In Britain it is generally accepted that marrying your cousin is a bad thing, I mean I know you are legally allowed to and back in the day it was sometimes even seen as a good thing, but on the whole the marrying a member of the family thing is seen as a bit weird – however in Portugal, while it is still not all that acceptable to marry a cousin, it can actually be very tricky to find someone you are not related to. This is because this is the land where everyone is your cousin.
To work out the British way of deducting if a person is a cousin or not, I like to apply the following simple equation:
parent+sibling+children = cousin
(There are of course all those other second, third and removed cousins but generally these are seen as being “a cousin” rather than being “cousins” – its a subtle thing but one that seems to work)
In Portugal there is a different way of working out if someone is your cousin. I like to apply the following simple equation:
parent/sibling/child/spouse/+any other person who may be vaguely related in any way = cousin
And here in is where the problem lies in trying to avoid marrying your cousin in Portugal – basically everyone is your cousin when you apply the above equation.
My partner is Portuguese, which means he feels related to my mother, which means his mother feels related to my mother, which means his mothers brothers sons wife is referred to as my sisters cousin. This sounds complicated but it really isn’t if you just simply assume that you are the cousin of basically everyone in any small town.
Having so many cousins can be a really good thing some of time and in a country where nepotism is the only way to get onto the employment ladder, the larger the family the better your chances of landing that job you want. It also means that if you are not part of the family then the door is firmly shut in lots of cases.
Having lots of cousins means you will get a discount at the local shop, that you can walk into a bar and find a beer waiting for you and that if you forget your purse at the petrol station then you can come back later and settle up.
Having lots of cousins means that you can never come home at 5am, can never leave the town and can never stumble in your own vomit after a night out without your mother-in-law knowing within minutes. Who needs Facebook or Twitter when you have the cousin network to provide evidence of every misdemeanor.
Such a large extended family of cousins means that family get-togethers are almost impossible as you can either invite immediate family only of around 15 people or you have to invite the entire clan of more than 80 (and that is just the ones who are around on that day).
Being British I am use to a large family do being no more than around 10 people but here there is a whole new meaning attached to family gathering.
In Portugal the word cousin is Primo/a and it is a word you will her used often because if in doubt you will always refer to someone as your cousin (they usually will be somehow) and it also means you never have to remember anyones name – I knew being everyones cousin had to have its benefits.