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Learn as much Portuguese as you can. Language mistakes are not offensive. To the contrary, every effort is applauded. But don’t just do it halfway with a phrasebook – get yourself into a total immersion school for at least a week. I’ve covered the benefits elsewhere, and the importance of choosing a school carefully. You will never know how much you will be missing unless you take the plunge, and once you do I guarantee you will feel that there has never been time and money better spent.
Title: Cultural Dimensions of Living and Working in Portugal
Author: Bill Drake
Present your best self: attractively dressed, well-mannered, greetings to everyone, every time. Keep your surroundings neat at home and in the office. Keep your car clean. Pay attention to grooming – nails, shoes, random hairs, etc. This may sound picky, or bourgeois, but except for rebellious youth and street people most Portuguese of all socioeconomic classes place importance on good grooming and judge others accordingly. Fashionably scruffy is OK, sort of, but disheveled is not, and dirty is really not.
Plant lots of flowers anywhere you can at home – windowsill, yard, garden, on top of a wall. Portuguese love flowers the way the English love dogs – with a true devotion. Just as in England a dog lover is someone to be trusted, so in Portugal is someone who is surrounded by flowers they tend. If you can’t grow flowers, buy flowers and have them around. Buy hey – who can’t have at least a pot or two of flowers in a sunny window?
Yawning and stretching is impolite in public. So is scratching yourself and picking your nose. So is staring at someone – they may think you are giving them the ‘evil eye”.So is bitching and moaning. The Portuguese aren’t British but they do subscribe to the British ‘Stiff Upper Lip” approach to life. Mustn’t fuss, you know.
Your patience, understanding and caring will be received and reciprocated with a warm human appreciation. Any efforts you make to help others will be noticed. This doesn’t mean handing out charity; it means being thoughtful in small ways at every opportunity.
Be discreet in your conversations and with any public remarks you make. Even if they happen to agree with you, saying what you think in a loud voice will make others cringe. No swearing in any language. Do not criticize the country, its people, and customs - or your own. As your mother no doubt told you, if you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all.
Don't complain about your problems. The Portuguese face many of the same problems you do, and probably others you don’t, and they probably have far fewer resources available to help them cope than you do. However, joking about your problems is perfectly acceptable. Being able to make light of one’s problems makes everyone who can relate to what you’re saying feel better.
Plan your daily activities and entertaining knowing it takes longer than you expect to get things done. Re-order your priorities if necessary. Don’t “try” to be patient – learn to be flexible. “I’m being patient with you” communicates its meaning non-verbally, and it can only make matters worse since the person on the receiving end will either get nervous or stubborn. Learning to be flexible means that you can genuinely relax and relate to other people, including whoever would be trying your patience, if you were still the impatient sort.
Use your imagination. Learn a language. Get out. Make friends. Have fun. Enjoy yourself and your new home – Welcome to Portugal!