Skip to main content





Joined EU 1986
Capital: Lisbon -
pop - 1,500,000

Population: 10,676,910 -July 2008 est
92,391 Sq km

Religion:  Roman Catholic 84.5%

Over recent years Portugal has undergone many changes, structurally, economically and has become very  popular for both business and pleasure. The southern provinces are a favourite choice of holidaymakers, it now attracts more than two million British visitors annually. Many of these enjoy its beautiful Algarve beaches and warm hospitality, some stay and forge a living for themselves and their families. The north of Portugal, rich in culture and tradition is now beginning to attract many necomers.
Looking back through Portuguese history one can see that life has not been easy for this small country of only 10 million inhabitants, and yet they have much to be proud of. An early Celtic tribe, the Lusitanians, are believed to have been the first inhabitants of Portugal. The country was colonised by the Romans, overrun by northern warriors such as the Goths and Visigoths, and then dominated for 800 years by Moorish invaders.  Constant wranglings with the Spanish courts over supreme rule of the whole Iberian peninsula were to continue for centuries. No wonder that the Portuguese take offence when spoken to in Spanish! A saying goes 'De Espanha nem bom vento nem bom casamento' (from Spain come neither fair winds nor good marriages).
During the Golden Era of the 15th and 16th centuries Portugal became a dominant influence around the world and at one point Spain and Portugal divided the known world between them. Brazil, Portugal’s, largest colony continued under Portuguese rule until its independence in 1822. The 19th centure the Portuguese Empire took over African colonies such as Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. In more recent times, history was dominated by the dictatorial regime of Salazar. Traditionally friendly to Britain, Portugal fought in World War I on the Allied side in Africa as well as on the Western Front.
Leftists in the armed forces, weary of protracted civil wars in Africa, launched a successful revolution on April 25, 1974. After the 1974 revolution, the new military junta gave up its territories, beginning with Portuguese Guinea in Sept 1974, the Cape Verde Islands and Mozambique were made independent in July 1975 then Angola achieved independence later that same year, thus ending a colonial involvement on that continent that had begun in 1415. Full-scale international civil war, however, followed Portugal's departure from Angola, and Indonesia forcibly annexed independent East Timor.
Portugal, as a country with a long history full of influences from external peoples, is home to magnificent architectural structures,monuments and churches, as well as superb art, furniture and literary collections chronicling the events that shaped the country and its people. The Portuguese are extremely proud of their country and heritage.
There are many diverse cultural activities in which the Portuguese participate, indulging their appreciation of art, music, drama and dance. In the larger cities visits to the theatre, concerts or galleries of modern exhibitions are popular, and Portugal can boast not only international-scale venues in Lisbon and Oporto, but also many artists from various areas. The importance of the arts is finely illustrated by the fact that on the death of Amalia Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado (Portugal's national music) in October 1999, three days of national mourning was declared!  In 2001 Oporto was European City of Culture, contributing to a current renaissance in artistic creation, and in 2004 Portugal hosted the European football finals in specially constructed stadiums.

In smaller towns and villages cultural activity may revolve around local folklore, with musical groups performing traditional dance and song. There are still a few bull-rings in Portugal, although the passion for this is not as widespread as in Spain. The Portuguese enjoy socialising and give importance to familiy gatherings. Often an evening out may centre around a good meal in a restaurant. When Portuguese people do go out it's never a rushed affair and after a heartly meal  families often  take a stroll around the square or along the seafront.. Entertaining is usually out rather than at home, unlike some Northern European trends. Perhaps that is down to the mild weather (most of the time), or possibly the fact that the Portuguese love to be out and about greeting their friends and colleagues.
Social Structure
The family is the foundation of the social structure and forms the basis of stability. The extended family is quite close and loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships. People respect authority and look to their seniors for guidance and help in decision-making. This need to know who is in charge leads to an authoritarian approach to decision- making and problem solving.

The Portuguese are polite and gracious and cordial even at intial meetings. People greet with a firm handshake accompanied by direct eye contact and once a personal relationship has developed, greetings become more personal: men may greet each other with a hug and women kiss each other twice on the cheek starting with the right. The proper form of address is the honorific title 'senhor' and 'senhora' with the surname.  Anyone with a university degree is referred to as 'doutor' or 'doutora' ('doctor') with or without their surname.

