Like many Portuguese, Nuno Calcada Bastos had misgivings about life in Macau after the handover. Five years on, these have evaporated. 'The new government made it very easy for foreigners to stay here, contrary to what people thought,' says the 18-year resident and owner of a graphic design company. Businessman Alberto Mota, who arrived in Macau just 10 days before the handover, agreed. 'There are many new opportunities here ... because the casinos are hiring,' he says. 'I know several people who went back to Portugal and they couldn't assimilate in their own country. So they returned.' Pre-handover tension was fuelled by the myths that have always hindered understanding. One of the biggest myths was that all expatriates would leave en masse, paralysing the economy and administration. Although more than 1,000 did go, most were civil servants on two-year contracts. And, as Mr Mota observes, at least some who left are coming back. On the Chinese side, myth had it the Portuguese purposely provided low-quality education as a tool to oppress the Chinese majority, and they would empty Macau's coffers before their 1999 departure. Others complained that Portuguese buildings were immaculately preserved, while Chinese fishermen's traditions and religion were allowed to become extinct. But some of the 2,000 Portuguese in Macau feel resentment is subsiding because they are no longer portrayed as colonisers or intruders. 'There was a lot of tension, with expatriates wondering what their role would be, and with the Macanese feeling they would become foreigners in their own land,' recalls Pedro Moitinho de Almeida, Portuguese consul-general for Macau and Hong Kong. 'Now the tension has gone.' Those who have chosen to stay and live among the Chinese majority are having to adapt. Many Portuguese and mixed-race Macanese parents have placed their children in schools that teach Chinese. Mr Almeida, a member of the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group that helped steer the handover, recalls how the group tried to dispel uncertainties by making sure Portuguese remained the official language and the Portuguese legal system was kept. 'We made sure the 'two systems' in 'one country two systems' was there,' he says. 'Myths usually have some truth in them, but as in everything in life, there is the good side and the bad side.' On the bad side, gang-related violence was allowed to fester in the last nine years of Portuguese rule, with a string of murders, kidnaps, robberies and arson attacks. A post-handover investigation also revealed that General Vasco Rocha Vieira, governor from 1991 to 1999, took 50 million patacas from Macau's public coffers to fund the private Jorge Alvares Foundation in Portugal. The legality of his action is still under question. On the good side, Portugal granted more than 100,000 passports to Macau permanent residents, making them citizens of the European Union. Macau has a unique gift to offer the mainland as it seeks to expand its world influence. As the last colony to shed Portuguese rule, it has become an essential piece in relations between the mainland and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. Macau can offer its understanding of Portuguese language and culture to help Beijing establish trade and relations with the commonwealth of eight former Portuguese colonies. Mr Mota, like many other entrepreneurs, is alert to such openings, and is learning Putonghua to help take advantage of them. Mr Bastos, who speaks unaccented Cantonese, also believes there are opportunities but says nothing should be taken for granted. 'If you are professional, you can stay competitive in the Macau market,' he says. 'I think they need us, actually. But if you're thinking of depending on favours, that's another story.'