salted cod portugal

Lost in Translation: Embracing Portugal, Missing America

There were many things I had to adjust to in moving to Portugal. Some were easy and expected. Others were quite difficult and surprising. Some of the easy adjustments were things like the smell of fish and cheese in the grocery store, living in an apartment building, and having the grocery store within walking distance. These changes weren’t necessarily good or bad, exciting or nerve-racking. They were just simple things that were different from what I was used to. They were the ones that didn’t take long to feel normal. The first time I went to the grocery store, everything smelled funny. You could smell all the seafood and cheese, and it wasn’t a pleasant smell. But not long after, I could go to the store and not even realize the smell was there. Living in an apartment wasn’t a bad change either, but it was certainly different. I grew up in a house with big front and backyards. I could go outside without having to make aware I was doing so. Here, I can’t just leave without permission. There’s a lot of people in our apartment buildings, and there’s a road close to the buildings, so it’s good to have caution. Another super beneficial change is having the grocery store so close to home. My brother and I have run to the store for our parents multiple times, since there’s no need to drive!

Among these natural changes, there were difficult changes such as leaving friends and family behind, not being able to attend big American celebrations. And not having the liberty of being able to speak without having to think through every bit of what you want to say. Leaving my friends and family was hard. I knew I would have to leave and say goodbye at some point, but when the time came, I wasn’t prepared. It was an unbelievable sadness. However, I have been able to make new friends here, who have come to be family to me. One thing I didn’t really think about was missing out on American holidays. The people of Portugal, of course, celebrate things like Christmas and Easter, but not the American holidays. There’s no Thanksgiving or July 4th. Whenever July comes around, I begin to miss the States. I miss seeing American flags and going to watch fireworks. I do have friends I celebrate it with, and as much I enjoy their company, it isn’t the same. Being able to speak English is also a great privilege. Whenever I hear English, I smile to myself. The thing I miss most about it, though, is having sermons at church in English. I understand enough Portuguese that I can get the general idea of the message, but I want to understand it deeply. I guess this is a reminder that I need to keep working on my Portuguese.

Even though moving here has proven to have both easy and difficult changes, it has been a great experience. I love the weather and the people are so welcoming. As much as I miss America, I have a great love for Portugal as well.

Alaithia Wears
Alaithia Wears

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