8 Things Foreigners Find Strange About Portugal

Every country has its own culture. Portugal is not different, but we have some behaviors that are not expected by foreigners. It’s so funny when I try to explain our culture to a foreigner because sometimes it’s very hard to do it. Well, let’s check this article!

Why does everyone have a car?

Traffic jam


Sometimes people ask me “Why are the streets so deserted?” also. I’ve done some research and found out that Forbes said that our country “has more motor vehicles per capita–773 cars per 1,000 residents in 2006–than any other industrialized nation in the world”. Let’s explain why:

Firstly, our public transportation system is often not so good. If you want to go to school and you live 10km away, you might only have a bus a 7AM. It’s often harder for students if they live far away from school. The same if you have a job that’s not in the manufacturing business;

Secondly: Having a car means that we are earning big money. That’s why we have so many Audis, Mercedes, and BMW but fear not, most of them are bought with a loan. If you have a bad car, it means you are not doing very well in life… Society, I know;

Thirdly: If you are 18 you need to get a car. It’s often a way to get friends and be popular. That’s why you see so many cars in our high schools;

Finally: We don’t want to walk uphill.

Portugal is not Spain.

Flag of Portugal and Spain


And Spain is not Portugal. “Nuestros hermanos” is what we say about them, but that’s it. If you come and visit the two countries, you’ll see the differences. First of all, we have dinner at 8PM and not at 10PM, and we do not want to be independent of each other. It seems like we have much respect for the other one and we know how to live in a society (noise, traffic, customs) by comparison.

Why are two people arguing?

In the Youtube clip above you can see two people arguing about football.

Like the clip above, we often have different views than our friends, but we don’t stop hanging out together. It’s really normal to see a group in a coffee shop or near a bar discussing their views loudly. More often than not, it’s about football or politics. 

We don’t all have huge families.

Parents with one child


When our parents worked in the camp as farmers, having children meant that they would all be working together in the crops. At the time it was easy to feed more mouths because we often had a lot of produce and cattle. However, that changed when we entered the European Union. With the education ceiling increase, our families started to get out of the farming business and into manufacturing or services sector.

Unfortunately, as our age of getting out of school is increasing, the age of creating a family is also increasing. In Portugal, a couple is having their first child currently at 30.3 years. Because having a child pokes holes through every budget, nowadays our families only decide to have one child. Some parents even want to have more children, but their budget doesn’t grow. That’s why we are really surprised when you tell us that you have 4 or 5 brothers!

What is the name of that street?

Street Name Sign


We don’t navigate by street names, that’s so foreign! We only need to know what to find in those streets to navigate around new places. Let’s say you are in Leiria Shopping and want to go to the bus station: “head to the rotunda da Ford” (a roundabout that had a Ford dealership), go up the street to the tribunal (a square that has a courthouse), turn left and ride down till mercado Santana, go left on the roundabout till you see the buses”. How hard is it?

A red ‘tan’ is not sexy!

Red Tan


Outch! That’s not healthy! If you go to Algarve in the summer you see a lot of British people with their face and bodies all red. That’s not how you make the most of our sun! Please don’t be on the beach between 11AM and 3PM. It’s not difficult to get a good tan (we should trademark this, because it’s in our culture), but it’s really easy to burn the skin also, so be careful.

Winter is really cold here

Cold winter


If you live in a colder country, you know that your house is well isolated, but that’s not the case in Portugal. Unfortunately, the temperature outside often matches the temperature inside the house. What we save in isolation we spend in heating. In January it reaches 5º Celsius outside and we start to shiver as we get out of our beds. However, it’s amazingly cool in the summertime.

Time is not money

Time and Money


Unfortunately in Portugal time is not money. Time is only time and it moves really slow. We have huge amounts of red tape and you need to take an afternoon from work if you want to get things done. Appointments are made to be broken or delayed and “quick” lunches can take up to 3 hours. We mind, but what can we do about it?

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