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The Challenges Of Living In Portugal

Emotions Of Living Abroad
Why is my life drastically different? When one moves from an area of comfort to one of moderation it can be daunting once the reality of such a move begins to settle in. I have experienced a range of emotions, experiences, and nice surprises. I will attempt to explain some of the challenges and highlights I have had since I moved to Portugal.Challenges: Minimization
Pre-planning with hubby about the move was exciting. We definitely knew what we wanted and the sacrifices it would take. This did not mean that I was fully aware of what this would translate to once we arrived in Portugal. I was interested in the ideals of living abroad and the realities of living this experience had not manifested.

Moving to a new country takes guts. One would have to determine that they are ready to give up normal conveniences for the sake of learning how to live in a new country. As I look around the master bedroom I am flabbergasted at the drastic change this move has been. My reading corner has been created with my suitcase. It is turned sideways with fabric on top and my mini-lamp that I purchased for four Euros at the local store sufficed for evening light. Our temporary air mattress is a nuisance because no matter how you blow this up there is a slant that makes the bed look more like a humongous beach chair. Hubby and I laugh uncontrollably as we see the “DIP” in our master bedroom. In addition to this, apartment living is completely different from the 9 years we had of living in a house.

The days of mowing the lawn, going to Kroger for groceries (enough to last three weeks), and having girlfriend moments are elements of life that I miss. It is not so much the location, but the ease of speaking a familiar language and completing basic tasks where you don’t constantly think about what you want to say. Now this would not be the case if one decides to live where most English speaking individuals frequent. In our case we live amongst the locals and this has been rewarding and challenging. I can hear our neighbor’s routine every night. Their child’s evening routine has become a part of ours as I know exactly when to raise the volume to blur unwanted noise.

Many of you have asked if I have been able to find a nail salon and I still have not found one that I would use. I miss the nails salons at home where I place my feet in bubbling water and sea salt until the staff worker is ready to serve me. I have talked with some other expats who share the sentiment that it may be difficult to find the nail service I am looking for. I have visited at least four places and have not been impressed with the cleanliness of the manicure supplies. Ironically, I went to a high end location to inquire about their services and as the lady pulled a drawer open to show me her supplies I could see that the nail files, cuticle clippers and exfoliating supplies had residues from plenty of feet! With that said, I have found comfort in buying the supplies and completing my manicure and pedicure on my own.

Highlights: Fala Ingles (Speak English)
For the past month I have been teaching for the Imagine to Learn Academies (Lisbon) language school. I teach English (beginner, intermediate, advanced) to a group of Real Estate Agents who work with the Keller Williams Real Estate Agency based out of the United States. This has been such a pleasant surprise. All of these agents have shown me their persistence, work-ethic and dedication as they strive to advance in their acquisition of the English language. I have had some awesome moments learning about the Portuguese culture since I began these lectures.

One of the best lessons was the discovery of intercultural expectations of American and Portuguese cultures. Portuguese individuals are sincere and would love to spend an hour getting to know someone and learning about an individual’s connection to family, values and leisure. It would be normal to give “Beijinhos,” (Kisses) if there was a lovely meeting that occurred. In contrast, someone from home may feel that there is too much ambiguity and not enough time to sit through such a discussion. In preliminary discussions a student mentioned that they knew class began at 9AM but it was urgent that they had a Bica Cheia (small coffee) before getting started.

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In addition to this, we have all had exchanges where we have laughed at someone trying to pronounce a new word. Students laughed when I said “Trabalha” (Work) and I equally found their word choices hilarious as they worked on developing proficiency. Their ability to take risks in the course has encouraged me to keep striving.

Learning the Language
I am happy to report that I can now take the train, grab a taxi, and say basic information with Portuguese natives without a challenge. My first cab experience with a Portuguese native was challenging. In my broken Portuguese I told him where I wanted to go, the fact that I spoke little Portuguese and that I was a teacher. I was happy when he started to tell me about his work as a taxi driver and that he thought my Portuguese was coming along. Since I am learning this language I consistently remind myself to be patient. Pronouncing the name Joao would almost have similar inflections for when one would say cow. Similarly, most aspects of the words can drive one crazy as each word has a different preposition based upon the masculine or feminine aspect of the word.

There are many individuals who tell me not to worry about learning a new language since I come from an English speaking country. Bilingual aspects of communicating can be useful for anyone moving into the 21st century as we see the continual digitization of global products and services.

Making New Friends
Everyone has been warm since I have arrived to this country. Whether I am at the market choosing fish for dinner, or at the local café ordering a small snack, individuals have been warm. At the café next to the site where I teach I have some new friends who have decided to only speak to me in Portuguese. This has been useful for me to put the words I have learned into practice. I must say that I have stalled on learning this past month as I had a moment of language numbness, but have recently resumed to studying new words and grammar. I have also found authentic exchange with a number of local restaurants who have gotten used to me visiting their establishment for lunch. When I miss a day there will be questions as to why I did not have lunch at their establishment on a given day.

Taken together, Portugal is a beautiful place with awesome views and friendly individuals. One has to be patient when adjusting to a new experience as expectations of living in a new place may call for adaptation. There are many people who are just as interested in learning from you as you are about learning about their culture. Take the new experience one day at a time.

Dr. Allana Da Graca is the founder of Turning on the Lights Global Institute, Inc. Her focus as an educator is to help adult learners reach their personal and professional goals. She is the author of a new self-help book called, Tomorrow Can’t Wait. Currently she teaches a variety of communication courses as an online instructor at Walden University. She is the recipient of the Robert C. Ford Fellowship, Martin Luther King Leadership BHCC Award, and the Chahara Foundation Award. Learn more at: drallanadagraca.com

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