Your guide to expat life in Portugal

Working in Portugal

Most Expats move to Portugal to escape the fast-paced corporate life back home, rather than to further their careers.

Wages tend to be lower than in other European countries, with only 11% of expats in the 2017 Expat Explorer Survey agreeing that their earning potential was better in Portugal than back home. But on a positive note, two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed rated the overall work-life balance better than back home.

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Doing business

The country’s primarily agricultural infrastructure has given way to a modern, service-based economy, in line with the rest of the European Union. You’ll find a curious mixture of old-school conservatism and new-age innovation characterising the Portuguese business world.

Portugal is currently ranked 25th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's 2017 Ease of Doing Business rankings, placing first for trading across borders and excelling in the criteria of enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

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Business culture

Teamwork and collaboration on important decisions isn’t the norm in Portugal: the accepted management style is more directive, and subordinate employees are more often than not expected to 'do as they're told', rather than to contribute to the decision-making processes.

Business etiquette in Portugal also displays an interesting mix of formality and friendliness – with conduct being at once formal and conservative, yet also warm and relaxed.

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Fast facts

Business language

Portuguese is the official language, but English is also often spoken and understood in business.

Business hours

Most businesses operate from 8.30am to 1pm, and 3pm to 6pm, from Monday to Friday.


Smart and formal.


Shaking hands is an appropriate greeting. You should shake hands with both male and female colleagues at the beginning and end of a meeting.


Gifts are not usually given at business meetings and could be seen as inappropriate. If invited to an associate's home, you should consider taking a bottle of wine, flowers or sweets.

Gender equality

Women are usually treated as equals in the Portuguese business world, though it is rare to see them occupying the highest corporate positions.

Expat salaries

Salaries for expats are generally lower than other European countries.

Just be yourself and respect the people of every culture and nationality that you come across in this country. Learn from people of different nationalities.

Expat Explorer 2015 respondent

View more hints and tips for Portugal

Making life easier for expats

  • Starting a new life abroad has its complexities.
  • Your finances shouldn’t be one of them.
  • We believe that choosing to live abroad has the power to enrich your life. It can be a journey that leads to new experiences and opportunities. But it can also be complicated. That’s why we’re here to help manage your finances and make planning for the future simple.

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in June 2017. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.