What is and how Madeira’s Digital Nomad Village operates? Why is the island of the eternal spring not a place for everyone and how to deal with its unbearable courtesy? Why it’s hard to find friends in the middle of the Atlantic and how to remain yourself despite the mismatch. This time, a few words about the specific residents of Madeira, their “conditional” hospitality, and remote work on the island.
Digital Nomad Village in Madeira.
What is the most exciting thing about living in another country? Immersion into a foreign culture? Discovering new flavors? Or maybe just getting away from the gray reality and jumping into new stimuli? Perhaps you work remotely and can operate from anywhere in the world. Lucky you! If so, and your dream location is the digital nomad village in Madeira, you better stop the fantasy. Instead, take out your notebook (or launch a google doc) and start taking notes. Because before moving to the middle of the Atlantic, it’s worth knowing what to prepare for, right? When the curtain falls, the secrets of Madeira are revealed, and with them the truth about its residents. And I can tell you quite a lot about them.
Why won’t this entry be candy sweet, just a bit controversial? Why did I choose this and not another way to describe the reality of life in Madeira? And why the hell do I expose the weaknesses of my Atlantic tropical love, Madeira? Because this island simply broke my heart. There is no Portuguese or another unhappy story behind it, but the residents of the island and the broadly understood relationships with them. And yes, I met fantastic people from whom I received a lot of warmth and hospitality. Full of hope and gratitude, I was tirelessly trying to “win their friendship”, but that was not enough. The relations remained superficial.
And although Madeira is still my unfulfilled love and I miss it incredibly, it is no longer my home. Instead of “my place on earth” it turned out to be a golden cage, which I left irretrievably one January morning.
Why not get a taste of life in Madeira?
The pandemic closed many restaurants, companies, and promotion paths, but opened the possibility of remote work for industries previously operating only stationary. So why not take advantage of it? To get a taste of remote life, you just need to buy a plane ticket and rent an apartment with good Internet. Done!
Another option to move for example to the middle of the Atlantic is the project: Digital Nomad Village in Madeira in Ponta do Sol. Before making the final decision on choosing a place and form of remote work, get to know the offer of projects or Startups associating the so-called digital nomads. They help to settle in new homes or “offices” and provide support and various attractions.
Madeira invites digital nomads.
The Digital Nomad Village in Madeira is an initiative created in order to promote the island and support its economy, after the pandemic. Remember, that the main economic sector of Madeira is tourism, without which the economy of the island has significantly deteriorated.
The heart of the project is located in the beautiful village of Ponta do Sol in Madeira. Situated by the ocean, the picturesque town guarantees an indecent number of sunny days throughout the year. The project provides remote workers with a place to work at the John do Passos Cultural Center, good internet, and access to the Slack community. Not enough? Well, there are also seminars and workshops as well as various forms of active (and trendy) leisure, such as trekking or yoga. In addition, an unrivaled ace up the sleeve – blasting views and the spring atmosphere of the island.
The organizers do not provide accommodation but help to find a suitable accommodation, not only in Ponta do Sol. The proposal is very tempting and the system is simple and pleasant. In return for the invitation to the project and the facilities offered, the digital nomad uses the services and gastronomy of the island, supporting its economy. Finally, the circle closes, creating a system of mutual benefits. It promises to be really fantastic, but not for everyone.
Utopia for introverts and loners.
Depending on what you expect from living on the island, Madeira can be a ten-shot or a knock-out. If you are moving with your friends, focusing on active recreation, and not caring too much about integration with the locals, you have the green light. If, on the other hand, you are a “social animal” counting on international friendships and adventurous life, you better rebook your ticket and change the island right away.
Whoever has been or lived on smaller islands knows that life has its own rules there. If we are talking about a place as distant and specific as Madeira, let’s get ready for some surprises. In this rugged mountain landscape, blown by the wind and the Atlantic, life simply has a different rhythm.
Don’t you get discouraged so easily?
Okay then, so if you want to land so stubbornly in the middle of the Atlantic, you better be patient. Especially if you are familiar with expression, expansiveness, and extroversion, be aware that it will not be easy. And although you are direct, open, and honest with people, ironically, you will not find friends in Madeira soon. Discovering the true face of Madeira and its local customs is a long and sometimes bumpy road with a difficult history. However, it also allows us to understand and justify the distance and “coldness” of the residents of Madeira.
