Being an EVS volunteer each day you may encounter not just with a work challenges, but also “country” challenges. So today let’s see some of the cultural challenges, you may encounter.
I come from an Easter Europe country where people are a little bit more conservative and more closed. Well, Portugal is totally opposite. Here people like to touch you, invade your personal space and of course kiss you while saying hello, what is not something so usual for me. I don’t mind changes and I got ok with it, but of course I had some funny moments.
It was my first days in Portugal and I was just learning how to say or probably “do” the proper Hello in Portuguese, when somehow I mixed sides. Maybe because I am lefty and I do everything backwards, or because of some other reasons, but I leaned to the wrong side. When I realized it was a wrong cheek, I instantly tried so change sides, the person also got confused, and as I had in my head like a little tutorial singing how to say hello – cheek, kiss, cheek, kiss – I was already in the part of kiss, when I decided to change directions… So what can I say, I just gave a very warm Portuguese welcome. Of course both of us felt very embarrassed, but it is life, anything can happen!
Other thing that I had to get used to was different climate. I come from a pretty cold country, but it’s only cold outside. Despite the fact that outside might be -20 degrees inside will always be +20 or even more. Winters in Portugal without central heating system are a huge difference but then you spend more time with others and heat just one room and stay in the house with more sweaters and winter pants. However, the climate for me is extreme not only in winters. I am used to not that great temperature differences, but here people feel OK with +35 in the day and less than 20 in the night. For my Lithuanian body it’s too much, so I am always wearing a sweater when others are with t-shirts and I already got used to be called a girl from Angola, because I am always cold in Portugal!
One way or another, EVS is an experience with lots of different challenges. They arise every day and in a lot of situations. You may try to hide or run away, or you can just deal with them with your head up high. EVS is a school of life, so try to take as much from it as you can!