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So You Want to Move to...Portugal?


An increasing number of my fans have been asking me if they should consider retirement in Portugal.

Of course, I can’t answer. I haven’t lived in Portugal (except for visits that last a maximum of a week or two) for 33 years. I was never an adult in Portugal (legal adult, sure, but there’s a difference between a college student and actual independent, autonomous adult). And more importantly, I have never lived in Portugal as it is now. Every time I’ve gone back since Portugal joined the EEC, I find something else has changed. Sure, there are supermarkets and things are easier to obtain, and the highway system is a boon for anyone who needs to travel cross country.  On the other hand, there is the “sanitization” and “commodification” of Portugal which annoys me.

The “sanitization” involves bringing life in Portugal up to the standards of hygiene and such of the EU.  Which would be great if the entity that legislated the curvature of bananas were more flexible and less prescriptive.

I find there was very little need, for instance, to make the festas “religious festivals only.”  They left the masses and the processions, and the fireworks, but completely removed the… well, festa part.  Yeah, I’m sure the mechanized rides, from the little airplanes to the Ferris wheels, were unsafe.  If my memories of childhood serve, they were probably bought from retired rides from the U.S.  And we heard often enough of fatal accidents in one.  Okay, every ten years or so, but…

I suspect something could have been done under the heading of making them safer that didn’t involve banning them altogether.

And yes, I imagine the makers and sellers of comestibles, not to mention the makers and sellers of toys cut out of wood or rolled in clay that had been made and sold since the Middle Ages, probably did those at home and it involved some unsafe practices, or at least the inability to police them.

But you know, they didn’t kill me, or my grandparents or my gggggg-grandparents, so maybe the EC needs to take a breath and stop sticking its big German nose where it doesn’t belong.

Never mind.  And never mind the redware too, which had some infinitesimal bit of lead, I’m sure, but which at least didn’t scratch when used, which their new safe replacement does.

In the same way, there has been commodification.  That is, the country is turning itself inside out to become a touristic destination and to appeal to tourists, as it understands them. Which is… interesting to watch.  Yay on cleaning up the medieval part of Porto, which in my student days was a haunt of prostitutes, pickpockets, and other marginal elements, and making it a showplace. Boo on deciding that tourists like one type of pastry (pasteis de nata) and doing away with the endless variety of actual pastries that I remember.  I tried to find a pastry shop like the ones I used to haunt, but they were all gone.