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Best Resource to Understand Portugal

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016); Portugues w/ son #3 (2020)
I'm looking for resources to understand Portugal better --- history, culture, customs, arts, national character, cuisine, etc. --- as well as all the practical concerns of respect and courtesies as a visitor.

Suggestions?
 

jungleboy

Nick
Camino(s) past & future
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
To get an overview of the country and its history, culture etc, The Portuguese by Barry Hatton (an English journalist who has lived in Portugal for 20+ years) is a good place to start.

Things that are unique to Portugal and/or important in Portuguese identity include (but are obviously not limited to): fado, azulejos, Luís de Camões, saudade (a kind of longing or nostalgia), the Age of Discovery, and Portugal's historic rivalry with Castile/Spain. A book like the one listed above will touch on all of them.

Some other things that are important and/or unique in Portugal include the Portuguese language (the 5th/6th most widely spoken language in the world depending on how you count, and not as close to Spanish as most people assume), the Carnation Revolution (the 1974 army coup that overthrew the dictatorship and installed democracy, which is much celebrated) and Manueline architecture (a unique form of architecture tied specifically to the Age of Discovery that you can see in its most glorious form in Belém, just outside Lisbon).

Traditional and much-loved local cuisine includes bacalhau (cod fish), sardines (which are celebrated with preservative tourist shops in Lisbon), açordo (a fish/bread stew) and pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). Local alcoholic drinks include port wine (from Porto), vinho verde (green wine) and ginja or ginjinha (a cherry liquor, famous in Óbidos but widely available in Lisbon).

For history books on specific events, the best two, in my opinion, are This Gulf of Fire by Mark Molesky about the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and Conquerers, by Roger Crowley, about the most dramatic 30-year period of the Age of Discovery.

Famous Portuguese (or proto-Portuguese) people and/or heroes that you could look up include (but are not limited to): Viriatus, Affonso Henriques, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Henry the Navigator, Bartholomew Dias, King Manuel the Fortunate, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan (despite sailing under the Spanish flag when he proved that the world could be circumnavigated), Luís de Camões, the Marquês de Pombal, Fernando Pessoa, António Salazar, Amália Rodrigues, José Saramago and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Hopefully that will get you started!

(P.S. To our Portuguese friends on the forum, I hope this is a fair summary!)
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016); Portugues w/ son #3 (2020)
To get an overview of the country and its history, culture etc, The Portuguese by Barry Hatton (an English journalist who has lived in Portugal for 20+ years) is a good place to start.
I downloaded the Kindle version of this. It is a REALLY REALLY good book (at least the first 10% has been so far).

First rate writing---journalistic rather than academic, with that British "something more" love of the language that American journalists often lack.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016); Portugues w/ son #3 (2020)
Salazar, the Carnation Revolution, and their effects (immediate and long-term) feature prominently in the Hatton text. Although I haven't yet made it to and through those parts yet, he appears to be reasonably fair and objective in his treatment of the facts and in interpreting their impacts.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
also - please consider the more 'recent' history as well, Salazar dictatorship, etc ... it still echoes and ripples through Portuguese life/conduct/memories.
Nostalgia for António de Oliveira Salazar divides the Portuguese
best wishes - bom caminho
Thi article was published in 2007. Portugal has improved a lot since then. It has a GDP per capita higher than Greece and every country of East Europe except Eslovenia.
I think that today Cristiano Ronaldo would get more votes than Salazar for sure.
 
Camino(s) past & future
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
We found this a handy little book. Bought a copy of it, and brought it along to VNdB for friends and relatives who visit!

 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
Portugal seems a very uniform country but the reality is that it was formed by two "tribes" : Galaics (North river Douro) and Lusitanians (South Douro).
I traveled a lot in Portugal. I speak more than Portuñol (that is how the Portuguese people call the Galician), so for me is very easy to communicate in Portugal.
In one of my trips I stopped at a bar near the border of Fuentes de Oñoro (Salamanca) and I talked with a guy who considered himself as a Lusitanian different to the Galaics of the North and to my surprise for him I was in the same group of them.
Galicia and North Portugal formed part of the same country (Gallaecia) for more than 300 years (Roman province+ Swabian kingdom) with capital in Braga (Portugal) but after beeing separated for a long period nowadays we feel ourselves quite different but at the same time quite similar. It is an strange feeling.
 

