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First Impressions – Portugal

First Impressions – Portugal

March 4, 2019 7:47 pmComments are Disabled

It’s incredible how quickly first impressions of a place take hold. It takes a lot of work to undo them.

Take Portugal–my first day here. Landing at the airport, looking out the window, there was debris on the tarmac: rusted over equipment, tires, very old-looking construction dozers. It was a surprising thing to see on the runway as the plane was landing. The Lisbon airport was not what I expected, having just landed in a rich Eurozone country. The terminal was more or less one large, loud, busy hall with a din of travelers seemingly piled on top of each other. Within thirty minutes of settling into my seat at a cafe, (I was waiting for a friend to arrive) I was hit up for change by beggars, which hasn’t happened to me in an airport in years (let alone in a European airport).

The subway trains to the train station were even older and more rundown than New York City subway trains, which was surprising. The train station itself, Lisboa Oriente, on the interior at least, is an eyesore in the brutalist, concrete-everything-is-modern style. When the train finally arrived to Porto, it looked old enough to have been around during the Age of Discovery. I was waiting for it to fall apart at the rivets.

No, Portugal isn’t a run-down country that has seen better days. But at least major components of its public infrastructure certainly have. This may not be surprising given the sorry state of Portugal’s finances which have caused much anxiety in the Eurozone.

I imagine my first impressions of Portugal were much like what many people must feel when they first come to New York: our airports are ancient, we don’t have basic airport-to-city transportation infrastructure, and you’re in a zoo from the moment you make it to the passport line, let alone baggage claim.

The point being, I would hate for people to judge the United States for our arrival experience. And I am only calling out my own arrival experience in Portugal because I know, from having been through this song and dance many times before, that my first impressions of a country are almost always wrong. And for that I am thankful.

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