Sep 042011

(asked by Carina from Portugal)


Dear Frenchman,
I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m finding your answers much more engaging than I was expecting to. In a matter of minutes you’ve managed to stimulate my curiosity concerning France in a way I didn’t think possible until this very moment and that, obviously, had as consequence an explosion of questions inside my mind, so I just couldn’t keep quiet, could I? As a well behaved reader, instead of storming into asking a bunch of questions you could have already answered, I made a little research and, much to my amusement, I found this “I cheer for France only when they play teams I hate (Italy and Portugal mostly, because they can’t play without cheating)” - the word I searched for was “Portugal”, being that I am Portuguese and, therefore, was intending to ask something related to my country – anyway, what I find so amusing about your statement is that when it comes to football, most Portuguese people think exactly the same thing about the French team (oh! The irony!). From what I know, in Portugal, this opinion applies only to football, but I couldn’t help but wonder if your statement extends to Portugal in general. What do French people think of Portugal/Portuguese people? Do they think of us, at all? I am particularly interested in this topic, because in the seventies France was flooded by Portuguese immigrants and I wonder if you think of us as an annoyance. The only thing I happen to know is that some Frenchmen claim that Portuguese women have mustaches! I had mixed feelings when I heard that, but mostly it made me laugh, seriously, what kind of women have they met?
Anyway, I really like it here, so I’ll pass by often.
Portuguese Woman Without A Mustache (shame, they are so in nowadays)

Hi Carina,

And first of all, thanks for the kind words.

Concerning soccer, two things:

  • The French team sucks in so many ways, I think it’s unfair to add “cheaters” to the list. It’s almost adding insult to injury. French players don’t constantly drop like flies in order to get a free kick, like their Italian and Portuguese (and Argentinians, let’s not forget them). The only one who kinda did it was Thierry Henry, and now he’s retired from the National Team. But let’s not debate soccer here, let’s keep this for another day.
  • Just so that we’re clear, my hate of Italian, Portuguese and Argentinians (an Uruguayans and Spanish and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few) soccer teams and players doesn’t extent to their non-soccer playing compatriots. For me, soccer is a just a silly sport that’s fun to watch once every two year (for the Euro Cup and the World Cup basically) and I just choose good guys (England, Germany, Holland, Japan, Australia, Scotland, Cameroon) and bad guys (Portugal, Italy, Spain, most of South America) because it just makes it more fun to watch (except when Spain or Italy wins the World Cup, that is quite painful to watch), as soon as the game and the cup is over, I almost forget soccer even exists.

Now, our topic.

One last thing about soccer, most French people actually don’t hate the Portugal team, I’m in a minority here.

Then, yes, as some of my readers may not know in the late 60′s, early 70′s a massive wave of immigrants from Portugal moved to France. At the time Portugal was a dictatorship entangled in stupid wars with its former colonies (“stupid war”, yes I know, truism here) and the country was closer to the 19th Century than to the 21st in terms of development. At the same time, France was basically at its best ever (I guess one can say that the five years between 1968 and 1973 were the best 5 years of France history). So almost one million Portuguese decided to flee their country and move to France (that’s huge, almost 10% of the population). Why not Spain? After all its was right next door. Mmm.. Ever heard of Franco? Leaving a dictatorship for another one would have been quite counterproductive don’t you think?


As a result, today, French people of Portuguese descent are the second largest minority in France after the Algerian minority.

Of course, during the first years, things were not easy, just like for any minority just arriving in a country, and racism against Portuguese people was strong. However, it faded quite fast (for the most part) as they were Europeans, so they got luckier than their African counterparts. And if there are a few Portuguese stereotypes, including women being very hairy, possibly with a mustache, they’re quickly disappearing as nowadays the third generation of Portuguese-French people is pretty much indistinguishable from the “main” French population.

Nowadays, the only two stereotypes that survive are the fact that Portuguese people are short (well… their average size is shorter than the French average) and that they’re all house-builders. Fact is that when Portuguese people arrived in mass in France, it was also the time when France was building like crazy, so it was the easiest job to find for Portuguese immigrants, and even nowadays, there’s a large percentage of Portuguese people in the house building industry.

