Portugal is a country full of character, oddities, and traditions that set it apart from many other European countries. As such, there are countless fun and interesting facts about Portugal that aren’t always known by everyone. But if you’re thinking about moving to Portugal, you may want to start delving into some of these peculiarities and get to know some of the country’s most interesting facts.
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1. The Barcelos Rooster is the national symbol
Commonly called the Portuguese Rooster, this symbol can be found in basically every gift shop. The rooster represents the story of a pilgrim who was accused of stealing silver and was sentenced to death. He pleaded his innocence by claiming that a roasted rooster would come back to life and sing his innocence. Much to everyone’s surprise, the rooster rose back to life and began to sing. The pilgrim was set free! Today, the Barcelos Rooster represents faith and good luck for the Portuguese.
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2. Portugal is one of the oldest nations
Did you know that the borders of Portugal were first defined in 1139? This not only makes the country one of the oldest nations in Europe but arguably in the world. It is believed that Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is actually four centuries older than Rome in Italy. Before it was known as Portugal, the country had been settled by different empires and civilizations, including the Phoenicians in 1200 BC.
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3. There’s always time for a coffee, a beer or a glass of wine
Work doesn’t keep the Portuguese out of the local cafés and bars. Their go-to drink is the expresso, also known as a café. They have these tiny shots of caffeine in the morning, after lunch, after dinner, and anywhere in-between. Also, don’t be surprised to see locals having small glasses of wine or beer, known as minis, in the morning or during breaks at work. If you’re living in Portugal, you’ll quickly learn: It’s all about a relaxed lifestyle!
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4. Dessert is a must
Whether you’re having a quick lunch at a snackbar or a fancy dinner at a restaurant, you have to indulge in a traditional pudding. The Portuguese don’t easily skip dessert after a meal, and neither should you! Choose from pudim de ovos, baba de camelo, leite creme, natas do céu and many others. Of course, there is also the crispy and creamy Pastéis de Nata, a small custard tart. Among the most fun facts is that the family who discovered this sweet treat has kept the original recipe a secret since the 1800s. You can taste some these tarts at the original and well-known bakery in Belém.
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5. About 8 million people travel to Fatima every year
It is believed that in 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children six times over six months in the central Portuguese town of Fatima. As a result of these apparitions, more than 70,000 people gathered at the site where they witnessed The Miracle of The Sun. There are several different accounts of what the miracle consisted of, but most agree that after some heavy rain, the sun appeared as a spinning disc featuring beautiful radiant colors. More than 100 years later, about 8 million pilgrims travel to Fatima every year to visit the site of the apparitions.
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6. Portugal has the biggest waves in the world
Nowhere are the waves bigger than at the beaches of Nazaré in Portugal, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The official record for the biggest wave ever surfed is an 80-foot swell mastered by Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa. The best time to see some of these monsters are during the winter months, when Portugal’s weather creates the ideal conditions for this fun watersport.
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7. Tiles are sacredly protected
Today, it’s forbidden to demolish any buildings or structures featuring tile-covered façades in Portugal to protect their cultural heritage. These beautiful blue ceramic tiles date back to the 14th century and were used to decorate streets, buildings and monuments. They can also be found in homes, at train stations, in restaurants, and around natural fountains.
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8. There are a thousand ways to cook codfish
Every true Portuguese will know at least ten ways to cook this traditional fish, known as Bacalhau. One of the most appetizing and popular cod dishes is called Bacalhau com Natas, a creamy potato baked dish.
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The Portuguese language has a beautiful, untranslatable word: ‘saudade‘. This word is explained as a deep emotional state of melancholic longing or nostalgia. The longing can be for something or someone who’s deeply loved but absent. Even more than that, the word often carries the understanding that the object of longing may never return.
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10. The Portuguese are really, really welcoming
Portuguese people are typically known as being easy-going and friendly towards expats. So, don’t be surprised to find a few gifts from your neighbors as welcoming presents in the first few weeks of living in Portugal as an expat. They are also keen to help out wherever they can. So, don’t be afraid to ask when you get stuck!
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The best thing about Portugal
While there are many surprising facts you didn’t know about Portugal, one of the best things to discover is that the country is not only a phenomenal place for a sunny, culture-rich vacation, but also a fantastic place to call home. So, if you’re thinking about moving to Portugal from US, start learning a few interesting facts. The locals will love your interest and appreciate your knowledge about the country!
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