Living in a country where English is not the first language certainly takes you out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to food shopping. Imagine walking into a supermarket and suddenly there are none of your favourite foods and familiar brands; throw the added complication of language into the mix and you may well feel you have landed on Mars – an Alien in a foreign land.
Many of the cuts of meat you buy ‘back home’ do not seem to exist here, or if they do, you don’t recognize the description. So much unfortunately gets lost in translation.
There are also things you do recognize like chickens feet, pigs ears, half of a pig’s head and “unmentionables” that you would not want to eat however well presented!
Makes my trotters twitch just thinking about this. Sorry no Pigs head or ‘unmentionables’ photos.
Joking aside quality of meat, in Portugal, especially fresh chickens, turkey and pork, is excellent and far exceeds that of the UK.
The simplest food shopping foray often turns into a ‘mind game’ as you study the labels, product descriptions and pictures for clues. It’s not always easy to find products when you can’t fully understand the language. You ponder for ages and think “what is this for?” or “what does that do?” as you wander up and down the aisles looking for various everyday items such as self-raising flour, caster sugar, short crust pastry, herbs and spices, spray to remove dust from the TV, normal toothpaste (not for dentures as I inadvertently bought once). You scan the shelves looking for inspiration praying for guidance or at least some form of heavenly intervention such as an assistant who can speak English. I have tried asking for help, in my limited Portuguese, but often pronunciation of some words such as massa (pastry) and maça (apple) sound so similar that you are offered completely the wrong product.
A classic example of the above was when I asked an assistant for eggs (ovos) and she directed me to the grapes (uvas). Frustrated, I performed a chicken laying-an-egg impression, complete with full clucking sound effects. The assistant momentarily stunned by my performance then directed me to the fresh chickens. Shaking my head the poor assistant looked at me as though I had just been released from a lunatic asylum such was my enthusiasm to get my point across. More egg laying impressions. She then enlisted the help of another assistant (she probably thought there was safety in numbers) further chicken impression and both dissolved into laughter at my elation when we did eventually locate the elusive eggs. I can just imagine her relating the story of the “mad English clucking woman” that evening to her family. Poor love, probably had too much sun…!
On a positive note since living in Portugal my ‘charade’ skills and animal impressions have dramatically improved, I eat more fresh fruit and vegetables drink more wine and TV dinners are definitely off the menu.
How would you fare?
Margaret in Chile shares her bad translation experiences. Hilarious!