Kissing in Portugal


Historians trace the costume of kissing on the cheeks to the French Revolution when it was used to show solidarity. Since then, the French made greeting into an art form. Depending on location and circumstance, they might kiss twice, thrice, four times, or not at all.

The Portuguese are quite formal, but greeting norms are relatively simple. Men greet each other by shaking hands. Women greet man or other women with two kisses, the first on the right cheek and the second on the left.

There is, however, one tricky exception: in Lisbon close friends kiss only once, on the right cheek. So, as you start making friends in Portugal, you might go through a period of hesitation: should I greet them with one or two kisses? It’s a price well worth paying for the joy of having Portuguese friends.

Drawing (ink on paper, 2013) by Ana Duarte. Check out her clothes collection here.

The Portuguese oranges of Louis XIV

As laranjas Portuguesas de Luis XIV, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

“Portugal,” “Portugal,” cried the street vendors in 17th century Paris. They were selling a novelty fruit: sweet oranges from Portugal. European oranges were bitter, good only to make marmalade.  That all changed when the Portuguese brought sweet-orange trees from India and China. These trees produced the most fashionable fruit in Europe. Portuguese oranges were so expensive, that Moliére used them in his play The Miser to signify extravagance. Louis XIV, who thought that sweet oranges looked like the sun, adopted them as his personal symbol and did not rest until he had his own “orangerie.”

If you visit Portugal, order a freshly squeezed orange juice in an outdoors café in an old neighborhood. Imagine yourself in the 17th century. Enjoy this luxurious drink that only kings and nobles can afford. Doesn’t it taste sweet?

Nullum est sine nomine saxum

That’s what the Roman poet Marcus Lucanus wrote about Troy. It means “no stone is without a name.”

Portugal has beautiful scenery, wonderful food, perfect weather. But what makes this country truly unique is its history. Africans, Celts, Jews, Moors, Phoenicians, Romans, Suevi, Visigoths, they all shared this corner of the world. They all left their marks on the Portuguese landscape. Monuments to their triumphs, ruins from their defeats are everywhere. No stone is without a name.

Portuguese cutlery

The Portuguese are obsessed with cutlery. They use a bewildering array of specialized tools to eat their food. Serving snails? You need a snail fork. Eating oysters? You need an oyster fork. The soup is a consomée? A normal soup spoon won’t do. You need a consomée spoon. Cake for dessert? Don’t even think of using a desert fork! You need a cake fork. And, of course, you can only eat fish with proper fish forks and knifes. You can see all this cutlery bravado on display at a Cutipol store. It’s more fun than many museums.

The fate of Portugal

The great poet Luís Vaz de Camões published his masterpiece, the Lusíadas, in 1572. In the first part of this epic ode we learn that the fate of Portugal is being decided in Greece. The Greek gods (called by their Roman names) are divided into two parties. Bacchus is the nemesis of Portugal. With the help of Neptune, he sows unexpected obstacles and unending perils on the path of the Portuguese. But Venus takes up the cause of Portugal. And, with her thoughtful help, the Portuguese show that they can accomplish great things.