It all started from the people

Rui Montez, former EVS-Volunteer, is currently responsible for trainings at Citizens of Europe. Tobias Kunow talks with him about mobility, the notion of home and the development of our network.

You are one of the most mobile persons I know. You seem always to travel around. On top of that you have lived and worked in many countries: Portugal is your home base, you were in Germany for a school exchange, you did Erasmus in Warsaw, Leonardo in Sofia and EVS in Berlin here at Citizens of Europe. Why is it important to you to be mobile?I don’t really consider it to be important. Firstly, traveling around is fun! Secondly, being mobile is not so much about importance or fun. It is rather a question of chance: life sometimes just happens one way or another. The one exception I made was Berlin and Citizens of Europe. This was really a choice from the heart, but the others were coincidences and I could talk for hours about this… In general I like meeting new people, listening to languages, tasting different food… I want to get to know to the differences that exist between human beings. Now that I have to travel so much for professional reasons, instead I am looking for the kind of boring job where you sit in an office and have regular working hours and then you go home and sit on the couch (laughing). At the moment I really would like to settle down here and stay in Berlin. But I must say my travels are more focused on traveling within Europe. It is cheap to travel around Europe and more comfortable and of course the differences between the countries are not so extreme. I don’t know if I would have been too enthusiastic about living one year in the Congo and six months in Cambodia. The funny thing with Europe is that there are differences but there are also still enough similarities to feel at home. 

Good point. Leading to the next question: what is home for you? It is a place where I feel good, where I feel comfortable. It is where my friends are, my social contacts, people I can go out with for a beer or for dinner. People I can count on. When I think of home, I think of Portugal. There is my family and there is my language. There is a very strong connection. Although I speak some languages it is always more difficult to express yourself in a foreign language. It is not comparable to expressing yourself in your mother tongue. It is a completely different thing. In your mother tongue you don’t have to think so much. It is not problematic for me to speak in German or in English. But it is not the same. I can be much more precise and “natural”, when I’m speaking Portuguese. At the moment I can say: Berlin is home. Whenever I come back to Berlin I write on Facebook: Rui Montez is back home… Some people always ask: Where is this, home? I decided that since last year, it is here in Berlin. I like the relaxed way of life here and the green spaces

It is not about being better or worse, but about the difference.

Coming back to Portugal: As a mobile person, what means the concept of nationality to you? That’s a very good question. I don’t want to go into the theoretical part of it, but for me when thinking of Portugal and Germany I see national differences in people. This does not mean that people look different; I am rather referring to the kind of relation I have to people here in Germany and back in Portugal. People in Portugal I have known longer and more intimately. We have shared lots of experiences in our youth and during university. That brings people closer together. Then there is food; it is not about being better or worse, but about the difference. And the weather of course: blue sky and the sea. A fourth thing: language, again. It’s the way of communicating… 

Did you have sometimes the feeling of being proud about Portugal as a nation? Yeah, when I was a kid I liked history lessons at school. I liked to hear about the time when Portugal was big and important; having colonies in other continents and much influence worldwide. Hearing the poetry of this time aroused a feeling like pride. I know that these times where also horrible; but as a child I liked the idea of belonging to something big. I still like being Portuguese but this pride thing is not important to me anymore. But when I am abroad and I read something in the newspapers or I see something on television about Portugal this gets my attention and when there is something positive, like some invention or some important meeting, like the currently frozen Lisbon Treaty for example, I feel good. I really like the idea of finding the Lisbon Treaty in history books and of course this would again give me a bit of a feeling of pride. Pride is a strong word but in this case I would feel happy if the Lisbon Treaty were to be named the Lisbon Treaty and not the Berlin Treaty for example; but this won’t happen anyway (laughs)… 

You’re living Europe. You’re travelling, living and working abroad. You speak several languages; you know different kinds of people from many areas. You’re an active member of an association called Citizens of Europe. Do you feel as a citizen of Europe? Definitely. 

As a European you grow up in Lisbon, study in Warsaw and then you work in Barcelona.

You have to say that. No. Let me go back to the story of me popping up at Citizens of Europe. I really wanted to have that life experience in Berlin. Berlin was great to visit and I wanted to know what it is like to live there. It is easier to go abroad in the framework of a mobility programme so I decided to do an EVS [European Voluntary Service] and for this I needed a hosting organization. I found Citizens of Europe in the project database. And I loved the title and also the project description: a genuinely transnational approach, a bit of arts, a bit of civic education and training. These were the kind of things that suit me. I felt completely ‘a European Citizen’. I like the freedom of movement within the European Union. As a German you can grow up in Munich, study in Berlin and Work in Hamburg. As a European you grow up in Lisbon, study in Warsaw and then you work in Barcelona. 

After your time as an EVS you decided to stay within the organization, not only as a passive member but as one of the very active persons. What was your motivation? I really wanted to do it. After working here for one year I felt a common background. And there really is openness to critique within the organization. I really felt that my words are heard. And there is also the willingness of giving me the chance to develop my own things. Of course, there are discussions and we don’t always have the same opinions but we take each other seriously and that’s important. In the end it was a logical step to continue working together. 

And the future…. During the last two months I have been also rethinking my professional future and there are some doubts. Training courses are something I still want to do, but I really would like to do some local work as well. I would like to have a project with a long term approach. Not just a training lasting only one week. I would like to have something more continuous, where you can see developments and improvements. Civic education remains my big topic. But it is not necessary to do this as a profession. I can imagine changing my profession; doing PR or management in a company, earning my money with things not related to the NGO-sector. Then I would do 1-2 Trainings a year as my contribution to civil society, for example. So if you ask me about my future, everything is still quite open.