Adjusting to life as a Portuguese expat in the UK

03.10.16
3 minute read
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One in four Portuguese people choose the UK when emigrating.

In fact they're now one of the biggest expat communities in the UK, with 350,000 thought to live in London alone.

Want to join them?

The UK and Portugal have a lot in common. We’re the world’s oldest allies after all. But there’s a few things you need to know.


Portuguese is more common than you think

Portuguese language

You’re riding the tube with your Portuguese friend and spot someone with a bad haircut. Or perhaps you fancy the person who’s just sat down opposite you.

Be careful gossiping in Portuguese if you think no one else will understand.

Portuguese is the 10th most common language in England and Wales. There are more native speakers of Portuguese here than Spanish, German and Italian.

Some Portuguese expats have discovered this the hard way – and quickly disembarked at the next station.


Switch coffee for tea

tea cup

The Portuguese are credited with bringing tea to the UK in the 17th Century. The Brits now drink rather a lot of it. 60 billion cups a year, in fact. That’s 900 per person.

If you’ve just started a new job and want your colleagues to like you then offer to make a round of tea.

Biomedical engineer Gabriela Costa has important advice.

“Make sure you add a splash of milk. Don’t pour too much in though. If you serve tea that’s too milky then your colleagues will look at you like you’ve insulted them. In a way, you have.”

This video should show you how to make tea the British way.


Everything closes early

late night bar

The UK is in the same time zone as Portugal. Technically.

You don’t need to reset your watch, but you do need to do everything earlier. The shops tend to close at 6pm. Dinner is around the same time. A ‘night’ out is really an evening out.

Brits tend to head home from the pub at midnight - and a lot of clubs will close by 2am. That’s the same time we start a night out.


Discussing football

football

Portugal is much smaller than the UK, but obviously better at football. Brits assume the only explanation is that we are all obsessed with it.

You will now be treated as an expert on football by anyone you meet at the pub. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet and know absolutely nothing.

If Cristiano Ronaldo played last night then you’ll definitely be asked for your opinion. Simply say the referee was awful and everyone will agree.


Feeling homesick?

lambeth

London even has its own ‘Little Portugal’.

Head to south Lambeth Road between Vauxhall and Stockwell stations. It’s packed with Portuguese bars, cafes and restaurants. It almost feels like you’re in Lisbon. Until it starts raining.

There’s thought to be 27,000 Portuguese people living in Lambeth.


You’ll get confused for Spanish. A lot.

spain portugal

Some Brits think Portugal and Spain are “basically the same”. Even worse - some think Portugal is inside Spain.

Let’s be clear. We love Spain. We’re just not Spain.

Brits with better geography might ask you to explain why Brazilians speak Portuguese instead. See if they can explain British colonial history afterwards.


British nationalities explained

Portugal is Portugal. That’s easy to understand. The UK is a bit more complicated.

The country’s full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It’s often shortened to Great Britain, but ‘Britain’ is just the main island. This country then has countries inside it. Also, some British islands are not part of the UK.

You would think they wrote all this down in a constitution, right? Wrong.

Just make sure you don’t confuse the Scots or Welsh with the English and you’ll be ok.


Mind your Ps and Qs.

i'm sorry

Portuguese people can be polite, while also very direct. To the Brits, that doesn’t sound polite.

They refer to manners as “Ps and Qs” for a good reason. You’ll be instantly liked in the UK if you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as much as possible.

You should keep saying ‘sorry’ too. Even when you have nothing to be sorry about. Sorry.


We need to talk about Nando’s

nandos

Brits love “a cheeky Nando’s”. They think it’s authentic Portuguese food.

That might come as a surprise to you. For a start, there are no Nando’s in Portugal. The food is great, but the company is actually South African. And the food is more Mozambican.

Don’t go there looking for bacalhau.


Don’t get ripped off sending money to Portugal.

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