The first thing you notice when you arrive in Portugal is its people.
It’s not the heritage, the culture, the food or the wine, but the ever present kindness of the Portuguese. A kindness both present in everyone’s genuine smile and in the underlying nostalgia pouring out of their eyes. In a nutshell, this is what defines the Lusitanos.
It is as if, at any given time or place, no matter if you are a banker in Lisbon or a shepherd in the Serra da Estrela, each and every person is still waiting for their loved one to come back from afar. This constant longing feeling gives the presence of the Portuguese in this world, a dreamlike quality. A dream where their life can never be complete, but one that they relentlessly embrace, and which ultimately defines how the Portuguese behave as human beings: kind, quaint, mellow, quiet, truthful to their feelings and cautiously accepting every joy that life provides as it was their last.
It’s not that they are not happy. On the contrary, believe me, there is plenty of reasons for this. It’s just that they are not loud and somewhat annoying when good thins happen. They do not push their happiness on others. They prefer small and private family celebrations, normally always accompanied by home cooked food and great wines. Like out of focus night photo, the Portuguese see their happiness as a liquid plain of lights. Impossible to be pinpointed, but beautiful and wholesome. Everything a fantastical romance needs to have in order to last throughout the ages.
And this brings me to the second most noticeable feature about the Portuguese, their unconditional love for family. Family is their number one priority in life and the reason why they are so kind to their fellow man. Family come before profession and even duty. The Northern Europeans may criticize Portugal’s lack of productivity, but they will never understand the unbreakable family ties that keep the Portuguese families so tightly close together. Get together’s happen every Sunday, not just for Christmas. They know that at the end of the day it is all they got.
Being such a loving and caring people, the Portuguese see each other and everyone who visits them as a family member. Our legendary warm welcome didn’t just sprout from the ground but is the effect of all that is mentioned above. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone will always welcome you and will make you feel at home. Portugal is the only country in Europe where the natives try to speak the visitors language. No visitor to Portugal will ever feel alien or be alienated. The fact is that the Portuguese can’t hide their knack for and devotion to helping others. It is their blood. They do this because they want to be good and do good deeds. They take pleasure in making their our fellow man comfortable.
Combine all of this and you get a country with the most relaxed sensation and feeling in the whole of Europe. Life can throw whatever it wants at us: Financial crisis, political instability, and even large scale unemployment. It does not matter, the feel-good atmosphere never dissipates. The sun is always shining, the seafood is ocean fresh, the wines are the best in the world and family will always be there.
This tolerance and understanding to other people’s culture and religion has been embedded in the Portuguese mentality since even before they became a nation. The result of millennia of culture melting between Romans, Goths, Moors, Christian Kings and the Portuguese Empire throughout the world. Meeting, greeting, learning and getting along with strangers is what the Portuguese can do better.
You see, our heritage as conquerors and discoverers of the New World taught us to look way beyond our belly button. We started this whole thing called the Global Village, and at its peak, the Portuguese Empire reigned from the depth of the Amazon forest to the private quarters of the emperor of Japan.
And although the Portuguese are more than 82% Roman Catholic there is no religious intolerance in Portugal. Everyone gets along, and everyone accepts each others multiculturalism. Especially in nowadays, this is worth gold.
So actually being Portuguese doest not just mean being born in Portugal, but also to embrace a multicultural heritage and world influence of a people, whose only purpose in life is to see their loved ones prosper…
Happy Valentine’s Day Portugal
Photo Credits to my inspiring friend: Emanuele Siracusa