The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

RANDOM NOMAD: Piglet in Portugal, Award-Winning Expat Blogger

Born in: Harrow, England
Passport(s): British
Country lived in: Portugal Has had a house there from 2006-present
Cyberspace coordinates: Piglet in Portugal (blog)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Although we left the UK primarily due to health reasons, we were also in search of a better quality of life. The jobsworth* culture and the “health and safety” people, plus the PC Brigade**, were slowly driving us mad; we no longer had the right to exercise common sense any more than we were capable of making our own decisions. Yes, Mr Jobsworth, we know if we stand by the edge of a cliff we could fall off it. Or if we go out in the rain, we are likely to get wet. There appeared to be a whole army of people telling us what to do and what to think! England is not nicknamed the Nanny State*** for nothing!
* Jobsworth: A person in a position of minor authority who invokes the letter of the law in order to avoid any action requiring initiative, cooperation, etc.
** PC Brigade: Politically correct brigade.
*** Nanny State: A government that makes decisions for people that they might otherwise make for themselves, especially those relating to private and personal behavior.

Is anyone else in your immediate family displaced?
Our daughter moved to Lyon in France with her ice dance partner when she was just 15 years old to rain with a world-famous ice dance coach. When she gave up skating ten years ago, she met her French husband-to-be and remained in France. They have just had their first child — our first grandchild.

Describe the moment when you felt most displaced over the course of your many displacements.
I am unable to pinpoint the exact moment I felt “displaced” — it was more, shall we say, “moments” which gradually crept up on me over time. Language is a huge problem, and despite my valiant efforts to learn Portuguese, I have failed miserably. I’ve spent thousands of euros on private lessons, studied hard, but am still unable to converse properly in Portuguese. I’ve had to accept I am not a natural linguist and have resigned myself to doing the best I can. (No, I do not need any more lectures as to “you have to learn the language to integrate.” I have really tried.) Because of this failure, I now know what it feels like to be in a room full of people and feel totally alone — almost as if the room were empty or you were invisible. You are there in body but not in mind; simply a spectator. This is really difficult for me as I am gregarious by nature and a natural “chatterbox.” I am sure there are many expats out there who can relate… I am also a real foodie and, apart from desserts and cakes, am not that keen on Portuguese food…

Actually, you have made me stop and think again about this question.

Perhaps the moment I actually felt “displaced” was when our first grandchild was born recently in France. We also have another grandchild due in September, but in the UK. My first thoughts were: do we relocate to France or the UK? We have no family in Portugal so why stay here? I have begun to feel restless.

Describe the moment when you felt least displaced.
I have always felt at home in Portugal, despite language difficulties and a cuisine that is rather “basic” for my tastes. I have never tried to change anything: e.g., protest against bullfighting or insist our local snack bar serves fish and chips or curry. I accept life as it is.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from the country where you’ve lived into the Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
My curiosity item would have to be bacalhau. It is dried salted cod fish and a long-time favorite with the Portuguese. I wrote a blog post about it.

You’re invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other Displaced Nation members. What’s on the menu?
It’s a struggle for me to find Portuguese recipes I like. Most of the restaurants here in the Algarve serve up very much the same dishes: chicken piri-piri, sardines or grilled fish and meats served with salad and chips, etc. “Dish of the Day” offers other variations, but as I do not like snails, the “unmentionable” parts of animals or beans, this means the choice of food is often limited. But here goes:
Piglet’s Menu for The Displaced Nation

  • Calde de Verde (Portuguese Cabbage Soup)
  • Carne de Porco a Alentejana (Pork with Clams) [See recipe.]
  • A selection of Portuguese cheeses and crusty bread
  • Molotof — a light dessert made with egg whites. [Watch video.]

You may add one word or expression from the country you’ve lived in to The Displaced Nation argot. What word do you loan us?
My first instinct is to loan you leitão, which means “piglet” in Portuguese. My husband and I went out to lunch soon after we arrived in Portugal, and I thought I’d ordered roast pork. It turned out to be suckling pig! Hmmmm it made my trotters twitch! Mental note — I need to be more careful in translating the menu in future. Porco is pork. But perhaps it would be more in keeping for me to loan you the first Portuguese word I learned: bonita. It means beautiful.

