What time is it, anyway?

“My formula for living is quite simple.  I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.  In between, I occupy myself as best I can” Cary Grant

I have been enjoying the blog ‘Moving to Portugal’, and a recent post got me chuckling. The author mentioned ‘avoiding the hordes’ and ‘the battle’ that is trying to get people to speak to you  in Portuguese once it is the ‘tourist season’. (click here to link to this excellent blog).

We have our own “mini-battle” here too, a game I call ‘What’s the time?’. In Portugal you have three ways to say ‘hello’ – ‘bom dia’ in the morning; ‘boa tarde’ in the afternoon and ‘boa noite’ at night. Simple you might think? Well the fun starts at changeover time… when exactly is ‘afternoon’? You see respected wisdom told us that you change at midday… and then others tell us that it depends whether someone has had their lunch or not… so someone will say ‘bom dia’ to you until they have had their sardines!? And as I have made it a ‘rule’ never to wear a watch again since we moved out here, I have no chance of keeping an eye on the magic midday anyway… so the guessing game will continue…

And then the real fun comes in the evening… is it dark enough for ‘boa noite’ yet? It’s confusing at the moment because it’s so light in the evenings… we walked down into the square the other evening and it was about quarter to nine.. ‘almost’ dark… so when I walked past one of the local old men I said ‘boa noite’ … he gives me a wry smile (so I already know I’ve got it wrong… again!) and said ‘boa tarde’ with a big smile…. that’ll be 0-1 to the locals then!

The other strange thing is that if it ever gets dark enough round here to say ‘good night’ to someone you have just seen… in England you would say ‘good night’ as you leave somewhere or say ‘goodbye’ to someone … so saying it as a form of greeting is a bit weird at first! 

According to Bill Drake in his book ‘Cultural Dimensions of Expatriate life in Portugal’ we should be entering the second phase of culture shock called ‘dis-integration’ – which apparently follows the first ‘honeymoon’ stage of  a new culture and country; and phase two should be ‘characterized by an accelerating sense of discomfort’. Erm… well nope, can’t say I’ve noticed that one! However there might be something in it, if we could just change the name of phase two to ‘disintegration’ in the ‘fall apart, collapse, wear out’ sense of the word – but that’s not us – that’s all our appliances! In the last 2-3 weeks we’ve managed to have all of the following things wear out or stop working on us: the microwave oven; the George Forman Grill (which didn’t make it past round six!); the orange juice presser thing; the much better half’s power drill (a bit essential for us with all the DIY we’ve been doing); the updated Skype programme (essential!) (we downgraded the update and it’s fine again now) and much to husband’s consternation and horror – and the final straw- the espresso coffee machine (he is SO grumpy without his beloved coffee in the morning!)

Add to all of that the fact that the plumber’s brilliant work in our basement to set up the washing machine and sink was slightly marred by the discovery a week later that the manhole cover and drain in the corner didn’t actually connect to anything ,… it’s amazing how much water a washing machine can churn out onto the basement floor! So we’ve had to have part of the drive dug up… I can feel an drastic emptying of our bank account as we speak!

But we are still smiling – how can we not smile with such amazing sunny weather – and enjoying life here so much – sorry Mr Drake I can’t see us hitting phase two anytime soon – and I have also been able to start painting again. It was a bit scary after about six months complete paint brush inactivity – but here’s the result of being brave and getting stuck in there again:

Ready to Launch 2011

So we shall continue to sort out all the appliances and electric gadgets; I am hoping that the painting above is going to turn into a series of paintings on a similar theme; and I shall no doubt continue to be thwarted by the locals every evening – but I guess it must be ‘boa tarde’ somewhere in the world right now?

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11 Responses to What time is it, anyway?

  1. Ben says:

    Hi there,

    Thank you very much for the mention 🙂

  2. Ben says:

    That’s a lot of appliances, are you sure your kitchen electrics are OK? Maybe switch to a different brand of plug converters!

    • ferragudofan says:

      ah yes if only that were the answer – but most of these items were Portuguese anyway! just all came to the end of their natural life at the same time I guess.
      PS – didn’t have them all plugged in and running at the same time!! 😉

  3. fatima says:

    It’s always a bit of a trouble to try to explain my portuguese students the use of good evening and good night. They usually get the feeling english speakers are making simple things difficult without need ;D funny isn’t it?

    • ferragudofan says:

      yes it’s fun though – I got caught out again last night with my ‘boa noite’ – too early again! my tongue is however firmly in my cheek on this post as I love trying to converse in Portuguese – albeit badly!

  4. Joana says:

    Actually “bom dia”, “boa tarde” e “boa noite” is sometimes confusing even for portuguese people! We often joke about it! My rule is “boa noite” after 8 o’clock, but is so sunny in the summer at this hour that I always second guess myself…Same thing for “boa tarde”, but I usualy use it after lunch. Just say what you feel like, since everyone has his own rules!

    Good luck!

    • ferragudofan says:

      thanks for your post! yes I think I shall just have to ‘roll with it’ and make it up as I go along! It’s so nice to have people respond to you just walking past them though . And it’s nice to hear the Portuguese people can be confused too! 😉

  5. sami veloso says:

    Beautiful painting, and good luck with the language, it´s not an easy language to learn.

  6. Tracey Hand says:

    I’ve noticed it too. I’d started using “boa tarde” after ‘noon’ but now I tend to guage by how close to lunch it is and whether who I’m talking to is likely to have had theirs LOL
    This often means I’m still being addressed with “bom dia” up to 1-2pm but hey, let’s roll with it, eh?
    Only just come across your blog while doing a google search for fellow expat Algarve bloggers. I’m off to catch up on old posts now 🙂

  7. Pingback: L is for Learning Portuguese – and English! | Algarve Blog

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