When in Portugal . . .

How a Change in Routine, Can Lead to Greater Self-awareness

Yesterday I misplaced my wallet and today I spilled a cup of coffee; careless and frustrating. These are the things that happen when your daily routine changes and you’re not paying attention. There is danger in trying to recreate your old life in a new environment. It’s like trying to put up a tent when the wind is blowing at 50 mph; it just doesn’t work.

Portugal is a beautiful country with wonderful people, but it is not the United States. It’s land boundaries have not changed since the 13th century (Portugal has a fascinating history); that’s a lot of time to establish yourself. Still, in many ways, it feels like a young country.  I’m sure that has a great deal to do with independence, the European Union, difficult economic times, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, its size, and a host of other considerations.  It is the country I chose to reside in and now it is time embrace its riches.

I have noticed some things about the Portuguese culture that I love and admire (these are generalizations I’m willing to defend):

  • People are extremely quiet in restaurants. A crowded restaurant in the States is loud; very loud. It almost appears as if people are trying to be louder than the next table. The Portuguese people are aware of the volume of their voices and they are very considerate. I’ve also noticed that background music is just that, it’s in the background. Eating in restaurants is very pleasant.
  • Your neighbors are very private and do not try to get in your business. This was something I loved about New York City; however, I did not find it to be true in Maine, North Carolina or South Carolina.
  • Public festivals are very calm, clean and the people are happy to be there.
  • I have been noticing that older people (70 and up) are out and about and that many of them are impeccably dressed. Women wearing skirts and jackets and men in sports coats and often wearing a tie. Lots of smart hats and interesting walking sticks. I guess that I’m paying more attention to the older population as I approach 60 (rapidly).
  • People still use cash!
  • Patience seems to run rampant here.
  • Items are well-priced. I have not seen any price gouging; I don’t think the Portuguese would tolerate it.
  • Whenever you ask, “Fala Inglês? the Portuguese reply, “A little bit,” and then they often speak beautiful English and they are extremely helpful. Very gracious people.
  • The streets are clean wherever I go.
  • I was never exposed to Portuguese olive oil in the States; there are many varieties and it is as good here as it is in Italy and Spain.

The point is, I am adjusting to my new surroundings and I am falling in love with Faro. I have had to abandon some of my old practices and ways of thinking. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I was going to spend the rest of my life in Maine. Funny how life is, you never, ever know where it’s going to take you. Still, we live our lives as if we know what the future will bring — strange that. I have a better understanding of what was meant (click for more info) by the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do.”

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A food festival in Faro at a beautiful public park. I was struck by how calm it was despite the many people. The food was local, delicious and cheap! Note the tile on the ground — it’s everywhere!
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Beautiful architecture throughout Faro. I would have loved to have seen it in its heyday.

 

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Beautiful and quiet beach in Almancil. A bit of a walk to get there, but very much worth the effort. It’s a short bike and train ride away (20 minutes).

 

A day in the beautiful town of Loulé, where there is a whole lot more worth experiencing than IKEA and an outlet mall.

 

 

Published by

CP

I was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1959. I've lived in several different places, but this is the first time I have resided overseas. My career has gone in multiple directions; however, education is my passion. My Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from New York University has opened many doors and for that I am grateful. Writing has become a pastime I enjoy and hope to further pursue. The future holds no limitations and I am keeping all of my options open. I have landed in Portugal and there is a vast and beautiful world to explore.

14 thoughts on “When in Portugal . . .

  1. “Still, we live our lives as if we know what the future will bring” Thank you for this, Chris. I don’t have any clear vision, false or otherwise, of what the future will bring. I think we envision the future because it is deeply unsettling not to.

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    1. I know, I know. But I find that when I let it go and leave it up to the uuniverse, I’m so much more receptive to whatever comes my way; positive or challenging.

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  2. Chris, I love your observations about the ambience of restaurants in your new home – people conversing quietly and music strictly in the background. I have come to the point of eating out only very occasionally here in Portland; I don’t enjoy it at all, and it’s primarily because I can’t tolerate the noise level. The first thing I do is ask the waitstaff if they will please turn down the blaring music because it’s impossible to have a conversation, and I refuse to shout over the noise of people at too-close adjacent tables who are themselves shouting. Noise levels affect one’s stress level; I can’t understand why restaurants (in the U.S.) don’t understand that a roar of sound isn’t conducive to a pleasant and graceful dining experience. My sneaking suspicion is that it’s simply a way of turning over tables more rapidly – make people want to leave quickly. As somebody who knows a lot about the business, do you have any thoughts about this abysmal trend?

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    1. Hi Helen. From what I’ve been told, 40 somethings and younger like to be in a restaurant that is buzzing: music, laughter, talking, does not matter, so long as there’s a buzz 🙂 To be fair, I haven’t been going to new and hip restaurants in Portugal.

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      1. “Buzz” or “Blast”? All I can think of, then, is that these people have absolutely nothing to say to each other, because it’s impossible to say anything over the din. I had two experiences recently that have put me off local restaurants almost entirely; I reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen for decades, and we went out for dinner to catch up. We had appetizers, then ended up having our entrees packed to take away because we could barely hear over the music, plus the noise of a table sitting near us where the women were shrieking – not laughing, but shrieking. (I guess nobody ever taught them how to behave in a public place.) A second time I took a friend out to dinner for his birthday and we ended up simply not speaking for most of the meal because neither of us felt like shouting to be heard over the loud music. Honestly, why bother? It’s like trying to have a meal in an artillery zone.

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  3. I remember, 20 years ago, that there was no music in bars in Ireland unless someone brought a guitar, which they frequently did. It was heaven. We met a lot of people in bars that you would never meet over loud music.

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  4. Hi Chris,
    I’m an American living north of Loulé and I wanted to say that I find your writing style very comforting. It’s like you are reading a story to us. Not sure that makes sense but I do enjoy it.
    I have also taken a second look at Faro, thanks to you and finding it to have some interesting areas very worth exploring.
    I chose to live in the hills above the coast. Less peoply, noise and tourists but close enough to pop down when the mood strikes.
    Thanks for the post.
    PS. There is more to Loulé than the city too.
    Lorrie

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  5. Lorrie,
    It’s really nice of you to write. I realize we choose different places to live for different reasons. I’m glad my Faro observations made you want to visit. I promise to spend me time in Loulé.

    The Algarve and Portugal have so much to offer.

    Chris

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  6. wow, love this!I love the photography and gets me wanting to visit Portugal once in my life.Love your blog,keep writing!Id love for you to check my blog out too<3

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