Describing a country’s cultural identity is as fascinating as it is dangerous. What follows are some of the first, maybe superficial, traits of Portuguese culture that a foreign eye (or ear) notices…
Family still occupies a very important place in Portuguese society. The native town is often referred to as ‘minha terra’ (my land) somehow reflecting this strong parental tie.
Portuguese are rather traditional and conservative. They retain a sense of formality when dealing with each other, which is displayed in the form of extreme politeness.
Attachment to the Past
Portuguese people are very attached and proud of their past, especially (and for some, surprisingly) to their most glorious past, the so called ‘época dos descobrimentos’ (discoveries). Portugal’s grandeur is often re-evoked, used as a point of reference, talked about with a sort of nostalgic emotion. (see: Saudade).
Another historic reference you will often came across is the ’25 de Abril’ which marked the end of the dictatorship.
It turned to be a cliché, but Portuguese like to say that saudade is untranslatable. They are proud of it and cherish it as if it were a secret or distant memory. Originally, saudade referred to “a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist ... a turning towards the past or towards the future”. More recently, the word has started to be (mis)used in several different phrases such as ‘tenho saudades tuas’ (= miss you) or ‘matar saudades’ (to let ‘saudade’ disappear, e.g. by looking at a picture, by going back to a specific place, etc), somehow losing its original tone.
In Portugal football is not just a game: it is a way of life. In fact, some might say it is something of a national obsession, certainly for the male half of the population, and if you happen to be in Portugal during an important football match you will see why. All the televisions in bars and cafés are showing the match, and all the men seem to be in the bars watching it. The main concentration of football activity in Portugal is around Lisbon and Porto as the country's three major teams - FC Porto, Lisbon's Sporting Clube de Portugal and SL Benfica - are based there. Not surprisingly, there is fierce competition between these teams.
FOOD AND DRINK
Portuguese cuisine is rich and varied, and having meals with family or friends is part of the national customs.
As most Mediterranean cultures, in Portugal olive oil is very important in the national diet. Portuguese olive oil is of prime quality and the olive tree is a common feature in the Portuguese landscape.
Portugal is a country with a strong winegrowing tradition and the whole country produces wine. The Port and Madeira wines are famous fortified wines, but you will find the Douro, Dão, Alentejo and many other table wines are no less superior.
You may be interested in visiting the Douro Valley, and see the man built terraces vines planted on the region’s rugged slopes around the river Douro. This landscape was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Eating out occupies an important place in Portuguese culture. Restaurants fill up very quickly especially between 12:30 am and 2 pm when workers have their lunch break and ‘migrate’ to the closest café/restaurant.
Eating a sandwich seems to be highly unpopular in Portugal: even the smallest cafés treat their customers with a fresh and plentiful hot dish of the day (prato do dia)!
Similarly to what happens in other Latin countries, coffee is an integral part of Portuguese ‘way of life’. Portuguese enjoy drinking strong, dark coffee several times a day, alone or with friends. Most of Portuguese people start their daily routine by having a quick coffee (uma bica, as they say in Lisbon) standing at the counter. Interestingly enough, Portuguese families rarely make coffee at home as they prefer the café da rua (literally, street coffee).
As already mentioned before, Portugal is surrounded West and South by the Atlantic Ocean, having an extensive coast of around 850km2 in continental Portugal. This way, there are many sports related to water activities being practiced, namely surf.
Portugal is an excellent surfing destination with waves for beginners and professionals.
Outdoor sport activities are very popular due to the mild climate, namely football and jogging. More and more parks and facilities are being made available around the country for these activities.
In all major cities you will also find a vast number of sport clubs or gyms where you can practice diverse sport modalities.
There are public telephone booths where coins and special cards (sold in Portugal Telecom shops, post offices and kiosks) can be used.
All telephone numbers in Portugal are composed of nine digits. To call from abroad, it is necessary to dial the international access code 00 and the country code 351. To call abroad from Portugal, dial 00, the country code, the area code and then the number wanted. The dialling codes of the various countries are posted in public telephone booths.
There are main network service providers – Meo, Vodafone and Optimus – that have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone companies providing users with a good coverage nationwide. Moreover, there are other network providers such as Phone-ix, Lycamobile, Mundio Mobile, Zon mobile.
Access is available in cafés, cyber-cafés, public services and in several post offices. In hotels and public facilities, like Airports, Conference centres, Restaurants, Service Areas in motor-ways and shopping centres, it is also possible to access wireless Internet. All University buildings offer wireless access to registered students & teaching staff.
Shops are traditionally open from Monday to Friday, from 9 or 10am to 7pm. On Saturdays shops generally close at 1pm though in city centres some are open in the afternoon. Shopping centres usually open from 10am to 12pm every day of the week and supermarkets from around 9am to 9pm. Traditional shops with Portuguese products can be found particularly in city centres and older neighbourhoods of towns and cities.
Post offices (CTT) are open between 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. Airport offices and those located in city centres have extended opening hours and may be open on Saturdays and also on Sundays. Stamps are also sold in selling-machines placed in the streets.
Banks are open from 8.30am to 3pm from Monday to Friday. Portugal has a large national network of cash machines (ATMs) identified by the symbol MB (Multibanco), from which you can withdraw cash 24 hours a day. The most commonly used credit cards are: Visa, American Express, Diners Club, Europay / MasterCard, JCB and Maestro. In Portugal, ATM machines also offer several additional services: you can top up your mobile phone, pay your bills… or even buy a train ticket!
National Emergency Number – 112
The national emergencies number is 112. The call is free and it can be dialled at any time of the day or night from anywhere in Portugal.