Things You Should Never Say To A Portuguese Person
The more you travel, the more you’ll come to realize that some cities in the world just aren’t that fond of tourists. Being met with sullen, dismissive reactions to even the simplest questions is a dime a dozen in Europe the minute your accent is remotely unfamiliar.
In Portugal, or Lisbon at least, the local people are incredibly tolerant and welcoming of the millions of travelers who flock in and out each year.
They’ll point you toward the Alfama, translate a restaurant menu for you and on a good day even walk you to the nearest metro. Say something out of line, however, and you may as well pack your bags and get the next flight out.
Minding your P’s and Q’s in Portugal is easy if you know what makes the people tick. With thanks to those who have gone before you and made these mistakes, here are the top things you should never say to a Portuguese person.
Never, Ever, Say Anything Offensive About the Portuguese Football Team
Football in Portugal is on importance par with religion and food. There is such patriotism toward the national team that being in Lisbon, or anywhere in Portugal, during a big game is like being in the middle of the World Cup year round.
This is a dinner table conversation in which one should watch their step. Approach the subject of football in Portugal with caution.
Never insult the team or attempt to remark on their recent performance if it is in a negative light. Even joking that Messi is better at football than Ronaldo can cause some individuals to see red (pun intended).
Whether you’re drinking in bar, dining with new acquaintances in the city or on a free guided walking tour with people you don’t know, make sure you’re on your best behavior when it comes to the subject of Portuguese football.
Don’t Try Talk To A Portuguese Person in Spanish
The relationship between the Portuguese and the Spaniards is a sensitive one; a story for another day.
All you need to know is that you should under no circumstances ever attempt to communicate with a Portuguese person in Spanish simply because you assume they will understand this better than English. Only actual Spanish people can get away with it, for the rest of us it comes off as ignorant and offensive.
The Portuguese appreciate any attempt foreigners make to communicate with them in their native language, even if you sound like you have a mouthful of food and pain in your abdomen when you try to do so.
Most Portuguese people have a basic understanding of English as well, especially in the major cities such as Lisbon.
Try Not To Bring Up Colonialism or the War
The country has come a long way in a short time, and no one likes the tumultuous past to be brought up in conversation. The people are well aware of the turmoil caused in Africa and the general darkness of these times in Portugal.
Younger Portuguese generations may be open to this subject, but let them bring it up first. Around elderly individuals it is best to avoid all together as a sign of respect.
Be Careful of Foreign Street Slang and Catcalling
In Portugal street sexual harassment is a crime; this includes al kinds of catcalling and verbal insinuations.
While you may get away with yelling “hey sexy” at people on the streets of your own homeland (gross), you won’t get away with it in Portugal.
First of all, the Portuguese aren’t used to these slurs or innuendos, so they are offensive from the get go. Secondly, if your tone is remotely threatening you’ll find yourself with a one way ticked to the nearest police station.
Don’t Diss the Espresso
The people maintain a proud love affair with the product, finding every occasion and excuse to indulge in a quick shot.
If you find the Portuguese coffee doesn’t sit well on your palette, keep it to yourself.
This is for the sake of the sanity of both you and the individual who has to absorb your complaints. Do you really feel like getting into a thirty minute discussion about why Portuguese coffee actually is the best in the world? I don’t think so. Places to be and things to see, meu amor.
Never Draw Conclusions About the Country if You’ve Only Visited Lisbon
As you move around the Portuguese cities you’ll encounter excited locals who love making the acquaintance of foreigners. They’ll inquire as to where you’ve been, where you’re headed, what you’ve liked, what you’ve noticed — they genuinely like hearing the experiences of people who come to visit their land.
These exchanges are usually harmless and well-intended, but nothing irks a local more than a foreigner who has drawn multiple conclusions about the country and states them as facts… when they’ve only visited Lisbon.
The cities and villages throughout Portugal are so vastly different from one another that basing your summation of the country on a single place is far from fair and probably inaccurate.
Make observations about Lisbon and apply them to Lisbon only. Do this when in conversation with locals and also when you return to your home town and tell tales of your trip to equally as inquisitive friends and family.
Make it clear that your comprehension of the country and culture is based off of a very small portion of what it has to offer. Don’t pool the whole of Portugal into your two week experience in Lisbon.
And so in summation of your pending trip to the Portuguese capital: toss back the espresso, don’t harass anyone, colonialism is taboo, Ronaldo is great at football, you love the country, and what is Spain? Never heard of it.