Last update on June 11, 2020
Sophie Pettit Written by Sophie Pettit

From what to wear on that all-important first date to how to impress your in-laws, here’s everything you need to know about dating in Portugal.

Whether you’re looking to casually date or meet the love of your life, it’s important to know what to expect when dating in a foreign country. After all, what might be considered a romantic gesture in your culture might be seen as unwelcome or rude in another. If you live in Portugal, understanding the local dating culture and the mindset of Portuguese men and women can really help your love life. With this in mind, this guide is here to help by providing the following information:

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An overview of dating in Portugal

Essentially, dating in Portugal is similar to other European countries. Teenagers tend to begin dating people they meet through school and their friendship groups. Meanwhile, older generations generally meet their partners through friends, work, socializing, and online dating. And generally speaking, most couples tend to tie the knot in their early 30s.

Dating in Portugal, Douro River

Having said that, Portuguese men and women can be quite shy and cautious when it comes to meeting potential partners. Furthermore, they tend to be more reserved than other cultures when it comes to expressing their emotions. Therefore, you will rarely see public displays of affection or hear the words “eu amo-te” (I love you) thrown around casually. That’s not to say that the Portuguese aren’t kind and loving people; it just means that getting to know someone and moving into a relationship might look a little different from what you are accustomed to.

How to meet people in Portugal

The ways that people traditionally meet are essentially the same in Portugal than in other countries. That said, where you live plays a significant role in determining the following factors.

The size of the dating pool

Large, cosmopolitan cities such as Porto and Lisbon naturally have a bigger dating scene than smaller towns and rural areas. With more places to socialize, people often meet their partners at bars and restaurants. In smaller towns with a tighter community, however, people tend to be more conservative and have fewer opportunities to meet new people. As a result, many find love within their social circles and community network. This might pose a greater challenge for expats seeking love in rural areas.

The popularity of online dating

While Portugal is a fairly conservative country, online dating is a popular way to meet new people. You will likely find that the most online activity tends to center around major cities such as Lisbon and Porto; where young and tech-savvy groups of single professionals live. Just like in other countries, there are a variety of dating websites and apps that cater to those looking to casually date as well as those seeking serious relationships.

online dating

There are various dating websites in Portugal, although some are more popular than others, and some charge a fee to subscribe. Meetic.pt, for instance, is one of the most popular dating websites for those looking for meaningful relationships. Badoo also has plenty of members in Portugal; however, because it is free, there is a higher chance of encountering fake profiles. Meanwhile, Tinder, Happn, and OkCupid are popular choices among people in their early 20s and 30s looking to casually date.

The language barrier

It is worth noting that while English is likely to be fairly commonly spoken as a second language in more urban and cosmopolitan parts of Portugal, the language barrier might cause you some issues in more remote areas. So if you don’t speak fluent Portuguese, this could pose a challenge; especially if you are looking to make initial contact with someone through a dating app or website. With this in mind, it might be a good time to learn Portuguese!

The availability of Meetup groups

Joining local Meetup groups and attending events is a popular way to meet like-minded individuals in most countries around the world. However, in Portugal, you will likely find that most of these groups are based in the more popular cities for expats. According to the Immigration, Borders and Asylum Report by the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), these cities are Lisbon (with 213,065 expats), Faro (77,489), and Setúbal (40,209).

meeting people

Given that the number of expats living in Portugal reached 480,300 in 2018, these groups are likely to be very multicultural, too. Essentially, they provide a fun and safe way to meet new people. And because there are numerous groups specifically designed for those interested in dating and relationships, you are likely to meet other singles with the same intention.

Dating etiquette in Portugal

While dating etiquette in Portugal is fairly similar to other European countries, there are some things that are useful to know as an expat.

A typical dating scenario in Portugal

Just like in other countries, dating in Portugal tends to involve going to cafés, restaurants, parks, and one of the many beautiful beaches. However, the country is renowned for its delicious seafood delicacies and gorgeous weather. Therefore, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that many locals love to be by the sea. As a result, dates might involve going fishing, sailing, or surfing; so grab your suncream!

beach date

Dating behavior in Portugal

When it comes to how to dress, behave, and carry yourself during a date, the Portuguese tend to be fairly conservative. Therefore, there are certain pointers that are useful to know if you want to make a good impression.

Punctuality

First things first, it’s important to know that lateness is particularly frowned upon in Portugal. This is seen as being terribly rude, so always aim to arrive a little early for your date to make sure you are off to a good start. And speaking of time, Portuguese people tend to eat their evening meal later than other European countries; rarely before 20:00. If you are planning a lunch date, be prepared for a hefty feast, as this is traditionally the largest meal of the day in Portugal. If, on the other hand, you are having dinner, be prepared to wait a little longer than usual to fill your belly.

