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The Basics of Portuguese Business Etiquette

January 14, 2022
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The Basics of Portuguese Business Etiquette

Arriving On Time is Always Better

First things first, you ought to know that for the Portuguese, punctuality isn't all that important. Many of them even arrive late to work or to meetings and barely anyone bats an eye. And when it comes to deadlines, the Portuguese have a more or less relaxed attitude towards them. However, that's just amongst themselves. When they're dealing with foreigners, on the other hand, they expect you to be punctual. Even with knowing all of this and you still arrive late, you might leave a bad first impression. So it's always better to arrive on time and to not miss deadlines.

Set Appointments Properly

The Portuguese are very particular when it comes to appointments. If you're aiming to work in Portugal, you ought to know that setting appointments here requires proper handling. The common protocol is to set the appointment at least two weeks prior and to always re-confirm a couple of days beforehand. Oh, and there are certain times within the year you really shouldn't schedule your appointments or meetings. One of them is in the month of August since this is usually the time where people are on vacation. And another is the period around the holiday season.

The Basics of Portuguese Business Etiquette

The Hierarchy is Real in Portugal

The corporate structure in Portugal is pretty hierarchal. Those with seniority are always given utmost priority in any project, business meeting, and the like. Subordinates are expected to pay respect to their superiors too in any given setting. And independent decision-making isn't as common here as, say with the Dutch, the Americans, and the like. All major and minor decisions have to be approved by the heads-in-charge before moving forward. Also, expect the business world in Portugal to have a more familial aspect to it than in other countries. Nepotism runs pretty rampantly here and people are more loyal to their families than the businesses they run.

Dress Elegantly

Here in Portugal, you have to dress to impress. More often than not, it's not enough to simply look neat and tidy. You'll score more points if you look as sophisticated as you can. And it's even more so if you're wearing branded clothes. Whether you're sporting French designer clothing or Italian luxury labels, the more expensive it is, the better. Now, this isn't to say that the Portuguese are shallow like that. It's just that a showing of wealth can leave a more lasting impression than simply looking clean and made-up. Always remember this when you work in Portugal or with the Portuguese!

The Basics of Portuguese Business Etiquette

Meet Face-to-Face

Even though post-pandemic Portugal is still pretty strict with face-to-face meetings, the Portuguese still prefer that to Zoom calls and video conferences. Businessmen/women in Portugal prefer to build personal relationships with their business partners, so meeting in real life is a must. Of course, nowadays, that's not as readily possible as before. Now, people have to make do with online meetings instead. But rest assured, once everything has calmed down and gatherings are allowed again, the Portuguese will want to meet face-to-face as much as possible. Just practice proper health protocols when that happens!

Don't Rush The Meeting

Speaking of meetings, know that there's no need to rush them. You remember that the Portuguese aren't too hung up on time, right? Well, it applies to business meetings, tasks, and projects as well. During first meetings, for instance, they won't get down to business right away. They'll want to get to know you first before getting to work. It's not that they don't care about deadlines or stuff like that, it's just that reaching a consensus is not the be-all and end-all here. If a certain project needs more time, they won't mind giving it as long as it will be productive and helpful in the end.

The Basics of Portuguese Business Etiquette

Always Voice Out Your Opinions

What is important to the Portuguese when it comes to business meetings is that everyone gets to voice out their opinions. Knowing that Portugal's corporate world is hierarchal, you probably conjured up this idea that ordinary employees' opinions aren't important. That couldn't be farther from the truth! Although upper management and senior positions might have a bigger say on things, this doesn't mean that you can't voice out your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions during meetings. In fact, that's even more important than reaching a consensus at the end of the day.

Business Meals Matter Here

Finally, expect the Portuguese to either take you out to lunch/dinner or that you'll invite them out. As already mentioned, they prefer building personal relationships with people that they work with. And sharing a meal with them is a helpful way to do just that! In fact, they might even appreciate more if you invite them to your own luxury home than out to a restaurant. That's really more personal. And do note, however, that you have to differentiate between business meals and social gatherings. It's taboo to talk about anything related to work when it's the latter. And when it's the former, business talk should always wait for after the meal.

The Basics of Portuguese Business Etiquette

The only way to get ahead and work well with the Portugues is if you can adhere to their business etiquette. You'll find that the way they do things is very different from how many others around the world work.

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