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9. june 2021 · 2 minute

What are the main cultural differences between Portugal and the United States?

Travelling to Europe can be confusing at times. Though everybody says it’s like the US, there are still many cultural differences that may surprise you on your trip to Portugal. To avoid awkward situations, we prepared a shortlist of cultural differences between Portugal and the US to help you navigate social situations during your few months-long living.

Portugal is a liberal country

This one largely depends on where you come from. If you come from the West or the East coast, Portugal may seem relatively normal to you regarding legalised abortions, gay marriage, more permissive drug laws, and others. But if you’re from the Mid-West or the South, you may be a bit surprised. This translates to Portugal’s political parties as well. Though the democrats in the US may seem like the most leftist party in America, they would seem pretty conservative to Portuguese people.

This is a bit of an exaggeration, but it still speaks to the fundamentally different mentality of many Portuguese people. This is because Portugal is a social state (not to be confused with a socialist state). The Portuguese government is focused on welfare, ensuring that all its citizens have access to education, healthcare, and decent pensions. This is why many Portuguese people may seem left-leaning almost by default. They are used to the security and comfort of a social state.

Nightlife in Portugal

The permissive approach to drugs has also spilt into alcohol consumption. Depending on which state you’re from, it may surprise you that alcohol consumption in public is perfectly legal in Portugal. What’s more, many bars in Portugal are opened until the early hours, so you might find yourself partying through the night. Just be sure not to get too rowdy, since if you disturb others too much, you may be taken to the police station to cool off for a bit.

Politeness in Portugal

Another thing you may not be used to is the politeness of Portuguese people. Many US tourists are surprised that people say either Bom Dia (Good Morning), Boa Tarde (Good Afternoon) or Boa Noite (Good Evening/Night) every time they enter a shop, restaurant, bus, or any public space (even an elevator). If you find yourself in this situation and don’t know how to react, respond with the same greeting. Don’t worry; you’re not expected to strike up a conversation with everyone.

Gun laws in Portugal

Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe even though it has no concealed carry gun laws, nor does it have capital punishment (the longest sentence you can receive in Portugal is 25 years in prison). 

You might stay in Portugal in one of Flatio’s mid-term rentals for a year and not see a single weapon. Even hunting weapons are only reserved for the sport and nothing else. This is because the laws on guns are strict, limiting gun ownership to those with necessary permits only.

Portuguese citizens are allowed to own firearms for hunting, target shooting, pest control and collecting. Self-defence is not considered a legal reason for possessing a gun. 
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