What do Portuguese People Look Like? (10 Features & Stereotypes)

Portuguese people features include, stereotypically, wavy brown hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. But Portugal is a diverse country, so these stereotypes don’t reflect all Portuguese people.

Portuguese heritage comes from a mixture of different groups that have settled or traded in the region over the centuries.

Their ancestry traces its roots mainly from the Celts, Germanic tribes, Moors, Romans, and Jews, while the language is mainly derived from Latin.

Despite their varied ancestry, the Portuguese have assimilated within the community. This is why Portugal now has one of the most ethnically homogeneous populations in Europe, with about 95% of the population being ethnically Portuguese.

The Portuguese government has also prevented collecting information about ethnicity, claiming that this could be grounds for discrimination. Even their official population and housing census does not include questions on ethnicity.

What do Portuguese People Look Like?

Note: These traits reflect history, averages, and even stereotypes, and may not reflect or be representative of any individual Portuguese people.

1. Wavy Brown Hair

Portuguese have typical Mediterranean features such as brown hair, which are slightly wavy for the most part.

Because of their Germanic roots, it is not unusual to see people with light blond or ash blond hair, which accounts for about 11% of the population.

However, it is more concentrated in areas like Póvoa de Varzim in northern Portugal, where about 15% of the residents are blond. Occasionally, some redheads may also be spotted, though they are a small minority at only about 3% of the population.

2. Olive Skin

Another typical Mediterranean feature of Portuguese is their Olive skin. They share this with Italians and their close neighbors, the Spanish.

This is a type 3 to 4 in the Fitzpatrick scale, which means that they have light to moderate tan with minimal to moderate burning when exposed to the sun’s rays.

Their skin tone can also lighten when sun exposure is limited. Olive skin also has yellow, gold, or green undertones.

3. Brown Eyes

Like the Greeks, dark brown is the predominant eye color among Portuguese, accounting for more than 40% of the population.

However, they can be found primarily on the southern parts of the country, such as Alentejo and Algarve.

Meanwhile, Portuguese people with medium to light brown eyes comprise about 35% of the population. They are scattered all over the country, but a good portion of them can be found in the central northern regions, such as Mondego and Neiva.

They also have a spattering of light-colored eyes like green, gray, and even light blue, accounting for about 16% of the population combined.

4. Average Height

Compared to their European neighbors, the Portuguese are not considered very tall, with an average height of less than 6 feet.

However, with their Germanic ancestry, a small percentage of the population can be quite tall as well, especially in the northern part of the country. 

5. Heavy Build

While it does not apply to everyone, a good portion of the population are on the heavy side.

In fact, more than half of adults in the country are considered obese or overweight, according to the Association of Obese and Ex-Obese Patients of Portugal or Adexo.

This has been an ongoing problem for many years, with an OECD report in 2018 showing Portugal to be among the four countries with the most obese people.

Stereotypical Character Traits of Portuguese People

Note: These traits reflect history, averages, and even stereotypes, and may not reflect or be representative of any individual Portuguese people.

6. Coffee Breaks All Day

Though the Portuguese are not the largest consumers of coffee in the world, they are not even in the top 10.

Nevertheless, coffee is a big part of their culture, along with the breaks they regularly take throughout the day to drink one.

There is no specific time for a coffee break, but most would take have their coffee around mid-morning and after lunch, usually in a leisurely manner and in the company of friends. 

They also prefer to drink their coffee inside a café, as the ambiance completes the relaxing experience that they are after.

This is why many cities in Portugal would be riddled with coffee shops on almost every corner. Even suburban areas and some of the country’s isolated areas would have one or two coffee shops to serve the community.

7. Punctuality is not a Priority

The tendency to be late for appointments is another stereotype attached to the Portuguese, which is mostly true.

Aside from the host, it is acceptable and even considered polite to be a little late to meetings and events up to a certain extent.

For the most part, arriving around five to ten minutes late is okay, but more than 30 minutes is considered rude.

If you are really short on time and expect to arrive more than 20 minutes after the original appointment, it is best to call the other party and give them a heads-up.

8. Close Family Ties

Portuguese people value family ties and tend to stay with their extended families for as long as possible.

They live with their parents even after finishing school and sometimes until their mid-twenties. After starting their own families, they would choose to live close to their parents and grandparents.

Some grandparents also help out in raising their grandchildren.

Family members are expected to be loyal to each other and to place family interests above other relationships and commitments.

It is normal to have the weekends reserved for family gatherings such as a Sunday family lunch. Christmas is a special occasion when separated families come together and celebrate as one. 

9. Talkative and Gossipy

Another stereotype about Portuguese is that they are a gossipy bunch, but this is a bit of an exaggeration.

They just really love talking to people they are close to, especially over coffee or dinner. It’s also easy for them to find topics to talk about with strangers and ask them many questions, as this is their way of making someone feel welcome in the community.

10. Football Lovers

The Portuguese people love football and consider it almost a national passion.

It is the oldest sport in Portugal, and the first football team, Boavista, was established in 1903 and is one of the oldest sports clubs in the country.

Very few Portuguese dislike football – after all, they have produced some of the most notable names in the sport, such as Eusébio, Luís Figo, Rui Costa, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Families and friends would head to stadiums during football matches or convene at a friend’s house to watch the game together.

Conclusion

Portuguese people have typical Mediterranean features such as olive skin, brown eyes, and brown hair. Unfortunately, they have been struggling with obesity issues in the past decade, which their government has been trying to address.

They are not very strict with punctuality, but there’s also a limit to their tolerance – being late for five minutes is okay, but they may get offended for being made to wait for thirty minutes or more. They are passionate people who have close family ties, and love many things like coffee, conversations, and football.

Chris
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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