I’m sure these two “stereotypes” will die out in a generation or two, as Portuguese immigrants will be more and more “diluted” in the general population, just like the Italians were before them.

And nowadays, the only time you can tell someone is of Portuguese descent in the streets is during the World Cup or the Euro Cup as they’ll wear a Portugal jersey or have a Portugal flag at their window.


More Questions Answered:

  11 Responses to “What do French people think of Portugal/Portuguese people?”

  1. I really enjoyed this blog about stereotypes of Portuguese people in France. I’m not Portuguese (at least not full blood Portuguese) but got curious as a Portuguese Creole from the Capeverdian Islands to what that stereotype might be. Compared to their fellow African immigrants they general assumption of Portuguese people is not that bad. Home builders and somewhat Nationalistic pride when it comes to football are acceptable stereotypes. This however made me think about the stereotypes of immigrants from Cabo Verde in Holland (see Rotterdam as in this is the only city in Holland where you have a large community of us about 17000). Here most Dutch people consider us as “silent immigrants” apparently we’re aren’t as ‘loud’ and ‘criminal’ like are Moroccan fellow immigrants. (I btw do not think of them like this) General population sees us as adaptable people, harbor workers (the first immigrants in the 60′s were sailormen) and slightly nationalistic. However among the other immigrants we are also known as slightly arrogant, nationalistic and fashion freaks. And as a Capeverdean woman I can admit it’s a bit of all above.

    • Thanks Adilça for your comment.
      Portuguese people (and before them Italians, and before people from many more countries) have the “luck” of being European, which means that there’s a smaller “culture clash” between them and mainstream France than there is with African immigrants, and while things were not rosy for Portuguese immigrants when they first arrived, they have the chance to be able to physically blend in the general population and as such experience less racism from idiots, and as a consequence, there are less stupid stereotypes.

      I don’t really know anything about Capverdians (didn’t even know there were a noticeable minority of you guys in the Neterlands) so thanks for the input.

  2. In 1969/70 I lived in Brussels for about 8 months. I met a Portuguese man (a draft dodger) & fell madly in love with him. Unfortunately, he left a wife behind in Portugal. He had only been married a month before he left for Paris. His marriage was almost an ‘arranged one’ As Paris was too expensive, he and his friend (another draft dodger) moved to Brussels. His wife was a teacher and when summer arrived she arrived in Brussels. A week later he sent her back to Portugal as he was in love with me. I was visiting relatives in Denmark at the time. Months later he found out she was pregnant. I returned to Canada and we corresponded for awhile. Sad, but I heard from friends that he actually hoped she’d miscarry and could then emigrate to Canada. Though I have been happily married to a French man for 24 years, I shall never forget him. He will always remain in my heart. Would love to know what happened to him..


    PS - Enjoy reading your blog,

  3. I’ve never heard anything negative about Portuguese while I’ve been living here (not even about moustaches) and can verify that the 3rd generation of Franco-Portuguese are pretty much indistinguishable from everyone else. I live in a neighborhood with a sizable Portuguese population and lots of my child’s classmates have Portuguese roots but the only way I know that is through talking with their grandmothers at the school gate. In fact, I’ve only heard good things about them, as people who are in the middle of renovating a crappy house do seem to seek out Portuguese builders.

  4. My parents were both 100% Portuguese from Madeira Island and I was born in Venezuela, South America.
    I first went to Portugal in 2003 — one week in Madeira and another week in Lisboa. I was not impressed!!!

    - Generation gap: Seemed like the older people didn’t communicate with the younger people. This may
    be due to poverty and lack of education. I saw lots of rebellious teens late at night in the streets of
    Lisbon and unfriendly adults during the day. I also saw very close gossipy extended families in Madeira.
    - Likeable people: They seemed to have a very demure artistic nature. This may be due to a shy farm- ing background and/or the minority nature of an under-developed country in the midst of modernization.
    They seemed to be very proud, purposefully occupied, and private. I was disappointed that they were
    not friendly.
    Celeste (from California, USA)

    • Visited Portuga recentlyl and found this nation to be quite progressive in surprising ways. Women are educated and hold many important positions; doctors (perhaps greater numbers than US), law, & many judges. What impressed me the most was the high respect for the environment and the ecosystem. Oh yes, didn’t encounter any unfriendlies either. I will certainly returnin the near future. Celeste, perhaps you should educate yourself in regards to your heritage….much to be proud of! Btw, What is so great about Venezuela?

