Moving to Lisbon: The Meta

We’ve been here a little more than a month now. Things have settled down a little, and it’s certainly more calm than the first week, but there is still a lot of friction. One of the most surprising friction points is, well, me.

I’m a pretty worldly person, and I wouldn’t have considered myself particularly superficial. Yes, I like convenience and nice things and next-day delivery – who doesn’t?

I find myself frustrated with the long delivery times for purchased goods (since we have to basically plan our week around delivery days) and not being able to find brands I know and love that are available in the states.

And then I find myself frustrated with myself. I didn’t think these things would bother me so much. I thought I was better than that and I’m incredibly disappointed to learn that I’m not. These things are so petty and stupid and I was so sure I could get over it quickly, but it’s proving more difficult than I thought.

For most things, the brands don’t matter much. Do I care if we can’t get a particular brand of toilet paper here? Of course not. But sometimes the brands do matter. I miss my regular tampons, my Arizona diet green tea, my particular brand of sports bra, etc. Some of these things are just preferences, but things like tampons and bras? They’re deeply personal and have become favorites for a reason after a lifetime of trial and error with other options.

It reminds me of when Brady was learning to scuba dive. He got so frustrated and almost gave up because it didn’t come naturally to him. He expected to put on a BCD and have it work like a stillsuit from Dune, where the instructor would be so impressed because it just came naturally to him. Well, it didn’t. It was work and it was hard for him to suppress the very human reaction to breathing underwater. He was cranky and disappointed that it didn’t work that way, and I guess that’s sort of how I feel. I knew there would be friction, but I was so sure it would all just instantly click for me emotionally here. A lot of it has, but I can’t help but feel horribly disappointed in myself for not being better. Hence the title “Meta.”

Yo dawg, I heard you like disappointment, so I put some disappointment in your disappointment. Wait, is this Docker? Did I finally get it??

I try to give myself a little grace. I hope that if it weren’t for… well… everything else (the leaks, the construction noise, the punishing heat, the pets, the weird work schedule, festa, etc) I think I’d be a little more resilient, but learning you’re not as badass as you thought you were is always going to be tough. Being unflappable is a big part of my identity, and friends, I am flapped. (Work has also been particularly difficult lately, which I’m sure isn’t helping.)

The other component is that while having a furnished apartment makes moving easier in many ways since you don’t need to hop off a plane and figure out how/where to buy things like a bed, it also makes it more difficult in some ways since you don’t get a say in the furniture, storage solutions, etc.

Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who feels huge amounts of stress if the apartment is too cluttered, so this part is pretty challenging for me. Again, I wish I could be a little more “go with the flow” about stuff like this. It’s stupid that my mental state and mood are dependent upon whether or not the house is a mess, but it’s been that way for years and I can’t fix it. I don’t care that I don’t like the aesthetics of the furniture – it’s that the furniture is dumb and isn’t optimized for storing things, so everything (dog leashes, etc) is just sort of out on top of tables and it drives me mad. I’m looking for solutions for these things, but then we get back into delivery hell and how many mounting screw holes I want to put into the walls of a place I don’t own.

There’s a ton I feel great about. We make new friends nearly every day here, and our Portuguese is getting better every day as well. We’re getting to know more of our local shopkeepers and cafe owners (now that festa is over and many of them are open again) who are all just lovely and challenge us (deliberately) every day to improve. We are now at the point where we can have entire (albeit simple) interactions with folks and never have to drop down into English, which always feels amazing.

I have read a lot of pieces by folks who have moved here and have said that the Portuguese people aren’t that friendly, and I have no idea what those people were smoking. Nearly every interaction we’ve had here, big and small, has been lovely. People may come off a little aloof, but two sentences in, they’re offering to let you borrow their car. Almost everyone we’ve met has been genuinely warm, patient and sincere and I am so grateful for that. This would all be so much harder if not for the Portuguese people.

Até breve,
Alison (aka “snipe”)

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1 Comment

  • patricia
    September 15, 2023 at 7:36 pm

    Thoroughly enjoying your litanies, your honesty and humor. Couldn’t agree more! Can’t wait to do likewise once I’m in residence on Madeira.


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