Moving to Portugal – Some Lifestyle Differences


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.


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

Comments 5 comments

lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

Awesome stuff. Europe is not a homogenous place like so many in the States think it is. Always wanted to visit Portugal (not sure why..). Now I'm somewhat prepared. Though I'm more suited to the Irish weather. The only Portuguese I've met are via Brazil. Not sure of the exact differences. Sounds interesting.

Being from NY, the Irish there like to think of Ireland like a 51st state, so I'm more than familiar with the culture. My last name helps too. Voted up. Good luck.

cfin profile image

cfin 2 years ago from The World we live in

I'm also Irish, certified Tefl teacher. I was a Law Graduate, all set to move away to a random tropical country (as Irish people always find an excuse to do. It's rainy...ok?) when I met my wife from the US. We had planned to teach English together in a tropical country. Now somehow I ended up in the iciness that is Wisconsin doing bookkeeping. Us Irish huh?

I have been to Portugal. It makes Ireland look like paradise that requires a sun and/or roof over it. Needless to say I was not impressed with the huge levels of crime, the close to slavery style "maids" my Portuguese friends had dressed in maid outfits from dawn til dusk and the hundreds of homeless huddled in the corners in Lisbon (yes every city has homeless but this was bad and I have traveled extensively) . We tried going to numerous bars suggested by our local friends. I am far from a stiff but they only sold super boc this and that, and there was no sink in the bathroom which was not properly separated from the bar itself. Unusual.

I enjoyed the beach though and the people are friendly. They seem to think their country is the best in the world (as an Irish person we are humble to say the least and tell everyone Ireland is horrible when it's not). I was not was sure whether to love or hate this about them.

Muttface profile image

Muttface 2 years ago from Portugal Author

Hi cfin,

It's funny you should mention bookkeeping, as I worked in an accountant's office for years too. I got into the teaching by accident, lucky for me as I was picking grapes for about a month before I landed the job.

I never heard of the maids wearing maid outfits, but I have to agree, the working hours and conditions are a lot to be desired. We have a minimum hourly wage in Ireland, but over here the minimum wage is based on a monthly scale, which leads to abuses by employers. I know of so many people here who are working many extra hours a week without getting any overtime. Minimum wage is €480 a month. Imagine trying to survive on that!

cfin profile image

cfin 2 years ago from The World we live in

Yeah that's almost half the unemployment benefit one receives in Ireland and people complain about that. It will be a long, long time before there is anything close to uniform income across the EU.

ghalkett profile image

ghalkett 10 months ago from Dayton, Ohio

Nice! I remember feeling like a total tourist in my sundress and watching all the natives looking cool in their jeans...seems more family-oriented than say, Spain. I don't know if a single person would have much of a social life here? Good article.

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