03/09 2018 A practical guide to survive in Porto
Porto, locally defined as o Porto (that is because names who originate from common nouns are always accompanied by a definite article in Portuguese) is a city in the North of Portugal, with a rather medium size, which for some years now has turned into the focal point of tourists from around the world.
The city’s specificity lies in its calm atmosphere, different from that of the Portuguese capital. The steady paced rhythm, the rituals, and the small courtesy gestures of the locals are the ingredients which make this place one of a kind. For those who do not wish to disturb its biological rhythm and want to discover it, Portuguese style, here’s a list of what we believe to be some useful tips in this sense.
Be advised, however, that this article does not contain touristy information, but rather pieces of advice for a successful intercultural dialogue.
1. You can buy metro cards from the vending machines in all metro stations. Make sure to validate your card before heading for the train. Otherwise, you risk getting one hell of a fine, with the colossal shame of what seemed to be a promising getaway on the side.
2. Metro cards are rechargeable, therefore if you want to continue to use the metro just add a few extra rides. If you don’t know the area you’re travelling to, don’t worry. On the right side of the vending machine you will find the list of all the metro stations and the areas they belong to in alphabetical order.
3. You can buy your bus tickets from the driver. Note that you can only get on the bus through the front door. Always wait in line, don’t barge in, otherwise you risk being scolded by everyone around you.
4. In each station you will find a schedule and, in some cases, even a map with the bus itinerary.
5. Before crossing the street, press the green button at the green light. Wait until the green light is switched on and only then cross over. It’s best to avoid crossing the street in areas which are not marked.
6. Avoid talking to much on the phone on the streets. If the situation dictates that you answer your phone, do lower the tone of your voice. You will hardly ever see any Portuguese talking on the phone on the streets of Porto, let alone loud enough for everybody else to hear.
7. Choose comfortable footwear, which isn’t slippery. As every sightseeing trip means constantly walking up and down on cubicle stone, it’s best to leave your heels or fabulous but uncomfortable shoes at home if you want to survive your stay in the city.
8. The typical Portuguese culinary experiences are, by no means, to be found in the busy touristy streets. Choose instead places farther from the city centre. In the weekend you will recognize them by the Portuguese families which populate the places, whose generations extend from the youngest to the oldest. During the week, the best hint we can drop is the blackboards with Prato do dia written on them.
9. Portions are big, almost too big, including those titled meia dose (half a portion). If you choose a main course with meat, it comes with a side dish: fries, rice and salad. In case you don’t/can’t finish your meal, you can always take the rest to leave.
10. Eating at the right hour, small talk and sitting at the table are fundamental aspects in Portuguese culture. So, don’t eat on the go if you don’t want to be seen as an alien. Take a seat, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.
11. Don’t forget to leave a small tip for the service. This custom is quite different from how we do it in Romania. The maximum amount accepted in typical restaurants is about 2 euros for exceptional service.
12. Sundays are problematic because most small restaurants are usually closed. You will find a table in any big restaurant, which serve on the menu, as opposed to the regular prato do dia (the day’s dish).
13. The end of the week is dedicated to relaxation. On Sundays, until lunchtime, you won’t get to see to much chaos on the streets. Many people usually go to church in the first part of the day, which should come as no surprise since Portugal is a catholic country by definition. Lunchtime is always spent with the family, usually at the restaurant. Evenings continue in the same tone of calmness and with the family. Therefore, keep the sound low.
14. The elderly play a vital role in Portuguese society and are treated with respect, especially in the North part of Portugal. It is considered extremely rude not to help an elderly person in need or not to render them priority.
Rules which apply in Porto are perfectly valid for the rest of the Portuguese territory. So don’t shy away from noticing the local customs and adapt your behaviour as a sign of respect for the city, even for a few days.