Body language

When you first meet someone in Portugal, it is best to greet them with a handshake. Furthermore, when a man greets a woman, he usually waits for her to offer her hand before engaging in one. Luckily for women, chivalry is an important part of dating in Portugal. Therefore, a man is likely to hold doors open for a woman, offer her his coat, and emphasize his romantic side. And as for the age-old check dance after a meal, the man will likely insist on paying. You may find Portuguese people to be quite animated, too. Having a conversation often involves plenty of hand gestures; perhaps more than you normally use. So there is a good chance you will enjoy lively discussions when dating a local.

chivalry

Fashion

While Portuguese people aren’t as outwardly fashion-conscious as say the Italians or the French, there is a certain pride in being well turned out. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to wear ripped jeans on a date. Portuguese people tend to dress conservatively; this means women usually wear dresses or skirts and men wear a jacket and tie. As old-fashioned as it may seem, people in Portugal generally believe that clothes indicate social standing and success. So, if you want to make a dazzling first impression on your date, make sure you rock up wearing quality fabrics and garments.

Conversation

Portugal has a rich and varied culinary landscape, so you can expect your date to be more knowledgeable about food than most people you’ve met. A local man or woman will likely talk enthusiastically about the unmissable delicacies in local restaurants. If you’re lucky, they might even share their secret family recipe with you, too. While Portuguese cuisine varies by region, if your partner is a good chef, you can expect to enjoy plenty of onions, garlic, tomato, and olive oil. Aside from food, country roots and heritage are particularly popular topics among Portuguese people. They tend to enjoy discussing their families and their traditions and will likely tell you all about their upbringing.

Moving into a relationship

How a relationship might typically progress in Portugal is really down to the individuals involved. That said, there are some cultural influences that usually come into play as your dating journey continues.

Getting intimate

You might find that despite being a fairly conservative nation, Portuguese women, in particular, take an upfront and honest approach to sex and relationships. This means that they won’t be put off by having ‘the talk’ about where the relationship is going; or whether it feels like the right time to take it to the next level. Because they are generally more comfortable expressing their feelings than other European cultures, there is also less of a stigma attached to discussing getting intimate first.

Meeting friends and family

Family is seen as the foundation of Portugal’s social structure. Furthermore, a great expectation is placed on being loyal and committed to the family unit throughout adult life. So, when the time finally comes for you to meet your partner’s parents, you should consider it a significant step in your relationship. This also means that you might have to work a little harder to impress your future in-laws than you would in other countries.

meeting the parents

If you are meeting their family for the first time, shaking hands is considered the appropriate form of greeting. It is also customary when visiting someone’s home to take them a small gift such as chocolates or flowers. If you are joining them for a home-cooked meal, be sure to compliment the cooking, too. Some fun advise is to eat everything the mother offers you and drink everything the father pours you! Fortunately, Portuguese food is renowned for being delicious, so you will likely enjoy everything on your plate. Finally, making an effort to speak a few words in Portuguese will help you make a good impression. That said, Portuguese people are generally laid-back and want you to feel welcome and comfortable in their home so just try to relax and enjoy yourself.

Getting married and having children

Given its conservative nature, it is perhaps surprising that Portugal has one of the lowest marriage rates in Europe; with around 3.4 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants. Furthermore, research from the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics (INE) shows that this number is declining. For instance, there were 33,272 marriages in 2019; representing a decrease of 3.9% from 2018. In more than half of the marriages in Portugal (61.1%), the spouses lived together before tying the knot, too, which suggests that people no longer wait until they get married to leave their family home.

Interestingly, the same data reveals that the majority of births in 2019 (56.8%) were born outside of marriage. This indicates a significant shift towards more modern ways of living in which marriage is no longer seen as a necessity for those wanting to start a family. Furthermore, civil partnerships and same-sex marriage are becoming more accepted as time passes. In fact, INE data shows that there were 2,515 same-sex marriages between 2013 and 2018; and an increase of 84 from 2017 to 2018.

The role of the family in dating

Portugal is a very family-oriented society and relatives tend to get together at every opportunity. The relationships between family members remain close throughout their whole lives. Therefore, you can expect to spend a significant amount of time with your in-laws. There are also some common cultural traits that influence family life in Portugal.

raising children

Raising children in Portugal

When it comes to raising children in Portugal, one of the most significant differences from some other countries is that the grandparents often move into the family home to help care for the children. In rural areas and traditional Catholic families, the number of children per household may also be higher. Because the Portuguese are highly family-oriented, men, in particular, generally play a larger role in raising the children than in some other countries. Although the family unit is tight, children are generally given the encouragement and freedom to pursue their own interests. They also tend to stay in the family home until they are financially independent or move in together with their partners.

Gender roles in the family home

In terms of gender politics, the balance in Portugal might be different from what you are used to. For instance, attitudes towards the role of men and women in the family home can vary depending on location. In rural areas, for example, the father is often the primary income-earner for the family. Meanwhile, the mother is expected to take care of the home and children. In more urban areas, however, more modern and progressive attitudes are slowly replacing more old-fashioned views. Many household tasks such as cooking and cleaning are equally distributed among men and women. It isn’t uncommon for both parents to earn income to support their families, too. So like many aspects of dating and relationships in Portugal, where you live plays a significant role.