Portuguese Culture

Table of Content

Overview Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic (Portuguese: Republica Portuguesa), is a country located in south-western Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. (Jenkins 1996) The capital of Portugal is Lisbon. Portugal claims to be the oldest European nation-state. (Jenkins 1996) Portugal is a developed country and it has the world’s 19th-highest quality-of-life, according to Unit.

It is the 14th-most peaceful and the 13th-most globalized country in the world, and has population of approximately 10 Million people (CIA fact book). It is a member of the European Union (joined the then EEC in 1986, leaving the EFTA where it was a founding member in 1960) and the United Nations; as well as a founding member of the Latin Union, the Organization of Ibero-American States, OECD, NATO, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the European Union’s Eurozone, and also a Schengen state. Ethnicity and Religion and Language

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The Ethnicity of Portugal consists largely of Homogeneous Mediterranean stock, people of black African descent who immigrated to mainland Portugal during decolonization which amounts to less than 100,000 people and Eastern Europeans have entered Portugal since 1990. Portugal is primarily a large Christian country, with 84. 5% Roman Catholics, 2. 2% other Christian faiths and the rest comprise of Muslims, Hindus, Baha’i, Buddhists and Jewish faiths. (Gritzner et al. 2007 p. 56) Portuguese is the official language of the country.

General cultural Formalities Portuguese people are very traditional and conservative; they are the kind of people to maintain a sense of formality when dealing with each other, which is displayed in the form of extreme civility. i. Portuguese Society The ‘Family’ is a very important part of the Portuguese culture; it is a stronghold that overpowers many social and economic relations. The entity of the family is the foundation of the social structure and forms the basis of stability (Kwintessential family). The extended family is also quite lose. Each individual obtains a social network and assistance from the family. Interestingly, ‘Favouritism’ is considered a good thing, since it implies that employing people one knows and trusts are of prime importance. And most importantly, loyalty to the family comes before other social relationships, even business. ii. Culture associated with Appearance In Portuguese society appearance is very important, especially in the cities. People are fashion conscious and believe that clothes indicate social standing and success.

They take great pride in wearing good fabrics and clothes of the best standard they can afford. (Poelz & Volker 2008 p. 2) Cultural Hierarchy- Social and Business Portugal is a culture that respects hierarchy. Society and business are highly stratified and vertically structured. The Catholic Church and the family structure emphasize hierarchical relationships. People respect authority and look to those above them for guidance and decision-making. (Poelz & Volker 2008 p. 63) The other feature to be noted is the gender profile.

Notwithstanding Portugals low female activity rate and women’s relative lack of labour market experience. (Rollin & Richardson 2001, p. 179). This reflects cultural values towards families, where the women usually stay at home and take care of the family. In most Portuguese factories all employees from workers to managers have very little autonomy in terms of financial control and decision making power (Amin et al. 1995), another example relating to hierarchal importance in the Portuguese culture. Rank is important, and those senior to you in rank must always be treated with respect.

This ideal leads to a controlling approach to decision- making and problem solving. In business, power and authority generally reside with one person who makes decisions with little concern for his/her subordinates. Hofstede’s uncertainty-avoidance measure is a measure that indicates the extent to which a culture conditions its members to feel either comfortable or uncomfortable in unstructured, ambiguous and unpredictable situations (Ferraro p. 114). According to Hofstede’s measure, Portugal is considered a country with high uncertainty avoidance (Ferraro p. 14), as they keep a strong structural entity for example companies are always centralised, and the higher the rank the more respect they receive. Although this might seem as highly centralised and stringent, one has to keep in my mind that the Portuguese are a very cultural society along with being a high income country which proves these cultural operations are very effective. Building business-related Relationships & Communication Techniques The Portuguese prefer to do business with persons they feel comfortable with, which means those that they know they can trust.

Therefore, it is advisable to have a mutual contact provide the initial introduction to ease the anxiety and curiosity of both parties (OECD 2006 p. 122). If it is possible to learn a few words in Portuguese before arriving in Portugal it would help for communication but more importantly it would help to gain respect and acceptance as their language is a strong part of their culture. Do not hesitate or worry if takes a great deal of time developing a relationship. Remember that the Portuguese culture is very ‘family’ inclined and thus building to form an informal family entity like relationship is required.

