Fitting in with the Portuguese people and their way of life doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few ways you can easily get by in Portugal.

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Maryam Siddiqui

So what are the Portuguese people like? This is a question often asked by many individuals considering immigrating to Portugal. First off, Portugal is an amazing country, so many expats choose to live the twilight years of their lives in Portugal.

Portuguese people

The historical significance of the Iberian Peninsula plays a crucial role in understanding the origins and cultural development of the Portuguese people, highlighting the region’s rich history of Roman, Lusitanian, Germanic, Moorish, and Jewish influences, as well as its pivotal role in global exploration.

So how easy is it to fit in with the people of Portuguese ethnicity? Do you have to speak the native language? How does hospitality compare to Western Europe?

Well, to answer these questions, you will need to know the Portuguese way of life. This article will bring to the fore all you need to know about the Portuguese people and give you insights on how to best fit in as an expat in Portugal. Tag along to learn more about the stunning European country and the Portuguese community.

What Are Portuguese People Like?

To begin, the Portuguese population is more than 11 million people, according to the most recent census. However, out of the millions of residents, over 60% of the population lives in the coastal fourth of the nation. Major cities, such as Lisbon and Porto, harbor large populations.

These bustle with activity, serving as hubs of urban life and cultural expression. Notably, Northern Portugal, with its rich history of Celtic settlements and significant contributions to the genetic and ethnic origins of the Portuguese people, plays a crucial role in shaping the country’s identity.

The country’s multicultural landscape includes ethnic minorities, contributing to the nation’s diverse tapestry. These minorities and expats enrich Portuguese society with their unique customs, traditions, and perspectives. This fosters a dynamic and inclusive community spirit.

Let’s face it; it is never easy to describe a national character. However, the Portuguese people are known to be kind and accommodating even to strangers. It is not unfamiliar to find people going out of their way in Portugal just to help out a stranger.

Portuguese love a slow pace of life

Their innate warmth and hospitality shine through their kindness and willingness to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s offering directions to a lost traveler or sharing a meal with a newcomer, the Portuguese embody a spirit of generosity and friendship.

Despite living in urban cities, work-life balance is important, with siestas and afternoon breaks common in regions like the Alentejo and Algarve. Outdoor activities like football and beach-going are popular pastimes and capture Portugal’s sunny climate and coastal geography. Also, festivals and cultural events punctuate the calendar, celebrating everything from Saints’ Days to music and arts.

It is no news that over 80% of the population identifies as Roman Catholics, despite the fact that only a small percentage attends mass regularly. Other religions enjoy freedom of worship as well.

Understand The Rich Portuguese Culture

If you’re relocating to a new country, understanding the local culture is something you should do before you officially move here. It’s important to respect and accept things that are a norm in the new country, in this case, Portugal.

And, of course, you are free to practice your own traditions and values. The native Portuguese will really appreciate the co-existence of both cultures. So let’s tell you a bit more about the locals.

The Portuguese people identify as Roman Catholics; many are baptized and get married in churches.

Portuguese, especially those in the rural, are quite superstitious. This is a result of intertwining the modern Roman catholic beliefs and pre-catholic beliefs. Some common superstitious beliefs include the phases of the moon and the evil eye.

One fundamental pillar of Portuguese culture is the family unit. Portuguese people really hold close and extended family ties dearly. And that’s how the concept of Sunday lunches has come into being!

It is, therefore, normal to find people living in close proximity to their parents and even grandparents.

Culture & Lifestyle

For the Portuguese people, greetings are not complete without a kiss on both cheeks, starting from the right to the left or exchanging handshakes. This is a common practice everywhere you go in Portugal, whether rural or urban.

Once you are in Portugal, you will realize how much Portuguese people love dining in cafes. Right from early in the morning to late evening, you will find the Portuguese enjoying coffee at their local restaurants. Once you get into the culture, you will always find an excuse to grab a cup of coffee at any time.

The global distribution of Portuguese ancestry and the cultural impact of communities of Portuguese descent are profound and widespread. From the shores of Asia and Southeast Asia to the bustling cities of Europe and the diverse landscapes of the Americas and the Caribbean, individuals of Portuguese descent have made significant contributions.

These communities not only preserve the rich traditions, language, and cultural practices of Portugal but also blend them with local customs, creating a unique cultural tapestry in each region. Notable personalities of Portuguese descent have emerged in various fields, showcasing the global influence and legacy of Portuguese culture.

The Portuguese Are Proud Of Their History

The Portuguese people are proud advocates of not only their culture but also their history. A good example of this is the fact that ancient practices and beliefs are kept alive and are transferred down the generations. 

Their history runs deep and is traced back to ancient times when their land was inhabited by various civilizations, including Celtic and Iberian tribes. Later, the Roman conquest left its mark, followed by the invasion of Germanic tribes and the Moorish rule, all shaping Portugal’s identity. 