Alice meets many curious animals when she ventures into Wonderland, including a piglet at one point. We’re curious (and curiouser!): why have you chosen the piglet moniker, avatar, and doppelgänger
Because I adore pigs. I would love to keep Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs if we had a large garden. I was nearly tempted to buy a little pig a few months ago at the local market until my head ruled my heart and common sense kicked in. Awww, but it was so cute! Some people love dogs. With me it is pigs.

QUESTION: Readers — yay or nay for letting Piglet in Portugal into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Piglet — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby. Kate Allison has assured us it will contain some more Alice in Wonderland references — but will there be any piglets? Curiouser and curiouser, I think you’ll agree…

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe for email delivery of The Displaced Nation. That way, you won’t miss a single issue. SPECIAL OFFER: New subscribers receive a FREE copy of “A Royally Displaced Tea.”

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29 responses to “RANDOM NOMAD: Piglet in Portugal, Award-Winning Expat Blogger

  1. Carole @ Berlinfusion June 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    A big YAY to Piglet – as long as she makes the Devon Cream Tea properly next time 😉

  2. mairedubhtx June 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Piglet in Portugal should join Displaced Nation. They are truly Alice in Wonderland people from the UK living the good life in Portugal.

  3. dizzy17 June 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I think Piglet in Portugal should definitely stay in Displaced Nation. I’d love to hear more tales about her adopted homeland (and whether she decides to re-displace to “la belle France” or come home……)

  4. Kate Allison June 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Piglet – obviously a woman after my own heart. The jobsworth stories I sometimes hear are quite breathtaking – I’m particularly thinking of Ian Faletto at the moment:

    And there is just something about little pigs…so utterly cute.
    Tasty, too.

    • Piglet in Portugal June 9, 2011 at 7:29 am

      Hi Kate,
      You’ve linked to a very sad story and given his long and exemplary sevice he should have just been issued with a warning. The worst jobsworth story I heard was the “bin police” They sorted through peoples bins to check they were recycling and if not said poeple were fined..WHAT!
      When I read stores such as these I no longer feel homesick!

      As for this little piggy being tasty…hmmm it’s all those pigging scones I’ve been eating 🙂

      • Chris June 11, 2011 at 7:39 am

        As is often the case with sensational stories, dont believe everything you read in the papers – there is a pretty good blog explaining what *actually* went on here –

      • Kate Allison June 11, 2011 at 8:53 am

        @Chris – very interesting, and quite contrary to the story reported everywhere else, even BBC and Telegraph. (Obviously, if it’s only reported in DM you take it with a cellar of salt.) You would think that some of the facts in the blog were basic enough for a reporter to verify – correct job title, for example. But had they reported that a ticket office clerk removed something innocuous from an electrified line at a station where he didn’t work when a train wasn’t due, it wouldn’t have had quite the same impact. Still – never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Sigh.

  5. ML Awanohara June 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    @PIP @Kate
    Coming from a country where the president’s recent attempt to provide universal health care coverage almost started a civil war, and where we’re being told almost daily that the state can no longer afford to pay for seniors (namely, Medicaire and Medicaid) — as a result of which I’m imagining myself wandering the streets at age 90, an Alzheimer’s victim with nowhere to go — I don’t fully understand the need to escape the Nanny State. In fact, I think some Americans dream about escaping to other countries because they don’t feel well looked after…

    Is this a case of wanting something other than you have, or am I not understanding what Brits mean by the term Nanny State? Kindly enlighten me, and other non-Brit readers…

    • Piglet in Portugal June 9, 2011 at 7:56 am

      Hi ML
      Nanny state has nothing to do with the elderley of medical care LOL 🙂 but more to do with the government
      interfering in our daily lives and our ability to make decisions based on common sense.

      Nanny State: A government that makes decisions for people that they might otherwise make for themselves, especially those relating to private and personal behavior

      I was sent this…so I thought I would share it here

      *The Sad Passing Of Common Sense*

      Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.
      No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

      Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies

      (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies

      (adults, not children, are in charge).
      His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.

      Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
      Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Panadol, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student; but, could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

      Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
      Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.
      Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

      Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.
      He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I’m A Victim.

      Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone.

      If you still remember him pass this on.

      If not join the majority and do nothing.

      • ML Awanohara June 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

        I’ve seen this ode to the passing of common sense before. I always thought it was the Times of London that first published it, but in doing some rooting around just now (no, not in the dirt, haha), I discovered it first appeared in the Indianapolis Star 13 years ago! It was written by a columnist for said paper, one Lori Borgman, who hails from Nebraska and is sometimes referred to as a female Mark Twain — without the cigar.

