Muy Similar

“Otra lingua!” I cried to my landlords, as I shared that we were taking a weekend trip to Southern Portugal. “Lingua, lingua! No mas.”

My landlord told me not to worry. Portuguese, he explained is “Muy Similar” to Spanish.

And, I suppose he was right. That is, as long as I elected not to speak. In print, the languages are brothers. Playa, for example is praia in Portuguese. (And beach in English).

However. When you hear Portuguese, it is a odd smashing of French, Spanish, and German. And when I attempted to speak it, the locals answered in….English.

It was the darndest thing.

At a gathering Saturday night, a Portuguese man explained that because Southern Portugal has so many British tourists, and because English films are not dubbed, most people in the region speak English in addition to Portuguese.

“They don’t do that in Spain,” I said.

He snorted. “No. They don’t do that in Spain,” he agreed. “And maybe they have the right idea.” He went on to explain that some English speakers live in Portugal for fifteen or twenty years, and never learn Portuguese.

“It’s a little rude,” I said.

He agreed, and added, “But we make it really easy for them.” He paused.”Maybe Spain has the right idea.”

Maybe. But I’ll admit it. It was really, really nice to not have to think in Spanish. To have conversations that required neither drawings, sound effects, or hand puppets. To merely be the American, as opposed to the American who speaks like Dora the Explorer.

And there were other things that I adored. Tomato-red seafood soup, with a spicy zing. Bright yellow shutters. And, of course, all of this:


I guess, like my landlord, I assumed that Portugal would be a slightly more western version of Spain. Muy similar. But it’s not. It’s a whole world, with its own unique face.

My first country outside of Spain in this European adventure. And I’m yearning for more.

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