What are the differences between Spain and Portugal?
Updated: Feb 21
Find out what the differences are between these two countries that share the Iberian Peninsula.
Spain and Portugal are neighbours, yet they have very different cultures and ways of living. It is precisely these nuances that we have studied.
The Spaniards are more the type to familiarize with people, while the Portuguese prefer the address. Indeed, referring someone to Spain can be very badly taken. The reason is simple, the Spaniards are more extroverted, tactile and talkative, while in Portugal the population is more formal, reserved and very sensitive to politeness. The Portuguese also attach great importance to studies and so-called "prestigious" professions.
What is glaringly obvious are the timetables. Indeed, when noon has struck, the Portuguese begin to put their feet under the table, while in Spain it is out of the question to eat at this hour! For them, lunchtime is around 2 p.m., followed by a traditional nap. Another big difference is punctuality. The Portuguese will rarely set a specific meeting time. Thus, it will be frequent to hear "rendezvous around noon" rather than "rendezvous at noon sharp".
In Spain, it is common to have lunch around 3 p.m. and dinner after 10 p.m. Restaurants in Portugal are usually crowded around 1 p.m. In the evening, locals are less inclined to have a drink with friends before a late dinner, even though there are more and more places to do so.
Although these differences are present, whether in their habits, way of living or in their cultures, they make these two countries unique places as we love them.
Nightlife in Spain and Portugal
Madrid and Barcelona are both known for their nightlife that attracts revellers of all ages. So whether your party idea includes endless tapas and glasses of wine at a street cafe in Barcelona, or cocktails and champagne on the stylish rooftop terrace of a hotel in Madrid (try The Principal), Spain will likely exceed your expectations for nightlife. And these aren't the only two cities in Spain that are worth your nighttime attention. For an eclectic and increasingly sophisticated scene, including wine bars in historic mansions and craft beer bars, head to Picasso's hometown of Málaga. Antigua Casa de Guardia, a bar where local wines are poured straight from the barrels, has been around since 1840 and is said to be one of the artist's favourite haunts.
Meanwhile, Lisbon also has one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in Europe. Things don't start early here (travellers will find they often have restaurants if they show up for dinner before 9:00 p.m.). After dinner, have a drink at a local bar. Better yet, Lisbon has no laws against open containers. In the Bairro Alto District, you'll make your way through the crowds of revellers holding all kinds of beers and cocktails in take-out mugs. On weekends, the party heads to nightclubs around 2 a.m. Do not show up earlier, otherwise, you will feel very lonely.
Many culinary practices differ between the two countries, but two things are certain: contrary to what some crude clichés convey, Portugal is far from being only the country of cod and the Spaniards do not just eat tapas.
Moreover, if there is a practice that changes completely between the two countries, it is indeed the consumption of coffee. In Portugal, locals tend to consume between two and four espressos per day, compared to a mixture of roasted and weaker coffees in Spain.
Spain and Portugal offer excellent food and wine scenes, and visitors looking for savoury snacks will be in for a treat. Don't expect too many veggies in either country, although you do tend to see them popping up on tapas or side dishes (caldo verde soup from Portugal and grilled Padron peppers from Spain worth tasting). More often than not, you will find tomatoes, potatoes, and onions in the main roles of the main dishes. Spain and Portugal, however, share an exceptional delicacy: Iberian ham. This expensive and highly coveted smoked ham is produced from Iberian pigs that roam freely in the forests of the central and southwestern regions of the Iberian Peninsula, right between Portugal and Spain.
Eggs, rice, and pork also appear frequently in Spanish dishes. Popular meals include paella in Valencia, shellfish such as clams and barnacles in Galicia, and octopus, fried croquetas, or a potato and egg omelette called tortillas. For dessert, the national treat is hot churros dipped in a cup of melted chocolate.
In Portugal, dishes tend to be higher in protein, with a high proportion of pork and seafood, especially cod. The country is characterized by a long coastline. Expect to see tasty dishes like grilled sardines in salt, bifana (simple pork sandwiches), Francesinha (ham and cheese sandwiches soaked in port juice), and suckling pig. The national dessert here is pastel de nata, a hot cinnamon and egg custard tart. Don't be surprised if you see people queuing for hours at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon.
When it comes to wine, Portugal is best known for its white wines, especially Vinho Verde, although Porto wine also attracts a lot of people. Meanwhile, most Spanish wines come from red grape varieties.
A different approach to foreign languages
Due to extremely rich phonetics, the Portuguese would have more facilities than the Spaniards to assimilate foreign languages. Besides, films and series are broadcast in the original version of Portugal, which will come in handy if you want to make yourself a canvas to escape the heat. In Spain, most programs are dubbed.
Either way, whether you get lost in a Spanish or Portuguese street, be sure that someone will come to your aid and help you find your way back. If such a situation arises, the language barrier will not be a problem.
The Spaniards speak a bit louder and faster than the Portuguese.
Spain has more marked regional differences than Portugal. The regional languages are Castilian, Basque, Andalusian, Galician, and Catalan. In Portugal, although the accents vary between the north and the south of the continent, the language is the same. The biggest differences in European Portuguese are those between the islands and the mainland. Besides, it is believed that it is easier for Portuguese and Galicians to communicate in their respective languages than for a Portuguese to communicate with a Spanish person from another region.