It’s trivia time this week on Moving to Portugal. We’ve just come to the end of a long run of different guests staying with us, and this morning I was reflecting on some of the little bits of information about life in Portugal that sometimes come out in conversation, and are a surprise to those who haven’t been here before. So, here we have a light-hearted list of ten things not everybody knows about life in Portugal.
1. There is a reason why people often spend what seems like an unusually long time at the cash machine. The Portuguese Multibanco system is highly sophisticated, and allows you do to all kinds of things. Want to go fishing? Buy your license at the ATM. Need to pay your tax bill? Use the reference number on the bill, and pay it directly from your account using your cash machine (a quite scary task when thousands of euros disappear instantly from your account…. you will definitely want to double check that reference number). Want to book a seat on the train to Lisbon? Yep, you do it with Multibanco. With this in mind, try not to get impatient in the queue for the cash machine!
2. There is a nominal fee made in Portugal for a TV license. It is charged automatically on your electricity bill.
3. Petrol is even more expensive in Portugal than it is the UK.
4. So are cars. Due to the ways cars are taxed here, they are a LOT more expensive. On the bright side, the climate down here in the Algarve means they are less likely to rust.
5. When, after a meal, you appear to have become invisible to the waiter as soon as you have been served your coffees, it doesn’t mean standards of service have suddenly dropped. Here in Portugal, people often sit for some time after finishing a meal. On one occasion, I even saw someone place head on table and have a short nap before leaving. We don’t have a table-turning culture. Just ask for the bill as and when you are ready to leave.
6. Shopping centres here universally stay open until 11pm, even on a Sunday.
7. Portuguese people typically revere literary figures at least as highly as famous musicians and sports stars. In an increasingly dumbed-down, X-Factor loving world, this is a wonderful thing.
8. It is unclear why there is a nationwide shortage of all euro coins in Portugal, but there is. Prepare for wrath if you intend to pay for a 2.08€ grocery transaction with a note and you don’t have the 8 cents. Once you’re known in your local town you may be sent on your way with your goods and asked to come back tomorrow with the right change!
9. When eating, it is customary to keep your napkin to the left of your plate, and not on your lap. I’m not sure why this is, but it is practical. Constantly reaching down for a napkin below the table results in sardiney fingers making clothing smell unpleasant.
10. It can get cold here in winter. Really bloody cold. Without central heating, it can feel colder than the UK. People never believe this, but those of us that live here don’t just say it for a laugh. People who have actually visited us during the winter know this to be true, but, for some strange reason, May and September always seem to be “the popular months” for most!
So, I’ve thought of the first ten. Can any Portuguese residents think of more? If so, please comment below.
PS. Anyone wishing to become familiar with Portugal’s literary output would do well to begin here: