Growing up having Portuguese descent from both sides means a double dose of the culture, traditions and mannerisms. I’m so Portuguese that my parents even had the same last name before they got married because it is such a common name in Portugal. So over the years, here’s what I’ve accumulated as the telltale signs that you’re Portuguese:
1. You put onions in everything.
According to my mom, the reasoning for this is because “onions make everything taste good!” Seafood is the token of Portuguese cuisine, so a popular, traditional Portuguese meal like baçalhau (codfish) would not be served without thinly sliced yellow onions. Garlic is also widely used.
2. If you’re female, Maria is somewhere in your name.
Two of my dad’s three sisters first names were Maria and the other one’s middle name was Maria. When they immigrated to America from Portugal, the two Marias changed their legal first names to their given middle names. For example, Maria Veronica would become Veronica Maria. This is not just my family, this is a widespread practice across Portugal because the Portuguese are very religious and the name “Maria” refers to the Mother Mary.
3. You talk loudly.
This is not just an Italian thing. Perhaps it’s also because my family immigrated to the East Coast, so we’re all New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, but I’ve had friends come over for family parties and be totally wiped out by the end of it just from all the noise. Portuguese people have a way of sounding like they’re mad or yelling at you, but when you say “stop yelling at me” they just say at an even louder volume, “I’m not yelling, I’m just talking!” It’s quite the adjustment coming from a family with very few relatives or as an only child and marrying into a big Portuguese family. Kudos to those who can handle it.
4. You don’t believe Brazilian Portuguese is real Portuguese.
This is a long-standing controversy. The Portuguese language from Portugal is totally different from the Portuguese language in Brazil. Not only are there different catch phrases and accents, but there are just different words entirely. When I worked in Disney World, my name tag indicated that I spoke Portuguese, but that doesn’t mean I was equipped for the hordes of Brazilian tour groups. I would call my mom asking what a certain word that they would use meant and she would click her tongue and say “must be a Brazilian word, that’s not Portuguese.”
5. People ask why you’re white.
You don’t realize how uneducated people are about Western European geography until you tell them you’re Portuguese. People seem to forget that Portugal in Europe is a country and think that Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country and furthermore, they seem to think all or most Brazilians look Hispanic. It’s even funnier to see the look on people’s faces when I tell them my father was born and raised in Western Africa (in a Portuguese colony) and they have a total Karen from “Mean Girls” moment.
6. People think you’re Italian.
A lot of Portuguese surnames start with ‘de’ just like a lot of Italians. However, ‘de’ in Portuguese means ‘of’ and ‘of’ translates to ‘di’ in Italian. Since most people don’t know the difference and since New Jersey is the state with the third highest percentage of Italians, and being that we share the conversational volume control problem, people just assume we’re Italian.
7. You have at least one decorative rooster in your house.
The “galo,” or rooster, is a very common emblem of Portugal. From what I counted, we have five in my house, but I’m sure there are more tucked away. I actually didn’t know this until I looked it up, but it is called the “Galo de Barcelos” because it is crafted in that city and it celebrates the legendary tale of a dead rooster proving the innocence of a man who was sentenced to death. This is the souvenir you take home if you make a visit to Portugal.