Portuguese Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Generally, punctuality is expected, although sometimes people may arrive late. If there will be a delay, call your counterpart to let them know in advance. However, be patient if your Portuguese business partner is 15-30 minutes late.
  • Most Portuguese business contacts are proficient in English. However, it is courteous to ask before the meeting so that one can arrange an interpreter if necessary.
  • In Portugal, meetings are generally conducted as a group discussion with the general purpose to brief all the parties involved. 
  • It may take several meetings before a decision is reached; be patient during negotiations.
  • Portuguese usually know what outcome they want before a meeting. However, it is not uncommon for them to wait to state their true intentions until late into the meeting. Nonetheless, they will enter the meeting with an open mind and a willingness to hear the other person’s position.
  • Written documentation is very common in Portugal. Consider bringing handouts to meetings.
  • Portuguese tend to be thorough when they examine business arrangements and details in contracts such as the delivery times, currency, payment terms, etc.


Relationship Oriented

In a business context, Portuguese tend to be very relationship-oriented. Many place a great emphasis on establishing the best connections for the company and building strong and long-standing relationships. For example, your Portuguese counterpart may plan a dinner with business colleagues. This is seen as a social event and not a place to discuss business (unless your host initiates such discussions). Staff members tend to be highly devoted to their companies and will often strive for both personal and company success.


Getting to know your Portuguese counterpart on a personal level by building rapport will be highly beneficial. Indeed, big deals can be made or lost based on whether the buyer likes the seller or not. Moreover, establishing a personal relationship offers your Portuguese counterpart a sense of security and assurance that they will not be misled or cheated.


Considerations

  • Organisations and companies in Portugal tend to be hierarchical, with authority concentrated in the person at the top. Portuguese managers will often avoid direct conflict with staff members where possible by addressing their staff formally and being considerate of possible personal problems.
  • Business tends to be quite formal in Portugal. People will put considerable effort into dressing formally and elegantly as well as speaking in a formal manner.
  • August is typically when Portuguese take time off from work to go on a vacation. It is advised to plan business meetings either before mid-July or after mid-September.
  • Titles are widely used both in person and in correspondence. Be sure to properly address your Portuguese counterpart, especially if they are of a higher rank than you. If you are unsure, refer to them as ‘Senhor’ (‘Mr.’) or ‘Senhora’ (‘Ms.’) followed by their surname. Among colleagues, it is typical to call someone by their first name. 
  • Gifts are not usually given to business colleagues. Nonetheless, a small gift may be appropriate at the end of successful negotiations.
  • Portugal is a member of the European Union (EU); in turn, the country is subject to EU trade regulatory requirements.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2016), Portugal ranks 29th out of 176 countries, receiving a score of 63 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat clean from corruption.
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