        Now I truly do feel as though I’ve entered Wonderland:
        1) What a displaced piece of writing — this essay has spoken to people of many cultures for more than a decade.
        2) How displaced I’ve become — I somehow missed out on the PC phenomenon in my native land because of being in Britain, and by the time the trend reached Britain (and got converted into the Nanny State), I was in Japan. Japan is of course the ultimate Nanny State, albeit not in a scolding way. Not just the government but society at large cossets you in a way that means you don’t really have to think for yourself. (Japanese people call it amae, which roughly translates as “indulgent dependency.”) Everyone crosses the street when the red man turns to green and not before, everyone orders the set lunch, etc. It’s actually quite a pleasant way to live, but after a while I worried that my brain was turning to mush and I was losing the ability to make decisions for myself. (At that point I really was Alice: “…Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the puzzle!”)

        Still, I scrambled out of the Rabbit Hole just in the nick of time, and here I am back in my native land, constantly offending people thru my non-PC statements since I never went thru that phase. That said, I am, and will always be, an advocate of universal health care — a legacy of all those years in the UK and Japan, where the state provides such coverage. What’s more, and related to that, I think motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets and people in cars, seat belts — something I regard as common sense, given the data on fatalities.

        Hmmm… I believe I owe you a king’s ransom for helping me along the path to greater self-knowledge. You piglets certainly are a special breed!

  6. Kate Allison June 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Nanny State not the same as Welfare State. Nanny State interfering where it has no right to be interfering…you could argue that Prohibition was a classic example. At what point ‘protection’ oversteps the line and becomes an infringement of personal liberty, however, is subjective. Is it Nannying to insist upon the wearing of motorbike helmets, or is it intruding upon the right of someone to feel the breeze through his ZZ Top hair (shortly before his admittance to the spinal injuries unit)?

    I’m sure PiP can give some examples.

    • ML Awanohara June 8, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      LOL Kate, you do have a way with words! I read your comment just as I was thinking about all the Americans who can’t afford to get medical and dental procedures in this country, so go abroad to have them done — hence the boom in medical tourism in something like fifty countries.

      But you’re talking about the state not so much providing services as making ridiculous rules about people’s behavior — tho presumably the two are sometimes related? I mean, the state could lessen the number of cases requiring serious medical treatment by stipulating that people wear helmets and seat belts, thereby reducing its financial outlays on emergency medical services…

      • awindram June 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm

        @ML: Yes, the two are related. Also, one person’s “ridiculous” rules are another person’s fairly sensible policies. The heightened responses by some here in the US to (in my opinion, sensible and much needed) laws and incentives to get childhood obseity down, are a decent example of the nanny state argument being played out in the US, even if no one uses that specific term.

        Also, one of the things I dislike about this sort of discussion is how quickly health & safety and political correctness get spoken about as if they are one in the same. That sort of mistake (wilfully done on the part of columnists such as Richard Littlejohn) poisons the political discourse of the UK. Political correctness, to borrow a definition by the comedian Stewart Lee, is “an often clumsy negotiation towards a kind of formally inclusive language. And there’s all sorts of problems with it, but it’s better than what we had before.” Health and safety is something entirely different. Although the extent to which its talons dig into the “sick corpse that is Britain” (hat tip Richard Littlejohn*) have been much exaggerated. Fair play to the Health and Safety Executive for this webpage debunking various myths.

        *Not really, but it sounds convincingly Littlejohn-esque in its weasly hyperbole.

      • Kate Allison June 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

        It seems to me that many of the cases of ‘health and safety gone mad’ are consequences of the introduction of ‘no win no fee’ cases in the English legal system in 2000; everyone trying to cover their backs so they don’t get sued, but ensuring that no one has any fun either. It’s not necessarily the HSE directing these things, but they probably get blamed all the same.

      • awindram June 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

        Yeah, an increasingly litigous society has a lot to do with it.

      • Kate Allison June 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm

        Well, regarding the childhood obesity thing, they could make a start by lengthening recess times and shoving the kids outside or in the gym to play, like we used to do. Also, lengthening stupidly short mealtimes would have another effect: if you eat more slowly, you have a chance to feel full before you’ve overeaten. But no, our children must ‘grab a bite to eat’ instead.

        My contribution to Nanny laws would be to ban the word ‘grab’ when it relates to mealtimes.