However, it was the Reconquista and the establishment of the Portuguese Kingdom in the 12th century that laid the foundation for their nationhood. From the Age of Discoveries to the global reach of their empire, Portugal’s contributions to human history are significant. 

Today, this rich heritage is celebrated in museums, monuments, and cultural traditions, fostering a profound sense of national pride among its people. So much so that you will find recipes that date back several decades or centuries used in the present day. While Portugal might be small, the residents really love their country. If you ask any of them, no city is more beautiful than Lisbon. 

Soccer Is The National Passion

When it comes to sports, the love between the Portuguese people and soccer is unbreakable. In fact, soccer is the oldest sport in Portugal. The first soccer team, Boavista, was founded back in 1903. 

The largest rival clubs right now in soccer are Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, but there are plenty of other football clubs in the country. Soccer doesn’t stop at the club level in Portugal; they have a strong national soccer team that is ranked 6th, according to FIFA ranking 2024

It is common to find families and friends watching football matches in stadiums or go to a common friend’s house and watch the game from there; that is how they love soccer. 

When the national team plays, there is a peculiar wave of national celebrations that you won’t miss. The celebrations get even bigger when the national team wins. 

Being Late Is Okay

If you are used to a fast-paced life, then you will feel like Portugal has more than 24 hours a day. The people have no hurry whatsoever; in fact, they believe that nothing is so important that it must be handled right now.

Getting late is one unique attribute of the Portuguese that is not shared by any other country in Europe. This slow-paced life is what attracts expats who are tired of constantly being under pressure to deliver a lot as soon as possible. This slow-moving lifestyle might just be the break you need in your life.

It really helps you to start appreciating life and each moment of the day with full consciousness. Working every day isn’t fun, but the Portuguese somehow make it to be. 

Once you start to interact with more and more Portuguese people, you will soon realize that there’s so much happiness in the absolutely mundane tasks you’d be doing every day. 

Family Values Matter

Similar to other southern people, the Portuguese don’t cherish anything more than sharing family reunions. A family Sunday lunch is a common practice in the country. 

Every Sunday, each family gathers with children, parents, grandparents, or even friends, to cook up a delish meal at home. Portuguese people love to make use of the fresh produce they buy every week from farmer’s markets. Meals are a great way for everyone to connect with and update each other about their lives.

We take great pride in our family values and try to be there for one another as much as possible. Families are close-knit; we try to spread this love among neighbors and friends nearby.

Also, on weekdays, families love having dinner or spending afternoon breaks together. The close-knit families in Portugal serve as a support system whenever needed. 

How Do The Portuguese People Receive Strangers?

Portuguese people are great hosts, to say the least. This is especially true for grannies, mothers, and not to forget, the Portuguese fathers who often share stories and traditions, teaching their children and guests about the rich cultural heritage.

A Portuguese father, with his warmth and guidance, plays a pivotal role in integrating newcomers into the community, often encouraging them to embrace and participate in traditional Portuguese customs.

If you are invited to a Portuguese home, you will get to witness the elaborate preparation of a home-cooked meal and the decoration of the house. The main goal is always to give their guest the best experience possible.

In a Portuguese home, there is always more than enough food. They are extremely nice, and questions like, “ Have you had enough?” or “Do you need anything else?” are common and frequent. With the delicious cuisine in front of you, we guarantee you’ll always be hungry for more!

As a guest, whenever you are invited for lunch, it is common practice to bring something for the family, for instance, flowers or a bottle of wine.

Do The Portuguese People Speak English?

The Portuguese people know very well that any other country does not speak their official language within Europe. However, the Portuguese language has spread significantly around the world, especially through the diaspora, marking its presence in various communities and contributing to the rich linguistic tapestry of the globe.

Also, since the wealth of Portugal is largely run on tourism, most people strive to learn foreign languages to make communication easier.

Schools in Portugal have made it mandatory to learn two different languages and English is compulsory. The older generation speaks French since it was the first language that was taught. Generally, Portuguese people will use whatever they can to make communication possible, even with a foreigner.

The newer generation is much more likely to be fluent in English. Young expat children face no difficulty in continuing to learn English because of all the International Schools in Lisbon, Porto, Algarve, and other cities.

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Are Portuguese People Modern?

Absolutely! The Western type of dressing is common in Portugal, and most individuals dress well. Studies and comparisons highlight the shared Western European cultural and genetic heritage of the Portuguese people with other Western European countries, including the Portuguese, Basques, Spaniards, Irish, southern English, and Western French populations, emphasizing their interconnectedness.

However, traditional attires like black shawls for women and berets for men are also common in rural areas. Generally, western influence exists in the country, but the extent of the influence is dependent on a particular region.

With that being said, you are free to dress however you wish; no one will judge you for it.

How Can An Expat Fit In While Living In Portugal?

While it’s good to respect the culture of your new home as an expat, remember that you don’t necessarily need to “fit in” to belong. Every individual brings their unique background and perspective, enriching the tapestry of diversity in a community. Still, embracing certain cultural practices can facilitate your adjustment and foster meaningful connections.

