How can you quickly adapt to a “Portuguese-style” lifestyle?
Updated: Apr 18
In general, foreigners acclimatize very well in Portugal. Despite some cultural differences, they quickly feel at home.
The climate, a pleasant surprise
With an exceptional rate of sunshine from north to south of Portugal and mild temperatures even in winter, acclimatization is done quite well and with a real advantage for those who settle more permanently.
A spirit of friendliness and a sense of hospitality
The Portuguese are a people with a sense of hospitality, very attached to human values, tolerance, and very friendly and enthusiastic. You will easily be invited to share a meal. Or if necessary, you can count on their availability.
A preserved country with traditions still very present
Even if Portugal is today one of the most fashionable destinations (country consecrated for the second time, the best tourist destination in the World Travel Awards in November 2019), it remains a very unspoiled territory even in the cities.
The Portuguese also have great respect for their traditions, they give importance to human values and the links that these can create.
A more relaxed pace of life
In administrations, at the supermarket checkout, it is clear that the pace is slowing down in restaurants. The Portuguese also eat their meals late, not as much as their Spanish neighbours, but it is very common to have lunch between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.
To know :
Waiting tickets at the entrance of establishments such as bakeries, butchers, pharmacy, post office, hospital or "Loja do cidadão". In Portugal, not always, but often you will have to collect a numbered ticket at the entrance to register your presence in the queue. Look carefully to see if there is a machine when you enter and collect your ticket.
In Portugal, in general, the pace of life is slowing down. Those looking for a quieter and more peaceful quality of life will appreciate the change.
Houses and apartments with better constructions
In Portugal, the cost of construction is cheaper and the quality is much better.
There aren't really small budget houses, but real buildings with noble materials. The Portuguese are very good builders.
Central heating, quite rare in Portugal
You will probably be visiting homes without heating or with auxiliary heaters. Don't be surprised, it's common in old Portuguese buildings. It's not that bad, you might say, there is always the old technique for warming up: you put on several layers and you use warm blankets. But, be aware that in new constructions and renovated housing, heating is now often installed mainly in the form of reversible air conditioning.
The cost of living is cheaper in Portugal
In supermarkets, restaurants, daily, there is a real difference compared to other industrialized countries ( between -25% in Lisbon and up to -35% in the rest of the country).
Restaurants and cafes (pastelarias): unmissable places of the conviviality of the Portuguese
Eating out is a long-standing habit in Portuguese life. In most traditional cuisine restaurants, the prices are cheap and the cuisine is family-style and above all delicious.
The same goes for "pastelarias" (cafes with pastries) and "padarias" (bakeries) which are very popular with Portuguese in the morning and/or late afternoon after work. You can eat sweets or savoury snacks quickly swallowed with a bica (small coffee) or galão (coffee with milk).
Some tips to know in Portuguese restaurants:
The small starters on the tables even before ordering. These "entradas" (starters) are generally made up of olives, bread, cheese, pâté, octopus salad ... If you leave it alone, it will not be charged, conversely, if you are there. touch, it will be charged.
Soup is very common all over Portugal. In all restaurants, from the simplest to the chicest.
This is the classic and healthy entry
Portuguese wines: Portugal produces high quality, internationally recognized and awarded wines from the Douro, to Alentejo, including the interior regions (as Beiras)
Televisions in cafes and restaurants: Sometimes one, sometimes several televisions adorn the walls of more traditional establishments. They broadcast various programs but are mainly installed to follow football matches.
Bank ATMs to pay bills
When you are in Portugal, you will probably go to collect some cash from the ATM, but sometimes you may wait a little while behind the person in front of you. Why? In Portugal, you have the possibility, if you wish, to pay your bills (electricity, water, the internet, etc.) via bank machines rather than via automatic debit. If you are waiting at the vending machines, then it is not because the person in front of you does not know how to use a vending machine, it is just that they are certainly paying their bills and therefore must take your pain patiently.
Electronic toll highways with "Via Verde"
This is another Portuguese particularity: the presence of automatic electronic tolls without counters, without barriers in the motorways. Before your trip, you will need to take a "via verde" box which will allow automatic payment of these. If you go through a gantry (electronic toll) without having this box, you will absolutely have to log on to the CTT site in the days following your passage to make the payment. Otherwise, when you arrive at the motorway tollbooth, you will have to make sure you choose the passage with the traditional ticket office for payment using the Multibanco card or in cash.
