Because Portugal is such a beautiful country, from gorgeous cities to stunning coastlines, it’s no wonder that it’s a very popular holiday destination for Britons.
Every culture has its own norms which foreigners may not be aware of and therefore risk causing offence. This guide by PPA properties explores the key rules of etiquette in Portugal to ensure your visit there is smooth sailing.
Summary of Portuguese People
Generally, the Portuguese are polite, reserved and rather understated. Their culture tends to be traditional and conservative. Family is everything; the Catholic Church has strong influence, while change and innovation are not embraced quickly. Particularly in rural areas, life is enjoyed simply – people go home after work and only entertain on weekends. This is not to say however that urban life in Portugal is unexciting, quite the opposite in fact.
Key Etiquette Tips
·The Portuguese do not use a great deal of body language, so when on holiday there refrain from being demonstrative. In particular, do not point with your finger as this is considered rude. If beckoning a local with your hand, do it with your palm facing downwards and your fingers waving, similar to patting someone’s head.
·Refrain from speaking to locals in Spanish – for historical reasons this will not be appreciated.
·As with many Mediterranean countries, be relaxed about time in Portugal.
·Being a very polite nation, it is the norm to say 'please' (por favor or se faz favor), 'thank you' (obrigado/obrigada) and 'my pleasure' (de nada) as much as you would in Britain, if not more. It’s also customary in Portugal to say good morning (bom dia), good afternoon/evening (boa tarde) and good night (boa noite) when visiting shops and restaurants.
·Although English is widely spoken, particularly in the tourist areas of Portugal such as the Algarve, it is polite to always ask a local whether they speak English (fala Inglês?) rather than assuming.
·Never snap your hands or shout for waiting staff or bar tenders – this is considered rude and they will purposefully ignore you.
·Do tip when in Portugal – a service charge is not usually added to hotel and restaurant bills in this country, and many people in the service industry like waiters and shop assistants often rely on social security outside of the summer tourist season. It is customary to tip an additional 10% if the service is adequate, more if it is very good.
·The Portuguese do not typically form into orderly queues, so do not view this as rudeness. This is offset however by the intrinsically polite nature of Portuguese, so people wait their turn.
·Again, as with many Mediterranean countries, people often go to bed later, especially on the weekends. It is not uncommon for restaurants to only open at 7pm, while events such as plays and concerts often start at 9:30pm or later.
The main thing to remember about etiquette in Portugal and fitting in rather than being seen as rude is to be polite plus fairly low key in your behaviour and dress. Also don’t forget to tip the staff when giving your custom to hotels, restaurants and taxis.