Portugal means long lines. Portugal means slow walkers who don’t move out of the way. People speak quickly, but take their time in their conversation with the cashier when you’re in a rush and waiting on line. As a New Yorker, (this is who this blog is meant for…did you not know?) this is going to drive you insane…that means you need to learn to have patience in Portugal.
How to have Patience in Portugal
This Patience thing is a weird one for me. You have to assume everyone in the world walks at a different pace than you. Here in Portugal, people actually look at the world, while we New Yorkers step over the poop on the street while dodging tourists and conducting multi-million dollar deals on our smartphones.
We as New Yorkers (and even some of you people from NJ…but not many) like efficiency. If I ask for something, I expect to get it in seconds.
…Things are not the same in Portugal.
You need to have patience in Portugal. Here are a few scenarios:
Need to get something in a governmental office? Maybe you’re going in for your first D7 Visa extension? You will go up to get your ticket. Look at the number and it will be e129. Look up at the board and it will be e126. Excited you will think you’ll be up in 10-minutes. NOT SO FAST BUDDY.
e126 went up and found out she brought the wrong paperwork to the meeting so she is going back to the car, while the teller waits. Once she returns the paperwork will not be intact and the teller will say she cannot help her. After 8-minutes of back and forth the teller finds out she read the paper wrong. All solved. e127 will be up in 5-minutes.
e127 is about 70-years old and brings his paperwork. It will be intact and perfectly put in binder. The issue is this is the wrong office and he doesn’t understand. He took the bus from Alentejo all the way to Lisboa for this. The teller will be rude at first then realize he is old man and ask the other tellers if they know where the office is for the agency he needs. All will be confused and even though they all have computer screens in from of them, they will not Google it. THEY WILL NEVER GOOGLE IT! Why? Because this is their work machine and not included as part of their job description. Duh! Finally they will get the security guard who knows all the business because he worked for Chanon (Security company like Brinks) and he knows the building. But there are two possible buildings. The teller says she can call and get the address. Wait….she had a phone number from the start? They call get the address but the man is from Alentejo so doesn’t know Lisboa well. This now begins a “take 2 rights, 5 lefts, and go up to second floor” type situation. He nods and leaves. It’s now been another 45 minutes.
Coffee break! Yeah, after a set amount of time people are allowed to take coffee and cigarette breaks. Another 15-minutes pass and e127 is finally up.
e127 is a French couple dressed nicely with there 2 cute blonde kids. They come up with the paperwork and the Portuguese teller isn’t too pleased. The paperwork is partially in French but has the right stamps. She’s suspicious and tells them in Portuguese that this is wrong. She tells them to come back with the right paperwork. The French couple who does speak Portuguese shows the teller it is the correct paperwork AND legal in the EU. The teller snarls then gets up and goes to her manager. The manager comes by in about another 10-minutes later and looks at the paper and says it’s incorrect. The French couple insists on speaking with another manager. The teller is shocked. The manager snarls and reluctantly (and slowly) goes to get manager #2. The manager looks the paperwork over, points at the EU stamp and says it’s valid. On the job training apparently. The teller executes the proper stamps and sends the French couple on their way.
e128 is up. She is Portuguese and has her child with her. She begins a 20-minute conversation with the teller on the child and what she did for the holiday. This takes another 50-minutes.
e129 is up. Now is your time to shine. You get up and ask a simple question “Fala Ingles? (do you speak English)”, just in case so you speed this up. The teller says no. As you bring out your paperwork, you notice that e127 (the older gentleman from before) is headed your way. You start getting the feeling that he’s about to cut you online. He does. He cuts right in front of you and tells the teller that he cannot find the other office and if there is a way to help him find it. The teller thinks for a bit, calls for the address again then walks him outside to direct him to the office. All the while you are sitting down with your paperwork.
When the teller returns, she looks over your paperwork and begins small talk with you. She asks where you are from. You explain that you’re from New York. She tells you how dangerous it is and how lucky you are to be living in Lisbon where it is incredibly safe. I nod just to get this over with (NYC is incredibly safe, but I don’t have the vocabulary to discuss this at length…nor do I want to). She notes how my Portuguese is really bad and how she thought she thought I was Brazilian. Her ex- was Brazilan…she does not like Brazilians. I nod (get this over with). Oh, you live in Avenidas Novas, she says. You must be rich, she says. She explains how most Portuguese live in Almada now. I nod (this is true). This back and forth will last about 15-minutes and you will likely get your stamp if you didn’t messup (and if you’re not a man from Brazil).
All in all you’ve lost at least a half day of your life.
So does this happen everywhere? Yes. Going to the tailor? Even after you have waited on line and you are explaining the fix you need, the ever famous “Tia de Cascais” will cut right in front of you like you don’t even belong and start a brand new conversation with the person who is taking care of you.
Living in Portugal is a constant test of patience.
You may think it’s like Florida….maybe South Carolina…maybe Southern Cali where it takes you about 15 minutes to get your coffee at the Starbucks. Nope. Here in Portugal, it’s a completely different thing.
So how do you deal with it? How do you stand in the queue and not blow up at every person that cuts you off in line because just as soon as your turn is about to come lunchtime happens and the office closes?
What I do, is just think about the novel I will probably never write. I think about how to fix the crappy ugly tile in our bathroom. I just think about stuff. Then you laugh, get a coffee, and curse.
The Portuguese are probably thinking about the Benfica and Sporting Game. They may be thinking about business and getting more money. They may be also thinking about those pair of Puma shoes that Brazilian kid had. Learn from them. Put your mind elsewhere and be patient.
Relax New Yorkers. Enjoy this country.