Portugal the Country

Part of this journey for me is learning more about the places we visit. I like to know how these places tick and compare some of the day to day living details with what we know in NZ.

Wikipedia and the worldwide web is full of interesting information so I have just picked out the bits that I found interesting and can relate to.

Portugal is a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is located in South Western Europe on the Iberian Peninsular and it is the westernmost county of mainland Europe being bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North & East. Portugal holds sovereignty over 2 Atlantic archipelagos – Azores and Madeira.

As with the rest of Europe, Portugal has a history dating back to BC. What I found most interesting was the fact that Portugal was one of the world’s major economic, military and political powers from the 15th century to the late 16th century.

Portugal spear headed the European exploration of the world and undertook the Age of Discovery. Prince Henry the Navigator, son of King Joao I, became the main sponsor and patron of this endeavour. During this period Portugal explored the Atlantic Ocean, discovering several Atlantic archipelagos like the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde, explored the African coast as well as colonising selected areas of Africa, discovering an eastern route to India that rounded the Cape of Good Hope, discovered Brazil, explored the Indian Ocean and established trading routes throughout Southern Asia and sent the first direct European maritime trade and diplomatic missions to China & Japan.

In the colonial restoration that took place in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Portugal lost control of most of the places that it had colonised. Brazil’s independence from Portugal was declared in 1822. The overseas territories in Asia and Africa became independent in 1975. They held onto Macau until 1999 when it was peacefully handed over to the Peoples Republic of China. In 2002 the independence of East Timor was formally recognised by Portugal, after an incomplete decolonisation process that was started in 1975.

Portugal is part of the EU and was one of the founding countries of the Euro and Eurozone.

Portugal has a high proficiency level in English that can’t be found in countries like Spain, Italy or France. Adult literacy is 99% and primary school enrolments are close to 100%.

The population in Portugal is 10.7 million with 2.8 million living in Lisbon which is the capital city. Portugal’s second largest city is Porto which the country is named after – Porto has a population of 1.7 million. There are 18 districts in mainland Portugal. The Algarve is one of these districts. Apparently the Algarve & Lisbon are the two wealthiest districts – the Algarve due to the large amount of foreigners that live or have property here. Algarvians, however, are not considered part of Portugal by other Portuguese – they are thought of as North Africans.

The Portuguese Government is heavily indebted and received a EU78 billion bailout from the EU & International Monetary Fund in May 2011. After the financial crisis in 2007 – 2008 it was known that the two main Portuguese banks had been accumulating losses for years due to bad investments, embezzlement and accounting fraud. The CEO of one of the banks was charged and arrested for fraud & other crimes. On the grounds of avoiding a potentially serious financial crisis in Portugal the Portuguese economy bailed them out.

Talking to one of the locals the underground economy is alive and well – there are a lot of brown envelope deals. Apparently there is a lot of red tape and bureaucratic processes in place – to the outsider some of these processes don’t make sense and when you ask the question ‘why’ the response is because that’s how it has always been done.

The currency is the Euro. Portugal has been focusing the economy on exports, private investment and the development of the high tech sector. Consequently business services have overtaken the more traditional industries such as textiles, clothing, footwear and cork (Portugal is the world’s leading Cork producer), wood products and beverages.

The primary sector comprises agriculture, forestry, fishing and minerals – copper, tin, tungsten and uranium. The secondary sector comprises automotive (Volkswagen, Peugeot & Citroen), electronics, textiles, food, chemicals, cement & wood.

Travel & tourism is also extremely important for Portugal. It is among the 20 most visited places in the world.

The average wage in Portugal is EU910 (NZD1,443) per month net and the minimum wage is EU485 (NZD769) per month net. Based on a 40 hour working week that equates to NZD4.43 per hour. In 2013 the unemployment rate in Portugal was 17.7%.

Other observations / interesting facts – the Portuguese are arrogant drivers – they drive fast and like to cross the centre line. You have to move over – they won’t. One of the foreign locals told me the crime rate is low due to the fact that the Portuguese are lazy. One of the first Portuguese words he learnt when he came here was amanha – this means tomorrow. Everything will be done tomorrow – well we all know that tomorrow never comes.

They don’t wear cycle helmets.

The price of a litre of 95 fuel is between EU1.50 and EU1.60 or NZD2.38 and NZD2.54.

They do have great sports programs and facilities for children as they believe this keeps them out of trouble. The foreign local we were talking to has two sons – one swims 5 times a week and does competitions in the weekend and the other plays rugby so practices three times a week with a game in the weekend. This is costing him EU22 per week or NZD35.

The Portuguese are very family orientated. It is common practice for the family to go down to the town after they have had dinner to meet up with friends and other families to have a drink – the kids all go along too and meet up with their friends also. They then wander home about 9pm.



This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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1 Response to Portugal the Country

  1. Catherine Lamb says:

    Very interesting Rachel

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