Customs and traditions

When talking to a Portuguese, it is important to look him or her in the eye. Avoiding eye contact can be perceived as unfair or even unreliable. It is usually easy to converse with Portuguese, who are often perceived to have a casual socializing style. It is appreciated that you talk about your family or ask about the family of others. Ask about the country and the culture, please say something positive about Portugal. Avoid talking about religion or money and income.

Meetings start with shaking hands with the person (s) you meet. You also shake hands when you say goodbye. Kind kisses (on both cheeks) occur, especially between women who know each other well. Men can also kiss women, but with a new acquaintance you should stick to shaking hands. Giving a hug is considered informal.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Portugal, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

A person is addressed with O senhor (male) / A senhora (wife) and the surname until the person himself says that you can use the first name. A highly educated person is titled senhor doutor (Mr Doctor) or Senhor doutora (Mrs Doctor) together with the surname. A woman from the upper class is addressed to dona plus the first name, for example dona Maria.

It is common to have a small gift at meetings, both at work and in private. The gift is personal and should be opened immediately when the donor looks at. Give flowers, but not lilies or chrysanthemums that are funeral flowers. Don’t give 13 flowers either, it means bad luck. Avoid red flowers that symbolize revolution.

A class society with a small elite

When you are invited to dinner, you should not arrive later than a quarter of an hour. Do not sit down until you are offered a place. Start eating when the host / hostess says “boom appetito”. The napkin is not placed in the lap, it should be on the left side of the plate. When you have finished eating, select it by placing the napkin to the right. It is a good tone to hear from the host / hostess and thank you for a dinner party or private party.

When visiting a restaurant, the waiter usually starts by serving small snacks or appetizers. Remember that you have to pay if you take them off. Do not eat with the fork alone, but use both knife and fork. One way to show appreciation for the food is to kiss the side of your index finger and then pull it into your ear. The service charge is not included in the bill, so you should give tips of about ten percent.

It is perceived as impolite to yawn in the presence of others or to stretch. One way to say that you do not understand or do not know is to poke your fingers under your chin. On the other hand, if you make the same gesture with your thumb, it means that something has ceased to exist or has died.

The Portuguese clothing style is often casual but still clean. It is customary to dress up a little next door during theater or restaurant visits. In workplaces the style of clothing is still quite conservative. In the office, it is common for men to wear a suit and tie, women’s costume or blouse and skirt. In general, it can be said that working life is relatively formal and that respect for hierarchies and superiors is important.

According to Abbreviationfinder, Portugal is a class society. The rich are easier to get good jobs and a “nice” last name is often an advantage. There is a small political and economic elite who rarely live far from the rest of society.

Food and eating habits

Portuguese cuisine differs in the different regions. In the north, everyday is often served caldo verde (a kind of spicy cabbage and potato soup) or grilled sardines (which you can also find in the south). The traditional bread in the north is called the bridge. Here the young “green” wine, vinho verde, is produced. From the north also comes the meat and vegetable soup cozida à portuguesa, which has now quickly become a national dish. More cheeses and fish and octopus are eaten in the middle parts of the country. In the south, the cold vegetable soup gas pacho is popular and is often eaten with bread and smoked pork. From the Alentejo in the south also comes the catfish cataplana, which is cooked in a kind of tightly closed vessel of the same name.

A well-known Portuguese dish is also bacalhau, salted cod. Pastéis de bacalhau (cod croquettes) is a popular appetizer. A popular dessert is the traditional rice pudding arroz doce.

The Portuguese port wine is world famous. The grapes for the strong wine are grown mainly in the upper part of the Douro River. But even “ordinary” Portuguese wines have become increasingly appreciated in the outside world.

The Portuguese often eat a small so-called continental breakfast (o pequeno almoço) or maybe just take uma bica, a glass of coffee with milk. The lunch is taken around 12.30 and the dinner at 20. In the past, it was common for men to drink a ping (a local brandy) on their way home from work.

The traditional Christmas dinner consists of the salted cod bacalhau, boiled potatoes, cabbage (couve) and molho verde (a green sauce made with olive oil as a base). On thursday evening, bolo rei (kings bread) is served, which often has a good fortune baked.


The Catholic / Christian Feasts of Easter, Corpus Christi (Feast of Christ ‘s Body and Blood), Assunção de Nossa Senhora (celebrated on August 15 to pay attention to how the Virgin Mary’s body ascended to heaven after her death), Halloween Day, Marie’s Annunciation Day (December 8) and Christmas is national holidays.

According to Countryaah, secular national holidays are New Year’s Day, Liberation Day (April 25; celebrated since 1974 in memory of the overthrow of the Salazar dictatorship), May 1 (Workers Day), National Day (Portugal Day; June 10), Republic Day (October 5; the 1910 fall of monarchy) for the restoration of independence (December 1) and the carnival (40 days before Good Friday, usually in February).

Locally, many different Catholic saints and the Virgin Mary are honored. Pilgrimages to regional religious sites are common, as are saintly processions. A well-known pilgrimage destination is the Basilica Fátima in Ribatejos in northeastern Portugal where three children should have received a message from the Virgin Mary. Pilgrimage there is made in May and October every year.

Especially on holidays, you can see the Portuguese flag in red and green (see Portugal home page in the Country Guide). On a holiday such as National Day (or when Portugal’s national team, European winner 2016, plays football) you can also hear the national song A portuguesa (and it can be listened to online).

Portugal Immigration Statistics



The Socialist Party forms a minority government

Prime Minister José Sócrates is appointed to the presidency by President Cavaco Silva. After fruitless negotiations with all parties in the National Assembly, Sócrates forms a minority government consisting of ministers only from the Socialist Party. Thus, the government must continue to seek support from the National Assembly in order to get its decisions through.


The Socialist Party is getting worse

The ruling Socialist Party wins the election to the National Assembly but loses its majority. In the election campaign, the socialists promise to invest in infrastructure projects with the aim of reducing high unemployment. Among other things, a fast train line to Madrid will be built and Lisbon will have a new airport. The opposition opposes these plans which they consider to be costly. The Socialists back the election by 8 percentage points to 36.5 percent, while the PSD goes slightly to 29 percent. CDS-PP increases by 3 percentage points to 10.5 percent. The left bloc receives almost 10 percent of the vote, while the CDU receives 7.5 percent. The distribution of seats will be 96 for the Socialist Party, 78 for the PSD, 11 for the CDS-PP, 16 for the Left Bloc and 15 for the CDU. The turnout is just over 60 percent.

Portugal Culture and Traditions
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