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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Portugal’s economy was severely hit by the banking crisis and resulting recession. And, as a result the country has really struggled over the past decade. However, many commentators feel that the shockwaves resulting from the crisis will – given time – provide the impetus for Portugal to carry out several long-needed structural reforms. These reforms it is argued will provide Portugal with a much more solid base to build a strong sustainable economy for the long-term.

It was felt that, for many years, Portugal struggled with a bloated and inefficient public sector which was not only a drain on public finances but also served as a barrier to private investment and entrepreneurship. One of the conditions of the economic bail-out which Portugal was forced to seek following the crisis was that these structural imbalances would be tackled. This process was always going to be a challenge but there are signs of progress and the economy is definitely showing signs of a return to healthy growth.

Given where Portugal is on its path to economic growth there is a strong argument in favour of looking at doing business in Portugal now. It is usually good to enter a market at the early stages of an upward trajectory and Portugal certainly fits that criteria.

If you are considering doing business in Portugal or already have contacts in-country, you would be well-advised to find out a little more about the very distinct business culture you will encounter there. Portugal remains a relationship-based business culture but how do you best form and maintain those relationships? What do you need to know about the key drivers of Portuguese contacts to allow you to maximise any potential commercial opportunities?
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Portuguese business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

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