I love the Portuguese - I really do. They are a wondering people who are incredible welcoming, warm and patient with all of us expats. When you ask them for directions, not only will they willingly speak in English, sometimes they will even walk you to your destination. Incredible.
However, one of the slight chinks in paradise is their love of car horns. We happen to live on quite a busy street in Ajuda/Belem, where there are cars whizzing up and down at all times of the day, but sometimes they have to stop whizzing because someone has decided to abandon their vehicle in the middle of the road. I'm not talking about people who are trying to park. No, these are people who realising that there are no parking spaces, just flick on their blinkers and get out of their cars leaving them blocking half the road. The result, not very surprisingly, is that the long line of drivers who want to get down the road get impatient and start leaning on their horns until eventually the person decides to move. I have seen whole families disembark, vans unloading huge quantities of produce, people going to get prescriptions refilled even dogs being walked while the car just quietly sits there in the road looking pleased with itself. Wha........
Finding ourselves in one of these lines up, my husband and I started out embracing our tendency towards British politeness. We would just sit there quietly, hoping that someone would come out and rescue us before we were eventually discovered as frozen fossils in our car seats. My daughter tends to be horrified when I lean on the horn as she sees it as a sign of my intolerant and impatient personality, so despite my fingers itching to get hold of the horn, I would grit my teeth and sit on my hands.
However, of course, they do say 'when in Rome' and eventually we had to join the horn culture. One evening, a car was happily parked in front of our building's garage door and we realised that we might be nibbling the car carpet for dinner if we didn't find its owner. So we gave the horn a go and found that it was remarkably effective. Within about five minutes, its owner appeared and removed his car. Yeah. It was actually quite an empowering experience, so we now blend quite well into the neighbourhood when it comes to car etiquette!!
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