The Portuguese also prefer face-to-face meetings rather than written, electronic web or telephone communication, which are viewed as too impersonal. It is also very important to remember while implementing a business deal; the entity is not the ‘company’ but rather the people involved in the negotiations, one should act in a manner in which building relationships and focusing more on the people involved are the key elements to any business dealing (RLN Group p. 2) As mentioned earlier building a relationship with The Portuguese is vital as well as a long process.

Thus it is imperative that after meetings have started, the foreign business team do not change any of the team members assigned to that case, otherwise the relationship building process will start all over again. This would lead to frustration, time ineffiency and cost concerns for the foreign associates. Although time is of less concern to the Portuguese, formal communication is very important. Do not try and pry out unwanted or wanted information from the Portuguese unless they share or ask about the information.

The Portuguese only reveal information until/unless needed. During presentations or pitches, do not overuse hand gestures as they might be inaccurately viewed as overly demonstrative, the Portuguese are demonstrative when meeting friends but not with business proceedings (RLN Group p. 2). As mentioned earlier Portugal has a hierarchal context both in social life and business, and thus they respect people with a higher rank/position and an older person (not necessarily very old).

This might lead the Portuguese to viewing a foreign business team with more respect and seriousness, which might lead to positive outcomes and efficient negotiations. More importantly as the Portuguese are relaxed and have no time restraints, they do not see deadlines as a crucial element, thus if a meeting goes well do not expect them to keep by the deadlines. Also keeping this in mind, the foreign business team should adapt to a relaxed attitude towards time constraints in contrast to their home countries where time is of the essence and money as well.

This adaptation might aid in avoiding aggravation or loosing their minds during the process. Another option would be to keep long time frames for the whole process, thus in the process not unbalancing the time schedule in relations to costs and other commitments. Business meeting protocols Strict formality is required in making appointments, as they should be made 1 or 2 weeks in advance. This is due to a combination of formality and nature of the Portuguese when it comes to time.

When corresponding with the Portuguese, make it a point to write the first written correspondence in Portuguese, it is advisable to use a native Portuguese speaker for effective understanding. Do not confuse this where mentioned earlier that the Portuguese prefer face-to-face communication where that is done during building a business relationship, whereas this done after that stage into the meetings and negotiations stage. The Portuguese culture is heavily tied to the Christian religion, and thus it not advisable to arrange meetings around Christmas and New Year.

This might seem related to other western cultures, however in Portugal sometimes the whole month of December is considered a time to rejoice and celebrate, and thus to do business is considered a secondary obligation (Mayrick 2009, p. 14). As a general global etiquette it is good to always maintain eye contact, as the same applies for Portuguese business associates. Another point of note is that it is not uncommon for a meeting to be interrupted for reasons such as another phone call or simply having something to eat.

This might irritate the foreign associates, however it is essential to keep a cool mind and continue when needed. Note that Portuguese business associates will never interrupt during a presentation or until the presenter has completed making a point (Higgins & Winter 2004, p. 77) It is also vital to remember that decisions are never made at a meeting, as the all the relevant information and material is analysed by the Portuguese associates and then the team leader or CEO makes a final decision. Negotiation norms related to the Portuguese culture

After meetings/presentations have taken place, the foreign associates should never rush straight into a conclusion regarding contracts or money related matters, rather wait for the Portuguese associates to bring the talk of business back into the air. One has to understand that the Portuguese are not lazy but laid back because of factors such as culture intertwined with religion, climate and history as they like to slow things down, in contrast to the buzzing fast paced lifestyle of other western cultures (PEDC 2008, p. ) Culturally the Portuguese are very proud of their language, although some people do speak English, it is imperative that all negotiation paperwork such as contracts, agreements, raw data etc, should be in English and Portuguese. Again, the Portuguese would rather not rush into anything from proceedings, to decisions and so on, and thus one must not use aggressive tactics when trying to conclude or speed up a deal (PEDC 2008, p. 4).

Rather what a foreign associate/s can do is to let things flow as they are going at its current pace, he/she should also always be in a state of relaxation even when being serious about various negotiation matters. This would help the person to remain psychologically stable and not allow his/hers personal/countries culture to affect these proceedings. A few cultural and society related etiquettes Preliminary greetings are more formal with handshakes, just like it is practiced everywhere in the world, although when a decent relationship has been formed it becomes less formal and can include a kiss and a hug.

