Population: 10,813,834 (2014 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: homogeneous Mediterranean stock; citizens of black African descent who immigrated to mainland during decolonization number less than 100,000; since 1990 East Europeans have entered Portugal
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%
The Portuguese Language
The 10-million population of Portugal speaks Portuguese, a Romance language which derived from Vulgar Latin. Galician and Mirandese, which are technically classed as separate languages, are spoken by a few thousand people in the north of the country, along the Spanish border.
Portuguese Society & Culture
- The family is the foundation of the social structure and forms the basis of stability.
- The extended family is quite close.
- The individual derives a social network and assistance from the family.
- Loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships, even business.
- Nepotism is considered a good thing, since it implies that employing people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.
- Portuguese are traditional and conservative.
- They are a people who retain a sense of formality when dealing with each other, which is displayed in the form of extreme politeness.
- In Portuguese society appearance is very important, especially in the cities.
- People are fashion conscious and believe that clothes indicate social standing and success.
- They take great pride in wearing good fabrics and clothes of the best standard they can afford.
- Portugal is a culture that respects hierarchy.
- Society and business are highly stratified and vertically structured.
- Both the Catholic Church and the family structure emphasize hierarchical relationships.
- People respect authority and look to those above them for guidance and decision-making.
- Rank is important, and those senior to you in rank must always be treated with respect.
- This need to know who is in charge leads to an authoritarian approach to decision- making and problem solving.
- In business, power and authority generally reside with one person who makes decisions with little concern about consensus building with their subordinates.
Etiquette and Customs in Portugal
Meeting & Greeting
- Initial greetings are reserved, yet polite and gracious.
- The handshake accompanied by direct eye contact and the appropriate greeting for the time of day.
- Once a personal relationship has developed, greetings become more personal: men may greet each other with a hug and a handshake and women kiss each other twice on the cheek starting with the right.
- The proper form of address is the honorific title ‘senhor’ and ‘senhora’ with the first name.
- Anyone with a university degree is referred to with the honorific title, plus ‘doutor’ or ‘doutora’ (‘doctor’).
- Use the formal rather than the informal case until your Portuguese friend suggests otherwise.
Gift Giving Etiquette
- If you are invited to a Portuguese home for dinner, bring flowers, good quality chocolates or candy to the hostess.
- Do not bring wine unless you know which wines your hosts prefer.
- Do not give 13 flowers. The number is considered unlucky.
- Do not give lilies or chrysanthemums since they are used at funerals.
- Do not give red flowers since red is the symbol of the revolution.
- Gifts are usually opened when received.
- If invited to a dinner arrive no more than 15 minutes after the stipulated time.
- You may arrive about 30 minutes later than the stipulated time when invited to a party or other large social gathering.
- Dress conservatively. There is little difference between business and social attire.
- Do not discuss business in social situations.
- If you did not bring a gift to the hostess, send flowers the next day.
- Table manners are formal.
- Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
- Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
- Do not begin eating until the hostess says “bom apetite”.
- Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times.
- Most food is eaten with utensils, including fruit and cheese.
- Keep your napkin to the left of your plate while eating. When you have finished eating, move your napkin to the right of your plate.
- If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
- Leave some food on your plate when you have finished eating.
- Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel on your plate, tines facing up, with the handles facing to the right.
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