Portuguese Communication Styles

The first communication difficulty often encountered when doing business in Portugal relates to the use of names and titles.

Portuguese names are often extremely long and complex and proceeded by an equally bewildering array of official titles. The best advice is to stick to simple Mr or Mrs before a name. It is unusual for even long-standing colleagues to use first name terms in a business environment, so it is best to stick to family names until specifically invited not to.

If you have a title such as Doctor or Professor you will be accorded significant respect and it is a good idea to make sure that all titles and qualifications appear on your business card.
Despite what people often think about Latin cultures it is never a good idea to shout or lose your temper in business situations in Portugal. This approach may well be viewed as an indication of weakness and could possibly put you in a weaker position.

There is a desire to avoid direct confrontations and a definite desire to please. This can result in people saying what they think you want to hear rather than what they are actually thinking. Whenever you feel that you have an agreement, try to get it formalized in writing. If it proves difficult to get any back-up documentation, then a degree of scepticism is in order.

As Portugal is very much a relationship-oriented business culture, small talk and general conversation figure highly in business dealings. Good general topics of conversation would include Portugal, its food and regions, football and general business-oriented issues of interest.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Portugal

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Portugal. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Portugal and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips