on 3:23 pm

Happy holidays to all my faithful readers! (which, currently, are a total of 0)

The tradition here in Portugal dictates that we eat boiled cod, potatoes, and cabbage for Christmas. Yummy (who am I kidding, it’s actually pretty tasty)

Dessert is “Bolo Rei” (literally king cake), and a variation of fried bread with sugar and cinnamon.

Quite different from what I used to eat in Canada…

And don’t forget to drive safe!

In a pickle in Portugal?

on 1:00 pm

As you may or may not know, I have a degree in Law from a prominent Portuguese university, and am currently practising, so if you wish feel free to ask me any questions you may have concerning the Portuguese legal system or Portuguese law.

Of course, any and all information given is not legally binding, nor constitutes any sort of legal advice, only legal information. In no event shall I be liable for lost profits or any special, incidental, or consequential damages arising out of or in connection with this information, and any information is provided on an “as is” basis.  I make no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information. Absolutely nothing beats speaking with an attorney face to face, but at least you will have an idea of what you will be dealing with.

I am bound by professional confidentiality, and registered with the National Bar Association, therefore no personal or case information will ever be revealed, but I do plan on putting any questions and their corresponding answers here (though in an abbreviated format with all particulars removed), in order to help anyone that finds their self in a similar situation.

I will reply best I can, and I assure you that that I will respond to every email (even if it is to say “I don’t have the faintest idea”, or “Good question”).

You may ask why I am doing this. First, to practise my English, since I’m getting a bit rusty due to lack of use. Second, to help foreigners that may visit Portugal and find themselves needing legal information or clarification. Dealing with lawyers in a foreign country is always very problematic, especially since you rarely dominate the language nor are familiar with the laws, therefore I believe that it is always best to approach one as best informed as possible.

Here are some very useful links related to Portuguese Law (all sites in Portuguese);
The Portuguese Case Law database - contains case law of all Portuguese appellate courts,
Juris - National and international law related news,
The site of the Public Prosecutor, Lisbon district - has practically all current Portuguese legislation.

I can't feel my toes.

on 4:23 pm

In line with current Summit on climate change in Copenhagen, it appears that in the next few days a cold spell is going to pass through Portugal, and temperatures are expected to drop below zero! With next Monday being one of the coldest days of the year. This motivated a communiqué from Civil Protection, warning residents to be careful with ice formation on roads.

This reminds me of how blessed we (residents in Portugal) are with the weather here.

Since about 90% of national territory has no snowfall, and therefore there is no need to salt the roads. For this reason you see cars without a spot of rust, and many 30 and 40 year old cars in pristine condition on the roads. During the day, when it’s sunny out, you can actually hang outside with friends, or take a walk downtown without worrying about frostbite. No ice or snow on the roads theoretically means fewer accidents (Portugal, despite having little to no snow, is one of the most accident prone countries in Europe). Energy bills are much lower since heaters are not needed (I actually have my windows open while typing this, it’s about 18C now).

The other side of the coin is that people here don’t know what they’re missing by not having snow. Making snowmen and snow angles, tobogganing, snow fights, soaked snow pants and snow days are all fond memories of Canadian children. Sure you'd throw out your back shovelling snow, see your car rust away to nothing due to salt, rarely savour sunshine, and lose a finger or two to sub-zero temperatures, but all that is a small price to pay for the sight of a magical white blanket of cold fluff covering everything in the morning after a snowstorm, and all that’s associated with it.

On the issue of climate change; what can I say? I truly hope something is done, since it is an issue that affects us all.

But I doubt that the developing countries are willing to abdicate their own economic development in order to benefit the climate. After all, the current industrialized countries were able to expand and develop without any checks or limits with regards to CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions, so why should currently developing countries be subject to limitations? Equal opportunities and all that... Well, let’s see what happens.

Anyhow, don’t forget to bundle up!

In a .......

on 12:33 am

In short, I was born and raised in a small town in south-western Ontario, Canada. My parents are Portuguese immigrants that moved in to Canada in order to provide a better living for their children, and they were, on the whole, successful.

I had a completely typical childhood (and by typical I mean carefree and with few responsibilities, with all my time spent playing with friends... good times...). I did denote some mildly racist behaviour, though rare, toward myself and my parents, due to being the son of immigrants and immigrants, respectively, but I believe it was mainly ignorance. At the time many people didn't really know where Portugal was (some said it was somewhere in the Middle East, other in South America), and were therefore somewhat mistrusting of us. Fortunately this was quite rare, most embraced the diferences.

