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Last Saturday, I asked my wife if we had any butter left in the fridge. Her reply was, “we only have butter without salt.”
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering where on earth I’m going with this post, so let me explain. If we still lived in England, her answer would have been, “we only have unsalted.”
In Portuguese though, it’s not called unsalted butter, it’s called “mantiega sem sal.” Butter without salt. My wife was translating Portuguese into English and not the other way round.
This rather dull dairy-related anecdote is actually really huge to us. It’s like the next significant stage in our integration into Portugal. We are finally, if only very rarely, starting to think in Portuguese.
After this happened, we started to weigh up our progress learning Portuguese, as we approach the 18 month point in our Portuguese adventure. My wife recalled that the butter incident wasn’t the first time she had thought in Portuguese – a couple of weeks previously she had been unable to remember the English word for chives, only recalling the Portuguese.
Don’t for one moment think that this means we are approaching fluency, or even competence, in speaking Portuguese. However….it is surprising how much has gone in subconsciously. Sometimes the radio will come on in the morning, I will listen to an advert and think to myself “hang on, I understood that.”
Even stranger was the other day when I found myself singing a tune to myself that I had heard. It was a Portuguese song called “O Que Faz Falta.” It hadn’t really occurred to me that what I was singing was Portuguese. Doesn’t mean I understood what I was singing but still!
Whilst the language learning is progressing, wading through the cross-border bureaucracy is still a hateful nightmare. Never be fooled into thinking that if you live in the European “Union” that all European nations sing from the same hymn sheet.
I appreciate that our exact situation of working in one country and living in another is unusual, but from the reactions we get from official bodies you would think it is the first time anybody has ever done it.
We have just had to force ourselves to sit back and let the situation unfold at its own pace. Back at the start of January we had to send a form to HM Revenue and Customs in the UK. HMRC are so behind that we were told that it would take them six week before they had time to OPEN our letter. At the time, that meant we expected a response in mid-February. When we called back at the end of February we were told their “target date” for opening our letter was now mid-March.
Our Portuguese accountant shrugs a lot and constantly says reassuring things like “it’s not your problem.” Yet somehow it feels like it is! I’m starting to realise that my fondness for a slower pace of life has limits.
When you have to wait three months for a response to a letter you have to learn patience. On this occasion it is England slowing things down and not Portugal, but the way European freedom of movement and employment law works in practice is a cruel joke, with all of the countries seemingly free to interpret legislation in their own way.
If we were actually trying to claim ANY kind of benefit, I could understand all the delays, but all we are actually trying to do is work hard and pay tax on the money – I can’t believe how hard it is proving to be! If sitting on our butts claiming benefits was our plan, then we hardly would have left England now would we?
I’m starting to rant so I’m going to sign off now. To sum up, I now know my first song in Portuguese but still haven’t got to the bottom of my tax situation. It would be kind of useful if it were the other way around.
PS. One thing that has been helping with our language learning is a new “Portuguese Language Lessons” page we recently “liked” on Facebook. If you do the Facebook thing, check it out!