Portuguese Culture and Customs

All countries have their own cultural quirks, and Portugal is no different.

Food is important

European countries often seem outwardly similar, especially when it comes to the shopping malls and the presence of global firms and well-known brands.

However, all the countries have their own cultural quirks, and Portugal is no different.

Here is a list of five of them, from the point of view of a long-term expat:


  1. Special occasions mean LOTS of food

Portugal is not a very wealthy country, but the population often eat like kings! You’ll witness this if you ever attend a birthday party or other special occasion. A highly impressive cake is practically guaranteed, along with huge savoury dishes, often prepared and planned days in advance by several generations of the family.


  1. Drinking is slow and steady

Although drinking alcohol is a popular pursuit in Portugal (and one that often starts early in the day for some), it’s rare to see the kind of drunken behaviour that’s so commonplace in British towns.

The reason for this is that the Portuguese tend to drink slowly and steadily, interspersing alcoholic drinks with espressos and the ever popular Agua de Pedras (a slightly salty sparkling water, which is a lot more pleasant than it sounds).

British binge drinking culture doesn’t really exist in Portugal – to the point that even Portuguese teenagers look down on it as something rather strange and daft.


  1. Smoking is still popular

Attitudes are very different when it comes to tobacco! Smokers are not the social outcasts they’ve become in Britain, and even though similar smoking bans are in place, people don’t take them nearly as seriously. Often, on cold or wet days, bar owners would rather ignore the ban than see their customers have to suffer the rain.


  1. Respect is the order of the day

Generally speaking, Portuguese people have a lot of respect; for their elders, for people in authority, and for rules and regulations. Many expats love this about the country, as they see it as “how things used to be back home.”

In real terms, this respect equates to groups of “youths” standing aside when passing adults on the pavement rather than shoving past, which is a great change for new residents. However, it also means it’s necessary to show deference to police or bureaucratic officials if you want your life to remain straightforward.


  1. Being invited into a home is a great privilege

In the UK, it wouldn’t be unusual to invite the new neighbours around for coffee and biscuits.

In Portugal (unless your neighbours are expats too), it would be seen as quite strange and rather forward. Friendships are made slowly and respectfully (and often with the exchange of produce and baked goods!) An invite into a Portuguese home is a true sign of trust that places you only a small step below family.

Further reading for Living In Portugal


Finding work in Portugal

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in Portugal.


Social life in Portugal

The best way to get settled in Portugal is to find out as much as you can about your new community.



One of the first things you need to do once you arrive in Portugal is find out where your nearest hospital is.


Education in Portugal

Are you emigrating to Portugal with school-age children?


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