Portuguese people love to enjoy things slowly and they are quite unique and easy-going people. If you make a Portuguese friend, you can be sure that your friendship will last forever. They care for the people around them, and they are always ready to help.

Ancestry and Origin

Being a Southwestern European population, the Portuguese people’s origins are mainly from Southern and Western Europe. It is believed that the earliest modern humans who inhabited Portugal were Paleolithic peoples. They may have arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000-40,000 years ago. They began settling the European continent through the end of the last glaciation around 45,000 years ago. It is also believed that Northern Iberia had been an Ice-age refuge for Paleolithic humans who later colonized Europe. Through migrations from today’s northern Iberia during those times, modern Iberians mingled with the populations of much of Western Europe, and especially the British Isles and Atlantic Europe.

About 10,000 years ago, Europe’s Neolithic colonization from Western Asia and the Middle East, reached Iberia and most of the rest of the continent. During the Bronze Age, speakers of Indo-European languages began to migrate to Iberia (home of modern-day Spain and Portugal). Later, during the 7th and 5th centuries BC, Celts began to migrate as well. 

Considering these above-mentioned migrations, it can be reasonable to claim that the ethnic origin of the Portuguese is predominantly a mixture of pre-Celts or para-Celts. In addition, the Romans also had an influence on the population in terms of genetics and culture. The Portuguese language derives mainly from Latin. Germanic peoples like the Suebi and the Visigoths also ruled the peninsula for several centuries and assimilated into the local populations.

Between the 8th and 13th centuries (until 1249), the Moors occupied today’s Portugal. Among them, mainly Berbers and Jews converted to Christianity.  Many genetic studies demonstrate that the Moorish occupation left some Jewish, Arab, and Berber genetic influence throughout most of Iberia to some extent. Also, some minor influences of small Viking settlements between the 9th and 11th centuries were seen mainly in the northern regions of Douro and Minho.

Ethnicity

As can be seen from their history, most of today’s Portuguese population consisted of a mixture of the people having inhabited and traded in the area throughout centuries. After the Iberians, the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, Moors, Jews, and others began to settle in the area. As a result, this created unique physical characteristics of the region’s people. We can observe the common Mediterranean features of these people. They include brown eyes and brown hair, and a body height of fewer than six feet. 

You can also observe the effect of the Germanic tribes on the northern part of the country. There, people are usually taller, light-haired, and light-eyed. Similarly, the effects of the Moorish are also distinct in the south, in terms of physical features and lifestyle.

Throughout centuries, blending with these people and seclusion from most of Europe created a distinctive quality of a Portuguese population, in terms of ethnicity and culture.

Demographics

Currently, around ten million native Portuguese are living in Portugal. The total population of Portugal is around 10.2 million. 

Portugal welcomes lots of immigrants. To name a few, Eastern Europeans, Brazilians, Africans, Asians, and other Europeans are among them. Most of them live around Lisbon, Algarve, and Porto. African immigrants from former colonies mostly live around the area of Amadora. 

Goans and Macaoans are the other minorities who are from Portugal’s former colonies. Goans are generally usually educated and Roman Catholic people. They also speak Portuguese. Macaoans are also similar to Goans in terms of these qualifications. Besides these people, there are also around 100,000 Gypsies from former colonies, and most of them live in Algarve. They try not to mingle with society, and they usually maintain themselves through trading, begging, or fortune-telling. 

Many of the Brazilians came to the country as guest workers and were interested in Portugal’s new prosperity. They mostly gathered around Lisbon and Algarve.  

In addition, the British are also quite interested in the country. According to the SEF (Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service) data, there are around 35,000 registered British residents in Portugal. They usually live in Lisbon, Cascais, Porto, and Algarve. French people mostly gather around Lisbon as well.  

Fun Facts 

Let’s now look at some facts you should know before arriving in Portugal.

Hospitable & Friendly

You’ve most probably heard before about how hospitable the Portuguese are. That’s true. They are great hosts when it comes to welcoming their guests. You can be sure that they’ll make you feel at home. 

The Portuguese have their lunch or dinner together with lots of friends and family members. If they receive guests, they spend many hours preparing meals. You’ll find that the table is full of a variety of food.  You can find starters and desserts on a typical Portuguese table as well. Not to mention that all of them are delicious. 

