What I Discovered While Living in a Small Portuguese Village

Portugal has become something of an ex-pat haven for many citizens, especially those who already live in the European Union and therefore stand to profit from the ease of travel between EU countries. What’s not to like about endless sunlight, breathtaking scenery, delectable cuisine, a thriving cultural scene, and world-class artist communities?

All of this sounds perfect to me, as it did to several people. Coming from a cold Eastern European area, living somewhere warm and sunny seemed like the best option for my health and productivity.

So I gave up my rented apartment and moved to Portugal with practically everything I possess, with no hope of returning to my home country.

I’d never been to Portugal before, and I’d rarely flown at all, but this was anything but routine for me. It was as though I had jumped into unknown water. I didn’t know a single word in Portuguese and knew little about the culture.

As a lover of a frugal lifestyle, I had no intention of splurging in Portugal, so any expensive hotels or top-tier tourist region’s Airbnbs were out of the question. As a result, I picked the cheapest Airbnb I could find on such short notice and reserved it for several weeks. My original plan was to simply get to Airbnb and then find out the rest of my life.

That’s precisely what I did. My first Airbnb was in the most traditional Portuguese village imaginable – Pendilhe, a parish of around 500 people. Moving from a big city and living in such a peaceful area felt a little unreal. Tiny cobbled sidewalks, picturesque homes, a large royal chapel, and goat farmers just strolling on the streets – it seemed a little surreal moving from a big city and staying in such a quiet location.

Yet I enjoyed every minute of that tiny village. Another choice was made: I wanted to look for a more stable home in a similar small village away from the city noise. Even though it wasn’t easy at first, I eventually hit the jackpot by discovering a tiny house in a similar village a few hundred kilometers farther south. It was much lower than Pendilhe, with just a few hundred permanent inhabitants.

After living in that house for a while, I’ve grown to know and enjoy the Portuguese community and way of life much more than I might have expected. Though not anything I’ve seen applies to the whole world, the following life lessons are something I’ve strongly learned here. In certain ways, living here has shone some insight on certain incredibly crucial aspects of life – aspects that the majority of the planet sometimes tends to overlook in the middle of all, but which are critical to our happiness.

There were no drugs discovered.

 

Life Does also Pass at a Slower Pace

Many people who have studied Portuguese lifestyle and culture might have heard that things move slowly here, particularly when it comes to official matters. That may be real, but what is more significant is that people do not rush about as frantically.

Life moves steadily and softly here. You appreciate the sun and beautiful weather, go about your day, and don’t worry about what’s going to come next – live in the moment is an essential aspect of local life.

 

People are Content Even With Fewer Material Possessions – Simple Pleasures of Life are Essential

One refreshing factor I discovered quickly was the absence of a desire to get a large load of belongings. People live in small houses, and even shopping malls aren’t as vibrant as they are elsewhere (though, of course, Portugal has an abundance of shopping centers too). The majority of the population, however, seems to be unaffected by the consumerism-craze that has swept the globe.

This is particularly true of smaller towns. People work in their fields, growing produce, herding goats, or running small pastry shops and cafes, fully satisfied with it. Surprisingly, one of the goat herders I encountered during my first few weeks in Portugal was one of the happiest and most energetic people I’d ever met. He had a small herd of goats, so lying in the sun and enjoying his goats was something he greatly loved, even if he had little need for material things.

Simple pleasures, such as meeting friends for a cup of coffee or selecting fresh lemons from your lemon tree, are essential in life. Fortunately, this is something that the Portuguese place a high emphasis on. Instead of looking for meaningless trinkets, they waste their money on events such as music festivals.

As a frugal, I strongly agree with that viewpoint but seeing how locals value that way of life warms my spirit.

 

People Spend More Time Connecting.

Portugal is renowned for its vibrant cafe community, but once you reside there, you realize just how vibrant it is. More particularly, why do the locals do it so much?

All of us are used to grabbing a fast cup of coffee on the go whilst talking on social media. Even though social media is common in Portugal, people always take the time to meet up and spend time at one of the many local cafes.

And when I say plenty, I mean it – there’s a cafe in every village and a plethora of them in towns. There’s a cafe on every street corner.

Even in a small village like the one I live in, there is a cafe where locals gather almost every day to talk.

People do find time out of their days – and they do so often – to chat with their mates and share some time, only chatting and enjoying the fun. In a culture controlled by social media, it’s unusual to see people interacting in person so intensely and often. Spending time with family and friends is an essential part of Portuguese culture, no matter where you live.

There were no drugs discovered.

 

A Simple Smile Will Go a Long Way

In my home country, just waving at strangers on the street was considered impolite and, honestly, strange. You simply never smiled at total strangers.

However, in Portugal, I immediately began to smile at everybody and was greeted with an even warmer smile! Perhaps it’s a peculiarity of the Central Portugal area, but Portuguese people are extremely sweet and respectful. People constantly consider each other – they don’t only brush you by, but take a second to smile back.

Gesturing is also a common part of Portuguese existence, although it is not widely seen in Eastern Europe. People in Portugal, on the other hand, gesture to each other during traffic like it’s second nature – while walking across a crosswalk, approaching a crossing, parking, or somewhere else.

And if you don’t know Portuguese, the locals would gladly assist you if you make an attempt and do it with a smile. We always overlook how important a smile and some polite movements can be, but it’s a regular reminder in Portugal.

Be good to one another and respect others around you – that may be the secret to happiness.