Portuguese Customs and Traditions You Should Know About

Portuguese Customs and Traditions

Getting to grips with local customs and traditions is all part and parcel of the fun when living in Portugal. Not to mention, an important part of the transition to your new Portuguese lifestyle, so as to avoid any potential faux pas. 

Being the friendly and accommodating people they are, you’re unlikely to offend a Portuguese national by accidentally overstepping the mark, where customs and culture are concerned. Even so, all efforts made to understand, appreciate, and indeed embrace the local culture will go a long way in helping you build connections with your new neighbours.

With this in mind, here are a few essential insights into Portuguese customs, culture, and traditions all expats should know about:

1. Food is a Big Deal

Portugal is the kind of country where food is considered less fuel for the body, and more a religion in its own right. In advance of parties and gatherings, it is the norm for families to work tirelessly for several days on the most elaborate of spreads. You’ll need a big appetite and a relentless passion for fantastic food to fit in with the locals, as eating really is the national pastime in Portugal.

2. They’re Night Owls 

Similar to the Spanish, you can expect the locals you mix with to serve and eat meals at somewhat different times to your own familiar norms. Breakfast is a quick and easy affair during the week, and more of a long and lazy celebration at the weekend. Lunch is usually served at around 2.00 PM, followed by ‘merenda’ at around 4.00 PM to keep you going. As for dinner, eating what’s typically the most extensive and enjoyable meal of the day at 10.00 PM takes some getting used to for most expats.

3. Alcohol is Enjoyed in Strict Moderation

There really is no culture of “binge drinking” to speak of in Portugal – including among teenagers. Drinking excessively (or specifically with the aim of becoming inebriated) is something the Portuguese people simply do not do.  Public inebriation is rare, and those who take things too far with alcohol aren’t looked upon kindly by the locals. Do like the Portuguese – take a slow, steady, and sensible approach to alcohol consumption, focusing exclusively on the enjoyment of the drinking question.

4. Get Used to Air-Kissing when Saying Hello 

Portuguese greet friends and good acquaintances with an air kiss, and even colleagues at work (depending on the formality or otherwise of the relationship and setting). But when getting to know new people in Portugal for the first time, a handshake will usually suffice. Just don’t be surprised if you are air-kissed on a regular basis by people you barely know – it’s simply a pleasantry you’ll gradually get used to.

5. Football is the Unofficial National Sport

Anyone with a passion for football (aka soccer to folks in the USA) will be in their element in Portugal. Home to several world-class club football teams (including Sporting and Benfica), Portugal also has one of the highest-ranked national football teams in the world.

6. Café Culture is Immersive and Addictive

From daybreak until the early hours of the morning, cafes and al-fresco eateries across Portugal are awash with locals doing their thing. People in Portugal simply love gathering in cafes and bars to chat, read newspapers, or watch live sporting events together. Find a place that serves snacks alongside coffee and other drinks and it’s easy to lose an entire day in a single Portuguese café.

7. The Portuguese Respect Their Elders

There is a prominent and highly important culture of respect for older citizens in Portugal. To a delightfully old-fashioned degree, elderly citizens (and older adults in general) are always treated with a certain degree of respect, given the right of way, and basically looked out for by their younger counterparts. The same can also be said for authority figures (including police and emergency workers), who are likewise respected highly by the vast majority of Portuguese nationals.

8. Avoid Going Into the Red 

Last but not least, superstition plays a role in Portuguese culture, as it does everywhere else on earth. In particular, writing anything in red pen is not a good idea – unless your goal is to be interpreted as rude. Even if simply jotting down a phone number or signing a credit card receipt, the use of a red pen is best avoided where possible.

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