I consciously generalize, emphasize and go to extremes, but it is necessary to show you the people of Madeira in my own way. However, what I am writing about is not only my idea but a summary of several dozen conversations and questions. For years I have been trying to understand the way the island’s society works and to find a way to join its ranks. The effects were different, but they enriched my experience and verified an important thing. Some barriers just cannot be overcome. Despite the best intentions.
Integration with the residents of Madeira.
Imagine a warm afternoon in Madeira. You are on the promenade in Ponta do Sol, overlooking the pastel colors of the ocean. You can feel the Atlantic breeze, sun and wind on your face. After an eventful day, you are looking for the perfect place for an evening drink in good company. It’s just a matter of time, because in a moment you will be surrounded by a group of locals, right?
At the corner of a local eatery, you notice a group of people gesturing intensely and laughing out loud. After a while, they notice that you are walking alone and are eagerly inviting you to join their group. You laugh while sipping poncha and sharing stories so that you can go to the beach together the next day. No way! Such stories are rare in Spain, let alone Portugal. But I promise you one thing, such a scenario will never happen in Madeira. But after all, they are Southerners, right!?
What do residents of Madeira, Portugal, and Spain have in common?
Let’s start with the fact that not much. I need to add that for comparing to a Spaniard, the Portuguese would be mortally offended with you. They wouldn’t punch your face for this “insult” (not with this temperament), but they would be mortally offended for a long time. Portugal and Spain are completely different countries, such as fire and water or Poland and Russia. So different in many respects, ranging from cuisine or culture to national characteristics and disposition. As you can guess, Spain and Portugal do not like each other for the sake of principle and the fact of being neighbors. Therefore, never put them together unless you want to drop out in social runs.
Now it will get awkward, because I will briefly mention reluctance to which neither Madeira nor mainland Portugal will openly admit. Let me start with the fact that to this day Madeira is considered a “poorer version” of the continent. Although it is extremely beautiful, it is rather associated with an unleavened climate, backward economy and a funny accent. There are jokes saying that people in Madeira need some extra subtitles on Netflix, as their language is so weird (not to mention the Azores accent). However, these differences do not come out of nowhere. Even 30 years ago, Madeira was practically isolated from the rest of the world due to its location, dangerous airport and demanding mountain terrain. And the effects of this isolation are really visible and not only in the linguistic aspects.
Years and kilometers of distance.
Let’s go back a few dozen years ago, when nobody really remembered about the island. The time of war is a Madeira poor, hungry, and sentenced on itself, forgotten by the people and God. It made the Madeirans leave the island en masse and looked for a better life on other continents. They were moving to Brazil, Venezuela or South Africa. Let me mention my friend’s dad, a strong and hard-working man from the far north of the island.
This brave man, as a teenager, one day, as he stood, boarded a large ship and sailed in a T-shirt to South Africa in the middle of winter. And it was only on this great ship that he satisfied his hunger for the first time in months. There are thousands of such stories. The unimaginable difficulty of living and emigration behind the bread has been imprinted on most of the families in Madeira. Many of them are torn between continents to this day.
Madeira is not a small Portugal.
As residents of Madeira have always been treated with a grain of salt, they are struggling with a little feeling of inferiority Despite the spectacular flourishing of tourism and the invaluable role that the island plays in the country’s economy, innocent jokes remained. And the distance too. The one in the kilometers and the one in the mentality. Madeirans feel a constant pressure to pursue the continent, mixed with a desire for autonomy and distinctiveness. Finally, despite all the contrasts and contradictions, they are extremely proud of their origin and emphasize their individuality as much as possible. These elders say they live in paradise (and they are right) and are not eager to explore other parts of the world.
The hospitality of Madeirans and its borders.
Friendship in the light of tourism.
As the main source of income for Madeira is tourism, the island’s functioning is based on hospitality and a constant smile. As a result, excessive courtesy is not a national characteristic but rather an official duty. As long as you support tourism and the economy of the island, it is all fine. Ha! Even very fine!
But if the status of a tourist was to change into an island resident, God forbid, looking for a job on it? Then the smile fades away, and the hospitality will be limited to showing you the airport and the way home. Why so? Because a job battle is fought in Madeira, and if there is any, it should be reserved for the residents of the island. To sum up, when you want to settle down in Madeira, do not expect a bond with your neighbors or to meet new friends soon.
Residents of Madeira, the champions of courtesy.
Nobody has ever sent me such polite and friendly e-mails as my colleagues from the Madeira office. Reading them, I didn’t know if they were really sent to me? They sounded like a welcome speech to Queen Elizabeth or an invitation to a lifelong friendship full of love and support. At first, I got the impression that maybe these nice residents of Madeira would be so kind and helpful?
