15 Portuguese Habits You Can’t Help Picking Up If You Live in Portugal

Portuguese coast | © Ddzphoto / Pixabay
Portuguese coast | © Ddzphoto / Pixabay
Photo of Nina Santos
21 August 2017

You know what they say about “when in Rome,” and being in Portugal isn’t any different. It’s easy to get caught up in “a vida Portuguesa” (the Portuguese life), which equates to spending lots of time outside, drinking espressos throughout the day, developing an appreciation for fish and/or seafood, and braving the cold Atlantic Ocean (even if only stepping in as far as your ankles). Here are a few other habits that you can’t help but pick up when you live in Portugal.

Developing an addiction for the sun

Whether you become a beach bum (which is highly likely) or head to the local miradouros every chance you get, it’s easy to get used to the year-round sunny days. Cafés and restaurants offer terrace seating; rooftop bars are common, and the parks are favorite meeting places for many. When the sun almost always shines, you can’t help but expect it and feel deprived when it’s gone.

Few pleasures beat simply enjoying a beautiful sunny day. | © Pixabay

Looking for a bargain

Outdoor flea markets, free city-wide events, free museum entrance on Sundays—there are plenty of ways to enjoy the country on a budget. Rarely do residents pay more than they need to, even if paying more means convenience (sitting at a restaurant sooner or buying the first item they find). Locals know that patience is a virtue and prefer waiting if that means getting a great deal.

Accepting that 10–15 minutes late is being on time

To the Portuguese, being a bit late is being on time, and accepting that fact will keep you happy and sane.

Craving caracóis during the summer

Okay, perhaps this pertains more to people living in Lisbon than outside of it. After you get over the fact that the creatures on your plate have antennae, the oregano and garlic flavors will keep you coming back for more.

Devouring a plate full of snails becomes a regular summer activity. | © Pixabay

Feeling incredulous over the idea of dinner before 8 PM

Dinners in Portugal may not be as late as they are in neighboring Spain, but people rarely eat before 8 PM, especially on the weekends. Plus, when your dietary schedule includes post-lunch coffee and snacks (between 4–6 PM), it’s easy to push dinner back for later.

You may want a mid-day snack, because dinner will be served a little late! | © Pixabay

Meals that last between two and three hours become the norm

While weekday lunches last around an hour (people need to work, after all), dinners and weekend meals are usually a longer affair. Portuguese people truly enjoy their meals as well as their company, and rushing is unheard of.

Automatically kissing people when you say hello and goodbye also becomes normal

Portuguese people greet each other and say goodbye with a kiss on each cheek; the only exception is when men greet other men and a handshake or a pat on the back will suffice.

You salivate at the mention of “pastéis”

Pastéis de nata are a national favorite, and after a while, everyone falls under their sweet spell.

Ordering a large beer becomes something “that the tourists do” but not you

In Lisbon, a small draft beer is called “imperial,” while in Porto, they are referred to as a “fino.” Other Portuguese regions adopt one word or the other. No matter where you live in Portugal, and no matter what it’s called, one thing is certain: small draft beers are more popular than large beers, and ordering the latter will peg you as a tourist.

Ordering a beer will usually get you a small draft. | © Pixabay

Vacations and days off are sacred

Many restaurants, cafés, and museums normally close on national holidays. The month of August is a terrible time to search for jobs or apply for services. When you live in Portugal, you get used to not expecting much during certain times of the year, and eventually, you’re planning your time off too.

Other people think you’re yelling when you’re only having a discussion

Portuguese people are passionate people, and that fact comes out during a conversation, especially one related to futebol or politics; this is more regionally dependent and pertains to people from the north and the islands more than around Lisbon and the south.

We're not yelling, we're talking. | © Pixabay

You check the prices of menus before committing to a restaurant

No one who lives in Lisbon eats on Rua Augusta. Also, no one pays more than €10 for lunch or €20 for dinner if they can help it (unless it’s a special occasion). As we mentioned, you will begin looking for bargains everywhere, and that definitely includes at the local restaurants, where good food doesn’t mean hefty bills.

You make sure to always have cash

Carrying cash in Portugal is certainly more convenient, and this becomes more of a habit when you’re outside the major cities where lots of the local shops/establishments have a “cash only” rule. Even in the Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto, some cafés and bars will require a minimum bill amount to pay with plastic.

Dinner without wine is unspeakable

Okay, perhaps not everyone drinks wine with their meals, but it’s certainly more than common. Anchored by strong cultural ties, the Portuguese are proud of their local wines, which are delicious and have begun gaining popularity worldwide.

Wine with dinner? Yes, please! | © Pixabay

And everyone who moves to Portugal will eventually…

Develop more of a traveling itch

Whether you travel through Portugal or abroad, the desire to see and experience more is something shared by most Portuguese people. As a culture, they appreciate and love learning about other groups, which is apparent in how welcoming they generally are, in the number of diverse museums that they have, and in how much they enjoy traveling. Plus, they were once one of the world’s greatest navigators and explorers. Of course, not everyone is able to plan exotic vacations abroad, but those who can, generally do.

Portugal has a history filled with worldwide explorations. | © Pixabay

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