What time is it ?

One of the things that I love most about our new life here in central Portugal is that there is a whole different regard for time.

Time is  a perfect metaphor to describe the one of the differences between northern and southern Europeans.
One of the reasons that I called this blog “Sinking into Portugal” was that as we live here longer we are adapting more and more to the Portuguese culture and our attitude to time is one of those things that is is evidently changing.

Having had a previous existence in the corporate world where thinking on your feet, reacting quickly and meeting deadlines were to be rewarded.  We are now in a new phase of life here which has taught me that there is an equally viable  “other way”.

During a recent planning meeting –

planning meeting

I was thinking about how my attitude to time has changed. Having previously always been out of time, running to catch up and never having enough time I have moved to a place in my life where I now have plenty of time.

I make time for a coffee with a friend and if the owner of the shop wants to talk for a couple of minutes that’s fine I can make time. If I see people leaning into a car for a chat while blocking the whole road and bringing traffic to a standstill that’s OK.
I give them three minutes before gently beeping my car horn. I do this not because I have nothing better to do but because I know most people regard greeting each other here as being very important and also because if I happen to see a colleague or a friend I can do the same without feeling rushed.

There are some occasions when wasting time is very frustrating. Going to the doctors for instance when everyone has to be there for a certain time and then you wait and wait and wait not knowing when you will be seen or what is happening. I have witnessed many a foreigner get hot under the collar with the occasional person storming out of the waiting room in a huff.
This is a tricky one I agree especially if your Portuguese is not too good and you don’t understand how the system works.

I told myself when I first came out here that I f I found myself getting frustrated. It was my fault. I should tackle things differently.
There are ways to overcome such frustrations. You could write to the doctor in advance explaining why you cant wait and would it be possible to be seen at the end of their working period or you could go to a private clinic.
Asking the health centers receptionist to be seen early probably will not help as they have no authority to do anything and they will be no doubt constantly being asked by relatives and friends for the same favor.

A Portuguese friend told me a long time ago that the Portuguese attitude to time often frustrated him and that the Portuguese had an “on the knee” attitude to time.
When I asked him what he meant he said “take the scenario where a Portuguese man is going to be executed and the only thing that will save him is to sign a document. He will sign it in front of the firing squad at the very last minute resting the paper on his knee”

I don’t think that I have sunk into Portugal that far yet….

The upside of this changed view of time is that its far less stressful. if you are running a little late, just phone ahead and everything will be OK.

A delivery man who says that he will be there at 3pm actually means in the hour of 3pm – 4pm so go with the flow and enjoy the sunshine.