Portugal A-Z


Africa-No, I don't mean Portugal is part of Africa. It almost is but not exactly. For historical reasons, Portugal has had a long relation with the "dark continent." And we have more to thank them than the opposite. Many Portuguese are black. Many more were born in Africa (mainly in the former Portuguese african colonies) and you can see a bit of Africa everywhere you go in Portugal but mainly in big urban centers. You can see it on the way people talk, on people's faces, on food, music. You name it.


Brazil-Our big brother on the other side of the Atlantic. Brazil is responsable for making portuguese one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and, among other things, for harbouring hundreds of Portuguese emigrants. There is a strange relationship between the two countries. If, for people from central and northern Europe, the Portuguese seem a lively, cheerful lot, Brazilians see us as sad, repressed, gray, boring folk. On the other hand, Brazilians may sometimes look a bit too friendly and expansive for the average Portuguese.


Cunha-A sinister portuguese institution. Cunha is what you call "favours" from someone you know somewhere that will get you something without going through the proper channels. It can be a job, a better school grade than you deserve, it can be letting you cut the line or something else that will make your life easier for the right price or with the right connections. Of course, you can also call it corruption. But that's such a negative word.


Danger-Compared with other european countries, Portugal is a peaceful, safe little country. Our crime rate is slow (but rising), we don't have serious security issues and even nature is kind to us, not counting the rare major earthquake and the yearly forest fires. But, of course, compared to countries like Luxemburg or Iceland, we are hell on Earth.


Europe-Aaaaah... Europe... Portugal has always been a part of Europe (of course), but after a few decades of a dictatorship that didn't see cultural interchange as a good thing we sort of lost touch with our fellow Europeans. Since the admitance into the European Union in 1986, that has been changing. And they give us money too.


Food-Among Portugal's nicest aspects is food. Screw Nouvelle Cuisine. Screw italian (ok, tasty but get over the pasta and rice and cheese, will you?) and japanese (raw fish? eeew) food. You have never eaten properly if you never had portuguese food.


Government-We've had some of these through the ages. Most of them weren't very good. There must be something in the air that makes politicians become idiots or idiots become politicians. I'm not sure which one it is.


History-We also have quite a lot of this. Being an old country, Portugal has nice thick history books to give our students nightmares with names of kings, navigators and important battle dates. And we used to be great. A superpower. Some people think we will be great again one day. Hehe...


Improvement-Not everything is bad, of course. Since the backwards, obscure little country Portugal was in the 70s, we have come a long way, partly thanks to the aid of the European Union. Now we are a slightly less backwards, bright, colourful little country. Yay.


Justice-Do your best not to be arrested in Portugal. If you don't follow my advice, you can expect to be locked up for years until you finally get a chance for a trial, after which you will be sentenced to 2 days in prison. Since you have already been in prison for 7 years, they will give you a pat on the back and send you on your way.


Landscape-Although we have some very qualified architects, even some with an international reputation, our cities seem to be planned by retarded chimpanzes on marijuana. These annoying little critters are also constantly doing their best to ruin the beautiful landscapes Portugal is still full of. 


Music-Another thing we are good at. There's Fado, of course. Then there are several other traditional kinds of music. And then, there is modern music. Most of it is absolute crap. But if you dig deep enough, you'll find some real treasures.


Neighbour-Portugal has only one neighbouring country. That's something uncommon in other European nations and even worldwide. After centuries of constantly trying to invade each other, Portugal and Spain now enjoy a nice fruitful longterm relation. More fruitful to them (they are the main investors in Portugal) than to us. But we only have ourselves to blame for that. A certain rivalry subsists but mostly on th portuguese side. Most spaniards are surprised when they discover there is a different country to the west on their way to the beach.


Ocean-It's there. It's big, it's blue-greenish and it has been a good friend all these years.


People-The greates riches of any country should be its people. I can't explain what I feel better than Eça de Queirós, one of the greatest writers not only of Portugal but of the entire world and a man who truly loved his country while being one of the most violent critics it has ever known.

"-You may laugh but I swear there is a similarity. Everything about Gonçalo, his frankness, his sweetness, his kindness, that imense kindness Father Soeiro noticed... The bursts of confidence and enthusiasm that soon turn to smoke. That persistence, the not letting go of an idea... The generosity, the carelessness, the constant mess in his business and feelings, certain childish scruples, isn't it?... The imagination that always leads to exaggerate to the point of lying and, at the same time, a practical spirit always looking out towards what is really useful. The sharpness, the ease of understanding, of acquiring new knowledge... That constant hope in a miracle, in the old Ourique miracle that will heal all harm... The vanity, the will to shine and such great simplicity that he would give his arm to a beggar in the street... A deep sense of melancholy, though he is so talkative, so sociable. The terrible lack of selfconfidence that makes him restrain himself, belittles him until, one day, he makes up his mind and a hero appears that will destroy everything that comes against him. Even that antiquity in his race, here, attached to his old tower for a thousand years... And even more in that sudden trip to Africa... For all of this, with the good and the bad, do you know who he reminds me of?


-He reminds me of Portugal."


Quality-We know what it is and you will see many examples of it around but, mostly, quality is not as important as letting friends and relatives do things even if they aren't qualified for it. This applies to everything.


Religion-Statistics say that over 90% of the Portuguese population is Roman Catholic. But out of those 90%, 80% are "non-practicing" catholics. It's a phenomenon you will find in no other religion. Catholicism allows people to call themselves catholics even if they don't go to church, don't pray and don't care about any kind of worshipping. Pointless?


Sex-Yes, we do it too. Where did you think those 11 million portuguese came from, hmmm? Sex used to be a big taboo now it's everywhere. You turn the television on and there it is. You are waiting for the bus and can't help noticing the huge billboard anouncing a brand new condom. People talk about it openly. Even too openly. So openly it gets annoying. It's good to see we are even with the civilized world at least in one thing.


Traffic-The portuguese are calm nice people. Except if they are driving. Then they become savage, ruthless beasts dominated by their killer instincts. Stay away from the roads if you know what's good for you.


Underdevelopment-Extreme poverty, child labour, the highest rates of illiteracy in Europe... what do you call all that?


(not an actual portuguese shown)

Vai-se andando-This is a very popular expression among the Portuguese and one that you will listen to over and over again. It means something like "we get along", that is "things are not that good but we have to live with it". You can't get more Portuguese than that. Once you master this national feeling of helplessness to change the current state of affairs, you will be one of us. Be proud. Be very proud


Weather-Another good thing we have. Sure the heat can get a bit annoying in the Summer. Sure it rains like hell during the Winter. But let's face it. We really can't complain about the weather.


Zé Povinho-A character created by cartoonist and sculptor Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro in the 19th century as a charicature of the typical Portuguese. The name means something like "Little People Joe" and is now used in common speech to refer to ourselves. Note the gesture. A "manguito" is given to show someone that you're not taking their bullshit. Start praticing it today.