Once every 4 months, I have a bad day. Surrounded by mountains too high to climb, nothing will come from my hands and I’m preferring to be on my own. Finally, at the end of the day, I understand why: I miss my crew; all dear family and friends from the Netherlands. Our new friends in Portugal immediately tell me: “Ah, you suffer from saudade!”

Cesaria Evora, the famous Cape Verdean singer, with her beautiful song aboout saudade.

The famous non-translatable Portuguese word, saudade, expresses the desire/lack/memory of beloved people/things/events. But that’s too easy. A word that cannot be translated deserves a longer explanation than 1 sentence.

I consult “The Portuguese. A Modern History” by Barry Hatton. It’s a must-read; I got a lot of insights and knowledge from this book.

Saudade is described in the chapter on Fado. This music often expresses the feeling of saudade, usually for a lost love. Hatton writes that saudade can be translated as “longing”, “homesickness” and “nostalgia” and the word does draw on the pain of separation from loved ones. (Yes, that’s pretty much how I feel on bad days.)

Bittersweet emotion

But, Hatton says, that is just a shallow explanation. Saudade‘s expression of pain, also carries hope for a better tomorrow. It is a bittersweet emotion and carries something of ‘belonging’ and being proud of that. Within ten days, tens of thousands of Portuguese emigrants and their offspring will travel to their home country. They come in August for ‘matar saudades‘ (killing the saudades). Which means spending days in Portuguese style with family and friends, according to the Portuguese daily routine and with Portuguese food and drink.

Mmmh, no, need for that, although we sometime crave fries with peanut sauce!
No, my bad days mostly occur when I hear about very festive or sad milestones of beloved ones. For instance, the loss of parents or spouses, getting a diploma, a wedding or buying a new house. Events where everyone comes together, but we are not there…
It all adds up on one bad day. That day usually ends with a few tears, some warm feelings about all those wonderful nice people far away and the realization I haven’t forgotten about them.
The Portuguese have to judge whether I know what saudade is from experience…

A lovely song from the Brazilian Rubel about ‘when that saudade hits’

Portuguese words you don’t want to miss

to missfaltar
to killmatar
a bad dayum mau dia
to hitbater



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.