Portuguese Content

Portuguese People – What Are They Really Like?

An empty street in Lisbon, late afternoon

The following topic on Portuguese people may step on some toes and serves two purposes. The first is to let our audience out there understand what Portuguese like and dislike, what are the general social norms and what to expect whether you’re visiting or planning to move to Portugal. The second is a fun take, sponsored by our own ideas of our people, against our Brazilian friends’ views.

In the end, we expect to deliver a very accurate portrait of Portuguese people and their behaviours, the good, the bad, and how to get the most of your interactions. Are you ready? If you are Portuguese yourself, you may want to refrain from reading the next few lines, unless you brought a good old dosage of self-criticism and sense of humour.

What Are Portuguese People Like?

Let’s put it this way: a rich heritage that had Roman, Arab and many other influences across its history would always be fun. We’ll fast-forward across the history of Portugal as a nation, but will surely want you to understand that our Latin roots and boiling blood can make us seem peculiar, to say the least.

Visitors perceive Portuguese people as kind-hearted and welcoming. There is a true effort to speak English or any other language, even if there is no common ground. You’ll easily find help at any corner for directions, a nice place to eat, or somewhere off-beat to visit that makes those Lusos very proud.

Lusos, Lusitânia, and many other definitions mark the ancient roots of the Portuguese people can be found across history. Against the odds and with their backs – or eyes set – against the Atlantic, let’s simply say that geography wasn’t particularly kind to Portugal. Its peripheral position meant it was always further from the decision centres, which is something we can still feel in these modern, European Union times.

Portuguese are quieter than their Spanish neighbours, although the language is manifestly harder to learn and nearly impossible to master. They have an intricate criticism and are usually led to believe they can master any art. There is no shortage of jokes across the EU on how Portuguese aim for perfection and can do anything well. A generalism, assumably, but one that characterizes a people that’s endured a fair share of hardship throughout its history and still battles nepotism and corruption in their daily lives.

Regardless of these challenges, Portuguese people show an optimism and serenity that feels very much their own. There is something mystical about the country and its people, and meeting a few individuals may deliver an interesting experience. A sense of national pride is frequently present, often expressed through football and the incontestable Cristiano Ronaldo (and other football legends), but also based on the many things that Portugal does well.

Things Portugal Does Well

Portuguese Tiles

We opened that door, so we may as well explore it. While we joked about how Portuguese are the best at, well, everything, the truth is the country faces many pitfalls. Politics has become a way of living where rules can and should be bent, but it’s the great things that stick to the minds of those who visit our cities and villages.

Since we already mentioned our welcoming spirit, the next course should be about food. Portuguese food is something nearly everyone is proud of, as long as you can overlook the combo meat + fries + rice. Beyond that carb-made mountain lives a gastronomy that goes back centuries. Bacalhau is the king of dishes, with more recipes than we dare mention. The further you reach the interior, the more you’ll find marvels such as Migas, Chanfana, and sweet treats that go back to the Middle Age.

Beaches are clean and are often awarded with the European Blue Flag for their excellence. Wine is of exceptional quality, and the interior of the country is not short of incredible landscapes, wildlife and opportunities to relax. In fact, tourism is perhaps one of the things Portugal does best, all while the industry – and politicians who defended it – was mocked, only to now be considered as one of the country’s most significant economic engines.

Surfing, renewable energy, textiles, footwear, and a quality of life that is hard to challenge are also among the many reasons why Portuguese people remain proud of their country. Those same principles have recently increased migratory pressure on the country, skyrocketing house prices and many other challenges, which we’ll cover in the following lines.

The Difficulties Portuguese People Face in 2024

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but housing is a major concern in 2024. Prices have skyrocketed in recent years, and there is a shortage of houses in the market. That said, construction quality is usually poor, with insulation that doesn’t serve basic needs, and across areas which offer very limited access to services and other areas that add to the quality of life.

Wages are not in line with the cost of living, and the truth is that most of the young and educated opt to leave the country. Taxes are high and services have been striking and degraded for the past decade. There is free healthcare, but a shortage of resources. Truth be told, taxes have never been higher and Portuguese people never got so little back.

Such challenges have led to the rise of far-right parties and created social divisions. Although not as fractured as observed in other European Nations, there are rising voices against the uncontrolled migratory waves and the pressures over public services. Solutions are hard to find, public finances are limited, and the level of productivity across the country remains concerning.

Although salaries have risen slightly in recent years, they still lag behind most of its European counterparts. Portuguese people are often disappointed with their governments, the lack of quality of their services, and the outlook for their younger generation. In fact, these issues have always been present, but are now deeply felt, more than ever before.

The Kindest Person on the Sidewalk, a Psycho Behind the Wheel

We often joke about how there are two faces to Portuguese people. There are clear stereotypes that take over certain areas of our society, from abusive managers to corrupted politicians, and those who abuse a tiny amount of power, to the frequently upset driver. Everyone has a story to tell about passive-aggressive behaviour, and that characteristic could easily define our nation.

Driving can become very dangerous, very fast. Speaking of fast, there is a tendency to overspeed, tailgate, gesticulate and take all frustrations onto the road. You’ll hardly ever meet a Portuguese person who hasn’t been fined or crashed their car. Our death toll on the road is disgraceful, and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it. Portuguese love to overspend in fancy cars, but often disregard safety.

Politicians are often third-worldish in their strategic thinking. There is an established sense that exchanging favours is the way to get anything done, and it’s deeply embedded in our culture. It’s expressed in those who try to jump a queue to get a doctor’s appointment all up to the investor who wants to build a resort in a natural reserve. There doesn’t seem to be any limits to corruption, and our perception of this issue is a major concern.

The kind nature we discussed before can be counterbalanced by a tendency for fraud and the need to earn money across the parallel economy. Countries with severe structural issues like Portugal have to find the means to keep life sustainable. You’ll never find a shortage of people who will try to make a sale without handing out an invoice.

Expats are often shocked when faced with this dark reality. Portugal is not the most productive nation in Europe, and it’s by far, poorly managed in nearly every aspect. From the central government to many companies, there is always a mechanism to outsmart the system. True value is hard to create, private initiative is not invited to thrive, and the taxman is always there to take a large slice of your earnings.

Visit Portugal, But Reconsider a Long-term Stay

We love Portugal and we love Portuguese people. We’re talking about ourselves, our family and friends. It’s a fantastic country to visit and enjoy, with many great lessons to learn. However, it’s far from being the paradise you’ve been sold by numerous influencers and other expats. The bureaucracy and challenges to get things moving forward are enough to test anyone’s patience.

Those who have spent 2-3 years in Portugal have slowly realized how hard it is to get anything done. Managing a business, being a freelancer, or even finding a decently paid job is harder thanin many other European countries. It’s purposely hard to thrive in a country where honesty is perceived as the less smart option.

Our company will remain here to help you reach Portuguese-speaking audience through our content services. We are happy to recommend places, concepts and provide you with all the cultural background you require. Contact us today, and we’ll help you craft the sort of content that will feel Portuguese. Perhaps passive-aggressive at times if you wish so, or simply welcoming, but surely relevant!