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The Republic of Portugal lies along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula in south western Europe. It is bordered on the East and North by Spain, and on the West and South by the Atlantic Ocean. Occupying about 16 percent of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal has a total area of 92.391 km². It has just over 10 million inhabitants. Large population concentrations are in and around Lisbon, the capital, and Porto.

Despite its small size, the country displays a great diversity of geographic features, creating a contrast between plain areas and extremely mountainous zones. Nestled along the Atlantic seaboard, Portugal used to be a country of Discoverers and it has the oldest national frontiers in Europe. The climate is mild throughout the year, with more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in Europe.

The official language is Portuguese. Portuguese is a Latin language and closely related to Spanish. The pronunciation is quite different, though. Portuguese has a unique sound and is very easily recognizable. When you hear Fado-music, you recognise the rawness as well as the melancholy of the language. Portuguese is a world language (also spoken in Brazil and still in some African former colonies) and more than 160 million people speak it worldwide.

More than 94% of the population is Roman Catholic although freedom of religion is permitted.


The school year starts in the middle of September. There is a two-week holiday at Christmas, a short break (three days) at Carnival, a two-week holiday at Easter and the school is over by the last week of June.

Table manners are European. As a rule, the Portuguese have three meals a day. Between 7:30 and 10 a.m. they have a light breakfast consisting of a drink - milk or black coffee or fruit juice - and toast or a sandwich. The main meals are lunch, between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m., and dinner between 7:30 and 10:00 p.m. Most people eat a full meal including soup, a main dish and dessert or fruit. They may also have a snack consisting of a drink and a cake between these two meals, around 5 p.m.

Lisboa, Bairro Alto
Barcos rebelos



Initial greetings are reserved, yet polite and gracious.  Once a personal relationship has developed, greetings become more personal: men may greet each other with a hug and a handshake and women/men kiss each other twice on the cheek.


A simple "Obrigado" (thank you) will bring wide smiles from these most genuine people.


The family is the foundation of the social structure and forms the basis of stability.

Hello! - Olá!

Bye! - Tchau! / Até logo!

Yes. - Sim.

No. - Não.

Thank you. - Obrigado/a.

You're welcome. - De nada.

How are you? - Como estás? (informal) /

Como está? (formal)

I'm fine, thank you. - Bem, obrigado/a.

Excuse me... - Desculpe (formal) / Desculpa (informal)


What others thought of their trip to Portugal?


Eerika, Finland

"The experience changed me A LOT!! For example, I learned that I should not take all things so seriously and I should really enjoy the life more. I am now much more optimistic and lively person, I think. Or at least I try to be :D! I would recommend this to people who are open-minded and want to learn about different cultures and to experience something unforgettable. I would definitly do this again, and I will :)!!"

Ismo, Finland (teacher exchange)

A Finnish teacher spent a week in a Portuguese school as an ESN Exchange teacher. Here's an English summary of his report. Click the download button to read the report in Finnish.

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