I am not even sure sports watching is the proper label for what people seem to engage in here, but to some extent I do think it covers the fact that when exercising here, people watch. That includes the ones that are not exercising themselves as well.
Especially beach front, when running or walking or stretching people actually look at you, they look at everybody. And not just look you in the face to see who you are and whether they know you. No, they eye you, up and down. And again, this goes for everybody. I even know people who choose to park a bit to the side so that they can stretch out behind the car so as not to feel so exposed.
Mind you, these are not dirty looks, not at all, the watching is simply observational, not judgmental or condescending. But it’s like it’s part of what you do, part of the culture in a way. An observational culture.
There is another movement that coincides with the watching, and maybe to some extent explains it. It is the fact that people sit in their cars. They park, preferably ocean front, and they sit in their cars, and they watch. The ocean front in many places is even planned in a way that cars can stop easily, and in long stretches. And in many places parking spaces are built facing the ocean, not sideways, but head on. So you can really sit comfortably in your seat and watch. They watch the ocean, the waves and the movements of ocean and clouds I guess. They may be alone, sitting in their cars playing with their phones or reading a paper. They may also be in pairs, and sit talking, or showing up bags with loot from the latest shopping spree to each other. The key is, no matter what it is that they do, it looks like the activity as well as the location was planned and they seem very relaxed and free of time constraints. They look like they are truly enjoying the moment.
And being unstressed and looking at something that is constant yet always moving, I guess it becomes natural to track any movement , including that of passers by, runners, walkers, stretchers. Something changes in the landscape they’re looking at and the reflex is to look. That is somehow logical, but the watching and the eyeing up and down?
This would never happen in Sweden, on the contrary, people even seem to look the other way when approaching exercisers. I am not saying this is a good thing, I am simply acknowledging the difference and the fact that I in Sweden used to find it amusing to greet people in the track just to see their stunned reaction out of being greeted by a stranger. It is a very different reaction.
And that makes we wonder to which part it is linked to the fact that the Portuguese are a people who are very welcoming and nice, very observant to their surroundings, in a way quite social creatures, so it would be rude for them not to acknowledge the fact that another human being is approaching. But that still doesn’t explain the eyeing up and down.
So that leads my thoughts to the fact that the gender roles here are still so traditional and conservative. That maybe the eyeing is a simple millennium old reaction to observe the female species as a potential mating partner. And again I am saying millennium old reaction and not anything necessarily intended and with any particular objective in that very instant, but more a reflex reaction.
But it really also makes me wonder if the whole thing is about the fact that exercising and tending to the body and mind still seems to be a movement for the few here. So that the observing is, in fact, a mere watching of sports.