- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Portugal Guide (PDF)
Expats moving to Portugal are bound to experience some degree of culture shock, even if moving more for reasons of leisure and less for integration into a business environment. Learning about certain differences beforehand can help expats get a jumpstart on the process of settling in.
Slow pace in Portugal
Portugal is well known for its relaxed, slow pace of life that usually sounds appealing until it leads to frustration and exasperation. Bureaucratic processes can be long and tedious, often marked by redundant paperwork. This can be unnerving to new arrivals when opening bank accounts, filing tax information or applying for residency.
Since this is something expats can't change, it's best to adopt an attitude of patience and acceptance. Adjusting expectations before embarking on a bureaucratic task can help temper frustration.
Language barrier in Portugal
Language is probably one of the biggest areas affecting those moving to Portugal. Thousands of expats live outside the main centres, often causing them to feel isolated and without the opportunity to socialise with locals. In many Portuguese towns, there are schools or organisations offering free or low-cost Portuguese language classes, with options for everyone from beginners to more advanced speakers. In addition to helping new arrivals get to grips with the basics of the Portuguese language, these courses are also great for meeting fellow expats.
Learning the language is a key element to feeling more at home in Portugal, managing one's way through the system and, of course, being able to share conversation with the locals. It is also a key element to help new arrivals integrate themselves more smoothly and feel like less of an outsider.
Greetings in Portugal
Unlike most Western countries, Portugal still has a more formal approach when it comes to addressing individuals. The use of 'Senhor' (Mr) or 'Senhora' (Mrs) in front of a name is common practice, especially for the older generation. To be polite, expats should take care to address locals in this manner until on more familiar terms.
Shaking of hands and kissing on both cheeks is the common greeting. Men shake hands at even the shortest of meetings, and more reserved expats will find it odd that strangers will often kiss them on both cheeks. Men don't commonly kiss each other unless there is a great display of affection or joy.
►Find out about the Pros and Cons of Moving to Portugal
"Portugal is a lovely country with some challenges. I’d say, be ready for some obstacles, but open up to people and a new culture. Learn a bit of the language as it always helps." Read more of Joanna's interview about life as an expat in Portugal.
Are you an expat living in Portugal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Portugal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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