How great was my surprise when I confronted the written content with real meetings? How many times have I been greeted with a cold, condescending tone, or… not greeted at all! The worst for them was my “loud greetings”, that is, full of sincere sympathy and joy. At that time, I often received an icy visual reprimand (verbal one would be too much). Why were my enthusiasm and energy met with such reluctance? Because you can not be “too much” in Madeira. Extremes and expression in everyday etiquette are not welcome. Showing emotions or excessive manifestation of feelings are often perceived as tactless. By the way, sometimes Madeirans just don’t know how to face them.
Excuse me, shall you excuse me?
If I were to indicate the most frequently used phrase in Madeira, I would bet on the “Com licença”, meaning: with permission/excuse me. When you go to your local bakery to eat, for example, an “exquisite national dish” (ham and cheese toast) expect the waiter’s monologue like:
“Good morning! Can I accept the order with permission? With permission, can I put a napkin here and, with permission, can I ask for a permit? Wow! Communication such that instead of eating a cake, you want to run away from such a bakery and apologize for everything! In addition, I associate bakeries with devout cutting of buns with a knife and fork, which was surprising for me too.
Juicy fruit only through a napkin.
But following the lead, I noticed that the etiquette of eating meals shocked me even more in the office. I will never forget eating apples there through a napkin. I think if a drop of juice dripped down your hand, or God forbid it dripped on your desk, it would be a hardcore faux pas and at least an anecdote to be told during your next small talk. What island, such madness.
Yes, I know, I’m a little mean. But as time went on my jaw dropped lower and lower, and after a while, I became a radar for tracking island absurdities. The omnipresent politeness and correctness made me more and more furious because I knew that there was nothing to do with interpersonal relationships in everyday life.
Residents of Madeira do not like extremes.
I remember my friend telling me in shock about how a 70-year-old taxi driver told her about the rules of the island. He explained directly that it cannot be “too much” in Madeira. So if the unbearable heat makes you sweat and barely live from fatigue and overheating, it is worth restraining your emotions and language. Instead, you could say, “But today is a warm day!” Also, do not forget to add a gentle smile, but not too broad! Let it never be “too much”, and let emotions stay with you. Otherwise, you’ll be considered weird or too loud.
Looking back on my life in Madeira, I’m aware to be the exact embodiment of the features that islanders do not like. Sorry guys, but vice versa. At the end of my long stay on the island, I really felt “kicked out” of it. I couldn’t live in this paranoid courtesy mixed with the distance and coldness of the locals. With my inexhaustible energy, activity, and love for people… I just couldn’t stand it. And this mixture was more and more painful for me, incomprehensible and disappointing.
A new visitor to the island will not discover for a long time that the residents of Madeira do not care about integration with newcomers. The island community is mostly closed cliques and family clans. Access to them is granted only to selected, usually related, or “strangers” who have been working for the trust for years. Although the inhabitants of Madeira are close to relatives and extremely family, they are generally distrustful and not enthusiastic to strangers. However, thanks to their politeness and composure, it is hard to see.
Does Digital Nomad Village rescue the island?
Definitely, the Digital Nomad Village in Ponta do Sol is a breath of fresh air in the island’s social life. The influx of new residents makes Madeira bustle with life again. The island could do with a little “liven up the society”. And perhaps the project participants could help with this? I think only partially, because the Digital Nomad Village is also a kind of bubble and a separate community, not entering into deeper interactions with the residents of Madeira. Therefore, although the project has the potential to integrate everybody, I remain skeptical. In my opinion, this promising cultural exchange is just a concept that has no right to come true.
To go to Madeira or not to go?
In conclusion, do I advise against coming to Madeira? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I encourage you with all my heart. If you are focused on active recreation, relaxation, or immersing yourself in amazing nature, this place is a bull’s eye. Nowhere, like in Madeira, you will not feel an amazing connection with nature and the elements. Not without reason called the pearl of the Atlantic, the island of Eternal Spring is perfect for relaxation, longer stays, and for some for life. If you are going to Madeira with your partner, friends, or family – it’s a perfect fit.
However, I give a signal to those who want something more than just beautiful views and silence for several months of stay. If you love people, want to get to know the cultures of the world, and discover new places, Madeira will quickly become too tiny and limited for you. Therefore, if you are planning to move to Madeira, think about what you care about the most and whether this island will meet your expectations.
Find out more about fascinating Madeira:
Living in Madeira and its mountain realities.
The Island of Eternal Spring and extremes, Madeira.
The best weather in Madeira for your vacation!