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Patience in Portugal

October 10, 2009

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:31

This week while in Portugal, I was reminded of how kind and gracious the Portuguese can be. They will go to great lengths to ensure that their guests are looked after and happy. Most Americans, Europeans, or Asians will not invite business acquaintances to stay in their homes when they are traveling on business, but some Portuguese will jump at the opportunity. In the end, the guests leave feeling fortunate to have had the opportunity to strengthen a friendship and get a much closer look at life of the Portuguese.

About every part of the world offers something peculiar. I was reminded this week of the way in which the Portuguese handle the start times of meetings. Some of us are driven by Outlook, alarms on our calendars and phones, and other devices that drive our days. The Portuguese may use some of these same tools, but it is understood in much of the country that meetings usually start later than what is published. It is not openly discussed, although the locals know that 09:00 really means 09:15, 09:20, or even 09:30 or later. I suppose this system works okay if you’re familiar with it, but visitors from other countries find it baffling.

The Germans and Japanese are about precision, even when it comes to the start of meetings. In Portugal, they become nervous, anxious, and even perplexed when arriving in time for a meeting to find almost no one present. Some time later, others begin to arrive and the meeting eventually begins, with no mention of the delay. This relaxed style is the way it is in Portugal and it can take some time to fully understand and appreciate it.

In or around 2003, as I recall, the prime minister of Portugal was scheduled to make an important statement on national television. Its purpose was to announce that Portugal would adopt a new policy of eliminating delays and starting on time. I suppose the thinking was that if this would happen, less time would be wasted and the country, as a whole, would become more productive. As it turned out, he was late for the start of the broadcast.

1 Comment

  1. Glad you enjoyed Portugal, as I did. It was great to meet up with you and other old friends again.

    Your view of Portuguese timing seems about right and this is pretty much on track with many other Mediterranean countries I think. However, it should be noted that this doesn’t mean they are lazy or lack motivation in any way. In fact, we both had a chance to see just how smart and industrious they are in that country.

    It only means that they are poor timekeepers. However, one might wonder who has the better quality of life, the Germans, Japanese or Portuguese?

    Comment by IanG — October 11, 2009 @ 19:08