I was always a huge nerd. I love all things electronic; computers, gadgets, smart phones, etc. I have had a computer and been on-line since a very young age. I spent, and spend, hours reading about the Napoleonic war, or World War II, or Cold War cover-ups. History fascinates me much more than fiction for some reason. For me nothing was better than curling up over the heat register with a blanket (creating a pocket of heated air, usually baking me alive) and reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" while it was snowing outside. It was actually quite immersive, reading about the Russian winter of 1941 while the wind and snow was howling outside.

My teens were also quite normal. Like most students of my age, I had a part-time job during the school year and a full-time job during summer vacation. After finishing high school I left my hometown in order to study in one of Ontario's top universities.

I finished my university degree in 2003, and, for some reason that is still to me entirely unknown (maybe I will find out while I write this), I decided to move to Portugal to study law.

Ever since moving here life has been a series of ups and downs, but always interesting. Actually that is not really true; there have been some horribly tedious parts.

Do me a favour?

on 11:10 am

I am sure that anyone that follows the news here in Portugal knows that the country is rife with corruption scandals, involving all levels of the public and private sector.

Bribes, kickbacks, fraud and favours concerning politicians, public procurements, large corporations, and, well, almost everyone in a position of power, are coming to light. No wonder that Portuguese confidence in politicians is extremely low.

The Portuguese parliament recently approved anti-corruption measures (including harsh punishment of "illegal enrichment"). I hope that this is the start of a serious crackdown on corruption in this country, despite the many obstacles to change.

Of course, none of this addresses the issue of "minor" corruption that is highly prevalent in Portugal. When I say minor I mean the influence that friends and family members have on arranging cushy jobs for others. The examples are so numerous that I will not waste my time writing them down, but they are fairly easy to spot, you only have to look at the last names of the employees in many public offices, some even employ entire families...

It ends up being corruption all the same since it subverts legally established selection procedures, which exist in the case of vacancies for public offices (for example, positions in municipalities). On paper, candidates are valued based on objective methods, for example, a candidates résumé is evaluated and given a score out of 20, he is then subject to written exam, and afterwards an interview. Unfortunately, these methods end up being very subjective. The evaluation of a candidate’s résumé, the correction of exams, and the interview is not subject to any defined standard, and a potential candidate can be excluded or passed over by the whim of an assessor.

I can understand the basic motivation for this type of influence. Family members want the best for their sons/daughters/cousins/nephews,etc., friends want to help friends, and people want to concede favours that they can later reap. Regrettably, it ends up being prejudicial for the employer, clients and citizens, since the best people for the job are rarely chosen.

One even begins to wonder if anyone gets to where they are by their own merit, or if they are there thanks to a "friend of a friend". Maybe I am just a pessimist.

This type of corruption is so entrenched in Portuguese society that I doubt that legislative changes can affect it, especially since it is so hard to verify that anything illegal was done. I believe that the most important solution is tied with the creation and reinforcement of a true civil society, which in Portugal is still truly lacking...

On this subject I highly recommend the book "Corruption in Italy: a Structural Approach", by Paolo Ferrari, on the relationship between corruption and civil society.

On a more positive note, happy 101th birthday, Manoel de Oliveira! Here´s hoping for another 101!

Just when you need a new set of Billys...

on 8:12 pm

Seems like IKEA is planning on opening a new store here in Portugal, unfortunately it is going to be in the Algarve, more specifically, in the city of Loulé.

The new store is going to be located in a sparcely populated district of Portugal, which is surrounded by other, even more sparcely populated districts, and, of course, the sea.

Of course Lisbon and Porto already have an IKEA, so where else would they put one? (however, they are thinking of opening six new stores in Portugal, three in the Lisbon region, two in Porto, and another whos location is still undecided) But I wonder how sound a business decision this is going to be.

At least they are going to corner the Swedish meatball market in the region.

1. The why

on 2:46 pm

Hello world.

This "blog" is going to detail my adventures and experiences ever since moving from polite, calm and civilized Canada to the haven of corruption, tyranny and despair that is Portugal.

I hope to regularly update this space with stories of how and why I moved to Portugal, and everything that has happened in the meantime.

Though I know this is of very little interest to anyone but me (that is, unless they are also thinking of moving to Portugal in order to study law… though that is not as common as I have though) it will help me help me keep my English skills sharp. It has been a while since I have written in English for any meaningful length of time.

And of course blogs are hip, Web 2.0, etc., etc.

On a lighter note, I heartily recommend this site.. to the three people in the world with Internet access who have yet to visit it: