IS Portugal in Spain? why we hate this question

Iberian peninsula map

Is Portugal in Spain? This is a question that we get very often and we must confess that it is probably the most hated question by the Portuguese. Reason? Portugal is not part of Spain and it has never been. More than that, Portugal, as a country, is much older than Spain and it has so many cultural differences that it is impossible to name all of them.

Portugal was founded as a country in 1143, officially recognized by the Pope as an independent nation in 1179. For Spain, we can go with different versions, but the one with the oldest date makes it a country three centuries younger than Portugal. The wedding of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 is pointed by some as the start of it all, others refer to the defeat of the last Arab emir, in 1492, others, the completion of the unification of present-day Spain, in 1512.

There is only one period in history where Portugal will be ruled by a Spanish king. That happens between 1580 and 1640, following the succession crisis – after the death of king Sebastian. Portugal and Spain will become part of the so-called Iberian Union and both will be ruled by Philip II of Spain, first, and after by Philip III and IV of Spain. Nevertheless, Portugal will keep its language, economy and autonomy. In 1640, the Iberian Union will come to an end after the Portuguese rebellion and the restoration of the full independence of Portugal.

Is Portugal in Spain? Language, sense of humor and so much more

Now that we have talked about facts, dates and history, let’s talk about culture and some of the differences between Portugal and Spain.

Let’s start by the language. In Portugal, we speak Portuguese. On the other side of the border, they speak Spanish or, to be more correct, castelhano. Both languages come from the same root, that is latin and are variations of the vulgar latin that was spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. Portuguese comes from the variation spoken in Galicia, so, from galego and not really from Spanish.

Other cultural differences are probably difficult to explain. We feel the difference, we see the difference, but it is hard to explain. But, let me tell you, from the perspective of a local, Portugal and Spain are two worlds apart. The best explanation I heard was probably from a friend of mine, a Spanish living in Portugal for several years now. She told me that the first years in Lisbon were a challenge. “The Portuguese sense of humor is different from the Spanish. In the beginning, I was having problems to be part of the conversation. I would say your sense of humor is closer to the British than to the Spanish.” I thought it was an amazing explanation. Sense of humor really tells a lot about a culture.

I would also say that there is a way of being Portuguese deeply connected with nostalgia, sadness and what we call saudade – the pain of missing someone. While on the other side of the board this nostalgia seems to be not as present and here in Portugal we often comment on the more playful – is this the right word? – of the Spanish, the salero (whatever that means) and the loud conversations that frequently happen when two or more spaniards get together.

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