Portuguese Daily Life Customs
If you’re living in Portugal, you might have already noticed some things are completely different from your home country. Some of these things you might not even have thought to be different prior to moving here - for example, have you thought about something as simple as bread?
This week’s blog is all about Daily life customs in Portugal. It’s the little things that one might have not thought about before relocating but it makes a huge difference when actually living here!
Article by Savvy Cat - Official Buyers Agency to KipperTree
Let’s get the cards on the table: we take our bread VERY seriously.
In Portugal, bread is a key element at everyone’s table in every meal as it is pretty much the standard for people to buy fresh bread every day or every other day (depending on how much you buy, of course).
While some may prefer not to have bread during lunch and/or dinner, for breakfast it is a MUST for most people. Toasted bread with butter (sometimes with a slice of cheese and ham), bread with cheese, bread with butter, bread with ham, bread everywhere!
What are some common types of bread in Portugal?
Papo-seco or carcaça
This is perhaps the most common type of bread. It’s made of wheat flour and is cut into single loaves. They are used in many ways, like the typical sandwiches with ham and cheese. Some people prefer it toasted as well and it’s usually eaten for breakfast or a snack between lunch and dinner (aka lanche).
Bola de Mistura
This wheat and rye bread with a fluffy inside and a chewy crust is served individually and it’s common to have it as a table bread.
Ah, the famous Alentejo bread… There is no way one can resist it!
The wheat flour of this bread comes from Alentejo as well as the yeast should be homemade. For better and more authentic results it should also be cooked in a wood oven.
Pão de milho ou Broa de Milho
Or cornbread in English. This is actually one of the oldest varieties of Portuguese bread and is also very common in a lot of regions of the country. It’s so delicious and even better with cheese!
There are so many varieties of bread that we could literally write a whole blog post about it, so let’s stick with the most common ones for now.
It’s one of the first things one must do when moving anywhere. Like anywhere you go, grocery shopping can be quite different from what you’re used to.
Groceries in Portugal are fairly cheap in comparison to many other countries.
Not so much for Portuguese people at the moment, though. With inflation hitting the US HARD, even grocery shopping can be a nightmare and take a huge chunk of the income.
However, for immigrants (especially from the United States), groceries here tend to be cheap.
You’ll have no problem finding either a small supermarket or a hypermarket in bigger cities to fulfil your grocery shopping list.
In most cities and villages, you’ll likely also find fresh produce markets with lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, etc from local farmers.
One thing Portuguese folk like to do is that we prefer to shop often and buy fewer groceries. Another thing that is very common is that we like to do a little price comparison so you might find us shopping in a few different supermarkets and fresh produce markets to take advantage of the differences in stock and find the best prices.
You might have noticed that Portugal is a rather small country.
It’s completely unthinkable for a Portuguese person to have a 3-hour work commute. This is something that some of our US clients are actually used to and apparently is somewhat common in the United States. We are always so surprised when we hear stories like this.
Driving more than 1h to go anywhere on a daily basis is already too much for us. First, because we like to save on gas, and second because highway tolls are very expensive.
We are aware that driving for 1h or 2h for our North American clients is nothing, but we recommend not staying further than 30-minutes distance for your daily commute.
Cost of services
We’ve talked about how groceries are fairly cheap depending on where you are from. It’s also worth noting that so are other regular services.
For example, hairdressers here are quite cheap (especially if you’re a man!). A regular men’s cut is usually around 10€! Now, for a woman that’s a different story - depending on what kind of cut or treatment you’re doing it can go from 30€ to around 160€.
Portuguese people hospitality
Portugal is famously known for its hospitality.
It’s not just just for our natural warmth towards all people and receptiveness to other cultures but also because we genuinely go out of our way to help others.
Not to mention we are particularly good at English, as we have a sort of ease in understanding other languages. And when we don’t? We’ll make each other understand in other ways! We will always find a way to try to understand you.
You might not feel it as much in some larger metropolitan areas like Lisbon, as it commonly happens in big cities where people are used to a more fast-paced life. Not to mention, Lisbon is tending towards becoming a more touristic city so the authentic and genuine warmth of locals is slowly disappearing to give room to more formal pleasantries.
Smaller villages in the interior are where you can definitely find that genuine and welcoming love from locals.
You might have noticed this by now and if you didn’t, you definitely have heard of our tendency to live a slow-paced lifestyle.
Portuguese people do not like living in constant stress - we are proudly very relaxed people and we’re not afraid to admit it.
Our way of living allows us to be kind and warm to other people, thus allowing us to go out of our way to help others on a daily basis.
Now, do not let our relaxed way of living be confused with laziness. Portuguese people are absolutely NOT lazy (contrary to popular belief) and we are known to be exceptionally hard workers, but we do take our sweet time.
Of course, it’s not all a sea of roses - this obviously has its downsides: our public services tend to be very slow. And this is something you will notice right away, especially if you come from a fast-paced country.
In comparison to the United States, for example, the response time tends to be quite fast. Here, however, it isn’t. So please don’t “freak out” if the response time is not the same as it is in your country. Don’t forget you are in a different country with a different culture, you must adapt to it, not the other way around.
Unity of families
In Portugal, family comes first!
We imagine it’s like this everywhere actually. However, in Portugal as in other Southern European countries, we take it a bit to the next level:
We live more years with our parents and grandparents;
If not living in the same house as our parents and/or grandparents, we tend to live nearby;
Family reunions happen very frequently;
If a loved one is sick, we will go out of our way to help them in any way we can;
Some people will prefer to not take higher paying jobs in another country, so they can remain close to their family;
Of course, every single country has their own ways of family unity, but there is just something about Southern European countries that makes it very hard to not make family a number one priority.
Mix family/friends with business
If a company has a good vibe and there is a good connection between coworkers, you will frequently see them hanging out together outside of work hours! This isn’t exclusively a Portuguese thing, but we also have it incorporated into our culture.
Because we like to take care of the people who take care of us, if the work environment is healthy, expect to take it a step further and be asked to hang out with your coworkers for dinner or during days off.
Another thing that is common here is discussing business and other work-related topics during lunch or dinner time. But here is something that may be very typically Portuguese: we talk business AFTER the meal. Sure, we can discuss this during the meal but we like to enjoy and relax first before getting down to business.
Dryers & line drying
This is something that actually baffles us a lot - we cannot believe that line drying is not a thing in some countries!
We get it, in some countries and foreign cities, it’s simply not possible for whatever reason. But for us, this is something we have always taken for granted and never thought that in some countries it simply does not happen.
In Portugal (as in many other countries) line drying is the standard way to dry your clothes.
As a sunny and warm country, we pretty much have no need for a machine dryer. Plus, machine dryers are something fairly recent here.
So yes, if you’re living in Portugal and if you can, line drying your clothes is the best way and the most standard thing.
Last but not least, dating.
The dating culture in Portugal works very differently from what you are perhaps used to.
One thing we do not like is labels and putting one on going out, sometimes freaks us out.
For this reason, we don’t do ‘formal dating’, as in, we don’t normally ask people on a formal date. Asking someone for a formal date can be seen as putting some sort of pressure on the other person. Usually, we get to know each other during casual and informal outings, either with friends or not.
In a more ‘digital’ world, with social media and dating apps, this is slowly changing. What way there is to ask someone out if not by literally asking them out, if you have never met them in real life.
Younger generations are now dating more in this ‘digital’ scenario, thus asking someone out is getting more common. However, older generations still prefer the good ol’ casual hanging out “let’s-see-where-this-goes” kind of approach.