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Moving to Portugal – Some Lifestyle Differences

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Living in Portugal

I moved to Portugal under three years ago and though it wasn't very difficult to adjust, there are some cultural differences between the two countries. Here are just a few that spring to mind:

Kissing – Prepare to be kissed by people who are your friends, family, work colleagues and people you’ve never met before. And even though you might know them quite well and see them every day, you will be kissed by them every time you meet. Twice! Women and men kiss each other and men shake hands with each other. There is a get out of jail card if you encounter a large group of people and you don't feel comfortable kissing everyone – you can air kiss your hand, wave the invisible kiss in front of the group and declare “Kisses!” That should satisfy them.

You’re fat –People will often say that someone is fat in Portugal, even when the person is standing in front of them. Strangely enough, the person doesn’t seem to be badly affected by this. It’s like a truth that they accept, but it is not intended to offend the person. An Irish person would be upset by this. What is more intriguing is that the ‘fat’ person isn’t particularly fat; they are just a little heavier than they were.


Going to Someone’s House for a Drink - You never go to someone’s house with a few bottles of beer for a chat. They think it’s odd and might become suspicious. It’s better to go for a meal or invite them for a meal. Irish people don’t particularly care about food, sometimes it gets in the way of the serious business of drinking. Whereas food is the centre of the universe in Portuguese culture, everything else stems from it. So if you want company and a few drinks, it’s better to have some plates of food somewhere in the mix.

Dancing – Some Irish people can dance, I’ve never met one, but I’m sure they exist. On the other hand ALL Portuguese can dance. They were born with some kind of rhythm gene in their body that allows them to move their hips in a manner the RC Church back home would be concerned about. Maybe it has something to do with the sun, who knows?


The Ball in the sky - When it’s spring in Portugal, I wear sunscreen and sweat and curse at the intensity of the sun. Meanwhile the Portuguese are running round with jackets and scarves and grumbling about how cold it is. They wear jeans right up to the start of the summer and by god it’s sweltering by then. They don’t really slather on the sun block either. I’ve asked many many Portuguese how often do they put it on and it seems the majority of them only use it on when they go to the Algarve for their summer holidays. But they go brown in the summer and the Irish turn pink. Guess their skin can handle it.

The Rain – It doesn’t rain much in Portugal and it never stops in Ireland. It’s such a strange response, but the Portuguese seem to be personally offended by it, it makes them really miserable and upset. I love it when it rains here; it’s such a novelty because this only happens during certain months of the year. And winter is my favourite season - everything turns green and the cold is bearable. The Portuguese think I’m crazy for walking in the rain.

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Noise – The Portuguese are a noisy bunch all right. When I first came here I was concerned by the old ladies in the street screeching and bawling at other people. It sounded like war, but eventually I came to realise they were just having a normal conversation. People, especially at a social event, compete for airspace and from the distance it’s sounds like a terrible argument, but it’s just a normal night out.

Dogs – Dogs in the countryside are nearly always tied up and are used more for home security than for friendship. Be prepared to be snarled and snapped at. The Portuguese don’t usually walk in the rural areas either, so the dogs will be interested in your presence. I think the Irish are more physically affectionate to their dogs and the Portuguese are more affectionate to other people.


Sense of humour – Irish people like to take the piss out of themselves. We like to slag other people too, but not in a malicious way, and our jokes are usually sarcastic, dry and commonly aimed at ourselves. The Portuguese sense of humour seems to revolve around sex jokes. Boobs and bums are fair game. And I have often seen people making size references to said body parts in front of a person. The person never gets offended, but then again it never degenerates into sleazy territory.

The size of drinks – I sniggered when I arrived here first and saw the tiny coffees being served up in children’s teacups. But the laugh was soon wiped off my face after I had two coffees in a row and started to get heart palpitations. The small vessels contain some very powerful liquids. You may also notice the Portuguese drinking small bottles of beer. You will see tables with mountains of these little dumpy bottles and no one drinking pints, but the reasoning behind it is sound. No one wants to be stuck drinking a warm beer, that’s why they choose the little ones so they’re constantly fresh.


Children staying up late – The Portuguese are very child friendly. Kids are in no way excluded from the festivities or from social life at all. It is normal to see and hear children still awake and roaming the streets at midnight or even 1 a.m. In Ireland the underaged have to leave an establishment that serves booze by 9 p.m. In Portugal they don’t have this attitude.

© 2013 Muttface

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