Tag: fun

The Portuguese Soliloquy of Complaint, and other Culture Shock Challenges

Culture shock is a tricky thing– just peek at the Wikipedia page on Culture Shock, and you’ll get an idea of how complex and interwoven it really is. I’d really love to (honestly) call myself cosmopolitan, but most of the time, I feel like my brain is swamped in an ongoing struggle to make sense of everyday encounters.

I struggle with this stuff on an intellectual and existential level…. but most days, I just try to keep my adolescent inner-self in check. 

Allow me to list some pet peeves in broad-sweeping, stereotype-laden and un-anthropological language.


The “Portuguese No” finger.

  • You’ll know when you encounter this one. You’ll offer a Portuguese person something at the dinner table, perhaps a beverage or some more potatoes, and rather than responding verbally, the Portuguese person will give you an absurd finger wag as though you are a toddler being chastised. This, apparently, means “no, thank you, but thanks for offering.” 
  • The “Portuguese No” also pops up in the course of normal conversation– politics, food, clothes, whatever. It simply means “I disagree”.
  • Most appropriately, it is used in interactions with small children.
  • RESIST the temptation to grab the finger (which is sometimes wagged dangerously close to one’s face) and to break it. Breaking the finger, as your instincts most certainly command you to do, would be very, very inappropriate.

The Portuguese Soliloquy of Complaint.

  • This is a doozy. When two Portuguese people have an interaction that involves some sort of social or physical mishap, and either one or both think the other is at fault, the offended person(s) will launch into a Soliloquy of Complaint. This involves mutually understood, though archaic, hand-gestures and an extended input of energy. The offended person(s) will lecture the other person on elementary manners, list the people the offending behavior may or may not have affected/affect in the future/are theoretically affected by at home , wonder out loud if the offender behaves this way in other situations, and sometimes continues on into another topic of seemingly unrelated conversation.
  • It is a soliloquy rather than a lecture because “lecture” assumes that someone is listening. Most often, both parties launch into the soliloquy without any apparent regard to whether the other person is listening. Often, if the two are in fact engaged with one another, the competing soliloquies merge into a sort of argument involving a great number of hand-gestures and folksy colloquialisms.
  • Impressively, the Portuguese Soliloquy of Complaint is a common occurrence between motorists. The fact that the two motorists cannot hear one another does not seem to damper the impetus to expound upon manners and perceived infractions to one another, and the hand-gestures are conveyed by use of rear-view and side-mirrors. The Soliloquies can continue for several minutes, despite driving at high speeds while tailgating, which apparently all motorists do.


  • This is standard behavior. I’ve seen extreme tailgating take place late at night, when there are only two cars on the road. I have no idea why this is so widespread. 

Long, Repetitive Conversations about Nothing

  • These normally take place in inopportune locations. For instance, if a group would like to figure out where to go next after a party, they will congregate late at night, in the freezing cold, in a parking lot, especially if the women are in very high heels and wearing short dresses exposing them to the cold. The conversation will not take a quick problem-solving direction. Rather, the same ideas and concepts will be repeated over and over by different people and unrelated issues will be introduced. This is in order to make sure everyone is as uncomfortable as possible.
  • This can also take place outside of restaurants at night (in the cold) while discussing why the person the group is waiting for is late. There is no way this conversation can take place inside the restaurant while waiting for the person who is late. 
  • The Long, Repetitive Conversation about Nothing can be about anything (nothing). The important thing is that it takes a great deal of time and focus and that it usurps the time/place of something that is actually enjoyable by all parties.

