This is the question everyone that doesn’t speak Portuguese asks whenever they first learn the language. According to the Oxford dictionary, saudade is a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament. But to everyone that experiences even the tiniest bit of Portugal, it feels like a lot more than that. 


Portugal is a small piece of heaven in the most western place in Europe. From beaches to mountains, cities to villages, what lacks in size, it makes up for in heartwarming food and people. From the day you step foot in this amazing country to the day you decide to leave, everything will overwhelm you with a sense of home, a sense of belonging. It’s no surprise that so many people choose to immigrate to Portugal after being here. 


Everywhere you go here, whether it’s Porto or Lisbon or anywhere in between, you’ll find someone that will hold you close and feed you like you were a family member. The colours that emanate from this country are warm and cosy, like a hug to the eyes. When you encounter someone that doesn’t know how to speak English, they will try their best to understand you and to communicate with you, as we always want to know more about others from other countries. 


Our food is rich in carbs, but it’s so simple that it comforts the soul. You really can’t go wrong with potatoes and olive oil, can you? Codfish is our most prized possession, being the star in almost every meal we cook. Our desserts? Simple, sweet, straight out of a grandma’s cooking book. If you don’t leave Portugal with a longing of wanting to hug your grandmother, you haven’t been here at all. 


Saudade is the keyword in understanding the sound of our music, particularly fado, the genre that started this feeling. Fado was the way that the Portuguese women found to express how they felt after their husbands left for the discoveries in the 15th century. Fado is so melancholic and it’s probably the most heartfelt music that you will ever hear. 


Even though we essentially speak the same language, the regional differences that sprinkle the Portuguese are what makes it unique. While you ask for a café up North, in the South you would ask for a bica. And when it comes to drinking, don’t forget to drink an imperial in Lisbon and a fino in Porto.


We might not be perfect, which we’re not. There’s no such thing as a perfect country. But if you’re one of the lucky ones that ended up in Portugal, one way or another, know that you found a place that will always be there for you. A place that will always have people that will open their homes and hearts for you. A place where the people will give you what they have and they don’t have to accommodate you. Where you’ll find friends that feel like family. A place where you will always be welcomed to. Saudade is hard to define. It’s a word in Portuguese. It’s a feeling. But what isn’t hard to define is how much you will love Portugal and how much you will want to come back. 

by Jéssica Alves