I’ve been in Lisbon, Portugal for less than 48 hours and I’m already frustrated.
The problem is the language. I speak Spanish, which is extraordinarily similar to written Portuguese, but my Spanish background doesn’t actually help me communicate with anyone here. The pronunciation is so different: s sounds like sh, h sounds like y, and o sounds like u. Plus, while both languages are Latin-based, their vocabularies are different enough that I can’t assume that any given noun in Spanish will be the same word in Portuguese.
The good news, of course, is that most Western Europeans (especially in tourist areas) speak at least some English, and hand gestures and pointing go a long way. That is, as long as they expect you to be asking for whatever word you’re surely mangling. My family has already confused a taxi driver by asking him to simply drive by the Tower of Belem so we could see it rather than dropping us off there. And when we tried to ask for tap water at dinner instead of bottled water, our waitress was completely mystified.
Luckily, Portugal is incredible in its architecture, its food, and its scenery, so I’ll forgive the country for causing me so much linguistic frustration.