Adults Lecturing Adults as though they are Small Children

  • In my comfort zone, conversations between adults often includes advice. However, the advice is offered as one of many options, and there are usually conversational buffers involved. Here, no such thing occurs. There’s no softening of words, no buffers–You MUST do X. That’s it. You CAN’T do Y. It’s all very black and white and right and wrong, and it makes it quite challenging to gracefully maneuver out of an uncomfortable discussion using old-school techniques. 
  • For example, if you are pregnant and someone comes up to you offering unsolicited advice, you can whip out the generic “oh, thank you. What a good idea. I’ll talk to my doctor about that/ I might try that.” Here, however, the advice is an order, and the lecturer is eagerly awaiting your implied promise to do what they just told you to do. …alternately, you could engage in a lengthy discussion of why you don’t agree with the order/advice. Knowing how long a conversation will take, however, and given that you have probably already invested all the time you are willing to invest on this topic with this person, you don’t want to do that. 
  • The Lecture pops up in all facets of life– babies, pregnancy, dogs, house, money, food… I have yet to find a phatic way of excising myself from these lectures. Unnecessary confrontation seems rude to me, as does my own lecturing of the other person and giving them a condescending intellectual smack-down. I’m not interested in having lengthy discussions about germane topics with every person who lecture-talks to me. I respect that we all have different ideas, and that they are appropriate in different situations. I just don’t want to get into an awkward conversation about it. (I’m, like, SO unenlightened…)


There are ever so many more, but Grandissimo is awake, so I’ll have to vent later. 


We can’t always be culturally competent superstars 😛






I’m pretty sure I just told a young hipster that I don’t bite…

In Portugal, Portuguese people are nice. Folks have been friendly, warm, humorous, and relaxed. My Portuguese is crap, at best, but things seems to work out despite this.

I think I’ve figured out why. I’ve been assuring people that I don’t bite. Earnestly.

I do this when my over-friendly dog runs full-bolt at an unsuspecting person who has decided to walk down the street next to ‘our’ field. It’s a long, straight stretch, and once my happy little bundle of fur sees a potential new friend, it’s over no matter how far we are from the target of his would-be love.

In good dog-owner etiquette (which clearly lapses every time I manage to allow my dog to run at a stranger), I call out to the surprised victim to reassure them that my dog doesn’t bite so at least they know Cujo isn’t about to attack. I do this while I run full-bolt after my dog and towards them.

I yell out something that sounds like “não mordeo”… And I’m pretty sure that isn’t a word. I think I’ve ended up hybridizing he doesn’t bite and I don’t bite… So, as I run, shouting this and waving my arms apologetically (and reassuringly, I hope), folks tend to smile and say no problem (não faz mal)

 não mordo -( I )don’t bite

 não morde-( He) doesn’t bite

I thought about this about 15 minutes ago when a surprisingly happy hipster smiled and laughed while telling me it’s no problem, even though my dog was gleefully jumping at him (and his white, teeny jeans). Folks are nice, but that seemed too nice…. I was more worried about his white pants getting dog-ified than he was.

Wait a minute… and that’s when the light-bulb turned on in my head. No wonder he’s laughing. It sounds like I’m chasing him while yelling that I don’t bite.  Great.

It reminded me of the time I asked what the fare was to ride a phallus.


I was in Bali in 2001 on a break from an intensive language course on Java. I spoke some passable Indonesian at this time, but as always, it was a struggle for me. (Learning language is always a painful experience for me…I still do it more than the average Joe, but it doesn’t mean I’m particularly good at it.)

I was walking around with a girlfriend, shopping the markets for kitsch (though at the time, it was treasure). I was thrilled to find a stand with stylized phalli, or lingam, representative of the Hindu tradition unique to Bali (the rest of Indonesia is primarily Muslim, with an ever-growing number of Christians).

Of course, I had to get one.

The tricky part was that while my girlfriend and I had been walking around, we’d been heckled and harassed by a number of skeezy-looking male vendors, all through the market. I was in a dark mood. I really wanted to hit someone by the time we got to the lingam stand. Of course, this vendor was an equally skeezy-looking man.

I decided I wanted to buy the most stylized lingam they had- it was wooden and twisted into a cork-screw. (Still, it looked like a big dildo. )

I composed myself like a bad-ass, and asked him, in my direct, no-nonsense, don’t-f%ck-with-me tone of voice how much it was.

What I actually said was “berapa ongkosnya?”,  or “what is the fare”.

I should have said “berapa hargannya?”, or “what is the cost”.

It was all over. The crowd of creepy dudes who had followed us to the giant dildo stand just lost it. The vendor lost it. I’m pretty sure he offered me a free ‘ride’. I realized my mistake pretty quickly, and even I couldn’t help but laugh.  I corrected my mistake and bought the giant corkscrew c#ck (by now, it was hard to look at it as a dignified lingam). I walked off with no dignity whatsoever.