  7. June 9, 2011 at 2:08 am

    Thumbs up, definitely. The cute little piglet would soon be a favorite among the DN population. Empathized with the description of being in a roomful of people speaking a language you struggle with, and feeling invisible. Bonita leitao!

    • Piglet in Portugal June 9, 2011 at 8:01 am

      Thanks Linda 🙂 Better to have tried the language and failed I suppose than have made no effort 😦
      Still I continue to try…and of course I am always more fluent after a glass or three of vinho! LOL

  8. ML Awanohara June 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

    As the auntie to a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, one Caoilfhionn Pigapple — the only one who claims me as “family” on Facebook, though I’ve friended other relations — I feel duty bound to withhold my “yay” until I’ve asked you a question about pork dishes. (Caoilfhionn — quite a pig’s mouthful, and I had to look up the spelling just now to make sure I didn’t make a pig’s ear out of it!)

    Which is this: do you, PIP, admit that if you actually had adopted that pot-bellied pig that caught your eye a few months back, you might give up porco as well as leitão? I ask because my sister and her kids refuse to eat pork around Caoilfhionn as they think it would be a sign of disrespect. Almost needless to say (esp to a Piglet like yourself!), she is a cute and smart little thing (well, actually not so little any more, now that she’s one).

    A sign of how seriously my sister, nieces and nephew take this pledge is that when they rec’d some bars of Vosges chocolate for Christmas, they gave me the one with the bacon bits.

    In fact, I mentioned this the other day in response to Carole Hallett Mobbs’ wonderful exposé on Tokyo as Wonderland. (We were discussing the virtues of wasabi Kit-Kats, among other things…) As reported then, I didn’t really take to bacon chocolate.

    I’m not sure if it was Caoilfhionn’s influence, but to return to my main line of inquiry: do you think you would eat Carne de Porco a Alentejana with as much relish — or at all — if you had a cute little pig nearby observing you?

    • Kate Allison June 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Well, there are plenty of people who eat lobster with the lobster’s friends watching from the fish tank in the restaurant.

      But that’s different because lobsters aren’t cute, right? Pigs have personality, and ‘Personality goes a long way,’ as Samuel L Jackson said in Pulp Fiction…although he was actually arguing the case for dogs vs pigs in that line…

      • Piglet in Portugal June 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm

        Hey Kate,
        Nooooooo….I could not eat lobster, they cook them while they are still alive.

      • ML Awanohara June 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

        Anyone who’s squeamish about eating lobster shouldn’t visit eastern Canada. We were in Nova Scotia last month, and our friends took us down to their beach house where were could see men out with lobster traps — and sure enough, fresh lobster, caught that day, was on the menu for dinner. Not only that but our friends had put them on floor in their kitchen while bringing a large pot of water to the boil…and insisted we might like to hold one for a photo before it met its fate. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though it was no problem for Susumu. (Being from Japan, he thinks the fresher the better!) So we have a pic of him holding a still-alive lobster and me crouching beside him, frowning. (Hypocrite that I am, I enjoyed the dinner, which also included fiddle ferns — vegetarians, pls take note!)

      • Piglet in Portugal June 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

        Hi ML, I could eat lobster providing I was not made to witness its demise and hear it scream…

  9. Piglet in Portugal June 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Hi We are rather restricted on the choice of reasonably priced meat in Portugal so no, I would not give up Pork, just suckling pig. However, the PB pig would live outside not inside with us. LOL 🙂 I am a practical person and have to be realistic as to what my foodshopping budget can stretch to. You have to be able to afford principles 🙂 I would NOT BBQ pork, so PB could smell it cooking. That would be just plain mean. 😳

    Sorry folks will be back later, in the middle of a dinner party…no not cooking pork 🙂 will touch base later…looks like lots of itneresting deicussion re Nanny state

  10. amblerangel June 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I’ve been watching the newly aroused dog debate in China most recently as a truck load of dogs destined for the pot just got stopped by animal activists. This led to quite an interesting series of events in China including the driver who was bought off by the activists now unable to get a job, the dogs unable to find homes, rifts between the Haves and the Have nots…. interesting. Reminds me of my Chinese mother in law who threatens to cook their dog every time she misbehaves- not kiddingly. Anyway- always a thumbs up on the Pig- have been reading her blog for a long time!

    • Piglet in Portugal June 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      OMG ambler, I can’t even begin to imagine eating dog… Having said that I’ve just told my neighbours dog if it does not stop pigging barking it will end up on the next BBQ!


      Hey folks…I’m just joking! Honest!

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