“What’s the situation in Portugal?” is a question everyone asks us, often with the kind of awkward concern usually reserved for the unwell.
It’s a difficult question to answer. A country doesn’t immediately turn into a different place due to a bailout. Portugal has some serious problems. Many, such as high youth unemployment, political sleaze and tax evasion, are pretty similar to problems present elsewhere in Europe – including the UK.
Some people are struggling, some are doing very nicely, thank you. In that respect, things in the circles we move in are little different to how they have always been.
That said, it’s easy to live in a bubble. After all, we are in our 30s with established careers. We are not amongst the thousands of Portuguese youths who have worked hard and gained degrees, only to be advised by their government to leave the country to find work elsewhere.
This past weekend, I have been in Lisbon. There has always been plenty of graffiti in the city, as indeed there seems to be all over Portugal. I try not to have a major objection to it – I would rather live in a society where young people express themselves with a spray can than by joining a gang, as seems to be the trend in other places I could mention.
On this visit, we couldn’t help but notice the huge increase in political graffiti, which provided us with more of an insight into “what is the situation in Portugal” than we perhaps gather from our sheltered little lives in the Algarve.
Also, during our hours in the car to and from Portugal’s capital, we heard a catchy little tune on the radio a few times. The song is called “Sexta Feira” by Boss AC. I looked it up on YouTube on my return home, and managed to find it with an English translation. Light-hearted and catchy though the tune is, the message behind it is one of despair from a generation singing “alguem me arranje emprego” (basically, “get me a job!”)
I see no easy answers to the situation. My own lost generation is already one where many of our circle are approaching their 40s without a home of their own due to daft prices and deposit requirements. I fear for this next generation where many are staring their mid-twenties in the face with no sign of any job. And this is far from unique to Portugal where a youth unemployment figure of around 30% isn’t that much higher than the figure in the UK, and way below the figures in Spain and Greece.
The subtitle-free version of “sexta feira” has been watched by over 2.5 million people now. The question of “how are things in Portugal?” is perhaps best answered by that fact alone.