yet no one did it. Hubris was the cause.

And while this author notes Portuguese contacts headed to the UK and Germany, I've noticed the same but with several leaving the UK for the Bay Area (with zero going to the rest of the EU).

This may have a lot to do with getting funding. London has just started to become interested in funding startups, and EIS and the new SEIS are helping, but it is nothing compared to the US. Even the smallest city in the US has more funding opportunities than London. It takes a while for people to change their habits.

Yeap, UK people are heading for the Valley and for NY. Curious migratory movements, isn't it?

My question is, where is the ultimate cause? what about USA people? Are they heading to China? :)

That is a (mis)perception most people have (myself included) regarding career development. Professionals follow the path of the higher salary.

For me, the path can be something like this: South America < PIGS < France/Germany/UK < Rest of The USA < SV/NYC

That being said, there's also people who give more value to quality of life. The place that work for in Spain have several people from The US, Sweden and UK, even though they could be making more money back in their countries.

If you are in Portugal and want to work for a fun innovative start up. Come and work for us. So far we have grown from 2 person to over 12 person in a year been here. http://webnographer.theresumator.com/ for a bit more background here on why we did it http://blog.webnographer.com/2010/10/an-rd-office-in-lisbon/

Fun fact: Portugal is about as big (area and population, though it has half the GDP) as Ohio, the seventh largest US state.

The so called 'exodus' that Portugal is suffering from isn't limited to the tech industry. It affects all areas and is directly related to the current 'impoverishment' politics being followed in the country.

While interesting, this essay is very shortsighted.

I think one of the solutions that these countries can work is to promote high skill immigration to their countries. Something similar to what Australia and Canada are doing. Give the potential immigrants a chance to become full EU nationals in 4-5 years. I am pretty sure lot of skilled ppl from developing nations will be ready to move for that to these countries which offer a great quality of life. It might also help them overcome the problems of aging population in these countries as well. But the only caveat is that immigration process is tightly controlled to allow the most suitable applicants only.

Leaving Portugal to UK was the best thing I have done for my career as Software Developer.

In Portugal I could't go any further because I didn't hold computer engineering degree.

In UK, I've reached Lead Developer position, and now Technical Project Manager. By contrast in Portugal nobody would even invite me in for an interview because the degree was a requirement.

Moving abroad hasn't always been easy. But I've found that beside the language everything else is purely down to your performance and personal ambitions.


I have seen this in the UK. When I first moved to the UK, about 8 years ago, their were loads of Aussies around, lots of people coming into work anywhere in the UK. The Aussie dollar was about $3=£1.

Last year I came back to the UK, the dollar is $1.5=£1, there are hardly any aussies around, and lots of people are trying to get work in Australia.

This is party because of the Aussie dollar being so strong, and Australia withstanding the GFC thanks to China and the Banks.

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