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The 8 worst decisions you can make in Portugal

1. Go ‘out drinking’ instead of ‘living the night’.

Please don’t come here and try to drink like you are sprinting to the finish line. It’s about 11pm on a Saturday night, you look around and realize you already drank six canecas and your Portuguese friends seem to be on their third imperial. You may think they’re sissies and you can ingest a lot more alcohol than them, but on the other hand you will probably go home and pass out after leaving the bar around 2am. They will head to the club at 3am, have a few drinks, dance the rest of the night away, head out for a bifana (pork sandwich) or a hot dog at 6am, have a few drinks, watch the sunrise, wait for the bakery to open, eat a cake and drink a bica and either go to an after-hours party (if they live in the city) or have a little rest before meeting you at the beach to play volleyball. We don’t “go out drinking”, nós vivemos a noite (we live the night).

2. When in Lisbon, buy a miniature of the yellow tram 28 in Porto.

Would you buy an Eiffel tower in London, or a Big Ben in Madrid? A handcraft is a form of native art made by local artisans that reminds us of a certain place in a certain period a time. So learn about where you are and take home a piece of culture of the place you visited, and not from a town hours and hours away you most likely have never seen. The possibilities are endless from the varina with 7 skirts from Nazaré to a bottle of ginginha from Óbidos passing by a miniature boat rebelo from Porto, etc.

3. Call enchidos sausages.

I know they might all look the same to you, but for us Portuguese, sausages are only salsichas (frankfurters). So if you would like to try barbequed chouriço, alheira frita, farinheira, paio, salame, salpicão, mortandela, morcela, chouriço de sangue or one of the many types of enchidos you can have in Portugal, do not call them sausages or you might be in for a surprise. It would be like going to the supermarket, asking for a banana and expecting it to taste like an apple.

4. Head to the Ribeira in Porto to eat a Francesinha.

Or go to the Baixa in Lisbon to eat a Caldo Verde, just because you are blindly following other tourists. They probably landed yesterday, and were told about this restaurant by another traveller who was in town for a week, who, like you, was just following a crowd of tourists. Walk around the cobblestones streets, find a busy small tasca filled with locals and eat what they eat. Do not ask the hotel receptionist what she recommends — ask her about her favorite place in town, her favorite restaurant and her favorite beach.

5. So you like beer. Please don’t order a cerveja grande (big beer).

Have you heard any local ordering a cerveja grande? The odds are you have not. Let’s work on your beer etiquette. A big beer is a caneca while a small beer is an imperial. If you’d like a bottle instead of draft beer, call them by their names – Super Bock or Sagres. If you want a small 200 ml bottle order a mini, and if you’d rather try a darker beer ask for a cerveja preta.

6. Assume we speak Spanish.

Okay, if you speak Spanish it will be obviously easier to get around and have a sense of what is going on, but in the same way you will not understand everything, neither will we! If you ask us directions to the oficina (office in Spanish) we will send you to a garage (oficina in Portuguese); if you want to buy an escritorio (desk in Spanish), we will send you to a real estate agent to buy an office (escritório in Portuguese). It’s the same when a Portuguese man goes to Spain and says he feels embaraçado (Portuguese for embarassed) and the Spanish look at him wondering how the hell he got pregnant (embarazado). It’s like screaming “Oso” when you see bear and expecting help, instead of confused looks trying to work out why do you need a bone (osso)?!

7. Drink Porto wine with your main course.

Although Porto wine is internationally renowned and you might be eager to try it, let’s remember that it is a dessert wine. If you’d like to mix it with food, then find yourself a platter of typical cheese or maybe some chocolate and/or strawberries.

8. Call us Spaniards or Hispanic.

While Spaniards is a term used for someone who lives in Spain, the term Hispanic is usually related to someone who was born in one of the Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America. So why would you call a Portuguese, who was born in a country about 400 years older than what is now called Spain, a Spaniard?

9. Go to Portugal on a diet.

And then dare skip dessert. The only thing which may be worse than missing out on the traditional Portuguese gastronomy is deciding you will not have dessert. At least once you must have a three-course meal in a small typical restaurant and end it with a baba de camelo (camel’s drool) or a toucinho do céu (heaven’s bacon) — your ears might not like the sound of it, but your taste buds will be grateful forever!

Photo: pedrosimoes 

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