Two Parallel Cultures.


We have jaunted over to Spain for a few days. Unfortunately, we seem to have come during Seville’s busiest party week, and we don’t do that kind of party. I tend to think of the two, Portugal and Spain, as nearly identical. They have been connected at different times and developed in parallel ways. Sometimes, the differences hit me in unexpected ways.

One thing that I noticed almost as soon as I started studying Portuguese was the days of the week. Both used Sabado and Domingo for Saturday and Sunday. Where Spanish uses names like Lunes and Martes for the days of the week, Portuguese uses numbers like 2nd day and 3rd day for the weekdays. I was reminded of this today when I saw the sign for leaving Portugal. It said “come back soon” in English, “Hasta Pronto” in Spanish, and “Ate Breve” in Portuguese. Thus there are the same words, different words, but where one can see the relationship, and completely different words. Even the pronunciation is different. Listening to the Radio, Portuguese uses a lot of a “lisp” sound. Where Spanish uses dos (pronounced dose), Portuguese uses the same word dos (but pronounced doosh) It struck me today that the Spanish radio had no lisp but used the rolled “r” a lot.

Today, in Spain, I went to the department/Grocery store (Think Walmart.) I was looking for the Portuguese cracker that is vaguely like a Graham cracker. Not only did I not find it, but only 2 kinds that were like saltines. Instead, there were a huge amount of toasts that were like melba toast. Again, my expectation of close parallels was dashed. Earlier, Regina had sent me out walking to look for a place to eat. I walked for miles and only saw snack bars (basically pubs with minimal food available), but no restaurants. Portugal had the similar snack bars, but restaurants also. We ended up at that uniquely Spanish (ha) restaurant, McDonalds. What really got me was as I walked through that grocery store, I saw them giving out samples of lemonade. I took a sample, sip, sip, looked quizzical, picked up the can and saw it was alcoholic. Then as I wandered through the store, I saw others handing out samples of beer, etc. I bet one could get drunk in that store for free. Some of the recipients looked mighty young to be drinking. I never saw anything like that in Portugal. So, though there are close parallels, one must not consider them identical.

I have seen similar thing when one is talking to a prejudiced person. I don’t care if it is a German talking about Syrians, the Mandarin Chinese talking about the Muslim Chinese, or American Whites about American Blacks, they lump everyone in the other group into one category. The Bible has an interesting teaching that many confuse. It says, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Some try not to judge at all, but this is talking about being judgmental. In John 7, it says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” People everywhere come in such a rich variety. Even my wife will stun me occasionally by saying, “That is the white way. You are treating me like the black way is wrong.”  It might be something as simple as making the bed or setting the table, or much deeper.   Thus, I still find myself expecting parallels and then finding that was just a prejudice that I have to root out so I can walk closer to God.

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