As you might know, I recently conducted a survey of my readers. (Thank you to everyone that took the time to respond.) Among the most sought-after posts were those relating to “Observations of an American Living Abroad, Portuguese traditions, Culture Shock”. So let’s highlight one today and two (somewhat) related topics.
This: You Must Say it More than Once
Okay, let me put this right out there. I am known to be “direct”. Denise often comments that I talk like a guy. No small talk…straight to the point… lay out the facts…decide on our next step. I am not sure if I learned this from working at the senior levels of a male-dominated industry, or if it is just the way I am. I suspect, it is the latter. So my first observation as an American living in Portugal is that Portuguese people say the same thing 2 or 3 times.
You may recall I mentioned this in an earlier post. But permit me to provide a simple example:
Imagine you find a paper in your mailbox that says there was an attempt to deliver something and to retrieve it you must go to CTT (the post office). You rush off to CTT the same day because you are expecting something from Amazon. You provide the paper to the clerk and s/he says:
“You must return tomorrow. The package is not here yet.”
S/he goes on to say, “You see here in the corner of the document it says your package will be available for pick up tomorrow after 10:00. The package is still on the courier’s vehicle. You must return tomorrow and we will give you the package then.”
S/he continues to say, “The package is not here now. You must return tomorrow. You should come back tomorrow. You can retrieve the package tomorrow. Okay?”
At no time during this discourse did you look confused or offer any objection. The Portuguese just seem to have a need to repeat something several times.
Well, today, while studying my Portuguese I took a break to watch a Portuguese language YouTube video and I believe I have uncovered why. It’s the language. Not the literal words in the language, but the way the sentences are constructed. Let me provide 3 very simple examples:
On the left, you have what an American says. On the right, is what is said by a Portuguese person. I noticed that everyone always followed Óla (hello) with a good morning, afternoon, or evening. But it was not until the YouTube instructor said, “You will never hear a native speaker say only sim (yes) or não (no)” that it hit me. She was right. Denise and I may nod our heads and say “sim” again and again, but I have never heard a Portuguese person say that. It is never a one-word answer.
On the topic of learning to speak Portuguese, it seems appropriate to provide an update on our classes. We still love our teacher. Professora Manuela Isidro is a kind and generous teacher. However, with increasing regularity we are receiving WhatsApp texts from her that say:
“Não há aula. Eu estou em greve.” (Translation: No class tonight. I am on strike.)
At last night’s class, it is Tuesday morning as I write this, she explained they were planning another strike day on Wednesday. Since this was the day we were supposed to have our first exam, very few people in the class were disappointed.
To read more about the largest gathering of teachers to date, read this article. While salaries are high on the list of complaints…it is not the only one. For example, teachers can be reassigned each year to another school resulting in significant travel time, possible relocation, and expense. This practice also disrupts the “continuity of care” as one teacher’s experience with a particular student is not easily passed on to that student’s current teacher.
I certainly don’t begrudge her and the other teachers a “living wage”. We have friends who are both teachers in the Vila Real de Santo Antonio school system. One has an advanced degree, one is the equivalent of an American assistant principal, and both have been teaching for 28 years. Their combined monthly salary is less than €3,000/mo. Based on a quick Google search it would appear they would each make this amount if they taught just across the river.
Yes, the overall cost of living here is lower…but many basic necessities (like utilities) are not. This editorial is 20 months old, but it makes some very good points. A key to increasing wages in Portugal is to increase productivity. While not the only contributor, improving education is key … and many important strides have been made. The literacy level which was shockingly low just 50 years ago is now above 99%.
The Other: Will Portugal Crash?
While we are on the topic of salaries, and more broadly, the Portuguese economy, I will end with one of my favorite topics…real estate.
I have written before about a possible “correction” or “crash” in the Portuguese housing marking. And it would appear that foreign investors are partially to blame. In Algarve the median price now sits at about €2,358 per square meter. (That’s $237/square foot at today’s exchange rate!) While that is well below some parts of California (which in some areas tops $800/square foot) it is well above the median price in the US ($169).
Though I applaud the effort put into the YouTube video above, after a few minutes I found the constant cartoon drawing a bit difficult to watch. So if you are like me, and interested in this topic, you may want to read the article from which the video gets its information.
É tudo por agora…Tchau…Até à próxima semana…Fica bem
Survey Says: Permit me to provide you with information from the recent reader survey. It would appear a small percentage of my readers use the Substack app.
Of those that have the app, the largest percentage asked that I implement Recommendations. This I can do for everyone…and will improve this area in the coming weeks. Second most requested was “Chat”…which frankly I didn’t totally understand. So I called my buddy Carol Wilcox who just turned this on for her Substack readers. During her first week using Chat she got a very positive response. So I think I am going to do more research and watch her experience over the next few months. Stay tuned…
Just in case you don’t know, there is not an Amazon.pt. Instead you order from another EU Amazon. We look first to Amazon.es, the one in Spain. Their Prime service delivers nearly everything free to our home just across the border the next day.
When compared to US cost of living.
At least once every class our teacher tells us that her father and mother did not read or write.
American friends who threw their English speaking child directly into the Portuguese public school system at Grade 4 are very complimentary of the education. In addition to offering her tutoring to help her learn the language, they report she spent the first year just catching up on the level of education which was closer to 5th grade in the States.
See I am teachable.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even download it until I created the survey post. And then got both the app updates and emails until I figured out how to turn off the emails in the app Settings. Personally, I am still on the fence….
Very informative. I look forward to reading more. I'm 66 yrs. old and I repeat things regularly so it'll probably benefit me! LOL
Most interesting post! I had no idea about the repetition in the Portuguese language, but I think I would react exactly the way you did. And perhaps I would begin to wonder if I looked a bit stupid and they thought I needed to be told the same thing several times due to a most “vacant” look in my eye. I am glad you have explained this as, should I move and encounter this, I will now understand!