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It was when I was in London a couple of weeks back that I got to thinking about the ways in which we were becoming “more Portuguese.” I had just bowled into my hotel, smiled, said “Ola, bom dia” loudly to the receptionist, then gone very red when I realised I had spoken in Portuguese instead of English.
It wasn’t the only time I did it during that trip to the UK. In fact, after that initial embarrassing experience, I started to over-think it, and found myself saying “good afternoon” before beginning a checkout transaction in Tesco Express, because I was translating the Portuguese “boa tarde” INTO English in my head before saying it. Saying good afternoon in a London Tesco may be polite, but I was looked at as if I was trying to parody a city gent from the 1930s.
Now, I know people say “when you start thinking in the language that’s when you are fluent.” Well, I am still very very far from fluent. But, in these day-to-day interactions, it has obviously become instinctive, and to such an extent that it feels more natural in some situations speaking Portuguese than speaking English. This realisation made me think about the other ways we are now “being Portuguese.” It must be time for another list post:
1. 10pm now seems to be a perfectly sensible time to do the weekly grocery shop. Midnight seems like a perfectly sensible time to light the barbecue.
2. If we are due somewhere at 2pm and have still not left the house at 5 past, I don’t really see that as being late, as such. (Although to be honest, my timekeeping has never been particularly good, I just now live somewhere where a lack of punctuality is more ingrained!)
3. If a person dawdles in front of me in a shop queue, I don’t feel an instant blood-pressure rise and begin seething and silently blaming that person for all the problems in my life. I just wait.
4. The same applies when the car in front stops for several minutes to chat to someone they’ve just spotted walking along the road.
5. The other day I saw a sardine recipe which called for the sardines to be gutted, and my horrified reaction was: “WHY would you gut them? How silly.”
6. Still on a fishy theme, I actually find myself craving bacalhau at least once per week.
7. I now know which days of the week the butcher has lamb, so I don’t end up sulking because I can’t find any on a Tuesday.
8. 27 degrees Celsius is no longer defined as a “hot day.” In fact it is more likely to cause us to remark that “I’m sure it was warmer last year.”
9. I no longer check the weather online every single day. It’s summer, and therefore it will be sunny.
10. Carpets feel weird (that one was my wife´s contribution).
Settling in another country is like getting older. When you are about 25, you look back at your 21 year old self and think “I can’t believe how little I knew.” Then you get to 30 and think the same about your 25 year old self. After 20 months of “being Portuguese,” I look back at posts I wrote after just six months in the country and can’t believe I thought I was already settled. It’s all a learning curve, and I feel that even after this long we still have a long way to go. It´s a good job that a fair proportion of it is jolly good fun.
Image credit (Portuguese flag): tiseb