This may sound like a strange title for a blog post but, as with all different cultures, there are things that you have to get used to.
Here are some of our favorites
If you, like us, are used to the mad city rush, this can take some getting used to. Things from time to time go slowly! Part of this goes hand in hand with the culture. Being friendly is the norm, from the supermarket, to the bank, to… well pretty much everything.
People will take as much time as is necessary, and possibly a little more! If you are getting anxious because the person at the front of the queue is talking to the assistant - it happens… so get used to it! The traffic has stopped for 30s because someone is talking to someone they know on the street - yep that is fine. Someday soon, you will be doing the same thing!
This is one that someone told me. There may be an assumption that you know something already and hence the answer you get is just about the question you asked - no one filled in the blanks. My suggestion is think of all of the questions you might need to find out and don’t take it for granted that people will fill in the blanks. Definitely assuming that things work the same as back home is not what will happen.
Learn the language
It is very easy to feel like you are getting by in English but soon you will realize that, not only do you miss out on a lot going on around, but you will hit that brick wall which will be a barrier to what you are trying to do. The good news is that people are very patient and will help you out. If you can get something face to face then that is the best. Almost always, you will find that people will try and make an effort to help you and you should not feel shy or foolish. If not I would think about what you are after in advance. Even if the other person does speak English, at least you have learned a few new words!!
Yes it is there… and there is a lot of it. But don’t feel like you are singled out as a foreigner. Most things do work - they just take time and they need a lot of effort. Be prepared for the fact that you may need to get an appointment and it will take time. Everything comes complete with lots of paper - eGov is happening but even if it is on a computer, there will still be some printing to be done too!
When you need to do anything, take, as a bare minimum, your ID (passport etc). If there is any document you have that may even be remotely connected with what you are going for - take it. You can only have too much - never too little!
Bending the rules
There are a lot of rules but, as with a lot of bureaucracy, there is some leniency. There are rules but there may be some way to get around things, or that sending something later may get you something today - but remember to send it!
Face to Face (or voice to voice!)
Over my last few years in the UK I got used to most things being via email or some form of written communication on a web site etc. Whilst this happens in Portugal, and there is an attempt to make more use of online services, it is still culturally expected that things do take place face to face. If you see queues at the bank, this is a good example! I am sure most things could be done online, but unlike the UK where this is generally the fastest form of communication, that is not always the case here.
People seem to have great memories and don’t be surprised if you are stopped in the middle of the street by your bank manager that you met once about three months ago, who will start telling you about themselves and see how you are doing! You will often get hello in the street from anyone you have dealt with - no matter how brief it was!