Being a host and guest in Portugal

Written by Ellen Jonkhoff September 2012. Posted in Being a guest, Int. Skills

Being a host and guest in Portugal

Socializing is very important in Portugal and usually involves eating and drinking. Portuguese are relationship oriented; getting to know you before they close the deal is valuable to them. Food is an essential part of the Portuguese culture and most (business) entertaining is centered around food.

As in many European countries, lunch is the meal where business may be discussed. In fact, many deals in Portugal are closed right after lunch. Building a relationship is important in Portugal, so expect to be invited to dinner first, which is a strictly social event and usually includes spouses. Though you may be invited to your hosts’ home, most meals will take place in a restaurant.

Whenever you’re invited for a meal in a restaurant, be sure to be on time. Portuguese are generally not strict with time, so your host or guests might show up late. If they are late, don’t mention it, as they will be embarrassed and it may ruin the atmosphere. If you’re invited to someone’s home, it’s customary to be approximately fifteen to thirty minutes late.

Bringing a gift for the host when invited for dinner, shows gratitude and respect. Good gifts are chocolate or a bouquet of flowers, except chrysanthemums, as they remind of funerals. Though Portuguese love wines, don’t bring a bottle of wine as a gift. Most Portuguese have wine cellars so wine is not special.

After dinner in a Portuguese home is over, it’s appropriate to stay and chat for at least an hour. Normally guest will stay until close to midnight. After dining in a restaurant, the host will decide when it’s time to leave by asking the bill, usually within an hour after finishing the meal. Normally the host pays the bill, which has a built in service charge. If you stayed exceptionally late, is customary to leave extra change.

At and after dinner, topics of conversation are usually small talk. Family and sports are both beloved subjects, especially soccer. Lunch normally starts with small talk, but will soon switch to business talk.

Fish is by far the most commonly consumed main course, accompanied by potatoes or rice. Portuguese do eat meat, but prefer fish greatly, so be sure to inform the host in time if you don’t like or can’t eat fish. Salad is served as part of the main course, as is bread. Food is ordinarily served on community platters, meaning you will have to serve yourself. Portuguese enjoy offering you more food, so be conservative with the amount of food you take the first time round, so you’ll be able to accept more food the second or even third round and please your host.

Being a host or guest to Portuguese mainly revolves around eating together. Bonding and socializing is very important in the Portuguese culture. Most, if not all entertainment takes place during meals. Lunch is more appropriate for discussing business, but in order to form a relationship, dinners will take place.