So far, so good. Porto is beautiful and I’m still enjoying my time here. I spent a lovely week at home for Easter seeing family and friends and THE CUTEST NEW BORN BABY! I don’t really have much to write about my time here so I thought I’d share some of the little cultural differences that I’ve noticed between here and England.
In England smoking in public places is illegal, end of story. In Portugal it’s a different story because although it was banned, it is still allowed indoors if the places have ‘sufficient ventilation’. I don’t know who decided this was a good idea because the last thing I want when eating out, or going to a nightclub is to be surrounded by smokers which will make my clothes and hair stink! I don’t know how people coped with it in England before it was banned. The Portuguese definition of ‘sufficient ventilation’ definitely needs to be re-examined because there have been several incidents where I’ve had to leave a place due to the fact that the amount of smoke was affecting my asthma. Even in Spain this didn’t happen so why is Portugal so behind the times?
This was something that also happened in Spain. In Portugal, people find it odd, and sometimes rude, if you take off your shoes on entering a house. I find this strange because in England it is a completely normal thing to do as it keeps the houses clean, and most of us wear slippers anyway! Perhaps here it is considered odd to take your shoes off because they don’t use carpet generally – most floors are tiled or laminate which is much easier to clean, but much colder than carpet. So I just don’t understand why they keep their outdoor shoes on when socks or slippers are much cleaner and more comfortable.
This is something that most people probably wouldn’t notice (or care about) but since being in Portugal, the way that people choose their seat on the metro or the bus has left me really bemused. Basically, it is very rare for someone to choose the window seat, with most preferring to sit in the aisle seat. When someone then asks if they can use the window seat next to someone, they have to climb over them, rather than the other person just moving up – which would make life a LOT easier. I always sit by the window, especially if the bus is busy, as it means no one has to feel guilty about asking for a seat. There have been many times on the bus where there are lots of free window seats, but because someone is sat in the aisle seat, no one wants to ask to sit down. I know I’m supposed to be the polite, English person but COME ON! If there’s a spare seat, I want it!
Obviously, every country has its own etiquette regarding meals. When people dine out in England (and Spain from my experiences), the waiting on staff NEVER clear the table until everyone has finished eating because this is considered very rude. Yet, since being in Portugal it has become obvious that this isn’t an issue. As soon as they see that someone has finished eating, they will come and take their plate away, even if everyone else is still eating! The same happens with drinks, even if there is some left in the bottom! Maybe it’s because I’ve been brought up in the ‘English way’ but taking someone’s plate away while others are still eating just seems incredibly rude, especially in a restaurant!
Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not complaining about any of these (except maybe the smoking) – I am here to embrace the culture, and I completely respect that each country is different – these are just the cultural aspects of Portugal that I have found most peculiar! So now that I’ve shared some of my musings, I’ll go now.