October 13, 2013, by Guest blog

My intial impressions of the Algarve have already completely changed

Post written by Sophie Gorvett

It was my first time to Portugal and I didn’t quite know what to expect. Having organised my work experience in the Algarve I was quite nervous about turning up and it would be a British haven in the south of Portugal but so far I have been pleasantly surprised. The plane landed at 21.30 so by the time we had found our rental car, got the sat-nav on and began the drive up the coast it was dark and I simply could not get my bearings. The surroundings seemed barron and run down; a mixture of grand white wash houses and little shacks lined the road up towards Quinta de Lago and I was not quite sure what all the hype was about.

We arrived at our hotel, my home for 2 nights and my worst nightmares were made reality with a multitude of Irish pubs and English tourists! A sudden rush of nerves came over me as I thought ‘How on earth am I going to be able to learn ANY Portuguese here!’

The next two days were spend exploring the coast and orientating myself, still with this worry at the back of my mind however over the next month my initial impressions of the Algarve have been completely changed.

Although Bev, the owner of Pinetrees, is originally from Britain, she has lived there her whole life and employs Portuguese workers to maintain an authentic atmosphere. From day one, she did her best to throw me in at the deep end! The tea break on the first day was a whirlwind of regional accents and quick firing questions-(I thank Erica for her machine gun-like question preparation from first and second year which definitely got me through it!). From then on, I have built confidence with all the Portuguese people who work with me and those with whom I come into contact with on a day to day basis. I feel now like I can understand everything people say, it just takes me a little longer to respond! The Portuguese as a whole have come across as very kind and genuine people who will go out of their way to help me with my language quest!

Even though the Algarve is traditionally an English place due to the tourism, there continues to be a huge Portuguese presence especially in the older and more traditional towns such as Almancil.  Once you look a little further into the looking glass past the holiday homes, you find the real Portugal with traditional houses and delicious local family run cafes. Politics and local elections are important within the local community and I have been lucky to see a lot of the campaigning for the 2013 September elections which helped me better understand the people of this region.

I have seen that no matter where you go in a country, there will still be locals shocked that you are learning their language and happy to practice with you. People will welcome you in and encourage you to immerse yourself in their customs with food and experiences, such as Pasteis de Nata, Bacalhau and street parties. And I have found if you take them up on these offers, you will improve no end and have many mini adventures.

***This placement is working with horses, both helping with lessons and treks and also therapeutic riding for the disabled. I am living onsite with the other people who work there.

Posted in First impressions