Spanish? In Portugal?

Spanish? In Portugal? If you are Portuguese, you must probably be nodding your head and thinking “not again”, but the truth is, a lot of people believe the official language in Portugal is Spanish. Some even believe it’s all one country. It is not, they are two different countries and both have their own official language.


If you are Portuguese, you probably have lots of stories to tell about tourists trying to talk to you in Spanish or asking you for help in Spanish. I’ve seen plenty in Lisbon entering shops saying “buenos dias” (Good morning). But it is not only the language they get wrong, they mix the culture, the food and everything you can imagine.

Recently, I’ve watched a video from a YouTuber that I follow and he choose Spanish music to show is his footage of Brazil. So, now even Brazil gets thrown in this mix.

A bit of History

Spain and Portugal are neighbouring countries that together form the Iberian Peninsula, situated in the southwestern corner of Europe. Both countries are members of the European Union since January 1986, and, in both countries, the currency used is the Euro.

Historically, and in a very simplistic way, Portugal was part of Spain. And I say simplistically, because Spain itself as we know it today, was a congregation of Kingdoms. Portugal was part of one of those kingdoms, Galicia, Leon and Castile. The Portuguese County was a small territory given to Teresa of Leon, daughter of the King Afonso IV of Galicia, Leon and Castile as a wedding present. Her son, Afonso Henriques, claimed the throne and by the Zamora Treaty, Portugal was declared a sovereign kingdom.

After that, the two countries grew independently and today they are quite different.


Although both Portuguese and Spanish come from the same origin, Latin, they both evolved differently and are two distinct languages. Some words may indeed be similar, but that does not mean the two languages are the same or even that Spanish people understand Portuguese and vice versa.

Culture & food

Spain and Portugal may share some cultural links. The Mediterranean culture, the influences of Romans, Moors and many others. But with time, both developed their own traditions and culture. For example, the Portuguese don’t dance flamenco, so putting that type of music in a video about Portugal, it’s not going to be good. As well as if you are showing some images of Madrid with Amália Rodrigues, one of the most famous fado singers, Spanish people will laugh for sure.

The Portuguese don’t eat tapas. That’s typical in Spain. The Portuguese equivalent, even though with totally different dishes is “petiscos” or “nibbles”.

So, next time you hear about Portugal, remember it is not Spain, it has it’s own language, culture and music. Maybe you can even visit both countries on your next holiday and see for yourself the beauty both countries have to offer.