What do French people think of Portugal & Portuguese people?

(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.
Greetings,
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:

  • Cristiano RonaldoThe 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. That’s what their Italian and Portuguese (and Argentinians, let’s not forget them) counterparts do. 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 few years (for the Euro Cup and the World Cup basically). When doing so, I just choose some good guys (England, Germany, Japan, Australia, Scotland, Cameroon) and some bad guys (Portugal, Italy, Spain, Argentina) 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.
  • That being said, I despise Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now, our topic.

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

So, concerning the Portuguese in France and their relationship with French people.

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). 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 some pretty good years for the country). As a consequence, almost one million Portuguese decided to flee their country and move to France. That’s a huge number by the way; 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?

 

Portuguese PeopleAs 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, integration can prove difficult. At first, racism against Portuguese people was strong. However, it faded quite fast (for the most part). Mostly because 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 construction workers. 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 that Portuguese immigrants could find. 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” into the general population, just like the Italians were before them.

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

 

(sources for the pictures : wikimedia)

Note: I originally wrote this post in 2011. I’m republishing it in the wake of the victory of Portugal over France during the Euro Cup 2016. That is the reason why there is no reference to that game… That and the fact that I currently live in Japan, and I didn’t see a single game of the championship. Not even yesterday’s finale. Similarly, the accuracy of playing style of a few national soccer teams mentioned in the text may be outdated.

 

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