10 oddities in Portugal to keep in mind WithPortugal
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10 oddities in Portugal to keep in mind

If you are going to immigrate to Portugal, in addition to the bureaucratic and domestic difficulties that you will have to face the first time after moving, you will also get to know the inhabitants of this country and their mentality. Portugal is the westernmost country in Europe, and therefore the Portuguese are very different from the Germans and even the French. What is expected in your home country may be strange in Portugal, and vice versa. Understanding and accepting these differences is essential because only empathy and respect for a foreign culture will help you best adapt to a new society. However, this adaptation and “grinding” usually take years, and you will begin to notice certain strange things immediately after you find yourself in Portugal.

Our new article will show the brightest and most exciting oddities of the Portuguese and local culture that may surprise or shock you. By being aware of these features in advance, you will feel more comfortable in the country at first and will better understand the events taking place around you. And if you have been living in Portugal for a long time, we invite you to share what surprised and shocked you immediately after moving in the article's comments.

Well, let's get acquainted with certain oddities and unusual characteristics of the mentality of the Portuguese, which are essential to keep in mind for the first time immediately after your immigration.


Delays and missed deadlines

An essential feature of the Portuguese mentality is slowness. Many people think about moving to Portugal precisely because of its unhurried and calm rhythm of life, but this has a downside. In general, the Portuguese treat other people's time without much care, so being late for 30-60 minutes or even more is the norm and not an exception to the rule, unfortunately. At the same time, this moment applies to both personal relationships and business ones. Therefore, if you wait for your Portuguese friends, a young man on a date, or an HR employee for an interview for about an hour, and they are late, this is quite a typical situation for local realities. So the first time this happens to you, don't take it personally and don't think you are being disrespected and maltreated. You just need to realize this fact, and what to do with it is up to you.

Personally, I always carry a book in my bag so that if I have to wait at the clinic or bank (despite the appointment), I have something to do. If a hired worker (electrician, plumber, etc.) is late and does not report it or apologize in any way (this is also the norm, unfortunately), I am ready to put up with delays up to 60 minutes, and if the person does not appear at all, then we immediately stop cooperation. It is essential to understand that not all Portuguese are late and disappear within the framework of working relationships and agreements, so I know that among 10 employees, I will find one who will value other people's time. I also try to schedule all meetings remotely or in my office (which will not be so tragic if the person does not come). Over the years of living in Portugal, you will be able to develop your strategy on how to deal with delays and unfulfilled agreements. But for now, just keep this in mind and be mentally prepared for such situations.


Respect for other people's space and absence of pressure

The Portuguese can really be late and not appreciate other people's time and the promises they made, but what can not be taken away from them is maximum courtesy and absence of pressure on other people. Even if you are in a distant Portuguese village, in the store, you will constantly hear "desculpa", "com licença", "não faz mal", that is "sorry", "I am sorry", "no problem" and similar phrases. A person 1.5 meters from you begins to ask for forgiveness because it seemed to him that he slightly blocked your path with a cart. Is it worth comparing this behavior with other countries where you can be hit with a cart and not even asked for apologies. The Portuguese really do not want to hurt and offend another person, neither physically nor even more so morally. Therefore, here you will not hear moralizing, condemnation of a person's appearance, or instructions on how and what to do. Zero pressure on others - and maximum courtesy. Of course, every rule has its exceptions, and in Portugal, you will also meet rude people who can behave in a boorish way, but this is very rare in the country.

A different attitude towards hygiene and cleanliness

Most Portuguese do not take off their shoes when entering the house and jump straight from the street onto the sofa in dirty sneakers, and not everyone has heard that hands should be washed before eating and after going to the restroom. It may seem strange, but it is essential to understand that different countries have different attitudes towards cleanliness and hygiene. So many times, I have seen how children can drop something like candy on the ground on the street, then put it in their mouths. On the other hand, in the locker room gym, adults and children can sit naked on public benches without any problems, etc. In general, this is a personal matter for each person, but if you are preparing to live in the country, it is essential to understand that you will encounter such a negligent attitude to hygiene in restaurants, beauty salons, and other places service is provided. As in the first paragraph, you will develop a behavior strategy that is right for you over time. It is unnecessary to accept this feature, especially if you are a client and want a decent service. So it will take you some time to find those restaurants and places of service that take cleanliness seriously.


Communication with strangers

If unfamiliar Portuguese stops you or your child on the street and starts talking or offering to treat you to something, do not rush to sound the alarm. They do not want to steal, kill or rape you. Yes, young children are taught not to talk to strangers in some countries, but this rule can be forgotten after moving to Portugal. The locals are very fond of chatting, and it does not matter if you know each other or not. So if they start a conversation with you at a bus stop or in a store, then relax and do not expect any catch in this (although, of course, for such a conversation, you will need to learn Portuguese).

Barter and bargaining skills

Do you want to sell something in Portugal and have posted your product on one of the local marketplaces (for example, on OLX)? You noted a specific price, for example, 100 euros, and then you began to receive messages asking if you would agree to sell it for 5 euros and accept things in exchange (most often, the offer comes in the format "aceita troca")? Don't be surprised if you start receiving such "good deals" and you are offered to trade in your new iPhone for an old bike. The ability to bargain and lower the price several times, as well as the ability to offer old things in exchange, is a vital characteristic of hand-to-hand sales in Portugal. If this does not suit you, simply reject such offers, but do not take them personally.