Also, when a person goes to a place as a guest, they usually bring some small gifts like flowers or a bottle of wine. 

Family-oriented

Portuguese people value their family and friends very much. Usually, they try to have their dinner together with their family. They also spare their whole Sunday for their family. 

Hard Working

You should know that Portuguese people are hard workers. They are quite adaptable and thrifty as well. They are eager to explore and learn new things and search for means to maintain themselves. 

Depending on regions, employment may vary. However, in general, the main occupations are in the heavy industry around Lisbon, the capital city. Tourism is focused in the Algarve region and agriculture in the Azores and Madeira Islands. 

In Portugal, salaries are rising. However, they are still below the average of the European Union. According to the law, working hours cannot be more than eight hours per day and forty hours per week. However, sometimes workers may need to work as long as ten hours. Also, They may not get paid more in those cases. 

Know Gastronomy

Portuguese people value their traditions and embrace every part of their traditions. This is why you can find various traditional desserts and foods in Portugal. Being a coastal country, Portugal provides plenty of seafood and fresh fish, especially around the coastal areas. People in Portugal give special attention to what they eat. Even in restaurants, you will come across fresh and organic vegetables and foods. When you go to the northern parts of the country, you may eat more meat rather than seafood. 

They also have traditional types of bread. The most popular of them are the Broa, Bolo Lêvedo, and Broa de Milho. You should definitely try these as well when you visit Portugal. 

Another taste to try is absolutely Portuguese wine. Portugal offers thousands of high-quality wine labels. They produce local wines as well. In fact, these types of wines are not subject to taxation in Portugal. So, you can enjoy your wine at a very small cost. This also applies to beer, too. The local brewers are great at this, and they are also very cheap. 

Chatterbox

Portuguese people are quite outgoing and talkative. Even as a foreigner, you won’t find difficulty in communicating with them. On the contrary, they will try to make you feel at home and open up a conversation with you. They will try to share information about their culture and lifestyle as well as asking about yours. 

They also love to chat with their friends with a company of drinks. They generally do that on Friday and Saturday nights when they are more relaxed. They usually go out to do this. They share what happened during the week, or chat about other issues or news about themselves. 

Besides weekend go-outs, the Portuguese also spare time for coffee breaks during weekdays as well. Usually, there are not many places for takeaway. You need to sit and drink your coffee in the place. You’ll find that the Portuguese drink coffee any time of the day. In this way, they can take a break and have a little conversation with people. Coffee is also quite cheap when you want to drink it outside. In tourist areas, they are around €2, but you’ll find them at less than €1 if you are not around those areas.

Soccer Lovers

Portuguese are quite interested in football. In Portugal, you often see news about football on television. There are three major football teams: FC Porto, the SLBenfica, and the Sporting. Some people can be quite fanatic about their teams. When there is a match, they often cheer for their team together. The matches of the national football team are also important for the Portuguese. They don’t miss it and they celebrate the team enthusiastically if it wins.

Famous Portuguese People

You can find a list of well-known Portuguese people in certain areas such as arts and entertainment. Let’s check how many of them you know. You may be surprised to learn that some of the celebrities you know are indeed Portuguese.

In Arts

  • Jose Saramago: A Nobel Prize-winning author. Wrote tens of books of different genres
  • Paula Rego: An artist and sketcher. Was appointed the first associate artist of the National Gallery in England. Also, was placed among the four best living painters in England today
  • Manoel de Oliveira: Film director. Earned many honors such as the Jury Prize in Cannes
  • Alvaro Siza Vieira: An architect who won the Pritzker Prize
  • Eduardo Souto de Moura: An architect who won the Pritzker Prize in 2011
  • Daniel Silva: Novelist and author
  • Emma Lazarus: A Portuguese-American poet and essayist. Activist for Jewish causes. Best known for a sonnet about the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus”. It was inscribed on the statue’s pedestal. 
  • William L. Pereira: A Portuguese-American architect. Best known for designing the famous skyscraper, the Transamerica Pyramid, along with the Los Angeles County Art Museum in Los Angeles. Known for his futuristic designs of buildings. 
  • John dos Passos: A Portuguese-American novelist. Author of “Manhattan Transfer”
  • Nathan Oliveira: Painter and sculptor who won a variety of awards.

