If you’re going away from home for more than a couple of months, you are not traveling. You are not on holiday anymore. That is your life.
My life in Lisbon, Portugal began 2 weeks ago in a rapid way. It is such a wonderful feeling to be in your hometown partying and the next day, all of a sudden, wake up in your new Erasmus life. Being in another country requires flexibility, a smart adaptable mind and a busy life. Among classes, cooking, assignments, we plan our travels and explore the city, but also notice insight and customs that no site can tell you.
Here are 12 + insights that my sister and I discovered by living here in the first week. So before coming here, you might be interested in knowing this:
12 Insights to consider before coming to Portugal
1. Ginjinha – Portuguese people have a traditional drink called Ginjinha. It is made out of sour cherries and guess what? They sell it in the city center in nice branded stores saying it’s their traditional drink. Best stores are in Rossio Square and Praca de D. Pedro IV. However, if you have heard about “vișinata”, the Romanian traditional drink, you will notice it is the same thing. However, the Romanians don’t sell it for 1 euro a shot, but have it in their homes for their guests.
2. Saudade – Portuguese have a great word which they say it has no translation ever. They market it as “Saudade – only exists in the Portuguese language”. According to the dictionary, this word is especially used in songs or poetry. It describes a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament. I simply love how Portuguese market their stuff and we should learn from them.
3. Narrow sidewalks – The sidewalks in Lisbon are very narrow, about 50 cm wide, and when you pass a pedestrian, one of you needs to get out in the street. Also, in Lisbon, streets are all about hiking, so girls, no high heels here.
4. Sardines and cod fish – I found it very weird that their traditional fish is cod, because this type of fish is actually imported from Norway. They have more than 1000 recipes for cooking it and they just can’t get enough of it. As for the sardines, they eat them in the street as snacks.
5. Always late people – Punctuality is one of my values and I can’t understand the people who are always late. Teachers can easily come 15 minutes late, trip meetings can easily be delayed 1 h. Also, if you’ve been to UK, you know how rushed the people in the metro are. Here, you almost step on them. They don’t get out of your way and walk really, really slow. So be prepared for delayed scheduled if you deal with the Portuguese people.
6. Similarity with San Francisco – Last summer we’ve been lucky enough to see San Francisco. And we had no idea Lisbon is its sibling town. The bridge 25th April was actually built by the same company as Golden Gate. It has yellow cable cars, high streets, opening to the river and the ocean. Tram#28 is the most famous one and the 40 min trip gives you beautiful views of the Alfama neighborhood.
7. Grandma’s restaurants – This is so different than the rest of Europe. Usually, they are all fancy, you need to dress up and spend a lot of money. Here, most of the restaurant are at the corner of the street, with small tables and aluminum chairs. You can go in your pajamas if you want. The lady that serves you is often the owner of the place, and the food you get is always homemade. Plus, you can get “prata do dia” (meniu of the day) for 6 euros.
8.Flea markets – Excellent about Lisbon and Portugal is the fact they have flea markets and if you want fresh food you don’t have to wait for a Sunday or Saturday morning. There is always a flee market, where you can get both goods and food. Best flea market is on Tuesdays ad Saturdays from 6:00 am to 5;00 pm, and it is called the Thieves Market, in Feira da Ladra.
9. Coffee time is coffee time – Portuguese like rituals. So every day for 30 – 40 and sometimes it can get 50 minutes, they have a break. A coffee break to enjoy an espresso in the “Pastelerias”. They drink their espresso in small shots and even if they’re done, they will still loose the time not working. Also, they pay 55 cents for the espresso, which is impossible anywhere else in Europe downtown.
10. Sweet/salty smell in the streets
– Because of their Pastelerias which have excellent sweets, the streets are full of really nice smells. But sometimes, these sweet smells interfere with the ones from fish. So you can’t decide which way to go: for the sweet or salty? Best pastel is in Belem
, and it costs 1.10 euros/piece.
11. Mosaic designs
– All the buildings have mosaics designs, which makes the city have a personality. The tiles are colorful. They even sell tiles for tourists and also have an entire Museum for exhibiting their architecture style. It is called Museu Nacional do Azulejo
and it is outside Lisbon.
12. 30 panoramic points – This is amazing. If you want to propose your girlfriend, this is the city to come. It has more than 30 view points above the city and you can watch sunsets, birds and bridges melt in your love declarations. Till now, I thought Paris is the most romantic, but I just changed my opinion. The best point from where you can see the city almost 360 degrees is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
In addition, my sister adds:
Buildings are old and they are kept like that.
„I find it very strange that the majority of the buildings don’t have heating systems. Nobody seems to have a desire for modernizing or changing anything. In many other cities in Europe, very few buildings are kept in the form that were designed. Everybody wants to modernize their houses (inside and outside), get new furniture, have smooth streets. The pedestrian streets are found only in the main squares of the city, where the cars are not allowed. Here, there are only pedestrian streets and cars can be driven even on the most narrow streets.”
Clothes are dried in the window.
„Everybody dries their clothes on ropes near the windows, even in the center of the city. In Cluj, maybe this happened 20 years ago and never in the center of the city, only in not so visible areas.”
Orange trees in the streets.
„I’ve never been in a city where you can find orange trees in the streets. This is very unusual and moreover, the fact that nobody is interested in them. Instead, everybody goes to the supermarket and buys them. In my country, if we could find oranges on streets nobody would buy them from the supermarket.”
After 1 week in Lisbon, we noticed a lot. Some things we like, some we don’t. But we will keep an open heart and I am sure Lisbon will do the same for us. 😉
P.S: Don’t try the wild oranges from the streets. We eventually found they are sour and not good for your health.