Monday, March 3, 2014

Portugal—10 Things That You Absolutely Positively Cannot Live Without Knowing

1. In the Winter, It Is Warmer Outside than Inside

Yep, I shit you not. The winters are "quite" mild, russian gas far away, electricity expensive, so they don't really use heating. Inside you have to be dressed more than outside. Outside, you have the sun and you are moving.

2. Stone Fences, Stone Fences Everywhere

Stone is probably cheap here. Portugal has mountains, so it makes sense. Everything is made of stone. I think I saw only one building here made of bricks. The dirtiest pubs have sinks made of marble. Public benches are from polished granite. Even the rural fences of the agricultural land are made of... stone.

Field-delimiting fences

3. Traffic Lights for Pedestrians Are Just a Decoration

Green means "Go", red means "Go, but hurry". I can understand why pedestrians ignore them, they seem to be really badly set and one must wait long minutes for the green light to come. Interesting enough, the cars are quite patient with them, even if they are crossing at the red light and rarely honk.

4. Student Initiation Rituals

In Portuguese, they are called praxe and they are spectacular. Google it. College freshmen have to dress up, swear, bow, fulfill tasks, be humiliated. And all of it in the streets. The organizing students take it so seriously that they usually don't let tourists make pictures of these events.

Praxe - Student initiation rituals

5. Half-portions Are More than What You Can Eat

I came to Porto, saw menus and thought: "Damn, these people are expensive, wasn't it supposed be one of the poorer EU countries?" Only later I discovered that I should look at Half-portion-prices. Half portion means a plate for one person, full portion is for two. Often, even the half portion is too much for one person to eat.

6. Codfish

The 11. commandment of the Portuguese is: "Thou shall eat Cod". Eventhough it is an imported fish, Portuguese have probably the biggest number of recipes with Codfish. Pataniscas, bacalhau com natas and many more.

Salt-conserved cod
Bacalhau com natas

7. The Smell of Eucalyptus Trees in the Morning

Eucalyptus, a non-original and invasive kind was introduced because of its fast growth and value for the wood-processing industry. Now Eucalyptus makes up a major part of Portuguese forests and gives them a specific menthol-fresh smell.

Eucalyptus, a common tree kind in Portugal

8. Friday, 9:00 PMTime to Go Out? Relax...

11:00 PM is the time to go to the bar. 1:00 AM is the soonest when the clubs start getting full.

9. Coffe

One my friend said: "You know you are in Portugal when people are drinking coffee at 11:30 PM". But basically after every meal. The quantity is smaller than one mouthfull, but it's so strong that I need 5 minutes at least to drink it all.

Portuguese are big lovers of strong coffe

10. Partying Outside

So the following happened to me: My friends and me were trying to get through a huge number of people standing on the street with beers in their hands, until we finally came to the pub where they sell it. We bought beer and... went to sit. To the only table they had. And this only table was empty. People here just rather hang out outside, than sit inside the pubs.

Another thing worth mentioning is that even with such a huge number of drinking people, squeezed on a small place in front of a pub, I have never seen any fight. And they are so quiet. Might be because drinking of spirits doesn't have a tradition here, or because I have seen only places where university students go. But still, this experience tells me the Portuguese are really non-violent.

Portuguese nightlife


Standard disclaimer: The observations here might be really central-europe-centric, so if you get yourself thinking "Wait, this is not unusual, here it's like that too", it might be that it's just unusual for me.


  1. Nr. 1, exactly like Hong Kong except that they aircon inside like crazy to make sure it's at least 10 degrees cooler than outside (even when it's 20 outside ;)

    The smell of eucalyptus must be a nice thing.

  2. Sometimes it seems to me that the air condition is one of the inventions that humanity is not ready for. :) I think the 5 degrees difference is optimum.