Some countries embrace change, some embrace tradition. Portugal falls in the second category. Family comes first, followed by football as second and everything else third. Old people are respected for their experience. Young people are launched on a track that others have walked before. Every step you take is strictly monitored by family members and turning down their inevitable advice is not something you do without thinking twice.
Growing up in Portual will lead you through a number of phases. Beside the first school day, completing secondary school and potentially pursuing university studies, the Catholic Church also has some special days to add. Baptise at an early age, First Communion in the early teenage years and Confirmation as a proof of reaching adulthood. At each of these occasions, you will be assigned a new set of Godparents, which is only one of the proofs that the family is very important in Portuguese life.
`Studying is a way of honouring your parents`
In recent years, more and more young people have access to university. While the Swedes can hardly hold their patience to leave the house, the Portuguese do not often use studies as their excuse to live on their own for the first time. They will for sure when they have to move to another city to study, but many of those who have the chance to study in their home town will do so. And those are quite likely to stay with their parents.
More often than not do the parents also finance the studies of their offspring, whether on credit or by donation. Helena (29, photo) explains that studying is a way of honouring your parents. During social gatherings, parents will talk at length about their children being in university, even though a university degree in Portugal is by no means a guarantee for finding a suitable position afterwards.
When it comes to distributing jobs, it is once again the family that influences the process. Having the right uncle in the right place is likely to be of more help than writing the most wonderful application letters. Becoming a doctor seems to be the best bet at present. Teachers and psychologists, on the contrary, will have a hard time finding employment at the level of their qualifications.
`One alternative option is always to go to Spain`, says Alexandra (28),`everything is a little easier there: easier to study, easier to find a job, easier to earn more money`. Many Portuguese work in the Spanish construction industry, or do But Portuguese people are not very fond of the Spanish, not very fond of leaving their family and not very fond of having to build up an entire new network of contacts from scratch. Opening a small shop would in that case be a more accessible alternative.
Salary, which is in many countries considered a taboo, is a common subject of discussion among people. Friends will know each others salaries, if not directly from one another, then by a third person acting as an informant. The information is used for the evaluation of one`s own salary, and undoubtedly, as a measure of success and status. A decent starting salary for somebody leaving university would be 800 euros per month.
The age of thirty seems rather crucial. Those who have not yet left their parents` house for either work or study purposes will now be expected to marry and create their own family. Children are supposed to enter the stage soon after the wedding and it is widely appreciated if they are numerous. Homosexuality, although quite fashionable among the younger generation, will not be appreciated by older generations, who claim that it undermines the family and thereby the basis of society.
In the years after 35, the main purpose is to consolidate earlier acquisitions and, if possible, gradually expand them. Beside food and housing, a major chunk of expenses are likely to be sacrificed to raising the children. Any superfluous budget will be spent on clothes and a car for the ones who make a decent living, on holidays and possibly a boat for the richer people.
Competition at work may be stiff, and not everybody is talking positive about others. The middle ranges of management suffer most, with envy being the most common sentiment in the relation between colleagues. Some are said to enjoy preferential treatment or to be promoted without any merits. Some people just obviously and blatantly waste everybody`s time until they are ready to start receiving a pension. Being invisible in a Portuguese company can still give you access to life-time employment, as long as you present yourself as a useful contributor to the company.
Caring for the elderly
Several decades after the birth of the new generation, it`s the older generation that will require assistance. When granddad and, more often, grandma are no longer able to live on their own, they will move in with one of their children. This procedure is considered a returned favour: parents take care of their children, later it`s the children who take care of the parents. After moving in, grandmother usually spends here time cooking, cleaning or providing advice to the younger members of the family. Grandfather`s role is likely to be restricted to the purely advisory role of family`s oldest.
For those who wish to grow old in a little more privacy, Portugal also has homes for the elderly. For poor people, living in such accommodation may be a nightmare. For those who saved up some decent money, five-star elderly homes are gaining popularity. In the meantime, the best way to assure yourself of a decent old day, the recipe that is most likely to lead to satisfactory results is to produce a few babies in your early 30s.
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