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.

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A spring view from my balcony. Isn’t it just gorgeous!?
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When I say blissfully drifting, I really mean it!
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 kindness

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.

THE STARING

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.

Cubble stones

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.

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Summer festivities in Lisbon.
The nagging

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.

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If it’s slow enough for this guy to go for a stroll on the beach then you know it’s really slow!!
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Strikes!!!

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.

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Beaches

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.

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The facades

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.

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***

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?

10 thoughts on “10 things I love and hate about Portugal!

  1. Angela says:

    Salaam Matin.. I am back to check out your blog and find that you are back to Iran. I hope you are enjoying your beautiful country. I had saved your blog for when I would be visiting Portugal so that I could create an itininary for myself. Today I found time and your beautiful pictures are really helping on what I should see in Lisbon, Sintra. I will be also making a day trip to Fatima. Could you suggest on a decent place to stay.. since I will be there for 5 days max and will be doing those 2 day trips to Sintra and Fatima.. and will not be driving in Lisbon, I need to be in an area where I could easily access the transportation and walk around in the evenings as well. Mamnoon… for any suggestions you can provide. 🙂

    • Matin says:

      Hello Angela. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog and it’s helping you out. I don’t remember any place by name. I don’t know whether you’re looking for a hotel or a hostel but I would recommend staying somewhere in the Rossio area. It’s close to all sorts of transportation which can also get you to Sintra. It’s close to most of the main attractions as well. If you also manage to find somewhere around Marques pombal it would be still good. Just avoid Anjos. It’s cheap and there are a lot of hostels. Many people go there but it’s not a safe area at night. So if you’re alone or with girlfriends I would suggest skipping on that. 😉

  2. Maria says:

    I am glad you enjoyed Portugal. However i have to make a remark about the complaints and strikes. As you said this is not exactly the land of oportunities and basicly even if we try our hardest is tough to even mantain a basic living, if not impossible. I have seen many families being impovrished, people losing the jobs they had for years even when they were very professional and and many graduates like me spend years and years being interns ir temporary workers badly paid, and with badly paid i mean half of what you need to mantain yourself. There is high levels of coruption and lobby, conspiration and the hole between rich and poor increases. The politicians and riich elites are way too established on the top ranks of the country admijistration and companies, it is hard to get through. My own family is suffering with this, so the nagging and strikes. About staring i agree with you. It is rude to stare to a person too much just because he or she is different. I have been through this also, i used a piercing on my nose and had purple hair as a youngster and people not only stared but they also made annoying, rude comments. Anyway there are still some nice things around, be welcome back.

    • Matin Lashkari says:

      Hello Maria, Thank you for the sweet comment. I totally agree. We face the same issues in Iran. Lots of corruption and the distant between the rich and poor keeps getting longer. The staring did really bother me in the first year but I got used to it.
      I absolutely love Portugal though and I’m sure I’ll be back with my husband to show him all my discoveries. 😉

  3. Inês Martins says:

    I just found your blog on Google while dreamily searching about Iran (It’s on my bucket list). Then I saw you had visited Portugal and was curious to know your point of view about my country.
    I don’t think people have asked if life in Iran was very different to Portugal with a bad intention. They probably just wanted to know if you were adapting well and enjoying our country (we like very much to please foreigners and ask it to everyone) or they were curious about your country and saw it as an opportunity to learn more about it. Maybe some wanted to know more about politics or women’s rights. I don’t believe everyone wanted to know about war (at least, I hope so). You probably were annoyed of heard the same question all the time and saw it as prejudice but people were trying to be nice to you. It’s funny because I read an article in a Portuguese travel blog about the opposite feeling, they had talked with a Iranian couple and found out how much we have in common despite the different culture and religion (they were complaining about low wages, lack of opportunities, corruption, etc).
    About the stares, yes, old women don’t have nothing to do and like to stare and gossip about everything either they like it or not. Maybe because they are old they don’t care anymore about being perceived as rude people, I don’t know. Yes, comparing to other countries, there are not many Muslims living here and the ones who live usually don’t wear headscarf and are very well integrated in the society (you don’t know their religion unless you ask). We also lived 40 years of dictatorship with poor foreign relationships until 1974 and until then was very rare to see foreigners here. Maybe in Japan they are also judgmental but they are not so obvious. I’m sorry about that. But I hope you have enjoyed Portugal and felt welcomed despite all the annoying things.

    • Matin Lashkari says:

      Hello Ines.
      I’m so touched by your comment. Honestly, my experience in Lisbon has been absolutely amazing and it will forever be home to me. I can’t wait to get back and show my husband everywhere. While I found the Portuguese to be extremely nice and friendly, I also felt people know little about the rest of the world. I obviously don’t want to generalize but it happened a few times at uni with different people. There was one incident with someone who literally didn’t know why I was wearing a scarf. It could have also been bad luck. who knows!
      And oh yes, Iranian and the Portuguese have one huge thing in common and that it whining and complaining. haha! I definitely felt like home when people kept nagging about the economic situation and the government.

      Anyway, Portugal will always keep a very special place in my heart and I feel very fortunate to have lived there.
      I hope you make it to Iran sometime soon. 🙂 Perhaps we could even meet over tea. 😉

      • Inês Martins says:

        Hello Matin!
        I don’t know if the average portuguese is more ignorant about the world as people from other countries. I think, as in any country, the average people knows more about countries which they have more ties and less about countries which they are not so related (which they tend to stereotype, as a mechanism to help the memory).
        Portugal and Iran are not very well connected, so the average people tend to know little or to generalize, like talking about the war in some countries of the Middle East. Probably if you ask to random people in the streets of Iran what they know about Portugal you wouldn’t have so much success either. I’m from Lisbon and when I went to Uni I also realised that people from smaller places tend to know less about other cultures than people from big cities. Despite all that, I think It’s surprising someone didn’t know why you were wearing a headscarf, even if they were from a small city, as it appears so much in the news and movies (although there are other reasons to wear a headscarf, but usually with a different style and context).
        During my travels I also have heard the most absurd things about my country. Usually people don’t know anything about it or they say something related to football. A lot of times they confuse with Spain or Brazil. When I did an internship in Thailand, I was asked if Portugal was in South America, if we speak English and a lot of people didn’t know who Cristiano Ronaldo is haha. I even learn how to say Portugal in Thai as a lot of people didn’t understand the name in English. And when I said my mother was from Mozambique, they even didn’t know it was a country. But I also met people who knew Portugal was the first European nation to make contact with what is know Thailand and most Portuguese people don’t know that.
        Think positive. It’s an opportunity to break stereotypes and educate people about your country from your point of view and not from the point of view of American media. If you read the list of countries of the world, you problably don’t know very much about a lot of countries too. Yes, I hope someday I get to know your beautiful country and meet you over a tea 🙂 (sorry for the long comments)

  4. Catarina says:

    Hello Matin, i found your blog while i was searching for Iran information, since i ´m intending do go there in september this year. It was a great surprise to know you ´ve been in Portugal. I live in algarve, southcoast, and in spite of be a very touristic place, and very crowded in the summer, in the rest of the year is a wonderful place to live and to visit.
    I´m a very “foodie” person, and a great friend of mine, very well travelled always tell me that persian food is among the best one in the world, so your blog just made my last days!i´m happy to know you spent a good time here Matin.love your blog!Kind regards!

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