How not to be efficient

“Doesn’t it get you crazy sometimes, that lack of being efficient?”

Shana looks at me, she wants to know, because she and her boyfriend have plans to maybe do something like this.

“Yes, of course,” I admit, “but if you can not adapt to the customs of a country, you’d better not even start. So those few times that I can’t deal with it, I go to the punching bag and hit it hard. That’s a relief. Then the air is clear again. Moving on!”


Shana is here now on her own, so we talk quite a lot about everything and anything

In the sixteen years that I am rebuilding the Termas da Azenha, I work with volunteers. Usually that is a group of four. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I’m mainly working on marketing right now, so I don’t need many volunteers. Shana knew she would be here alone, but she really wanted to come. To be outside of the city, out in nature, but also because of the experience. And above all because she loves Portugal!

We talk about the patience, you need to have here, to get things done. Being efficient

And that it certainly doesn’t mean that a person is there at 10am if you agreed on a meeting at 10am.

We must get used to that, we efficient northerners. We rather die than be too late, and unless we have a very serious illness, we will always be present at meetings. Germans have a reputation, and it’s real.

For example, if we go canoeing one day, and there are dutch and germans in the group, agreeing on the schedule goes as follows:

Me: “We leave at a quarter to nine, and I drive up front, so you can all drive behind me. You can’t get lost, and we will be there in time easy.”

Dutch person: “Top. Quarter to nine punctually …” And they already start looking at their watch.

German person: “Gut. Acht Uhr und fünf-und-vierzig Minuten. Pünktlich!” And they start putting the alarm at their phone.

Me: “Nonono, it is portuguese time! That means we pretty much leave around that time, it could be a little later …”

As efficient as people can be, they always end up this relaxed on a day of canoeing

That is usually not understood

That’s switching. Thinking outside-the-box. I know it isn’t easy to get a group of about 6 families in motion. Then you need to start on time. There is always someone who “Oh! Sorry, forgot my ….” this-or-that.

So you might end up leaving 5 or 10 minutes later.

During that timethere could be people drumming impatiently on the wheel, or develop a day-spoiling irritation. Difficult to deal with, those efficient people!

The portuguese are more relaxed

I often hear vacationers and also volunteers complaining that it is so stressed in the homeland. I think it has to do quite a lot with that, with that efficiency.

That’s a big difference with Portugal. On the other hand: you must be able to endure that you’ve drawn a plan for the day, but everything will go completely different.

Keep smiling and keep going

You have to learn that you have to call before you go to your appointment …. otherwise you might go in vain. You have to learn that you’ll always hear that it’s different ~ that you need in another form, thing, stamp; that it is going to be tomorrow intstead – the fiercely realistic reality, in short, catches up with your beautiful plans and makes a long nose at you.

Fortunately, everyone always relaxes here in the Termas. No deadlines, no bureaucracy, no efficiency necessary, no angry bosses.

Just doing nice things and liking it! That is what life is all about.

Whether you are a guest or volunteer.


Each week a little blog about what is happening around us. An easy read. A few minutes in another world. A little about what it going on in Portugal. If you plan your holiday to Portugal, it might be a nice preparation.

You can subscribe:


You’ll get it every weekend in your mailbox.

On Sunday morning we publish it on our Facebook Page, on Google+, on Pinterest, and on tuesday on LinkedIn.