In Sports

  • Luis Figo: FIFA 2001 World Player of the Year
  • Cristiano Ronaldo: Professional footballer. Juventus FC player. Captain of the Portugal National Team
  • José Mourinho: Soccer coach. Won the Champions League, and coached Portugal’s F.C. Porto and England’s Chelsea

In World History

  • Antonio Damasio: Neuroscientist. His book “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain” won the Science et Vie prize and was translated into more than 30 languages. 
  • Prince Henry the Navigator: Known for his explorations and voyages. Later received the title “Navigator” by the 19th century historians
  • Vasco da Gama: Explorer. Made the first sea voyage from Europe to the East (India)
  • Pedro Alvares Cabral: The first European explorer to step on South America (in today’s Brazil)
  • Bartolomeu Dias: Explorer. The first to round the southern end of the African continent, and opened a sea route from Europe to the East. Explored around 1260 miles of the previously unknown African coast
  • Fernão Magalhães (Magellan): Leader of the first voyage circumnavigating the globe. Also, the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean
  • João Rodrigues Cabrillo: Iberian maritime explorer. The first European to explore the west coast of North America. The first European to navigate the coast of California, and to explore today’s California 
  • Antonio de Abreu: Navigator and naval officer. Led the first European expedition to reach Timor and the Banda Islands, Indonesia
  • Jorge Alvares: First Portuguese explorer to reach China, securing Macao as Portuguese territory until 1999
  • Pêro de Barcelos: First modern explorer of the Northeast coasts of North America, along with the Labrador peninsula
  • Diogo Cão: Discovered the Congo River
  • Miguel Corte-real: Explorer. Charted about 600 miles of the coast of Labrador. Disappeared in 1502 while on an expedition. Believed to be lost at sea
  • Duarte Fernandes: The first European to establish diplomatic relations with Thailand
  • Lopes Gonçalves: First European sailor to cross the equator in 1473
  • Pedro Mascarenhas: Discovered the islands of Mauritius and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean
  • Pedro Teixeira: Explorer of the Amazon River
  • Fernão Mendes Pinto: Was in the first group of Europeans to visit Japan, founding the first Christian church there

In Entertainment

  • Tom Hanks: Actor. Best known in “Forrest Gump”, “Saving Private Ryan”, and “The Da Vinci Code”
  • Katy Perry: Singer
  • Keanu Reeves – Actor: “The Matrix” trilogy, “Speed,” “The Devil’s Advocate”
  • Louis Ferreira: Actor. Known for the role in “Stargate Universe”
  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas: Actor: “Home Improvement”
  • Al Santos: Model and actor: “Jeepers Creepers 2”
  • Monica Cabral: Model and Actress: “The Ambassador’s Wife”
  • Lyndsy Marie Fonseca: Actress: “Desperate Housewives”,  “The Young & the Restless”
  • Katie Stevens: Singer, Actress: “Faking It” (MTV)
  • Shawn Mendes: Singer
  • Diogo Morgado: Actor: “The Bible”, “The Messengers”
  • Alba Baptista: Actress, “Warrior Nun”
  • Nuno Bettencourt: Musician: Member of the band “Extreme”
  • Danielle Steele: Writer
  • Piper Perabo: Actress
  • Nelly Furtado: Singer
  • Sam Mendes: Film director: “American Beauty”
  • Daniela Ruah: Actress: “NCIS: Los Angeles”
  • James Franco: Actor: “Spiderman” trilogy, “Never Been Kissed”
  • Vanessa Marcil: Actress: “Beverly Hills 90210”, “Las Vegas”
  • Joe Perry: Musician: the band “Aerosmith”
  • Steve Perry: Musician: Singer of band “Journey”

FAQ

Are the Portuguese people easygoing?

They are definitely easygoing and talkative people. You don’t have to get nervous while trying to communicate with them. 

What is the most interesting thing about Portuguese people?

They take things very slowly and don’t rush for anything. If you are used to the hustle and bustle of city life, you may find it hard to adapt yourself at first. 

Do Portuguese people speak English?

The official language is Portuguese. However, many Portuguese know at least a basic level of English. Also, if you go to a tourist area, it will be easier to find English-speaking people.

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