Ola! My name is Marcelina, I’m student from Cracow, Poland and since the beginning of May I’m doing my Erasmus Plus internship in Clube Intercultural Europe. This is my second experience of living abroad – last year I also took part in Erasmus exchange – I was studying one semester in lovely Rijeka in Croatia. I would like to share with you my few first impressions about Lisbon and people who live here.
One of the first thing I realised after arriving to Lisbon is that I was wrong thinking – “I am experienced with living abroad and I am prepared for that adventure”. What can surprise me? Both Portugal and Croatia are located in South of Europe, have great weather, nice and cheerful people who seem to stress less than Poles and simply enjoy their life. Of course it is all true! But this is almost the end of similarities.
Just after I arrived to Lisbon lots of my friends keep asking: what impressed you in Portugal?
After living here more than one month I can point few things, but If I have to choose one – the most important for me – definitely it will be openness of Portuguese people and their willingness to help. This is one of the first thing I realized and experienced. As I didn’t know anyone in the city I had to do a lot on my own, for example manage to find where is my flat, do first shopping, learn how transportation in Lisbon works. At every step I met kind people who, without even my request, offered me help, advice, explanation or simply nice conversation! Even though I couldn’t speak Portuguese it wasn’t a problem. Most of the people that I had contact with spoke really good English. And what is very interesting and makes me be proud of Portuguese, not only young people speak English. Can you imagine my surprise when I met my neighbour on the staircase, a nice elderly lady, welcomed her with the best of my ‘fluent’ portuguese – “Bom dia”, and as a response I received pleasant conversation in English?!
Another typical question: What is the main difference between Cracow, city I study in Poland, and Lisbon(of course leaving aside different climate and language)? Multiculturalism of the city. Neither in Croatia nor in Poland you can meet, just walking down the street, so many different cultures and styles. in Cracow there is a lot of foreigners, but mostly – tourists, who come, stay for a few days in the touristic areas and disappear. Lisbon is definitely different in that aspect. Of course touristic places are full of all kinds of tourists but when you decide to walk a bit further, “into” a city, you can realise that not only Portuguese people live their life in that beautiful city. I must admit I can understand their decision! 🙂
Another significant difference, that was at the beginning very difficult for me to accept and get used to is connected with habits and working hours. Typical office work starts in Poland at 8 am and ends at 4 pm., so you can imagine how surprised I was when I realised that Portuguese people start their work usually at 10?! When you add one hour of time zone difference between Poland and Portugal, it ends with conclusion that I start work at 11… How can I explain this to my friends and family?
At the beginning I thought it’s impossible for me to change my habits. However, after two weeks of convincing my body that it’s pointless to still wake up at 6 as I used to during last half of the year, and starting to go to sleep after 1 instead of 11.30 I get used to that! And I definitely prefer that working hours because despite of the fact that Portuguese people finish their work around 6, they still have quite a long afternoon with the sun. In Poland, especially during shortest days of the year it is normal that it’s dark when you go to work, and dark when you come back… I think that is why we have such a significant difference between working hours between south countries and central-east. In Poland we simply try to catch as much of the sun as possible, if it’s possible at all! 🙂
These few things I wrote about Portugal and people living there are just a few first impressions that can be quickly realised by foreigner coming from “North”. In my next article I will try to write more about things that are not visible at first sight and need a bit of time to see them and understand.