This might seem similar to other cultures, however once a relationship has been formed, the Portuguese are very affectionate. If invited to a dinner at someone’s house whether it is for a social visit or building business relationships one should bring flowers and only good quality chocolate and present it to the wife. As seen as a common practice around Europe, one however should not present wine to the hosts unless the guests are familiar with the kind of wine the hosts prefer.

This is mainly related to Portugal’s large and famous wine industry, infact some of the best wines come from Portugal and thus they are very serious and particular about the wines they drink. Another point to note is that the number 13 is considered unlucky as is in a lot of western countries such as America. Nothing should be done in the amount of thirteen such as the amount of chocolates or flowers given as gifts. One should also avoid presenting anything that is red in colour, as red symbolises the Portuguese revolution (Moutinhio 2007). Conclusion

To conclude we have explored the cultural norms of the Portuguese in society but mainly investigate their various business etiquettes which are formed out of their culture. As mentioned earlier according to Hofsteid Portugal is a country with high uncertainty avoidance, which is projection of their culture thorough their various branches such as their rich history, their religious beliefs, family oriented and to a certain extent the geography of their country. At times one can compare Portugal to other western countries which share similar cultures and etiquettes like Germany or France, or sometime even contrasting cultures.

In terms of time and trust they are similar to the Middle East, thus this proves that elements such as different religious beliefs does not necessarily mean cultures will vary from culture to culture, but it also means that culture can be derived from ones environment, and how people behave. Foreigners wishing to do business in Portugal should be well prepared not only statically, but also mentally because it will be a culture shock and will take adapting to Portuguese cultures related to business practices.

Being mentally prepared is vital to avoid frustration, aggressiveness and fatigue. And more importantly the foreign associates must keep a lengthy time frame in their plans, to ensure good relations as well as efficient and positive outcomes. Below in Appendix. 1, one can view the degree as to how “doing business” would be in Portugal, where the statistics are the results of various cultural sources as mentioned earlier in the report. References Jenkins, Spyros A. Sofos, (1996), “Nation and identity in contemporary Europe”, p. 45 Routledge. Appendix B – International Organizations and Groups: developed countries (DCs), CIA- The World Factbook — Appendix B, The World Fact book. Gritzner, Charles F, Phillips, Douglas A El (2007), Portugal in cultural transition, Chelsea House London. Kwintessential Portuguese family 2008, viewed 02nd April 2010, < http://www. kwintessential. co. uk/resources/global-etiquette/portugal. html>

Poelz, Volker, (2008), CultureShock: Portugal, Marshall Cavendish, London Amin, A, Bradley, D, Howells, J, Tomaney, J, gentle, C, (1995), Regional Incentives and The Quality of Mobile Investment in the less favoured regions of the EC, Vol. 41 p. 1, p. 144 Rollin, H, Richardson, R, (2001), ‘The Impact of the Prevailing Business Culture on Entrepreneurial Activity and Small Businesses: A Contrastive Study of Portugal and the USA’, Business Culture and the Labour Market in Spain and Portugal, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p179,11p, EBSCO Host, viewed 29 April 2010. Ferraro, G. P (2002), The Cultural Dimension of INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS, fifth edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey. Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (2006), OECD Economic Analysis: Portugal, Vol. 2006 Issue 4, OECD Publishing RLN- Regional Language Network: East Midlands, (2007), ‘Promoting a greater national capability in language and cultural skills for Business and Employment’, Portugal – people, culture, language:A guide for business, p. , RLN Publications, United Kingdom. Continued…. Mayrick, J (2009), Global Cultural Entities: Portugal, Chelsea House, London. Higgins, T, Winter, N (2004), Cultural Identity: Successful Business in the European Union, Vol 2, p. 27, Penguin Publications, London. Portugal Export Development Corporation (PEDC) 2008, SERVICES EXPORT: BUSINESS ETIQUETTE IN FOCUS MARKETS 2008, Lisbon. Moutinhio, L (2007), ‘Visiting Portugal: A guide to social and cultural etiquettes in Portugal’, Portugal Today, 27 July, p. 7.

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