Portuguese Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • It is considered disrespectful to visit churches during Mass unless you wish to attend the service. In particular, taking photos during Mass is highly frowned upon.
  • Remove any hat or headpiece when entering a church.
  • Most Portuguese view people and relationships as more important than maintaining strict adherence to time. As such, time is seen as somewhat flexible, and punctuality is not always stressed. Indeed, it is common for people to arrive late in social situations, but being on time for business arrangements is expected.

 

Visiting

  • When visiting family or friends, most guests will wait outside the door until invited inside. Similarly, guests usually do not let themselves out when leaving, but rather wait for the host to open the door and say farewell.
  • Guests are expected to show courtesy by wiping their shoes before entering the host’s home.
  • Hosts will typically offer their guests refreshments such as tea or coffee and a light snack. Refusing this offer is seen as impolite and a rejection of the host’s hospitality.
  • Offering sincere compliments about the home and its decor are welcome and help build rapport.
  • Hosts usually indicate to the guests their seat at the dining table. 
  • The most common way for guests to express appreciation is by inviting the hosts for a visit at their home.
  • The purpose of dinner invitations or parties is usually for socialising. In turn, people are not normally hasty to leave. Such invitations will often include time for conversing before, during and after the meal.

 

Eating

  • Lunch is traditionally the largest meal. However, it is becoming more common for families to gather for dinner instead.
  • Snack and coffee breaks in the afternoon are quite common.
  • When eating at someone’s home, guests typically wait for the host to say ‘bom apetite!’ (‘enjoy your food!’).
  • When someone finishes their meal, they will place their knife and fork parallel to each other across the plate.
  • During a toast, everyone raises their glasses and says ‘Saúde!’ (‘To your health!’).
  • When using a toothpick, it is proper manners to cover one’s mouth.
  • Coffee houses are also a very common place for people to meet up with friends, talk about business or to study.


Gift Giving

  • Guests visiting someone’s home will often take a small gift to their host, such as chocolates or flowers.
  • Try not to give wine as a gift unless you know which wines your Portuguese counterpart prefers. 
  • Gifts are typically opened when received.
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