Why leaving lockdown in Lisbon is a bit like defrosting a chicken


Coming out of lockdown feels a bit like you are defrosting a rather large chicken, is an unlikely realisation I’ve discovered. Or one that is the direct result after months of being isolated from most forms of human interaction. Hard to tell.


Anyway, regardless of how I came to this conclusion, hear me out. It does make sense in a way. Slowly but surely, the gradual relaxing of lockdown measures ensures COVID-19 doesn’t spread en masse once again.  This is a bit like gradually thawing out a chicken whilst changing the cold water periodically to avoid bacterial contamination. Kind of?


Defrosting or otherwise, the build-up feels papable every time we reach a new stage of the transition out of lockdown in Lisbon. Seeing stacks of chairs and parasols mysteriously appear overnight on sun-parched squares, outside their soon to be open restaurants, adds to the suspense, but at the same time doubly impatient.

Catching up with friends

I’ll be honest, the sight of seeing just about anything open these days makes me feel wild with possibility, not completely unlike an overexcited pup.  Seeing a tasca yesterday with its doors flung open, and the waft of bifanas drifting through the street made me feel positively giddy. If hope in Lisbon had a smell, I think this would be it. The not so distant, memories of the San Antonio festival linger in every resident’s mind, and its absence this year is noticeably present.


Obligatory mask-wearing and limited shop capacities has unexpectedly meant there is a new type of temporary daily awkwardness to deal with. That is, dithering at the doorway nervously, communicating predominately through a thumbs up-thumbs down approval scale, as the mask muffles sounds.  


As a Brit, it’s a lesser equivalent of the Portuguese/French kissing two cheeks etiquette when you aren’t acquainted with it – a full-on personal space nightmare. Or conversely, the similar awkwardness that ensues when you are so used to doing it in Portugal, that you double-kiss other Brits accidentally when visiting in the UK,  convincing strangers you are indeed madly in love with them.


Coming out of lockdown is definitely bittersweet. I’ll hazard a guess it won’t be the kind you dreamt up during it. It’s whatever you thought, watered down. The overall response in Lisbon has been one of restraint – you can tangibly feel the nervous energy wherever you go. It certainly hasn’t been an outpouring of people onto the streets, it’s a quiet, newfound freedom treated with respect.


 I think it might be a little while yet before I hear what used to be the defining sound of my neighbourhood in Alfama – the sound of suitcases dragging along the unevenly tiled, hilly paths.