Terry Callery

Chi Walker
Camino(s) past & future
"Portuguese Camino - In Search of the Infinite Moment" Amazon/Kindle books authored
"Slow Camino"
This is from my Journal that I kept while doing the Portuguese Route from Lisbon where I recreated a conversation with a Portuguese restaurant owner.

"Ah...Yes...The Portuguese people, well that is a subject that Portuguese writers and poets have spent much time trying to define...how we say… the 'character' of the Portuguese people." Nelson said.

"I have heard that the Portuguese will understand much more English than they let on. And is it true that the Portuguese will understand a Spanish speaker, but that a

Spanish speaker will not understand Portuguese anywhere near as well?" I asked.

"That is true. To me Portuguese is softer spoken, more poetic and more musical than Spanish. To understand us, you must know our history. Two hundred and fifty years ago, Spain and Portugal together owned most of the world, but now we are a small poor country. It was Vasco de Gamma our most famous Portuguese explorer who opened up the age of global imperialism by being the first to find a route to the East when he sailed around Africa all the way to India. So, we are first of all a proud people, proud of our past, but we are also fatalistic about life. We do not really care about politics, we give the government our money and they never spend it wisely. The country is always so badly mismanaged and no matter what political party is in power, the bureaucracy is always such a nightmare.” Nelson said.

“So partly because of this fatalism, we are laid back, perhaps even a bit lazy. There is a difference between being a hard and dependable worker as are most Portuguese and being a type ‘A’ personality over-achiever. Portuguese men can fix anything; we are very good at improvising and getting by, at least for the near term. We have little concern about the international debates around the world. The Portuguese care for just three things. First it is family and then it is food and football. This is a very Catholic country and so appearances and hierarchy are very important. In Lisboa, you will always be treated much better if you dress well. I understand that pilgrims will wear their jogging pants, but the Portuguese place great importance on a conservative pair of dress pants and a buttoned shirt, partly because it shows respect for the rules. This is especially important in a city like Lisboa. In America you have this "American dream of upward mobility", but in Portugal there is a definite hierarchy. Knowing your place on the social ladder is stressed and not the idea of climbing up that social ladder. Titles are very important and we must address the Priest or the professor or the senior leaders in our society carefully with exactly the right title. You speak enough Portuguese to know that we do not say “he” or “she” for the pronoun, but rather we say “o senhor” or “a senhora”...the gentleman or the lady." Nelson expounded at length.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
A guy at my university spent a sabbatical year in Lisbon years ago and wrote a short book focusing on ”Portugal through the eyes of an American”, which I really enjoyed.

It’s called The Moon Comes to Earth.

During the year he was there, he published occasionally on an on line literary magazine called McSweeny’s, and you can read a lot of what turned into the book on the site. But for some reason the search function doesn’t bring up all of his “dispatches from Lisbon.” It is also available on Kindle.
(Nick, I did those links for you :cool: )

The Hatton book sounds like it may sort of be be the Portuguese version of Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain, which I really enjoyed. Tremlett is also a Brit, a Guardian reporter in fact. Just put it on my reading list! Thanks for that recommendation Nick.
 

Zac123

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Soon
I recommend:


and/or:


 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016); Portugues w/ son #3 (2020)
We found this a handy little book. Bought a copy of it, and brought it along to VNdB for friends and relatives who visit!

I've been going through this, and it fills in some really good gaps. Great book!
 

