As my last days in Portugal went by, I couldn’t help but think about all the things that I was going to miss. I would try to absorb the under 30 degrees summer days as much as possible, since I knew they’ll be long gone when I’m back home.
I’ve been asked this question a lot while I was in Portugal. “Is life in Iran very different to Portugal?”
Life is somehow different wherever you go. But this was not the answer they expected. The continuing questions would be if there was a war going on in Iran! I once told someone that the war was in Iraq and not Iran and she responded that she always thinks of “that area of the world” as a war-zone!! What else was I to say?!
But here’s the thing. Life is different! In fact it’s very different. People speak another language, women wear headscarves and the scenery is a lot more drab and grey between the concrete walls. But my life as an individual goes on the same way. It involves the same routines. Nothing shocking or surprising!
There are things I’ll miss about Portugal. Things I don’t have here. And there are things that bugged me to death. So I decided to make a list of things I love and hate about Portugal. Not just for the sake of making a list, but to also give you guys an idea of my life experience there and not only the part that’s sunshine and roses.
My bedroom view
Having to wake up EVERYDAY to this view was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life in Portugal or really anywhere. I absolutely loved to wake up on a sunday morning and open my eyes to sail boats blissfully drifting along the Tejo river. On a full moon I would wake up at mid-night and see the moon and it’s reflection on the ocean making the most alluring landscape. The first time I saw this view I could not even believe my eyes! I’ve tried so many times to capture it but somehow either me or my camera failed.
Oh, and let’s not forget the whistle of the cruise ships passing on a foggy day. They give you the chills and make you all jealous that you’re not on board.
Lack of opportunities
Portugal is not exactly the land of opportunities and with the economical crisis that’s been going on the passing years things have only gotten worse. Forget about job opportunities what I was looking for was the chance to learn stuff and take courses without going bankrupt. Here in Iran every neighborhood has a few cultural centers or institutes that offer a wide range of classes. From art courses to first aid, it’s all there. And you can really find something that fits your budget. Languages institutes are also everywhere to be found and lately they offer classes in languages other than English as well.
In Portugal however, things were different. Languages courses would wipe out your bank account and other stuff were either hard to find or really expensive and far away.
The Portuguese are kind! Really kind in fact. I’m sure you’ve heard this from many travelers that come to the country but it really hits you when you see how everyone is willing to help you out on the street. I remember on my first day at Uni I was stuck in a sociology class without understanding a word of what was being said. The girl sitting next to me kindly offered to translate everything word by word. She would even email me links to do some further reading. It wasn’t just her, many many of my friends or random people at uni helped me out with the language issue until I was on track. And this is not something you see everywhere.
Ok, this is something I absolutely hated!!! It would drive me nuts at times. Yes, I know there are not that many Muslim women living in Portugal or at least ones that wear a headscarf but there were times that people really gave me hard time. I’ve had people come up to compliment me on my choice of scarf or even looks but I don’t care what’s the intention behind the staring. Whether you agree with it, like it or find it beautiful it’s really up to you. But it’s rude to stare! plain RUDE! And I don’t accept excuses like ‘it’s because they don’t see it that often so it’s surprising’. I’ve lived in Japan for years and there are hardly any women with headscarves there, but no one dares to stare at you. (minus point for you Portugal!)
Btw, this mostly happened with the elderly. The younger generation were much more open to these stuff.
Only pedestrian streets are nothing unique to Portugal. They are very European indeed. But it’s something we rarely see in Iran. And I think they are absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous cubble stone streets filled with cafés, restaurants, street performances and live music playing in the background with tourists buzzing everywhere would totally metamorphosis Lisbon in the summer.
Portuguese just like us Iranians nag a lot!! I thought I was going to free myself from this one when I left for Lisbon. But nope! It was there too! In fact when I stepped foot in the country it was already going through a devastating crisis so more excuse to complain! Hours of my bus rides would go on with the old guys bringing the government down on it’s knees. And No! This wasn’t unique to them only. The young uni students seemed to have a lot to say as well. It’s good to criticize but once you hear negativity everywhere you just want people to stop talking and move their asses instead!
Witnessing life on a slow-mode
I say it. The Portuguese say. Everyone else says it too. The Portuguese are extremely relaxed about things. If you ever make plans with a Portuguese, consider getting there an hour later! This would actually get on my nerves at first, until I managed to work with the “Portuguese time”. Apart from the punctuality issue, everything else seemed to be on slow pace aswell and very much in contrast with the rapid stressful life back home. And it was such a nice respite from my city life in Tehran.
My years in Portugal involved a lot of public transportation and checking ‘www.hagreve.com’ had become a routine. (A website that notifies upcoming strikes in Lisbon)
Let’s just say it wasn’t a delightful moment when you’d realize all your plans for tomorrow are faded into air when there’s no transportation to get you anywhere.
Sigh! The beaches…
Having to live by the beach is truly a gift. But having some of the world’s more beautiful beaches just 20 min drive from your place is incriminating. Fancy a stroll on the beach? Want to save up on Vitamin D? Or just need to freshen up with a swim? It’s only a few minutes away. Beach life is strong in Lisbon. As soon as temperatures rise you’ll see Lisboners flocking to the coast. Don’t fancy the crowd? Not to worry. There are tons of scenic beaches in the outskirts of Lisbon that are less touristy and never meet the massive crowds in Cascais.
As for the last one I’m looking at the bright side and telling another thing I truly miss. Here in Tehran we are almost stuck between concrete buildings. We do get a beautiful view of mountains in the north if the sky is clear but apart from that there’s a huge lack of color in the city.
As soon as your plane gets over the Lisbon sky the first thing you’ll notice are the orange rooftops. Once you land and walk through the streets you’ll see how colorful and vibrant the facades are, even if most of them are decayed. I find that colors in the city automatically give a positive breeze to the air.
I’ve written a full post on my love affair with Portuguese facades combined with loads of pictures which you can check here.
Wondering which are my favorite beaches in Portugal? head over here to find them out!
Have you been to Portugal? What’s your take on the things I mentioned above?