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It’s a pleasure to give you some insight about Portugal and the Portuguese! I hope I can help you with some information regarding this small piece of land nearby the Atlantic Ocean and its people. So, let’s start with the most important thing: food!
Portuguese cuisine is mainly influenced by the mediterranean flavours, although we’ve inherit some other elements from other countries and parts of the world, such as dry cod fish from the Atlantic North, imported mainly from Norway, or the spices from India and China.
The people that live near the sea (like me) have a regular diet based on fresh fish (grilled, boiled or in stew) with vegetables and salad. Our favourites during spring and summer are the grilled sardines and horse mackerel (you really have to try the following: eating grilled sardines on top a slice of regional bread that you use like a plate. After 2 or 3 sardines, the juices get in on the slice of bread with salad – like the catalan pa amb tomàquet. After eating the fish, put some lettuce and tomato on top of it and enjoy!). Sea bass, sole or bream are other options that we really appreciate for a lunch by the sea.
In the place where I live, we have 2 main dishes that they are very typical from Setúbal. People from Lisbon and other places come during the weekend just to enjoy this flavours: grilled mullets (than you can have with a liver sauce from this delicate fish – although it’s optional, since not everybody enjoy these flavours) and fry cuttlefish – a must eat when you come to visit Setúbal.
The shellfish is other must have when you come to Portugal: prawns, small clams, mussels and large crabs are some of the most usual dishes that you can enjoy. But if really want to wild on this kind of food, I’ll tell you my favourites (promise you’ll keep a secret on this!): oysters with just a bit of lemon juice or….. Barnacles!
Up in the north of the country, you can find some other great kind of flavours: “Posta mirandesa”, an original from a place called Miranda do Douro and which consists in a large portion of high quality meat, in Oporto you can find the “francesinhas” (try goggle it, I’ll not tell you) and “tripas à moda do Porto”, made with several kinds of meat, such as the bowls and white beans.
In Alentejo, the dishes made with black pig are most wanted: you can find them by their names: lagartos, secretos or even the bochechas are some of the examples (I guess it’s quite similar to the Spanish region on other side of the border).
About our education: well, I confess I’m not the most suitable for answering this part, but I’ll give it a try. Classes normally start in September and lasts until June/July. We have 2 major steps in the compulsory school (?? – I don’t know if this one is the right word, so I’ll write it in Portuguese, which stands for “escolaridade obrigatória” – I believe your teachers will be able to figure it out ;) ). The levels are primary and secondary and they go from the first class (age of 6, normally) until the 12th grade (age of 18). Then you have a Superior degree, which is optional and has two branches: university and polytechnic.
Our major sport is of course football and my favourite football team is SL Benfica. Nevertheless, personally I’m not very fond of it. – I rather prefer surf, bodyboard, kitesurf and stand up paddle ;)
Our climate is mediterranean and very mild. In average, the temperature goes from the 4º on the rocky mountains up in the north to the 18º down south. In average, the mainland has more than 300 sunny days per year. The North part of the country is more humid and on Serra da Estrela snows every year (is snowing there nowadays, actually). On summer the Alentejo region can be extreme. Last year we had several days with temperatures reaching the 43º - believe me… It was hot!
Portugal has 10,3 million of inhabitants and the major cities are becoming more than ever a multicultural mix of different people from other cultures and nationalities. The Global Peace Index considers Portugal the third safest country in the world right behind Iceland and New Zealand. Personally, I think more than the ranking, It’s great to live in a country that has a small and distant history of violence and criminality. Of course not everything is great, and we still are struggling to get by the social inequities, fighting poverty and giving an helping hand to those who need most. But in general Portugal has managed to find it’s place in Europe and in the world and I guess it can be a very interesting place to visit and to know better.
You are more than welcome!
(By the way for more information, try visiting https://www.visitportugal.com/es )