And I haven’t screwed up the ongkos vs. harga use ever since.

Guest Post from Gal Pal- Portuguese-friendly Apple Bread!

The much-anticipated, very-delightful Apple Bread recipe from my gal pal in Azeitão is posted below! I’ve tried it, and it is crackalicious. She’s not exaggerating about how difficult it is to get our ‘weird’ foreign food to be tested, let alone approved by, the average older Portuguese person. (My mother-in-law, hand to God, once gave me the Portuguese-wiggly-no-finger and spat out a bite of my rosemary shortbread. And she’s a really lovely person. It ain’t easy.)  Let’s give her props for the victory!



Living in Portugal is quite a trip.  The people here really value their history and their traditional recipes.  Beans and boiled meat stirred up in a giant pot is cause for a celebration, and experimenting with new recipes is just not done.  Why would we experiment when we have already perfected everything? Yep, actual quote from a Portuguese cook. She is well-renowned in the northern parts of Portugal for her fried pork meat using nearly 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening and onions.  Needless to say, health is not the primary concern of Portuguese cooks, and thereby, I feel that the excessive sugar in this recipe is justified:) 🙂  I am living here after all.

Getting a mother-in-law to even SAMPLE one of your strange, estrangeiro foods is difficult, if not impossible.  However, this recipe actually made a large Portuguese family smile this winter in the midst of -5 degree freeze and no heat.  Can’t beat that!

Please-the-Portuguese Apple Bread-shout out to allrecipes.com for the base of the recipe!  I have made lots of changes though.
Servings: 8-use one bread pan
1 1/2 c or 330g of flour. If you are cooking in Portugal, use farinha para pão
1 tsp or 1 cdc cinnamon
1/2 tsp or 1/2 cdc baking soda
1/4 tsp or 1/4 cdc salt
1/4 c or 159 ccs of vegetable oil or applesauce. Using the applesauce is healthier, but it does make the bread a bit drier.
3/4 c or 168g of white sugar
1/4 c or 57g of brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp or 1/4 cdc of vanilla
1 c or 2 small chopped apples
1 c or 1 small package of broken walnuts

In a big bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
In another bowl, mix oil or applesauce, sugar, egg, vanilla and apples.  Stir into flour mixture.  Add nuts and mix.
Grease the bread pan with butter.
Put mixture in the bread pan.  The dough will be pretty thick, and you have to hand-scoop it into the bread pan.
Cook the bread in the oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius.  Or if you are the author of this blog, set your oven to the big flame:) 🙂
Cook for 35-45 minutes. Dump the bread onto the wire rack and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Better Late Than Never…

Alright…I’m WAY behind on my blog, and I own that. Sorry, readers. I’d blame it on the holidays, but I can’t be bothered. Really, I’ve just been lazy. I’ve got some good postings to catch up on, too. My gal pal in Azeitão, for one, sent me a great recipe (tested by me, among other experts) and she wrote a posting of her own. I have my Christmas post. And I’m sure I’ve got a few zingers pent up after so long without writing. I have to, right?

But meanwhile, I’m protesting the bad weather, drinking American-Friends-era-coffeeshop-sized-cups of coffee, and eating cereal for lunch because I don’t feel like cooking. Or washing vegetables. Or getting up.

Despite my impressive cold-weather-induced laziness, I’ve still managed to find something wonderful.

Granted, lots and lots of other people have also found this something wonderful, but as the title of today’s post indicates, it is better to find good things late than to never have found them at all…

I (re-)share with you, Karla’s Closet.

Why you should check this out:

1. She’s absolutely adorable.

2. She has my haircut (before I started growing it out).

3. We could be twins. If I were in better shape. And cuter. And had better bone structure. And if I was more put-together. Aside from that, I’m telling you- twins.

4. Cute fashion. Simple fashion. Elegant fashion. Fun fashion. Happy photos. Giggles. Cuteness.

Anyway, you’ve probably already enjoyed her blog, since I’m the last one on the bandwagon. If not, do it now, and climb on aboard with me. We’ll sneak in the back door together and pretend like we’ve been there the whole time ;P