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We had our first visitor from the UK last week and he asked what things had surprised us about living here in Portugal. It got me thinking about the “things that make you go hmmm” that we had noticed so far. Here’s a quick, light-hearted list.
1. Shopping (Part 1): When visiting a shopping centre in Portugal, it seems immensely important to the Portuguese to park on the exact level of the car park which they have driven into. People will circle the ground floor for several minutes waiting for a space when there is a level above containing only three cars. Strangely, we seem to have joined in the practice straight away.
2. Shopping (Part 2): We may have discovered the reason for the above. When parking in the car park of our local shopping centre, the Tavira Gran Plaza, you must remember the following information to find your car: a floor level, a letter, a number, a colour and an animal. For example – in the picture – basement, orange, C, 10, butterfly. I certainly won’t be needing that Brain Training game for Christmas.
3. Shopping (Part 3): All week long the shopping centre is quiet and you can have it to yourself, but on a Sunday, it seems you are not allowed to enter unless you take at least five family members , spanning a minimum of three generations.
4. Greeting People: Portugal is a wonderful, friendly place and people actually say hello to you in the street – this is where is can get tricky – we have “Bom Dia” (in the morning,) “Boa Tarde” (in the afternoon / evening,) and “Boa Noite” (evening/night.) The one thing no-one seems to agree on is the exact points in the day at which you stop using one and start using the next one. I can’t help but wonder if this is all a trick by the locals to try to catch out us newcomers.
5. Health and Safety: In a lot of respects, they don’t seem to have that here. It is a case of “if there is a hole in a pavement, look where you’re going and don’t be daft and fall down it,” I for one think this is fantastic, having come from the nanny-state lunacy that is Britain.
6. Driving: Portugal has a very laid back “amanhã” (tomorrow) attitude to most things, yet as soon as you are in a car, it seems it is customary to drive with the urgency of a man rushing to a hospital to take his wife to deliver a baby. All the time.
7. Driving (2): If you see a friend coming down the other side of the road, the most appropriate place to have a catch-up is in the middle of the road, the other cars can wait. This seems somewhat at odds with the point above.
7. Weather: Even if it seems hot to us Brits on a good day in December, we have had to learn to accept that if we wear flip-flops at this time of year, everyone it going to look at our feet, and then directly at us, as if we are crazy.
8. Cooking – If you buy a joint of meat in the supermarket, you are expected to know exactly how long to cook it for – no instructions are provided. Off to the cook-shop to buy a kitchen thermometer before I poison myself again….
All of these things just add to the day-to-day adventure and the more quirky little things I come up against the more I love it here. The other thing that constantly pleases me is how much more efficient and sensible some things are here compared with back in England (taking all of your rubbish to the end of your street for a daily collection just makes more sense.), although these efficiencies DO NOT include dealing with the town hall, the bank or Portuguese Telecom – more of that in a future post!