Living in Portugal: Insight from an Expat

We love to look at a city from the eyes of one who absorbs it every day, so we reached out to Véro J.L. Van Grieken. A transplant from Lummen, Belgium, Véro has lived in Lisbon for more than 6 years and founded the community group Yes You Can Spray, which promotes social activism and inclusion through street art. Here’s what she had to say.

Artistic vista overlooking Lisbon.

Artistic vista overlooking Lisbon.

For someone who hasn’t been to Portugal, what is super special about it?

Sopa de peixe,  traditional fish stew.

Sopa de peixe, traditional fish stew.

❏    Hospitality Within Portuguese culture, family is an important core to respect and be respected. Myself coming from northern Europe, I definitely feel this warmth when meeting Portuguese people, whether at a party, at somebody’s home or just randomly in the small supermarket around the corner. 

❏    Food and wine As someone who is very conscious about food (eating little sugar, lactose free, no meat, little fish), Portugal has a delicious cuisine that is fresh and often super local with lots of veggies, olives, great wines, and delicious seafood and fish dishes!

❏    Engagement  The amount of socio-cultural activities organized accessible for a wide spread audience. You cannot not go out one evening because there is always something happening. 

Vineyards in the Douro Valley.

Vineyards in the Douro Valley.

❏    The lighting The light in Lisbon and Portugal does something to you. It may wake you up to go out and express yourself within a beautiful creative flow!

❏    The landscape In Lisbon, one lives close to the seaside as well as close to the mountains. And even by just crossing the river there can appear a magic silence.


What is the biggest lesson that working with visitors to Portugal has taught you?

An etching by the famous Portuguese artist  Vhils , depicting a Brazilian human rights activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco who was killed. The unique style of Vhils can be seen throughout the city.

An etching by the famous Portuguese artist Vhils, depicting a Brazilian human rights activist and councilwoman Marielle Franco who was killed. The unique style of Vhils can be seen throughout the city.

Working with visitors made me more aware about how I am myself when visiting another city, another culture. It made me more aware of how I absolutely don’t want to visit another city or another country. And it also triggers my curiosity and the need to keep on learning about the cultures, habits, history, local stories and especially the language! How we communicate and/or how we try to make ourselves understandable can be such a beautiful process and sometimes one with some misunderstandings. 

Working with people with different cultural backgrounds and with different ideals and motives to be involved taught me to be constructive and organized on a professional level. Even though Portugal is not the perfect place for financial future-building within this field, it does push you to be creative, be flexible and be persistent in what you aim for. And besides that, I personally adore the experiences with artists, team members, and with residents.

Painting by Alexandre Keto

Painting by Alexandre Keto

Tell us about the street art tours that you conduct in Lisbon. What is the purpose behind it?

We conduct tours to demonstrate the artistic scenery in Lisbon and ensure that every resident is included into the process of creation. Our mission becomes real by establishing creative interventions in the urban cityscape of Lisbon to:

❏    connect and enhance a dialogue between different stakeholders within society on a national and international level

❏    facilitate the community to learn something new while having fun by encouraging citizens’ participation through art, based on the edu-tainment principle

❏    share stories about the history and culture of Lisbon through what is written/exposed on the walls

❏    contribute to the glocal art(ist) community.

What are the 3 things you most look forward to when taking visitors on street art tours?

Enjoying the street scene. Photo credit Chiara Falcon.

Enjoying the street scene. Photo credit Chiara Falcon.

❏    Meeting open-minded people to discover the city through a whole different perspective with what is written on the walls while being curious about the impact of each and everyone of us. 

❏    Hearing perceptions and stories to be shared. Art is a dialogue. And so we consider the people we guide as much part of this interaction to share their thoughts and ideas around and about. 

❏    Facilitating the experience of visitors painting themselves during a small workshop mainly because it surprises me every time what people want to share into this world on a wall or to their loved ones or even themselves if they paint on a totebag.

If you could say one thing to this world or to your loved one/yourself, what would it be? And this is the message that marks us… who we are here and now. 


Want to experience Lisbon’s street art scene yourself? Check out our Taste of Portugal itinerary and follow Yes You Can Spray on Instagram!