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What I learned about the Portuguese people

Portuguese people's characteristics from my point of view

Very polite. The expression ‘com licença’ is used in almost every situation. It means ‘excuse me’, and they really use it a lot in Portugal: when you enter a house, when you want to go somewhere but someone is standing in your way, if you take money from someone (for example as a cashier in a store). I think it’s a very good characteristic of the Portuguese people!

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They work very hard. The people in Portugal make many hours per day working, the stores and restaurants in a shopping mall for example only close around 10 p. m. or even 12 p. m. on certain weekdays. They work very hard for the little they get paid.

Many of them actually speak English (which I didn’t expect when I first got here! ). Sometimes even the older generations speak English. This is a great advantage since many international people come to Portugal to study and not all of them will learn how to speak Portuguese in those 6 or 12 months that they are staying.

Portuguese people are very hospitable. Besides, they are very nice people. It often happened to me that I was lost and that random Portuguese people would come to me to ask if I was lost and if they could help.

They speak a beautiful language. At first the Portuguese language might sound a bit harsh, it has some similarities with Russian sometimes. But when I started to learn the language I started to appreciate it more and also like it more. To me, almost all Latin languages are beautiful. Portuguese has some similarities with Spanish and Italian. Since I speak fluent Italian it was a little bit easier for me to learn the language. Or at least understanding wasn’t a big deal for me since the beginning of my stay. They don’t like their language to be compared to Brazilian. Or: they want people to know that the Portuguese language from Portugal IS NOT equal to the Portuguese they speak in Brazil.

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They are very proud of their country and culture. I remember the first day of my PhD that someone said to me: “It’s just great that you choose our country to study and live in! ” I also remember how my Portuguese friends like to talk about the history of their country and about their delicious cuisine (“Did you already try francesinha? Did you like it? And did you try tripas? ”).

Portuguese give two kisses when they greet you, even if you meet each other for the first time. For me, as a Dutch girl, that was strange in the beginning. When we meet each other for the first time we usually shake hands in the Netherlands. Only people we know well we are used to give three kisses when greeting them.

Family is very important. It has to be on your number one social relationships list. You can always rely on your family and it offers stability. That’s also why young people stay with their parents for a long time. In the Netherlands we usually go to live by ourselves when we start the academic life, which is around the age of 18.

Despite people being polite with each other, many formal relationships are actually informal. This has advantages and also disadvantages. I was invited to my supervisor’s birthday (I couldn’t go that day, but if I could I would go for sure! ), we are friends on Facebook and we used to text-message with each other. Some weeks ago I had lunch with a teacher that right before that gave me a class. The disadvantage is that, when you don’t have a good bond with someone (teacher) who is in a higher position than you (student) compared to a student that does, you might get a lower evaluation on your exam just because the teacher doesn’t like you.

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The word ‘saudade’ is a very important word. It explains some kind of intense feeling of missing someone or something. You can say “saudades de ti” to someone when you are longing for that person. There is no single word in English for this word.

Portuguese people are very humble. You can be famous, you can be rich, but as a Portuguese person no matter your position, you will always be down-to-earth and treat everyone the same. If you are famous and have fans, you dedicate time to make pictures or talk with your fans.

They are not very creative with names and neither their last names are very original. If you just met someone cute in a bar and his name is João Costa, don’t be surprised if you find a million options on Facebook. In other words: there only exist a couple of names and last names in this country. At least it seems like that; -).

There is a clear distinction between rich and poor. The gap between these two groups of people is very big, unfortunately. Nevertheless, the people that live in good conditions are always very open to help the ones that live in poor conditions. Portugal has many volunteer projects and I frequently see people giving money or food to beggars or homeless people on the streets.

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Portuguese people like animals (or at least dogs, that’s what I noticed since I have a dog myself). For me it takes ages to get to the dog park because everyone always wants to play with my dog Gigi. Besides, they like to stop to talk about their own dogs they have at home, that dogs are human’s best friends and that they are more trustable and faithful than the humankind.

So.. to me the Portuguese people are a very lovely population. If you will be a visitor of Portugal, or maybe an Erasmus student, you don’t have to worry with these nice people. They will always be there to help you out!

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Comments (6 comments)

  • K Is my name 5 years ago

    this is the most UNREAL text about portuguese people I have ever seen. After living here a few years I can assure you that they don't work hard, they are definitely not great hosts and most importantly they are not HUMBLE. This is the most misleading article ever and nowhere near how portuguese people are.

  • Tiago Costa 5 years ago

    K, do you still in Portugal? Leave.

  • Miguel Alberto 4 years ago

    Lol, sais the polish guy...

  • Allow Hogbar 2 years ago

    Let me post links to two articles, which describe the Porftuguese really well:

    1. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161118-the-european-country-that-loves-being-sad

    2. https://www.algarveprimeiro.com/d/as-pessoas-tristes-sao-as-mais-egoistas/14017-45

  • Azamat Kadyrov 2 years ago

    I travelled to Lisbon and spent several days there. What I understood is that the Portuguese are the nicest people I have ever met. You feel welcome and safe. No sign of arrogance, disrespect to tourists, no racism and phobia for refuges. They are open, hospitable and friendly people. They have great history and contributed a lot to mankind development. Magellan, Vasco De Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral, they invented maritime compass , Latin sail, it was the longest world empire in the history and so on. I liked Portugal and recommend to visit the country, especially Algarve beaches. Regards from Astana, Kazakhstan.

  • Jack Bennett 2 years ago

    Hi Ambra, regarding your paragraph about names, the reason all names are so similar is because all parents of new babies have been robbed the freedom of being creative with their names for generations by having the names rejected if they are not on the "government approval list" - which is still ongoing today since the dictatorship. In Brazil on the other hand, you can call your child 'Banana' if you want.

    So basically Portuguese name diversity is limited by a very short list that is almost never updated.


    "They are not very creative with names and neither their last names are very original. If you just met someone cute in a bar and his name is João Costa, don’t be surprised if you find a million options on Facebook. In other words: there only exist a couple of names and last names in this country. At least it seems like that; -)."

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