In Portugal, you can see cars parked just about anywhere, if not really anywhere. The lack of parking and the cost of these partly explain this phenomenon. In small and medium-sized towns, this phenomenon is very tolerated by the authorities. On the other hand, in large cities, be careful, checks are frequent and cars are regularly blocked if they are not parked in the correct location.
The gentlemen who park you
Another thing that you might not be used to if you don't live in Portugal is the roadside gentlemen who point out free parking spaces to you and then help you manoeuvre. They are mainly found in medium and large Portuguese cities. Courtesy wants to give these people room for their help.
How to adapt to a new Portuguese culture?
Beyond the material and administrative preparation, it is necessary to think of the psychological preparation which will help you to overcome more easily a possible clash of cultures. Here are the tips that will allow you to overcome cultural differences to flourish and build a new life in Portugal.
1. Know the cultural differences
Culture shock is a normal part of your adjustment to a new culture. It makes sense to feel disoriented, even stressed, when you step away from your world and familiar habits and immerse yourself in another reality that you will have to get to know. Understanding and accepting this culture shock is already a step towards integration because it means that you realize that these differences exist.
2. Make concessions
Be forgiving and take the time to adjust. Making value judgments about other people's cultures may prevent you from appreciating all the rich, you can derive from it. To avoid misunderstandings and hastily formulated opinions, try to build friendly relations with the Portuguese and ask them to enlighten you on some of their practices that you find shocking or incomprehensible.
3. Take care of your body
Culture shock does not only affect the mind, it can also make the body more vulnerable. It is recommended that you exercise regularly and get enough sleep to allow the body to recover faster and refuel.
4. Respect local practices
Showing respect for the Portuguese, their culture and beliefs make it easier to adapt to your new living environment. Whether it is about eating habits, certain values such as the place of women in society or practices that do not always seem clear to you, accept them as part of the customs of Portugal to which you will have to get used. To do this, avoid staying permanently with expatriates and do not hesitate to participate in social life.
5. Inform yourself as best you can
Before your departure, it is advisable to inform yourself in detail about your destination. Knowing the prohibited or taboo gestures and attitudes will allow you to avoid many mistakes.
6. Fully adhere to your professional framework
The new working environment sometimes gives rise to the greatest concerns; you have to adapt to a different management style, to new colleagues and to habits and practices that are still unknown. Take advantage of this chance to feed your professional experience.
7. Adopt the Portuguese rhythm
Don't get caught up in your old ways. Observe what is happening around you and life to the rhythm of the Portuguese. See what they're up to and when, and get started!
8. Learn Portuguese
It’s obvious, but let’s remember it all the same: before thinking of going abroad, it’s better to have a minimum of the language spoken there. Otherwise, the language barrier may quickly block you in your daily life, for taking the bus, working or shopping, for example. Even though a basic knowledge of English can be understood in most of Portugal, even non-English speakers, the experience may not be very rewarding for you in the long term. In addition, the efforts you will make to express yourself in Portuguese will show your desire to integrate into this country and to blend in with its culture. Ideal for developing your curiosity and your exchanges with the Portuguese.
9. Don't be afraid to explore
Don't be afraid to explore your surroundings to make your mark. Walk the streets, shop, stroll in the nearby parks and gardens: this is the best way to soak up the cultural differences in Portugal, on the one hand, and the rhythm and atmosphere of a city, on the other hand. Your exploration, alone, with friends, with other expats or with acquaintances met on the site, will also be an excellent way to locate the best addresses and find ideas for outings.
10. Meet each other
Those who are very timid will surely apprehend this step, but it is nevertheless a crucial point when moving to Portugal. At school, at work, in your neighbourhood or through expatriate websites and associations: don't hesitate to meet the people around you. If your relationships with the outside world is a bit limited because of shifted schedules, for example, do not hesitate to register with an association or a club, depending on your areas of interest, to meet people. These activities will allow you to forge links with new people and to glean advice on the organization of the country (in terms of medical care, transport, accommodation ...), but also on the activities to do and the addresses to test (or avoid). Organize outings, improve your language skills: in short, discover the peculiarities of your host country and learn from its cultural differences.