A festival of some sort takes place every day of the year, somewhere in Portugal. Attending a traditional festival (festa) is a great way for any visitor to Portugal to appreciate popular culture and get to know the local people and their way of life. Portugal's strong Catholic heritage, linked to the many local pagan customs which were integrated into the average person's religious convictions, has lead to a popular culture rich in a strong belief for many Portuguese in saints, miracles, lucky charms, healing springs, shrines and superstition.

The cult of Our Lady of Fatima indicates the strength of local support for people on the fringes of Catholicism. Even today, in the pilgrimage season May-October, tens of thousands of pilgrims line the roads to Fatima, just outside Leiria, to pay their respects to the Virgin, who it is claimed, appeared to three children in May 1917.

Every town and village in Portugal has a patron saint, whose saint's day is celebrated by the whole community, thus fostering a sense of communal identity, absent in many other parts of Europe. The main themes of these festas is a procession of a statue of the patron saint accompanied by fireworks, music, dancing and joyous merrymaking.

Portugal is not just about traditional festivals - new ones are springing up all the time. Especially film, music and food festivals, often sponsored by local authorities to boost local tourism. The followinga re a few of the most notable festivals:-
  • The Fantasporto International Film Festival is one of Portugal's oldest and longest running film festivals
  • Rock in Rio-Lisbon is a huge rock festival, touted as the world's largest music festival, held annually at the Parque the Bela Vista in Lisbon attracting some of the biggest names in popular music.
  • The third weekend of June is time for the Rallye Biker in Faro - one of Europe's biggest biker meets with rock music and a parade of motorbikes through the streets of Faro.
  • Lagos celebrates its connection with Portugal's maritme past with the Festa dos Descobrimentos (Festival of the Discoveries) with processions (late October/early November) in period costume through the town's streets.

  • Late October to early November The National Gastronomic Festival in Santarem. The festival began in 1980 and each day of the event is dedicated to a region and its food culture.



Although perhaps not as well known as Spanish or French cuisine, Portuguese food has grown in reputation. Whilst the food has similarities to Spanish cuisine, it does have a uniqueness influenced principally by its Atlantic Ocean coastline and the spices, herbs and flavourings discovered and brought back from Portugal's former colonies. These include paprika, ginger, saffron, vanilla, cinnamon and piri piri (chilli).

Holidaymakers to the Algarve will be familiar with some of the classical tastes of Portugal; the ocean fresh sardines grilled on charcoal barbecues, chicken piri-piri and vinho verde but there is a great deal more to be enjoyed. Portugal has a long history associated with the sea, both in exploration and fishing. This is reflected by the fact that the most common main course is likely to be fresh fish. Although the Algarve is synonymous with sardines, equally popular dishes include octopus, squid, lobster, crab, shrimp, hake, sea bass, lamprey and of course, tuna. Fish stews cooked and presented in earthenware pots with rice are a speciality and a wonderful treat when accompanied by a good bottle of local wine.

Of special mention is Cataplana, which is both a traditional Portuguese dish and also the name of the pan it is cooked in. Two bowls hinged on one side and crafted from copper, form a closed dish that retains the heat and is used to cook either fish or meat, together with rice, pasta, or potatoes with seasonal vegetables and well seasoned with spices and herbs.
Despite the abundance of fresh fish the Portuguese do also love their meat, especially pork, chicken, and lamb. Beef is also available but is more likely to be cooked in a rich sauce than roasted. Meat dishes are often served with boiled potatoes and vegetables but salad is often a preferable alternative because the Portuguese do tend to cook their vegetables longer than we would normally choose


Emigration & Immigration 
Portugal, long a country of seafarers and immigrants, has in many ways become a country of immigration. Portugal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has registered and attempts to maintain ties with nearly 4.3 million Portuguese and people with Portuguese ancestry living abroad. Members of Portugal's diaspora community have maintained tight relations with their homeland in the form of frequent visits, regular sending of remittances (approximately three percent of GDP in 2000), faithful viewing of Portuguese television programs, significant participation in civil society associations and parliamentary elections, and consumption of "ethnic" goods.

Beyond this, Portugal has always had a special relationship with its former colonies. Brazil, along with the association of Portuguese-Speaking African Countries (PALOP) that includes Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Principe, have played a prominent role in Portugal's migration history.


