DO NOT GO TO PORTUGAL
Portugal. The land of magic and never-ending sunshine. A hidden gem tucked away in the corner of Europe.
I would prefer to keep it this way.
A diamond in the rough.
Do not ruin this beautiful European city. I want to keep it just the way it is before it is sure to be overrun and overcrowded by the masses.
I would like to think that most of us tourists are ay-okay, but there are some ignorant people out there who ruin it for everyone. With Portugal becoming more and more popular as a travel destination, I am terrified of this happening. It seems like the city is already overcapacity on the number of tourists that it can hold.
A big reason that Portugal is so special to me is because the Portuguese are SO NICE. I took a side trip to Spain, and the rudeness I encountered from the locals was a slap in the face after spending so much time in Portugal.
I work HARD to be a good tourist. I am kind and courteous. I watch where I’m walking. I try to not stand in the way, and I try to use the language as best I can too when the opportunity presents. I learn about a place before I go. I know what I should do about tipping and other restaurant etiquette. I want to learn about and respect the culture.
I’m not perfect, but I’d like to think I do a good job as far as tourists go. Maybe the people in Barcelona are just so sick of the constant droves of us clogging up their streets and ignoring their customs. I get it.
I remember what it’s like to be a first year teacher all bright-eyed, rosy cheeked, cheery, and full of optimism. Eight years in, and now I understand what it feels like to be beaten down and worn out by the constant barrage of back-talking kids, helicopter parents, non-stop testing, and disrespect from pretty much everyone in society. I’m underpaid and overworked, and I’ve had enough. Sometimes it is hard to smile.
I understand why Barcelona is crabby.
But Portugal has not been beaten down by tourism…yet. I am so afraid that day is coming. I do not want to see that happen to this beautiful country and to its people.
Do not go to Portugal if you cannot respect the property
My friends Sofia and Malte own and operate Sama Sama Crepe and Juice Bar located on a side street right near the infamous Pink Street. If you are not familiar with Lisbon, Pink Street is actually a pink street, and it’s a HUGE party area. I lived right off of Rua do Alecrim almost above Pink Street. The BOOM BOOM bass of the clubs became my midnight lullaby every night. Tourists crowd the streets and drink beer out there until dawn.
After a certain time at night, the bars and clubs charge cover. The clubs, I understand, but the bars??? Really?
Well, there are [illegal] vendors selling cheap beers on the street. So the crowds hang out on the street and drink cheap beer. It’s all fun and games until you need to pee. If you’re a guy, are you gonna pay cover to go in to the bar just for the bathroom? Nope. You look for an unoccupied side street on which to take a piss.
Sounds like a great idea at the time, but what the tourists don’t realize is how they are affecting the local businesses. The street outside Sofia and Malte’s Crepe and Juice Bar would smell like urine and have visible urine stains. Not great for business.
Pink Street gets sprayed down by the city EVERY DAY. However, the surrounding side streets only get sprayed down ONCE A MONTH. Many times, I would make my way down the hill to Sama Sama (ok it was like every day), and Malte would be outside spraying down the street himself. He told me that all the business owners on the street were taking turns as they fought with the city to get their street serviced more often.
Now Sofia and Malte are seriously some of the NICEST, KINDEST, MOST ENLIGHTENED people I have ever met. They run their crepe and juice bar because they believe SO STRONGLY in providing people with plant-based, nutrient-dense, organic, just all-around GOOD food. Spend an hour inside and you’ll see how many regulars come in daily. You’ll see the friendship and community they have built. I met them right after a bad experience in Lisbon with my first apartment, and they helped me tremendously. Why? Because they are good people and they care. They don’t deserve to have ignorant tourists peeing on their business every night.
As tourism to Lisbon continues to increase, how can these business owners NOT start to feel frustrated and negative toward us?
Do Not Go To Portugal If You Aren’t Willing to Respect the Customs
Fado. Enjoying a Fado performance is a MUST if you are in Lisbon. What is Fado? Well, it is extremely hard to put a definition into words. It’s not just a song…Fado is something you feel. It’s expressive and melancholic. It’s a story of love and loss and the powerful range of emotions that go with it. All the highs and the lows. I wish I could speak Portuguese.
We were at Tasca do Chico. A little hidden gem (kind of famous I guess) in the Bairro Alto area where you can go to hear some authentic Fado music without paying an arm and a leg for dinner like you would in Alfama. All of the bars in the Bairro Alto are super tiny, which is why patrons usually go into the bar, grab a drink (€1 beer) and spill out onto the sidewalks.
At Tasca do Chico, you wait in the queue (line) outside the door. When the Fado performance finishes, the lights go back on, doors open, a wave of people spill out, and a new wave comes in. Order a drink and squeeze in where you can. When the lights go dim, guitar music starts, the room is shushed. The performance happens right in the middle of the room.
Unwritten rules of Fado in Lisbon:
Do not talk during a performance.
Do not order a drink during a performance.
No one comes in and no one leaves the bar.
Basically, no one moves.
In a fancier fado establishment where you make a reservation, eat dinner, and then listen to fado, you even put down your utensils. Fado is intense and sad and beautiful. The singer is pouring out his or her heart and soul into these lyrics. You listen with awe and respect.
My experience at Tasca do Chico was magical. The last performer came on. He had been manning the door all night…keeping out ignorant tourists who tried to barge in during the middle of a performance. You could tell he was someone important. There were pictures all over the walls of him with famous people who had come to hear fado. I saw a picture of Anthony Bourdain. This guy had to be the owner. The doors closed, lights went out, and his performance started.
He was incredible, but his performance was basically ruined. A large crowd came in and walked right by him to get to the bar. EVERYONE in the establishment was visibly annoyed.
*The door is closed, the lights are turned off, music is playing, you can hear someone singing, and you think THIS is a good time to come in?*
I’m still angry about it, and I’m sure it happens all the time.
When you are going to a new place, learn about the customs, and respect them! I’m sure the Portuguese are already growing tired of us.
Do Not Go To Portugal If You Aren’t Willing to Learn Some Portuguese
Arguably the biggest most offensive mistake you can make in Portugal is to speak Spanish. Portugal. Spain. Two different countries. Two different languages. Different histories. Different cultures. On paper, the two languages might look similar, but they are not.
When you walk into a shop, say Olá. When someone does something for you, say obrigada if you’re a girl. Say obrigado if you’re a guy.
In Portuguese the o or the a depends on the gender of the speaker…not on the gender of the word like in Spanish.
Bom dia is good morning, but the m’s in Portuguese make an n sound. I still can’t do it right.
And Finally…Do Not Go To Portugal If You…
…Do not enjoy friendly, kind, helpful people.
…Hate beautiful architecture, beaches, sunshine, pastries, castles, jaw-dropping sunsets, parties, music, wine, food, and life.
…If you’re ok with missing out on one of the most magical places in the world, Do Not Go.
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