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Portugal Customs & Etiquettes


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.

For the Portuguese, the family is the foundation of the social structure and forms the basis of stability. Even 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, surprisingly, is considered a good thing in Portugal, since it implies that employing people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.

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.

Addressing People

• The proper form of address is the honorific title 'senhor' and 'senhora' with the surname.

• Anyone with a university degree is referred to with the honorific title, plus 'doutour' or 'doutoura' ('doctor') with or without their surname.

• Wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis.

• 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.

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