Good Manners International: Portugal

Last time, we introduced you to the key business manners in Malaysia, Southeast Asia. This time, we have a look at what business travelers in Portugal should remember when visiting the Western European nation.

Portugal is home to one of the SELLBYTEL Group’s key global hubs: Lisbon. Officially the Portuguese Republic, the country is located in South-Western Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, constituting the westernmost country of mainland Europe. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. Portugal’s history is rich in seafaring and discovery and has had a lasting impact on the nation’s culture. Moorish and Oriental influences in architecture and the arts, for instance, are very prominent.

The following article provides a comprehensive insight into Portuguese business culture in order to help you interact more effectively with Portuguese clients and colleagues.

Business Meeting: Small Talk

Portuguese business relationships are very much built on trust. So you should allow plenty of time for informal meetings and socializing to build initial familiarity before any actual business takes place. Take the time to get to know your counterpart. The same applies to your colleagues – greeting everyone and starting off with a little chat is perfectly normal. Family is always a popular topic of conversation, and so are literature, fine arts, food, wine and soccer. Although soccer is very much a national hobby, this is a bit of a “love it or hate it” issue. If you intend to talk about soccer, make sure the person you’re chatting to actually enjoys the sport by first inquiring about who their favorite team is.

Plus, never assume that Portugal is like Spain. When in a conversation, you should show your awareness that the Portuguese culture is clearly separated from the Spanish. If you don’t do that, some Portuguese nationals might be offended.

Business Meeting: Language

When it comes to Portuguese names, these can be difficult to pronounce at times. Even if your hosts will most likely not be insulted if you mispronounce their names, they will still be rather impressed if you ask them for the proper pronunciation.

Another essential thing to remember is: Even if you speak Spanish, try to talk English with your Portuguese counterpart. Some Portuguese people might feel a little insulted if you use the language of the direct neighbor.

While some say that initial business correspondence should be translated into Portuguese, most natives won’t mind at all if the correspondence is in English. Simply the effort of greeting someone in Portuguese will make most people happy. So a simple “Olá” or “Bom dia” (Good morning), complemented by a “Desejo-lhe um muito bom dia” (I wish you a very good day) or simply “Com os meus cumprimentos” (Best regards) at the end will go a long way. Thereby you are showing that you make an effort and are willing to learn more about the country.

Business Meeting: Negotiation

Status and hierarchy are very important in Portugal, meaning authorities receive great respect. Hence decision-making is usually concentrated at the highest level and mostly with a single individual.

Besides, high-pressure sales tactics are fairly uncommon in Portugal. Many Portuguese might actually feel offended by aggressive behavior.

Business Meeting: Meals

Don’t be surprised if your business partner invites you to his home shortly after your first encounter. The Portuguese are very proud of their home and like to share their privacy with their business colleagues, so accepting a kind invitation goes without saying. Be prepared to bring a nice bottle of wine or a dessert to complement the meal. It is customary to bring a small present when having dinner at someone else’s home.

Business Meeting: Dress Code

Business attire in Portugal tends to be rather formal, so be prepared to wear a suit going to work. Try to stick to this rule unless you are certain that casual clothing is acceptable at your workplace. Try to keep it tasteful, for appearance in the Portuguese business world is just as important as building relationships and mutual trust.


Finally, we hope that this article gave you some useful ideas on how to present yourself and make the best possible impression on your next business visit in Portugal!

Please also visit our SELLBYTEL Group website for further information on our business in Portugal.

One thought on “Good Manners International: Portugal

  1. Really interesting to see how the Portuguese manners are visioned by foreigners, we are so much used to them that I found it funny to read we are this “exquisite”.
    Thank you, well done!

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