Albertinho

ninguém disse que era fácil !
Camino(s) past & future
2013 Lisboa - Sant.
2014 Ferrol -Sant.
2015 Porto -Sant.
2018 Porto -Valença
2019 Valença -Sant.
In the eleventh century Spanish and Portuguese were the same language.
Untill now the grammatics are almost the same.
I studied for many years Spanish (Castellano) , worked professionally in Cataluña -Barcelona- and started my study Portuguese after my retirement. By now 7 years.
The knowledge of the Spanish grammatics was a significant help by picking up Portuguese. The continental Portuguese is hard to understand because of the dialects as is the Castillano in Spain.
The best and fastest way to learn Portuguese is the Brazilean way of the language as is the Latin American Spanish.
Brazilean Portuguese -I allways call it Samba Portuguese - is easier to understand and sounds like music.🇧🇷🇧🇷🇧🇷
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016); Portugues w/ son #3 (2020)
The continental Portuguese is hard to understand because of the dialects as is the Castillano in Spain.
The best and fastest way to learn Portuguese is the Brazilean way of the language as is the Latin American Spanish.
Brazilean Portuguese -I allways call it Samba Portuguese - is easier to understand and sounds like music.🇧🇷🇧🇷🇧🇷
My <ten words in> Portuguese sounds more like Russian . . . I'm sure that's a dialect thing . . . 😏
 
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natefaith

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria-Santiago (2009)
León-Ponferrada (2014)
Camino Inglés (2017)
For something totally fun, you can watch the Lisbon episode of "Somebody Feed Phil" on Netflix! He talks a bit about the history of Lisbon and shows a lot of the scenery and food. He also visits the Palacio de Pena castle in Sintra. It's a great introduction to Portuguese (well, at least Lisbon's) food, culture, and sights.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
My <ten words in> Portuguese sounds more like Russian . . . I'm sure that's a dialect thing . . . 😏
I always thought the same about Portuguese. I mentioned it to a cousin of mine who had majored in the Slavic languages in university (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, etc.) and he laughed. He said whenever he hears people speaking what sounds like a Slavic language but he can't understand a word, he knows it is Portuguese. I think it is all of the palatalization.
 
Camino(s) past & future
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
I always thought the same about Portuguese. I mentioned it to a cousin of mine who had majored in the Slavic languages in university (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, etc.) and he laughed. He said whenever he hears people speaking what sounds like a Slavic language but he can't understand a word, he knows it is Portuguese. I think it is all of the palatalization.
This is exactly true! Before I came to Portugal, I had some basic Spanish, and I'd studied French a lot, and I found the written Portuguese pretty easy to decipher. But the speech! I was dumbfounded at how "Un-Latin" the language sounded. A difficult language to master. Luckily the locals are extremely forgiving of your most pathetic attempts!
 

jungleboy

Nick
Camino(s) past & future
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
When I was living in Geneva, I would sometimes hear people speaking European Portuguese and even though I already had an intermediate level of Brazilian Portuguese, I couldn't understand it and went through the exact same thought process on multiple occasions: 'Those people are speaking Spanish ... it's weird Spanish though, I can hardly understand it ... wait, it's not Spanish at all, that's weird ... actually it sounds like Russian, how bizarre ... OOOH, it's European Portuguese!'
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I have told this story several times (I’m old, so that comes with the territory, but at least I remember telling it :p ). I was living in Portugal for a year, and about 4 months in I had to go back to the US for a short trip. I arrived in Lisbon speaking basic Brazilian Portuguese, but I had had the hardest time understanding continental Portuguese. In part, that‘s because so many people speak and conduct business in English but also because of the features described above. It was really frustrating.

On the flight home, the flight attendant got on about ten minutes after takeoff and said, we have a problem and we have to return to Lisbon. I was so happy to have understood her Portuguese that I didn’t focus on the fact that the plane had mechanical problems. Turns out she was Brazilian! (And the plane was fine).
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
40 years ago I visited the North of Portugal from Galicia with a cousin of mine. We both speak Galician so we thougt we coudn't have any problem there. So, in a bar we asked for 2 wines (dois vinhos, por favor) and we were served 2 bottled beers. And the same thing happened again at the following bar.
So, we returned to Galicia without having tasted any wine in Portugal and frustated.
Later, we realized that the way of asking for 2 wines was: dois vinhos verdes or dois copos (glasses). When we simply said dois vinhos they understood dois minis that was the name for the small beers.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Hahaha! I'm Portuguese, and for me the best way to understand the Portuguese culture is to get on YouTube and look up The Portuguese Kids. Its corny, but my Portuguese friends and I are always cracking up at how they nail our family interactions and culture. lol! There are videos on Portuguese moms, Portuguese dads, Portuguese driving lessons... all SOOOOO true! lol!
 

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