It is important to note that the Portuguese are extremely helpful and respectful towards foreigners. Obviously, if an American or English person or other foreigner spoke to them badly or rudely a Portuguese person would reply in kind. But in many cases the Portuguese are far nicer to foreigners and more helpful to them than they are to many of their own people.
Here’s a story to illustrate the point. We have a bridge here that goes over the river that is like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco except that it’s about 2 meters longer. An American company contracted to build it. At the time our president was Antonio de Olveira Salazar, who said, “I would like you to do this so that one day they’ll be able to put a railway line underneath it.” That day came about 15 years ago when they put the railway underneath. Many of the same people that did the original construction came here and I was going around with a lot of them looking for accommodations. Many of the Americans were a little bit surprised because they kept saying (about the country in general), “This isn’t like America.” And I said, “Well, it’s not America but if I could offer some advice it would be to find something to like.” I’ve lived in quite a few countries and I think it’s so important from the minute you arrive to find something to like—bottle of wine, a person, a place.
(Antonio de Olveira Salazar in 1940, Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968, pictured.)
A couple of months later, one of the people I offered this advice to called me and said, “Caroline, I was riding my bicycle and had an accident. This Portuguese couple stopped and took me to a hospital. The man took my bicycle to have it fixed and the woman called me every day to ask me how I was recovering. And the only thing I could think of was to phone Caroline to say thank you I found something to like.”
There’s a lot more English spoken here now than there was several years ago. If a Portuguese person doesn’t speak English well, they will still try. And most of the people now speak English so they are very, very nice to all foreigners.