Simple gestures like learning basic Portuguese phrases, partaking in local cuisine, and engaging in community events show your willingness to integrate and build bridges with your neighbours. By embracing aspects of Portuguese culture that resonate with you, you’ll not only adjust more smoothly but also contribute positively to your new environment.

Fitting in anywhere is often hard; however, with a few pointers and several tricks up your sleeve, you will integrate into society and communities in no time. These are just but a few:

Try To Learn To Speak Portuguese

While some Portuguese natives may understand English, you are encouraged to understand the Portuguese language. Remember, it is only through communication that genuine connections are born. You can still speak English, but making an effort to learn Portuguese can greatly enhance your experience as an expat.

By learning the country’s native language, you open doors to deeper cultural understanding and meaningful connections with locals. 

Speaking Portuguese shows respect for the culture and captures your commitment to integrating into your new community. Even mastering basic phrases can go a long way in daily interactions, such as when ordering a meal at a local café or asking for directions.

There are abundant resources for learning Portuguese, from language courses to online tutorials and even language exchange meetups. You don’t have to be afraid to practice speaking with native speakers, as most Portuguese people appreciate the effort and are eager to help you improve.

Ultimately, by embracing the Portuguese language, you not only enrich your expat experience but also lay the foundation for long-lasting relationships and a deeper sense of belonging in your new home. So, as an expat, making an effort to learn to speak Portuguese will be in your best interest. You don’t have to be fluent, but understanding the basics will help you a great deal.

Have An Open Mind And Smile

First, you must know that integrating into a different community and country you are not used to can be difficult.  

However, having an open mind will allow you to be receptive to the challenges that you will encounter and understand that is part of the process. Try to embrace an open-minded attitude and wear a smile as your universal language. Remember, a smile is a gesture of good intentions and positive energy.

While adjusting to a new community and country may pose challenges, maintaining a positive outlook will help you navigate them with grace. Portuguese culture values warmth and friendliness, so don’t hesitate to share a moment with locals you encounter. 

Whether strolling through the streets or engaging in daily interactions, a genuine smile signals goodwill and openness, inviting connections and creating a sense of belonging in your new home. So, let your positivity shine, and soon, you’ll find yourself welcomed into the vibrant fabric of Portuguese life.

Portuguese people generally have positive vibes, so you’ll see smiles all around. Even when walking down the street, try to smile at people you come across; some locals won’t shy away from wishing you Bom Dia every now and then, either!

Portugal lifestyle is about being caring

Remember Cultural Differences Are Normal

Understanding that different places have different cultural beliefs will allow you to get into society with an open mind. Prepare and gather information about Portugal and the specific town you want to visit. You will get an insight into what to expect even before you get there.

In Portugal, cultural diversity is not only evident in its various ethnic minorities but also in regional differences across the country. For example, from the distinct traditions of the coastal regions to the unique customs of inland communities, each area offers its cultural fabric to explore. 

By taking the time to research and gather information about the specific town you plan to visit, you can gain useful insights into local customs, traditions, and social norms. This preparation will allow you to live your expat journey with an approachable aura and a greater understanding of what to expect.

Remember that embracing cultural differences fosters mutual respect and appreciation among diverse communities. As you navigate the nuances of Portuguese culture, be curious and eager to learn from others. 

Your recognition that cultural differences enrich society and contribute to a more vibrant and inclusive community will not only sparkle up your stay but also help you settle in smoothly. 

Ultimately, by embracing cultural diversity and approaching your expat experience with humility and respect, you can forge deeper connections with the people and communities of Portugal, enriching your own life in the process.

The Most Internationally Famous Portuguese People and Their Contributions

Portugal is home to some of the very famous people that you probably have heard of before. Right from football player Cristiano Ronaldo to great writers of today and even the older generation. In sports, you won’t only find star players but also world-famous coaches who stand out for strategic brilliance. 

History remembers pioneers of exploration whose bold voyages reshaped the world’s map alongside diplomats famous for navigating complex international relations. 

These remarkable individuals showcase Portugal’s lasting influence and add richness not only to the country’s local pride but also to our global culture.

Go through the following names, and you might realize you know more famous Portuguese people than you thought.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Jose Mourinho
  • Henry the navigator
  • Vasco da Gama
  • Antonio Guterres
  • Amalia Rodriguez

Are You Ready To Live In Portugal?

Portugal is a great country, right from the weather, food, and even the way of life. However, it would be a disservice to mention all the good things about the country and fail to talk about the local people. 

Portuguese people are what make Portugal a great place to live. They are generous and welcoming even to foreigners. Join our Facebook Group – All about Portugal for Expats and ask expats how helpful the locals have been in their personal experiences.

Whenever you’re ready, Viv Europe would love to help you safely relocate to any city of your choice in Portugal. Learn more about Portuguese citizenship and picking the best place for you and your family. Contact us and book a consultation to decide what fits your demands and budget!



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