I find December a strange month. There is so much hype and expectation. The first three weeks are frantic. Rushing around to secure the elusive present. The last-minute Santa lists. Although at fifteen and seventeen, the list isn’t too long (it just changes all the time).
In my retail days, I finished work after setting up the Boxing Day sale on Christmas Eve. In the ’90s the daily newspapers were still printed on Christmas Day, so, for me, a 6am start was often the end of “Christmas”. Rarely did I get two days off at Christmas.
Hats off to all those who work in retail and the hospitality who, get so little time with their families over the festive period. More retailers are though keeping their stores closed on Boxing Day allowing staff more time off. I hope this is a positive of the pandemic and a better balance of people before profit continues.
However, I don’t put all the blame on the retailers (physical or virtual) because it is the consumer who is the ultimate dictator of ‘trading hours’. The media also encourage the frenzy and celebrate an increase of 56% in online purchases on Christmas Day in 2020. Really? Consumerism has, I am sure, taken over from the family board games following Christmas Dinner.
Personally, I rarely make online purchases so I definitely won’t be adding to the hysteria. I prefer to shop local and keep as much as possible in the ‘local economy’. I do buy some presents to be delivered to family and friends, but even then I do my utmost to support the local retailer, or worst case, a UK based company.
Shop and support locally
This is one of the many great things appealing about Portugal. Almost every hamlet continues to have a café and small shop. Villages have a pharmacy, haberdashery, general stores as well as unique specialist “lojas”. Local markets, the village baker’s van delivery, and travelling fishmonger all expand the offering. Fully acknowledging that some things just aren’t available in the locality or even in Portugal.
Reading, watching and listening to many expats there appears to be an urgency for next day delivery. The need for everything to happen yesterday, despite moving to another country for a simple life and slower pace,. The impression it gives is that buying from a warehouse or fulfilment centre is far more important than supporting their local economy.
My observation is that expats buying through the Spanish, German or UK versions of these websites is simply sending money out of the Portuguese economy. The transaction is undertaken outside Portugal, the profits go to companies outside Portugal and the IVA (VAT equivalent) is also paid (or in some cases not paid) in a different country. I’m not even going to start on corporation tax. It also provides employment for other countries and not in Portugal.
Maybe I am naïve. Maybe I just don’t understand. Why would you not want to buy local or from the country you live in? Surely buying from other companies located in other countries, just takes money out of the local economy? Is that not what has happened in the UK and many other countries?
Clearly, I’ve a lot to learn. But when I move to Portugal, I will be supporting Portuguese businesses first and foremost. I definitely won’t be relinquishing my boycott of the warehouse retailers.
Reflecting back to only having a day off at Christmas, compared to some jobs, I was fortunate. A quick mention for those working in “blue lights” and frontline NHS and care services who have no choice as they continue working throughout every public, religious and commercial holiday. Continually putting others before themselves and their families. Twenty months ago, we stood outside and clapped the NHS. Now, the clapping is long forgotten, but the NHS, police, fire and all those who work to keep us safe, I continue to salute you. You are all Christmas champions Thank you.
As I have previously mentioned, December is different to all the other months of the year. It is a time when we head towards the closure of the previous year and plan for the year ahead. I’ve swayed between the camp of wanting to get things completed before the Christmas break or deferring until the New Year.
At work, I’m usually the former. Let’s get it done so I don’t come back to a mass of work. I tend to finish off the small things to get them out of the way. The bigger pieces of work or projects do though, get “thrown over the New Year wall”. I guess my approach takes me back to retail principles that the shop needs to be stocked and ready for customers for the sales to commence.
I’ve noticed that my mindset is changing. I’m prepared to throw more things into the New Year. Certainly in work, I am more accepting that it’s not always possible to get everything completed in the schedule I work to. I still get frustrated that the pace isn’t as quick as I’d like. But I’m trying to be more measured in how I deal with it.
Regarding the pace, it’s not about working at 100mph, although I’d try to do that, it’s because I work for a health-related charity and every day that passes is another day when people are still affected, and unfortunately dying, from disease. Personally, I find that tough so the more we can do today, the more we’ll help people tomorrow.
Relating this to my new adventure in Portugal, I’ve had a small push over the last week to progress discussions and some plans this side of Christmas. But I’m not in a rush to get answers this year. I’m quite content to wait until January and regroup at that point. A year ago, I wrote a blog called a sprint or marathon. Not much has changed.
Almost everyone I speak to advise that timely responses are not a strength of many Portuguese people. Tomorrow typically means next week. But all of a sudden, I’ve had two Portuguese contacts trying to increase the pace. Maybe they don’t believe in throwing things over the New Year wall! At present though, there is no deadline – well, definitely not the 24 or 31 December. It can wait until January.
My daughters have always suggested that I’m laid back (they don’t see me at work). Everything is planned and I take most things in my stride. Maybe some of the Portuguese approaches are already beginning to rub off on me.
So much has happened in progressing my plans to move to Portugal over the last year. There is a pace to it. It’s a measured pace and I continue to approach things methodically. However, some deadlines are beginning to approach and I’m definitely moving towards counting down months rather than ‘next year’.
As always, if you’ve got this far, thank you. I am humbled and grateful for you taking the time to read. Muito obrigado.
Featured image by kind permission of Kelly Sikkema
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Thank you. Muitio obrigado, Marc