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Portugal - Business Culture

Portuguese business relationships are built on trust among individuals, so allow plenty of time for informal meetings and socializing to build familiarity.

The business culture in Portugal is conservative and formal, but the Portuguese are warm and friendly people and are relaxed about etiquette, so there is no need to worry about breaking rules.

Status and hierarchy are important, and there is great deference to authority. Decision-making is usually concentrated at the highest level, often in a single individual.

Appointments should be made in advance and confirmed, preferably avoiding August, Christmas and Easter.

Most Portuguese businesspeople speak English, but you should have your initial correspondence and company materials translated.

Normal business attire is a good quality suit and tie for men, or a suit or smart dress for women.

Try to arrive on time for meetings, although it is acceptable to be a few minutes late. The normal greeting is a light handshake, with direct eye contact. Sometimes close business associates embrace and women kiss close contacts on both cheeks.

Titles are important: you should address people as "senhor" or "senhora" with their family name, or "doutour"/"doutoura" if they have a university degree. Business cards are usually exchanged.

Meetings are often unstructured and lengthy, as the Portuguese pay great attention to detail. Communication styles are polite and courteous. The Portuguese don't like confrontation and will try to reach a position of consensus, although they can be tough negotiators. They may be guarded about their interests, and you will need to read between the lines. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics, as these will be seen as aggressive.

There are often long delays in concluding deals, with discussions continued over social meetings. Deadlines are not taken seriously, and commitments not always honoured. Try to get everything confirmed in writing, although this is no guarantee that the agreed actions will be taken.

It is normal to give gifts to business contacts in Portugal; these should be of good quality, and can be quite expensive if justified by the situation or the status of the recipient. Gifts are usually opened immediately. Business contacts are not usually invited home, but if this happens you should take a small gift of flowers or chocolates.

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