Emigrant Tradition

Emigration from Portugal dates from the 15th century, the beginning of Portugal's period of overseas exploration. From the middle of the 19th century to the late 1950s, nearly two million Portuguese left Europe to live in Brazil and the United States.

In the late 1950s, Portuguese immigration started to increase and moved towards new destinations in the expanding economies of Northern and Central Europe, particularly France. In the next 15 years, up until 1974, more than 1.5 million Portuguese emigrated to take up jobs in the low-wage, low-productivity sectors. 

 By the early 1990s, however, when Portugal was able to reap the advantages of the EU's free movement policies, there was a reduction in flows, as well as new emigration characteristics - the dominance of temporary migration to other EU member states, in the past decade nearly 500,000 Portuguese have moved in the direction of new job markets in the United Kingdom & Ireland.


From Emigration to Immigration

Because of its geographic location, the country attracted adventurers and merchants from England, Dutch provinces, regions of Spain, and Italian cities as early as the late 15th century. Against their will, thousands of African slaves arrived as well. In the first half of the 16th century, Lisbon was the European capital with the largest proportion of African residents, an estimated 10 percent of the 100,000 inhabitants.

In the second half of the 1960s, Portugal registered the first arrival of African workers from its colonies. Cape Verdeans were recruited for construction and manufacturing jobs to fill a growing labour shortage associated with emigration. Alongside these Africans were Europeans from countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom, most of them retired and highly skilled professionals from wealthy families.

In the mid-1970s, the decolonization of former Portuguese countries such as Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bisseau led to a sudden movement of more than half a million people to Portugal, in particular to the Lisbon area. The majority of these were "retornados" and their descendants; that is, people born in Portugal and/or their children or grandchildren. Alongside the retornados came Africans, especially from Cape Verde and Angola. These groups were responsible for an explosion in the number of foreigners in Portugal, and for the establishment of the main migratory chains.

A new migration cycle emerged from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, driven to a large degree by Portugal's increasing demand for labor. Joining the European Union in 1986 made Portugal a more attractive destination for non-EU citizens trying to settle in other countries of Northern and Central Europe. The result was a continuous increase in the number of foreign residents, dominated by Africans and, to a lesser extent, Brazilians and Western Europeans.
Since the end of the 1990s, yet another phase in Portugal's immigration history has been underway, this one marked by the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, and Romania. In a mere five years, Ukrainians have become the third-largest group of foreigners, immediately after Cape Verdeans and Brazilians.


Language Focus

General questions
Hello / Good bye
Olá   /  Adeus
Good morning / good afternoon / goodnight
Bom dia /  Boa Tarde /  Boa noite
Excuse me
Com licença
I do not speak any English
Não falo Inglês
I only speak a little English
Apenas falo um pouco de Inglês
Can anyone here speak…?
Aqui alguém fala….. ?
Portuguese / Lithuanian / Polish / Russian
Português / Letão / Polaco / Russo ?
I need an interpreter
Preciso de um intérprete
Can you help me?
Pode ajudar-me?
Where is the ……?
Onde fica….?
Left / right
Esquerda   / Direita
Straight ahead
Sempre em frente
Behind / beside / behind
Atrás   / Junto de / Por trás
In front of
Em frente de
Bank   /   Post Office
Banco   / Correios
Shop /    School
Loja   /  Escola
Church / Police Station
Igreja /  Esquadra de Políca
Council / Library
Camara Muncipal /  Biblioteca
Job Centre / Health Centre
Centro de Emprego  /  Centro de Saúde
Dentist / Optician
Dentista  /  Optometrista
Fire Brigade
Train Station
Estação de Combóio
Do you have …?
Tem um….?
Meat / Chicken / Beef / Pork
Carne / Frango / Beef / Porco
Vegetables / potatos / Carrots
Legumes / Batatas / Cenoras
Rice / pasta / flour
Arroz / Massa / Farinha
Milk / juice / water / coffee / tea
Leite / Sumo  /  Agua   /  Café  /  Chá
Bread / sugar / butter / eggs
Pão  /  Açucar  /  Manteiga  /  Ovos
Phone / bank card / stamp
Cartão de telephone  / de banco / selo
Bank account
Conta bancária
Doctor / GP
Médico / Médico de família
Dor de Cabeça 
Make an Appointment
Marcar uma consulta
Flu / Cold
Gripe / Constipação
Discharge letter