People & Places

Statue of Portuguese food seller in Algarve

What is Portugal like? Portugal is like its people: complex, fascinating, and the product of a long and storied history. Also, a few things that are not so storied but probably should be.

See below for all posts on the site about Portuguese culture, language, and society.

Recent Posts:

  • Upstairs, Downstairs: Housekeepers & Home Cleaners in Portugal
    If, like me, you were unwittingly sucked into the Downton Abbey universe, even holding out beyond the sudsy Matthew Crawley “paralysis just kidding not paralysis” plotline, you might also have fancied yourself a would-be Lord or Lady who would have naturally – naturally! – been kind to servants in Victorian … Read more
  • Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening?
    As an American, I have never stepped onto an elevator in the United States and said “good morning” to everyone riding in it.  I have also never walked into a waiting room full of strangers and said “good afternoon” to them.  Yet I have been on the receiving end of … Read more
  • Turn of the Tide (Rabo de Peixe): Portugal and Netflix
    For most Americans, the Azores conjure up images of hiking in lush hills, swimming in crisp, clear waters, whale watching, and ecotourism galore.  (Well, to the extent that most Americans even know that the Azores are a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic Ocean, or where continental Portugal is … Read more
  • Voting in Portugal
    On March 10, 2024, Portugal held elections for the national legislature, the Assembleia da República, otherwise known as parliament.  This is the first election that I have been able to participate in since becoming a Portuguese citizen, and I was excited to find out what it was like to vote … Read more
  • What Do the Portuguese Think of the Portuguese?
    On Sunday, March 10, 2024, Portugal held national elections for its legislative branch, the Assembleia da República, or parliament. Opinion polls and snapshots of the political mood were everywhere.  All of this took place within the larger context of 2024 being an important historical year for Portugal: April 25th marks … Read more
  • How to Beach Hop in Portugal
    There are two types of vacationers in the world: people who like going to the beach, and people who don’t.  If you like going to the beach, you have a high tolerance for sweat, sweat mixed with sand, and sand mixed with everything else.  But if you don’t love going … Read more
  • Online Shopping in Portugal
    Years ago, a friend of mine here once said to me that he didn’t think online shopping was ever going to take off in Portugal.  He seemed to believe that the Portuguese culture and temperament were fundamentally incompatible with the whole enterprise of e-commerce.  Ever the American optimist for whom … Read more
  • Your Portuguese Hotel Style
    In principle, finding hotels in Portugal is not that complicated.  You start by choosing the location, and then narrow down the options to get the most amenities for your budget.  But what if you did this in reverse? If you start by figuring out what amenities really matter to you … Read more
  • Christmas in Portugal
    When it comes down to it, Christmas traditions everywhere are basically a family or community affair.  Even in a country as small as this one, Christmas in Portugal can vary quite a bit in terms of foods eaten and local celebrations, depending upon where you are and who you’re with.  … Read more
  • Raising Children in Portugal
    Living in Portugal had been an idea that my husband, Nuno, and I fantasized about regularly before we finally made the decision to move here, and raising children in Portugal continues to be the best choice for our family now, even after Nuno died two years ago.  It hasn’t been … Read more
  • What’s It Like to Be an American Expat?
    When I was still living in the United States, I held the self-satisfied belief that I wasn’t one of those Americans who think that people not originally born in the US were permanent outsiders (at best) or some sort of freeloading opportunists (at worst).  I was well-versed in the idea … Read more
  • Northern Portugal Summer
    I am the product of a suburban Chicago childhood, where summer always meant the pool, not the beach.  Sure, Lake Michigan was an option, but it was also frequently off limits because of contamination from nearby food processing plants (!) and I didn’t spend much time downtown until I lived … Read more
  • Você, Tu, and You
    You can learn a lot about a country’s people by observing how formal or informal they are with each other in their daily language usage.  As a foreigner in Portugal, I’ve found that if you compare the Portuguese spoken here to the Portuguese spoken in Brazil, you’ll notice that many … Read more
  • Driving (and Parking) in Portugal
    Much like people who wonder whether learning to speak Portuguese is “easy” or “hard” (to which I answer: neither, it’s all in your head), people often ask about driving in Portugal and whether driving is “easy” or “hard” and if drivers are “good” or “bad.” And the answer is: all … Read more
  • Portuguese in Portugal
    Europeans are pretty good at learning a second (or third) language: 65% are fluent in a language other than their native tongue.  Americans, on the other hand, are much less likely to be bilingual: according to the US Census, about 20% of Americans speak a language other than English at … Read more
  • Heat in Portuguese homes
    Southern Europe is not usually an area that Americans associate with cold weather.  However, Portugal in winter can be pretty brisk, especially in the north and interior, and even in the Algarve.  And it’s flat-out cold everywhere on winter evenings.  Yet only 14% of Portuguese homes have central heating — … Read more
  • Where is Portugal?(?)
    Portugal is in Europe, and the capital of Portugal is Lisbon. (The language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese, and yes, I’m confident you can learn if you want to.) But Americans are notoriously bad at geography. If Portugal is not already on their travel radar, some Americans (read: many) may … Read more
  • Café Culture in Portugal
    A lot of ink is spilled on café culture in France, but much of that rings true here as well.  Coffee in Portugal is a social affair, and the places you typically go for coffee offer a relatively wide selection of eating and drinking options.   (As in most of Europe, … Read more

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