Cultural etiquette guide to Lisbon
Visiting Portugal? Learn the dos and don'ts of Portuguese cultural etiquette from how much to tip to the best way to eat your favourite cheeses.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the country they are travelling to.
All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of July 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn how to live like a local in Portugal and never suffer a red-face or embarassed exchange again. Read our top tips on eating out, tipping and tasting and you'll join the ranks of the most seasoned travellers out there.
How to tip in Portugal
If you have had any kind of service at a table, tip. A few cents will suffice if you only had a coffee and a sandwich. If you stood at a counter, there'll usually be a jar or saucer to leave a few coins in if you like.
Amount to tip
The Portuguese habit is not to tip with a percentage of the cost of the meal, but to leave some coins, 2 to 5 euros, even for a meal that cost hundreds of euros. However, just as in most places in the world, restaurant staff rely on their tips, so if you want to tip more, tip more. They will be very grateful. In many places, you can add it to a card transaction, although one never knows if that extra on a card gets back to the staff. If you want to be sure the staff get it, leave money on the table for them.
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How to pass as a local
1. Don't be squeamish
If you want to blend in a bit, don’t be visibly squeamish about your dinner. Food is often not pretty in Portugal – you may find a pig snout in your stew, some things are just a big brown mush, and fish are served whole with bones and heads intact.
2. Tasty extras
Ask for tremoços (lupin beans) to go with your beer. Bite the tough skin open, pop the beans into your mouth and put the skin on a saucer. In the summer, ask for a plate of snails. Portuguese snails are tiny and cooked in a broth flavoured with garlic and oregano.
3. Treat your cheese right
In many restaurants the cheese will be arranged for you, but not always.
Watch our cheesy tutorial
Small hard cheese (queijo curado) – slice it and eat on its own or with bread.
Buttery soft smelly cheese inside a rind (queijo amanteigado) – open the lid with a knife and scoop out the middle with a spoon, straight onto bread. Eat with the jam (doce) provided.
Fresh cheese (queijo fresco) – sprinkle a little salt and a lot of pepper and eat with a knife and fork.
Requeijão (whey cheese, ricotta) – slice or scoop with a knife onto bread and eat with jam if provided.
4. Café culture
Don’t linger too long in a cafe. You're very welcome to, but most locals don’t. They duck in, get a coffee and a little something, often eating it at the counter, and duck out again.
5. Finger food
Pick up sandwiches and cakes with a napkin, not your bare fingers.
6. Please and thank you
Don’t say “thank you” too much. Once per transaction is just fine. Make sure you get the gender right too: “Obrigado” if you’re a man, “obrigada” if you’re a woman.
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Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.