Foreign Exchanges - Portugal


by Melanie Hawkins May 20, 2015

Before you start

The rapid economic move to become a valued member of the European Union put the country under enormous strain post the 2008 recession. Portugal still has a relatively hard road ahead to recover from its crippling systemic debts.

There is still a largely inefficient public sector, however private business is changing from a tradition of autocratic, family-run businesses to more open and mixed business models where new ideas are being encouraged.

Be aware that 

Portugal is predominately paternalistic, as is often found in strongly hierarchical cultures. Therefore, unless you are dealing with the subsidiary of a multinational, expect an extremely centralised decision-making approach dominated by a few key individuals. Ensure you are speaking to the right people to avoid wasting time.

Punctuality is variable and although you may be kept waiting for some time, it is still best to arrive to meetings on time as a show of respect and good intent.  

Meeting agendas, if produced at all, will not necessarily
be followed.

Using first names can still be unusual for long-standing colleagues, so best to start with formal designations until advised otherwise.

Watch out for 

A more individualistic as opposed to a co-operative approach. Team members expect to work on specific allocated tasks as determined by a strong leader. Co-operative, open teams where responsibility is shared are still quite rare.

The final word 

Although hierarchical, there is a strong relationship-oriented culture when doing business, so it is important to get to know your counterparts on a personal level.

Lunch and dinners are used for cementing relationship ties
– but be wary of talking business unless raised by your Portuguese counterpart.  




Melanie Hawkins
Melanie Hawkins

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