Conducting Business in Portugal
Portugal is only now emerging from the financial problems of recent years, and doing business there can be more difficult as a result.
Portugal is one of the countries hardest-hit by the economic struggles of the world in recent years; as one of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) that needed to be bailed out of disastrous depressions over the last few years, they (along with Greece) are only now finally stabilising and beginning to show the fruit of the drastic austerity measures they enacted to both stop the bleeding and to secure the assistance of other countries in the European Union, most notably Germany.
That means that if you’re planning to take your Portuguese translation services or other business to Portugal, you should be prepared for a skittish attitude as people remain a bit shell-shocked. Combine that with the well-known Portuguese tendency towards what would be politely termed a “relaxed” attitude towards business and life in general, and you have a surprisingly challenging business environment in Portugal. Here are a few things that might make it at least a little easier for you to get your translation or other business going in that beautiful, if occasionally frustrating, country.
The worst mistake anyone can make in Portugal is the classic one: To assume that Portugal is part of Spain, or that everyone there speaks Spanish. It’s a simple mistake to make for anyone who’s not particularly familiar with basic geography and world history – but don’t put your foot in your mouth.
Speaking of Portuguese, I would strongly encouraging anyone planning to do business in Portugal to make an effort to learn some of the language. While most people speak English to some extent in the urban areas, outside the urban areas you will find much less English, and even in business meetings with English-speakers they will appreciate your efforts. If nothing else, make sure any paperwork that needs to be exchanged is translated from English or other languages into Portuguese.
As I referred to above, the pace of life and business in Portugal is slow – deliberately so. The pattern of reaction tends to follow like this:
- Wow, this is amazing – everyone is so happy and stress-free, maybe I should live here!
- Wow, everything takes a long time to happen. And there’s so much paperwork!
- Wow, this is intolerable. I could have launched four businesses back home in this time.
The fact is the slow pace of life and business in Portugal is part of the fabric of the whole culture, so you’re not going to change that. It can be frustrating to people used to a brisker pace, and the slowness is large part due to the immense bureaucracy involved in even the smallest endeavours. Be prepared to wait, and know that any attempt to rush things along will probably backfire.
All that being said – Portugal is a lovely country and you will never regret making inroads there. Be prepared linguistically and be prepared for the slower pace, and success will be yours.