Portuguese Customs

We all know that going to a new country means that you will find different customs and culture. It might be strange at first, but it’s like with Coca-cola when it entered the country. First you find it strange and then it becomes attached to you (horrible translation for a Portuguese slogan). I’ve adapted the information below from this link and took out what I personally think it doesn’t fit our description. Please be aware than the culture from Oporto might be very different from the culture of Faro.

Facts and Statistics

Our capital is Lisbon (it’s normally more expensive to land there than in Oporto) and we have a population of more than 10 Million people. We are mostly Catholic (more than 90% but most of us do not go to church very often).

We normally put our family on top of everything and it’s normal to have a great relationship with our cousins and other relatives. However, in the last generations, this started to change (put our job in the first place, for example).

We are normally traditional and conservative. If we do not know each other is normal to have a sense of formality (mostly extreme politeness). We also think appearance is very important and people are fashion conscious. We believe clothes indicate social standing and success. We also take great pride in wearing good fabrics and clothes of the best standard we can afford.


We respect the hierarchy a lot. Our society and most businesses are highly stratified and vertically structured. We respect the authority unless it’s the Police, and we look for them to get guidance and help to make decisions. In business, power and authority generally reside with one person who makes decisions with little concern about consensus building with their subordinates.

Customs in Portugal

The handshake accompanied by direct eye contact and the appropriate greeting for the time of day. If we are in an informal environment (meeting new friends), it’s normal for women to kiss each other twice on the cheek.

The proper form of address is the honorific title “senhor” and “senhora” with the surname. Anyone with a university degree is referred to with the honorific title, plus “doutor” or “doutoura” (‘doctor’) with or without their surname.

If you are invited to a Portuguese home for dinner, bring something (candy, desert or some appetizer. If you bring wine, ask what type should you bring).

If invited to a dinner arrive no more than 15 minutes after the stipulated time. You may arrive between 30 minutes and one hour later than the stipulated time when invited to a party or other large social gathering. It’s also normal for you to arrive late to any social gathering. Don’t arrive late to work. It might be normal to arrive late, but we take public hours very seriously. If a store is open from 10AM to 12AM, it’s expected that you leave before that time.

Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. We say “Bom apetite” before we start eating. Most food is eaten with utensils, including fruit and cheese.

Although the Portuguese are not emotive speakers and do not use hand gestures, they may be demonstrative when greeting friends. If you tend to use hand gestures while speaking, you may wish to moderate your behavior since it may incorrectly be viewed as overtly demonstrative.
They have a more relaxed attitude towards time and do not see deadlines as crucial as people from many other cultures do.

Since most Portuguese take vacation during August, it is not an ideal time to try to schedule meetings or any sort of formal event. If you are in an office or you are going to one (as a client or student), please knock before opening and do close doors slowly.

Final Notes

It’s important to know how to behave in a different country. I hope you find this information useful and that you will follow or understand our customs.

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