      • Hello, I’m Portuguese and I must say that I’m immensely proud of it, but I disagree with you Celeste, Portugal as any other country has good people and bad people, vandals, etc., you probably visited the area of the Bairro-Alto at night, where it usually join young people … however, most students are … We are a small country, but with immense knowledge, know to speak English (your language) most of us, especially young people. We have beautiful places and we have an incredible story, but it does not matter to matter. when you visit a country you can’t judge people (in total) by going through half a dozen on your way… Lisbon is not the only place of interest in Portugal, the Douro … the Porto … The Algarve … =)
        With best regards

  5. My opinion stands. Portuguese seemed clanish. I’m not saying they’re bad people!!!
    I am saying that they are intolerant, old world, not friendly, proud, and opportunists.
    I’ve been to Madeira and Lisbon. I am 100% Portuguese and grew up in a Portuguese
    community in California. I have tried to keep an open mind over the years but am
    often disappointed with the obvious egocentric behavior. It’s just difficult to get through
    all that muddle. Why bother to try to socialize with them?

    • I’m Portuguese, from Porto, Portugal.
      It’s only natural you chose Lisboa and Madeira as your destinations, as one being the capital city and the other a beautiful island and homeland to your parents, but I don’t think you get a very good sample of the Portuguese people as a whole. Lisbon is a place where people mostly work. That’s what they do. During the work day, people in Lisbon are very down to business, always in a hurry and not very nice. They take themselves and their jobs a bit too seriously. My father works in Lisbon and he always says that they shut down their sense of humor during the work hours. If you tell a joke at the office, barely anyone will laugh, but if you tell the same joke at a bar they’ll crack up like normal people. People in Lisbon are very friendly and helpful outside of work, but if they are late to some meeting, they’ll give you the stink eye if you interrup their hurried walk down the street, either if you’re a tourist or a local.
      As for Madeira, it is a lovely place, but it is also a small island, with little population, a bit removed from the rest of the country (as it is only natural, being separeted by an ocean and all) and young people tend to migrate to the main land to go to college and then they usually stay here to work. That being said, the remainder of the population (older people) are more prone to being conservative, close-minded and hung up on tradition, as it surely happens in most countries.
      I’m just saying that these two locations do not paint an accurate portrait of the Portuguese population as a whole because of their particularities.
      Well, as for “clanish”, if you grew up in a Portuguese comunity in a foreign country, it is a natural trait. People of the same background tend to stick together, and they get defensive about their culture, because they don’t want to see it fade out into a background of rooted native culture.
      I just hope you consider keeping an open mind and visiting more of Portugal before you cut yourself off from this lovely country.

  6. My parents were both 100% Californian from Oakland and I was born in France, Europe.
    I first went to California in 2003 — one week in Oakland and another week in South Central, LA. I was not impressed!!!

    – Generation gap: Seemed like the older people didn’t communicate with the younger people. This may
    be due to poverty and lack of education. I saw lots of rebellious teens late at night in the streets of
    Oakland and unfriendly adults during the day. I also saw very close gossipy extended families in L.A.
    – Likeable people: They seemed to have a very demure artistic nature. This may be due to a shy gangbanging background and/or the minority nature of an under-developed State in the midst of not killing each other.
    They seemed to be very proud, purposefully occupied, and private. I was disappointed that they were
    not friendly.
    Benjamin (from Portugal, Europe)

  7. I’m married to a Portuguese girl and we’ve traveled extensively within mainland Portugal.

    In terms of their positive traits, Portuguese people generally are helpful, generous (with people they know and trust), hard-working, and extremely family-oriented. For me though, I find that their negative qualities are simply intolerable. They are typically cold, stubborn, ultra-traditional to the point of being backwards, intolerant, and unmannerly.

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