It’s already our third week in Portugal. Beginning of September. And beginning of pear picking season in Portugal. At least that’s what we have heard from more than few locals. We don’t know too much about Portugal and we don’t have any fruit picking work experience. But we want to try it now and earn some money.
Pear picking will start in next 2-3 days, they say. And we see it ourselves, too. Today when we drove past one of the pear fields (there are many in central Portugal, near Rio Maior and Obidos), we saw, that they have already brought plastic boxes, apparently for pears. So it’s really starting very soon. Only we still haven’t found a job.
It’s late evening already. Almost 9 PM. Just an hour ago we received a message saying, that they don’t need any more workers. That was a message from a place, where daughter of friend of our friends has just started to work. He said it’s a very good place, and his daughter loves it. But, yes, they don’t need any more workers. And then our friend’s phone rings. It is a call from a woman. She has received an email from our friend, sent couple of days ago. And she has a pear picking job for us. We can start to work tomorrow.
So far all our attempts to find a fruit picking job were unsuccessful. We (read: our friend living in Portugal for 10+ years and speaking Portuguese) had spoken to several people in different places, to people whom everyone in the area knows and who know many people themselves. They all could recommend someone next to speak with, who knows something more. But it lead to nothing at the end.
Because no one knew, whom exactly to ask for a fruit picking job. They know, that pear picking will start soon. They knew, how much they pay in every region. But no one could give contacts of any farm owner, who is currently looking for extra hands.
Until this evening. When we got a call from a woman, whom we contacted via email, found on a poster on the street.
Pear picking in Portugal – one day at work
7:15 AM. It’s chilly. We are at the parking lot, where they are picking up workers. Work starts at 8 AM. But owner has several fields, and all of them are about 10 – 20 kilometers away from Rio Maior.
I’m looking on the truck and men sitting at the back of it, and it reminds me of Thailand. Is it legal to drive like this in Portugal? I guess, here, away from big cities, no one cares about it. 5 minutes later we are ready to move on. I jump in the open back of track, like other men. Elderly woman invites Una to get into the cabin of truck, together with other girls.
Once we are at the field, owner of this orchard, old Portuguese man, calls us with Una. He doesn’t speak English. We don’t speak Portuguese. We are – Ingles – for him. And that’s how he calls us. Then, using signs, he explains to us, which pears are good to be picked, which ones should be thrown away and which ones should be left on the trees (the smallest ones). After some 15 minutes his daughter arrives. She speaks some English. And she explains the same thing one more time. Then work starts.
Work doesn’t seem too hard. You don’t have any minimum amount of pears (kilos) that you should pick in some given time. You just need to be careful to not damage pears. Stem shouldn’t be broken. And then there are some more things, that you need to pay attention to.
At the same time people around us are nice. Though, only few speak some English. But it’s not a problem for us. We are used to it.
2 hours pass fast. And we have finished. We have picked all the pears. And now it’s time to go to the next orchard. Everyone goes to the truck. Now we all jump in the open back of track. Old man gets in, too, and we start to move.
Next field is much bigger. But work is the same.
At 12 PM we have 1 hour lunch break. There is no specially designated place for eating. Everyone just finds some place, some stone on which to sit on or some shady place under the three where to lay down. We aren’t given lunch, we need to think about it ourselves, but there is running water, where to wash hands and there is drinking water in big bottles.
After the lunch work continues. But shortly after 5 PM the same truck picks us up and takes us to the same parking lot, from where it picked us up in the morning. Our working day is over.
Next day isn’t that sunny and there is a breeze for most of the time, making it much better work day. On the first day for some 4 hours sky was completely cloudless and there was no wind at all. On the third day we both feel tired already in the morning. Hours seem to go very, very slow. It’s very hot again. Work is the same. But anyway it’s physical job, and we aren’t used to it.
Then we had 2 days off. And then… they called us to say, that the work is over.
Fruit picking / pear picking in Portugal – random facts
- Finding a job is easier, if you speak Portuguese or you have some local friends, who can help you with that.
- Otherwise just ask around wherever you meet some English speaking people. For example, in bars. Or if the season has already started and you see people working on the fields, go and ask them. Chances are there will be someone speaking English.
- It’s a low-paid job. In Portugal that means, that your salary will be around 30 – 35 euro per day, rarely – around 40 – 45 euro per day.
- Often it’s illegal employment. You are paid in cash (every day or at the end of week). So if some authorities are coming to do a check up on workers, then you don’t want to be there at that moment.
- At the end of August/beginning of September, when fruit picking in Portugal happens, it can be very hot. And it can be also very dirty job.
- Beware of chemical used to treat fruits. Better ask, for example, if it’s safe to eat these fruits straight from the trees. In our experience, working with pears we could eat them straight from the trees. And everyone was doing that. But at the same time these chemicals were very bad for eyes. And hands and face should be carefully washed at the end of work day.
If you still have some questions about fruit picking in Portugal, contact us!
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.