Portuguese Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Communication Style: Portuguese can be quite expressive and emotive in their communicative style. They may speak quite fast and in a louder tone. This expressiveness is quite common among most Portuguese and typically does not signify anger or displeasure. Although they can be quite expressive, they may be more restrained and formal around strangers. 
  • Direct Communication: In Portugal, people tend to be quite direct when communicating. Although they are willing to offer direct answers, they will usually do so politely and gently. At times, it is necessary to use other communicative cues such as body language to help in understanding the meaning conveyed by your Portuguese counterpart.
  • Conflict: Portuguese generally dislike confrontation and will attempt to avoid conflict. People will often try to express themselves in a way that will not be interpreted as critical or ridiculing.
  • Diminutives: The diminutive is a typical characteristic of Portuguese. It expresses familiarity and affection towards a thing or person. Most words can be used in their diminutive form by adding the syllable ‘inha’ for females and ‘inho’ for males. For example, the word ‘casa’ means ‘home’ whereby ‘casinha’ is the affectionate way of talking about a home using the feminine. It can also be added to names (e.g. João becomes Joãzinho).
  • Formality: In Portuguese, different forms of expression indicate the level of formality or politeness. The generic titles of ‘senhor’ (male) and ‘senhora’ (female) are the most formal method of address and are commonly used to address people of seniority (based on age and profession). It is also common to address someone by their professional title followed by their surname (e.g. when addressing a female doctor, ‘Doctora Afonso’). The more informal expression is the pronoun ‘você’ (although it may be omitted depending on the sentence). It is typically used among those who are familiar with each other. When in doubt, it is best to err on the side of formality.
  • Humour: Many Portuguese enjoy humour and sharing jokes. The type of humour varies from teasing and witty puns to cynicism. Most topics are welcome for interjecting humour.


Non-Verbal

  • Physical Contact: Portuguese tend to be quite tactile during conversations. It is common to lightly touch people’s arms and backs throughout interaction. This is much more common among friends and family. Public displays of affection are also common, such as couples kissing and holding hands.
  • Personal Space: The typical distance people maintain during conversation is an arm’s length. This may be closer depending on the relationship between the people conversing.
  • Eye Contact: Direct eye contact is understood as a form of respect. Portuguese tend to maintain direct eye contact throughout a conversation. However, direct eye contact by children to someone older than them, such as their parents, may be considered disrespectful.
  • Beckoning: The most common way to beckon another person is to have one’s palms facing up and waving their fingers towards themselves. Avoid using a single index finger alone as this can have suggestive tones.
  • Gestures: At times, Portuguese may be animated in their physical expressions and gestures. Usually, such gestures are used to help emphasise their point. Some gestures are considered impolite; for example, using the index finger to point to someone directly.
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