Jacqui Acevedo from Expats Portugal
Jacqui Acevedo from Expats Portugal

The paradox of Portuguese positivity

Are the Portuguese a positive people? Yes, of course. But maybe not as we know it.

“Sometimes, when you ask a Portuguese person for help, you’ll get a ‘no’ kind of energy,” says the star of my column this week. “However, as their Portuguese need to help kicks in, all interactions seem to end with a ‘yes’ vibe.”

“Americans and Australians tend to have that perky positivity,” she explains, “but it’s different here.” And I think it’s a difference she has truly grown to love since landing in Portugal in the most testing of times – during the Covid pandemic.

Jacqui Acevedo is my conversational collaborator today and if you think her face is familiar, you’re not the only one. As the cover star of Portuguese magazine Visão, Jacqui was recognised by the chap at her local petrol station (‘gas station’ for her and fellow Americans, of course).

If not as a cover star, you might also know her visage from the weekly webinars hosted by Expats Portugal, the community organisation of which she is now a part, who assist folk from all over the world in their efforts to make a new life in Portugal, just as she has.

Jacqui is also a weekly correspondent on my own Good Morning Portugal! show where she delights us with views of Portuguese life from her new, now home in Cascais.

Views like: “I have never experienced a Portuguese person not being fully available to help in any way I’ve needed.” As well as the strange paradox of Portuguese positivity that had her say: “They don’t always come from a positive perspective, perhaps uttering a não é possível as an opener, yet the outcome is always helpful and another step in the right direction”.

From where does this paradox emerge, we might wonder. Is it from the ‘old days’ of oppression and poverty, where resourcefulness and can-do DNA got baked-in, in the face of restriction and fear? Is it in the genes of an ocean-going race who created an empire way above and beyond its ‘punching weight’?

We shall return to this deliberation in due course. More first though on the woman who planted this idea, who has not only been fascinated by the delightful and reassuring Portuguese urge to help but is also clearly a chronic beneficiary of such proud civic compassion.

Jacqui on the cover of Visão magazine
Jacqui on the cover of Visão magazine

In her interview with Portugal’s Visão magazine, Jacqui was among a group of North Americans – the US known, of course, for its national ‘dream’ – who left in favour of the increasingly popular Portuguese grail.

In the article, which confirms our inklings that, “in the past six years, residence permits have almost doubled and Gold (sic) visas have multiplied by six … not even the pandemic has slowed arrivals. There are those who are attracted by real estate investment, by the country’s technological potential, by the quality of life and even by the wines.”

“What does the Portuguese dream offer to those who have the financial capacity to live anywhere in the world confined in Portugal?” they smartly ask.

Prefacing her responses, Jacqueline (as she is known in more formal publishing circles) told them that the first time she ever came to Portugal was to make it her home.

“I know it sounds crazy, but I just had a feeling,” she said, adding, intriguingly, that “the only thing missing from my research was having never seen a photograph that truly captured the beauty of Portugal”.

Jacqui and husband Jay arrived in December 2019 and, three months later, were met with the country’s first lockdown imposition. This was their first test of patience and humour as well as an inaugural taste of Portuguese friendship and familiarity.

“I felt adopted by people I didn’t know. All of my neighbours were focused on helping each other. There was great generosity,” she reported, incidentally choosing Cascais as home, wanting to be close to Lisbon, and as a fan of its breathtaking, sea-coast scenery.

“I was also moved when the government announced that free healthcare would be provided even to those who were illegally in the country,” she recalled.


To Jacqui, the pandemic was a global tragedy, but in Portugal she felt it showed the best of humanity, which brings us back to the paradox earlier alluded to.

Give the Portuguese a challenge and watch the solutions emerge, despite that first não é possível pause. See the furrowed brow flatten and folded arms open as the heart of a nation gets channelled through the individual in front of you, who, as Jacqui found, will lend you a home, their car, and ease your pain and anxiety in the face of adversity and suffering.

‘Portuguese positivity’ is not so much an acquired taste, more part of that ‘mysterious maiden’ phenomenon that I occasionally speak of to those seeking to understand our new collective culture. Like many things here, it can’t be grasped as a concept, it’s simply revealed when this particular strand of human nature takes its course, and the time is right.

Our practical and pragmatic Portuguese hosts are not unlike their own globally-popular sun on a cool winter morning. Life happens … is suffered almost. Yet, when human calls upon human, in obvious or declared need, the programmed urge to assist is so strong – out of the blue, love and light bless recipient and donor alike.

No wonder, blessed as she feels she’s been, Jacqui has a long-term goal to create a community food bank that will combat not only hunger but also the shame felt by those who have never been in a situation of food scarcity until being hit hard by the most recent economic crisis.

“Coming from an overtly positive culture as I do, that ultimately may not have the best or most noble intentions at stake, I have been humbled by this country and its people’s kindness,” says Jacqui.

“I know that the desire to support and enlighten infuses the 13,000 members of the Expats Portugal community,” of which Jacqui Acevedo is proud to be a part and guide.

“I am delighted to be able to help those following in my footsteps towards Portugal. It is impossible not to soften to the Portuguese who ultimately show such warmth, friendliness and who share such a deep desire to be helpful,” she concludes, leaving me with a warm glow, having understood and appreciated deeply the paradox she shared.

 You can find Jacqui among the Expats Portugal members she assists and inspires at www.expatsportugal.com/community

By Carl Munson

Carl Munson is host of the Good Morning Portugal! show every weekday on YouTube and creator of www.learnaboutportugal.com, where you can learn something new about Portugal every day!

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