Photo: Michele Rinaldi/Shutterstock

How to Piss Off a Portuguese

by Luís Azevedo Oct 9, 2013

Disclaimer: These tactics will only work if you’re not Portuguese. If you are, we’ll gladly engage you in a spirited conversation on how our politicians are robbing us, how our youth can’t find jobs, and how our TV programming sucks.

Insult our heritage.

You might not know this, but we once ruled the world. About 500 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Portugal and Spain signed a treaty that divided the world in two: The Spaniards ventured out into the Atlantic Ocean, circumnavigated the world, and discovered America; the Portuguese…gave the world Brazilian waxing.

Say that to a Portuguese person and you’ll get an irate rant on the importance of Portugal in the discovery of the New World, the way we found Brazil (by accident, shh) and the maritime passage to India (our initial goal), the riches we amassed, blah blah blah.

Tell us there’s no time like the present.

Continuing from the above, we have to go 500 years into the past to find an achievement Portuguese people, as a nation, are proud of. So, yes, we live in the past. Here’s a short anecdote to illustrate:

An old Portuguese lady kept repeating, “I’m so thirsty! I’m so thirsty! Oh, how thirsty I am.” A passerby saw her and gave her a bottle of water, which she gulped down. Instead of thanking him, she simply changed her refrain: “I was so thirsty! I was so thirsty! Oh, how thirsty I was.”

Try telling that old lady that we now have better healthcare, that young people have more opportunities to learn and lead a better life; tell her that we have fast-access internet porn and a longer lifespan, and she’ll die of dehydration before admitting the present is better than the past. You might even get that bottle of water thrown in your face.

Limit conversation to Cristiano Ronaldo, José Mourinho, or Mariza.

Yes, we know they’re famous. We’re proud of them, but we’re also sick of meeting someone and having a dialogue that goes like this:

    1. “Hello, nice to meet you, I’m Mike,” says the generic native English speaker.

“Hi, I’m José,” says the mustachioed, hairy-chested Portuguese man.

“José? José Mourinho? Mourinho? Cristiano Ronaldo?” hopefully interrogates the now wide-eyed Mike.

José will read this as, “You’re from a tiny, tiny country, so tiny I actually feel pride for knowing something about it.”

Call us Spanish.

There’s a running joke that Portugal is a Spanish province. I think it started with an erroneous TV broadcast or on outdated school manual. Portugal was a Spanish province up until our first king rose up against his Spanish mother and made a country out of Portugal…way back in the 1100s. Ever since then, we’ve gotten a bit prickly when faced with any negative comparison with nuestros hermanos.

Another thing you should avoid in this sibling quarrel is to call Saramago Spanish. He went into exile for being censored in Portugal, a fact that still shames most of us, but he remains Portuguese. Instead of mentioning Mourinho, try endearing yourself by saying “José? José Saramago?” You’ll make a Portuguese friend.

Assume Portuguese from Portugal is the same as Portuguese from Brazil.

Don’t mistake one for the other! Portuguese evolved slowly from Spanish for almost a thousand years. We took it to Brazil in the 15th century and it evolved separately when the Portuguese colonizers left. 200 years have passed and the differences are evident. We’re proud of them. They’re both the same language, but Brazilian grew in a different direction.

Now Brazilians make hit songs and the most popular soap operas. Since people assume we talk the same, we sometimes even get requests to sing those hit songs. The replies range from a condescending look to murder (only in extreme cases).

Forget that the Portuguese from Portugal became the Portuguese from Brazil.

With the economic crisis, low rates of employment, and a high number of young people emigrating, we have very few reasons to be proud of our achievements abroad. But one of them remains the fact that such a small nation sprouted a language that now is the 6th most spoken in the world.

We’re a people of contradictions — yes, Portuguese from Brazil may be boosting this statistic. We might punch you in the face if you say otherwise, and tell you we love you right after we do.

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