I came to Portugal in January 2020 as a student to do an internship with Prismaat at the end of my studies. In the time I was there, I got to see the local culture and experience what it means to live and work in Portugal.
I did not speak any Portuguese when I arrived. Despite this, I found everyone to be very nice and courteous, whenever I encountered people who did not speak English, they made strong efforts to still communicate with me. It is this openness, that helped me feel comfortable abroad. Every person I encountered was kind and polite. Portuguese people have a calmness to them that transfers to foreigners too, which makes interactions very friendly and heartfelt. In general, people are tranquil and direct but subtext and unspoken communication is still essential. I found it best to approach people with respect and kindness and to adapt to the reactions of those I spoke to. Another thing I discovered quickly, is that Portuguese people have a great sense of humor and it is this trait, which I like the most.
Unfortunately, my internship in Portugal was cut short due to the Corona pandemic, but I still managed to see quite a few places. Most of my time was spent in Braga, where I lived for a few months. The city has a very charming old town and active city center, but if you prefer nature, there is also plenty to see here. Surrounded by hills and forests, Braga is very appealing. Just a bit outside of the city, in the forests there are the sanctuaries of Sameiro and Bom Jesus which are very pretty to behold.
Then there is Porto, which is only an hour away from Braga and it is astonishing. Complete with a huge river and plenty of bridges to cross it, as well as very curvy and nice streets, Porto is one of the prettiest cities in western Europe and definitely recommendable.
In the short time I was there, I also saw Braga’s neighboring city of Guimarães. It is similar to Braga, albeit a bit smaller but with historic buildings all over the city and a viewpoint up in the hills from where you can see the whole city. It is a worthwhile trip, just to see the sights in a day. For those interested in the commercial aspects, the town harbors a shopping mall close to the bus station too.
Spain is Portugal’s only neighbor and naturally, a lot of exchange occurs between the two. Not only do the countries trade a lot but people cross the border freely all the time. It is not uncommon to encounter Spanish people in Portugal who are there to visit or work. I shared an apartment exclusively with Spanish who had come to do their internships abroad like me. It is no problem for people in Portugal and Spain alike to visit the other country, mainly because of the proximity. This makes short trips to Spain very viable. Braga is very close to the northern border and with the bus, it takes only a few hours to get to the Galician region of Spain, which is also very nice to see. Santiago de Compostela is the largest town there and it shows. The city has a very intact city center, like the Portuguese towns do, but the style is different.
Although I only stayed a few months, I had the opportunity to get to know this great country which I have learned to appreciate. In the future, I will definitely return to get some more impressions.