First Impressions

17 Novembro 2013


Portugal is so diverse. On Monday we were kyaking in Lagos and swimming in the water, and then just 5 days later we were climbing a mountain covered in snow and freezing to death. I am in love with this place.

I am in love with Portugal. From the day I arrived in Portugal on my flight from Paris, France I fell in love with the beautiful city, new language, and incredible people. I do not want to leave because every day is an adventure. I remember stepping off the plane into a city much larger and much more colourful than any I have ever lived in. The fact that Lisbon is built on the river’s edge and close to the ocean, makes it a city full of life activities that are completely different than any city I have ever lived in—all being far from the ocean. Large shipping barges sail boats, yachts, cruise ships, and fishing boats fill the ocean and river every day of the year, working to keep Lisbon’s city bustling with business activities, including imports, exports, tourism, and day to day work.

Coming to Portugal, I wanted to learn the language and immerse myself in the culture as much as I could. At first glance I noticed that Lisbon was a very unique place, a special place, and a place that had a lot to teach me. The old neighbourhoods, cobblestone streets, statutes of famous navigators, and not to mention the beaches and ocean within an arm’s reach. Lisbon, Portugal is a place that holds a lot of history in the area of seafaring and journeying around the world in the past. Great discoverers left from the coasts of Portugal to discover places like India, Africa, and the Americas. I absolutely adore anything and everything to do with the sea, boats, journeys, and navigators, so coming to Portugal was a dream come true for me. To live in a place such as this with so much history connected to the sea…was incredible. The connection with countries in both the east and the west, spice trading with India, some of the best seafood in the world, and so much history to be shared, Portugal should be a place on everybody’s bucket list.

The ocean is just so captivating. My first few weeks in Portugal, I spent as much time as I could outside. There is something unique about the people, the place, the sun, the beaches, and the language…Portugal has a captivating element about it that just cannot be explained. Yes, there are problems with the economy, politics, and such but I have found that the Portuguese always seem to find a way to celebrate life, and I love that. Every corner of Portugal is so different. Having travelled to the Algarve, Porto, Guimaries, Braga, Castelo da Vida, Setubal, Lagos, Sagres, Serra de Estrela, etc… I have been able to experience Portuguese culture from so many different perspectives. I never realized that so many different types of a culture could be found in such a small country.

Portugal was a culture shock. I loved it. It is a place that is so different from what I am used to in the United States, yet these differences always seemed to bring me excitement, thrill, and a sense of adventure every moment of my life. There were things that are obvious, the language, the climate, the big-city life, metros, trains, cobbled streets, etc… But there are so many more differences in culture, traditions, and living here that can only be found in the details of day to day living. I still discover new things, little culture shocks, day to day.

Choco com tinta, polvo, lula, lingua de vaca, etc… The greatest culture chock that I experienced when I arrived to Portugal was centered around food. The types of food I was eating, how I was eating them, when I was eating them, who I was eating them with, how much I was eating, and for how long I was eating, these things were all an awakening to me. Before living in Portugal I had never eaten cuddlefish with ink, octopus, squid, or cow tongue. I had never tried to eat with the fork in my left hand and a knife in my right. Beginning dinner at 9pm, sitting at the table for 3 hours, and being surrounded by every member of the extended family. I quickly learned that many people here revolve their life around food, not because it is food but because it is a way to bring friends and family together. Through food they share their culture, their time, their thanks, and it is through food that they socialize with friends and family. Building relationships, socializing, and close connections with friends and family are very important here, and food is always involved in the process.

I never imagined that I would be ride a train to school every day. Metros, trains, even buses, were a foreign concept to me before I came to Europe. At my University in Utah, in the United States, I drive my car everywhere I go because there is not a metro, train, and bus system like there is here in Europe. The way people value family, value time, treat food, act at dinner, take transportation, go shopping, everything is different in a way from the United States. My first impressions of Portugal and my impressions now are the same. Every day I wake up amazed that I am living in a place with such a rich culture, and every day I dread the day that I will have to board the plane and head back to the United States. Portugal still has so much to teach me, I cannot leave just yet.

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