Women and men are equal

“Hurray!” the women will exclaim, but be prepared that, as equals, no one will give up your seat in public transport, open the door, and other similar things. Of course, in Portugal, you can still find rare gentlemen taught in the family to open the car door for a girl and let women through when entering buildings while holding the door, but this is a rarity, not a general rule. The maternity period for women is only a few months in this country, and, both a man and a woman in the family work and give their best in the same way. So if you were not given a seat in transport and did not get paid for you on a date, then this is not abusing at all, but the equality that many women worldwide are fighting for.

Nepotism and its consequences

Do you want to buy a property in Portugal and have already agreed with the owner on the sale, but a day later you were refused? You almost completed the interview process for a Portuguese company, and suddenly your process was interrupted? Often such situations can cause shock and misunderstanding, but here it is crucial to learn that nothing flourishes so well in Portugal as the "cunhas" system, which in Russian is often called "nepotism", "pulling some strings" or "profitable connections". Family and clan ties are powerful in Portugal. You can be the best worker in the world, but if a matchmaker, another distant relative, or a neighbor asks to place his son or nephew in a certain position, the Portuguese will often put family or friendship ties at the forefront. And then ethics or efficiency. I'm not sure if this is corruption or not, but to give you an idea of ​​the scale of the problem - the most famous nepotism case solved in the country is the case of former Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates, who was caught having a falsified higher education ( that is he had official documents, but he did not obtain an education in reality). Of course, this can only be done through "cunhas", a friend of the matchmaker, a neighbor's brother, etc. - such connections are more than enough to promote the right person to the right place or even issue a diploma of higher education to someone who has never studied at all. As an immigrant in Portugal, you will have no connections, and this is important to understand the "cunhas" system.


Filming ban

After reading the points above, you might think, “well, it’s okay if I get bad service in a restaurant or get offended due to my lack of connections, I’ll film it all on video and put it on the Internet!”. And this is quite logical, especially if you came to a country from a place where video recorders, video cameras, and video or audio evidence in court are the standards. In Portugal, this is a crime. Therefore, if you are offended, do not rush to film everything on video because this may later turn against you. Your primary defense should be verbal, but it is essential to be very good at the Portuguese language and learn it in advance to protect and defend your rights in a difficult situation. Also, if you want to run a video blog in Portugal, go to various places, and film everything, you may also have problems with this. Why are they so strict about video and audio recordings in Portugal that even the victim does not have the right to present evidence in the event of a crime? We can only guess.


Conservatism and respect for authority

In our article about the mentality of the Portuguese, we have already written about the level of education and the dictatorship of Salazar in the country. I don’t know if this is related to these facts, but in Portugal (especially in the regions), we can see a strong reverence for local authorities, while they include not only the police representative in the area but also family doctors and pop at the nearest parish church (padre). They are respected and feared simultaneously, so their will and decisions are not contested. Therefore, we advise you never to conflict with such representatives of local authorities because even if they are wrong, it is unlikely that anyone will support you.

This characteristic has positive aspects. If an ambulance, a police car, or a fire engine with a siren is driving in Portugal, all the cars part and press against the side of the road to give way to the ambulance or fire engine.

Also, the country's inhabitants are incredibly conservative and passive about any public initiatives. If you have been to Spain at least once, you have probably come across massive street protests (workers, teachers, etc.), and it feels like not a week goes by in Spain without mass strikes. Even though Portugal borders Spain, people here do not like to express their opinions and fight against something, especially if it involves actively communicating citizenship. So in Portugal, you will either see very weak rallies with 5-10 people that no one takes seriously or the so-called "weekend strikes" when the trade unions of transport companies or teachers do not go to work on Friday or Monday, but in fact, they do not defend their rights vehemently but want to extend the weekend. It's up to you to decide whether it's good or bad, but remember that in Portugal, the will of the state, the priest, or the attending doctor, most people perceive as a given, which you need to accept as it is and you shouldn't even think about it, or challenge it.


The conservatism of local residents can also be expressed in the fact that you, as a foreigner, may get refused to rent housing, may not be hired because you are not Portuguese, and even if you are already working in a Portuguese team, if you propose a new innovative idea that is useful for the whole company, then you will most likely be refused with the argument "it has always been like this, from time immemorial, so we will continue to do so like we did 100 years ago". Don't take it personally, but it's something to consider about the Portuguese mentality.

Absence of aggression and related actions

You parked your car badly and thereby disturbed many of your neighbors. However, it is unlikely that your tires will be punctured or your car scratched, as it might be done in some other countries. The maximum they will do to you is to raise the wiper blades perpendicular to the windshield to make it clear that you did a bad thing. Yes, if you parked your car badly, then the police can evacuate your vehicle, but you should not be afraid of aggression from the Portuguese because such behavior is infrequent in the country. Of course, you can get on an inadequate and aggressive person, but you will meet this infrequently. That is why in case of problem situations, we do not recommend behaving aggressively, waving your arms, and shouting. Such behavior in Portugal will be bizarre, and you will not be understood.

Take the best from the people of the country

This is the best strategy after immigrating to Portugal. Even if something seems strange, incomprehensible, and illogical to you, try to take it for granted, realizing that you have just moved to a new country. Some features of the locals will become apparent to you after some time. Some of them you will not accept and act based on your values ​​and outlook on life. The most important thing is to put aside the condemnation and try to absorb the best in the Portuguese mentality because you can definitely learn a lot from them. We wish you easy adaptation and hope that this article will be a good starting point for understanding the complex and exciting mentality of the people of Portugal.