Portugal, one of the oldest countries in Europe, has been independent since the 12th century. You’ll find folk festivals, traditional Fado music, and markets overflowing with fish, fruit, and flowers. The local cuisine relies heavily on the sea, and the most typical dish you’ll find is codfish, which the Portuguese prepare in many different ways. Each region, even the smallest village, keeps particular traditions alive year round through colorful decoration, food, drinks, dances, and songs.
The Portuguese are open, friendly and hospitable to people of other nations. Because people and relationships are more important than time, punctuality is not always stressed. Portugal is a liberal society, and contrary to popular belief, families are not very religious, though some go to church on Sunday. On weekends, a lot of time is spent with relatives.
Physical contact is a common sign of affection between members of a family and between close friends. Many people greet each other by kissing both cheeks, from left to right (though there are exceptions; for instance, teachers are not greeted this way). Families are very close. It is important to spend time with the family watching TV or talking about daily events. Families are also very strict when it comes to family schedules: in some families, meals are always taken together.
The Portuguese are proud of their food. They appreciate eating and drinking well. Almost all parties include a meal, especially family gatherings. The family customarily eats together. Wine is often consumed with meals.
Famous specialties are sardinhas assadas (charcoal-grilled sardines), pastéis de bacalhau (cod fishcakes) and caldo verde (a soup of cabbage and potatoes). Codfish is prepared in many ways and is the most typical Portuguese dish.
The only official language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese. Around 84% of the population is Roman Catholic.