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Country Information ++ Volunteer ++ Internship ++ Portugal

Country Information - Portugal

Little insight into Portugal as a country and in general, summed up by Students Go Abroad!

Capital : Lisbon

Population : 10,620,000 inhabitants

Government : Parliamentary Republic

Religion :ca. 92,200 km²

Area : ca. 92,200 km²

National Language : Portuguese

Unemployment : ca. 13.5 % (2015)

Size and Geography

Portugal is located in the south-west of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula ans also includes the Archipelago of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. In the north and east, Portugal boarders Spain, both countries sharing a frontier of 1,215 kilometers. In the south and west, the Atlantic Ocean forms the natural border. The total coast length is 1,793 kilometers.


Portugal has a total population of 10.6 million. The largest population density here is in the urban areas around the capital, Lisbon, and the economic city of Porto. The coastal areas and interior are less populated.

Between 85-95% of the Portuguese population profess to the Roman Catholic faith. In Portugal there is also religious freedom and official equality between religions. However, many important cultural institutions, such as the Catholic University of Portugal and private schools, are run by the Roman Catholic Church.

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. Brazil, Mozambique and Angola are some other countries where Portuguese is spoken. Due to the proximity to Spain, one might think that it is an offshoot of Spanish. This is by no means the case! Portuguese is an independent language and has more similarities to Italian than Spanish. English is spoken only by about 20% of the Portuguese, therefore only places with a large international visitors are bilingual.


Portugal stretches over several climatic zones. The north and center of Portugal belong to the temperate climate, which is significantly influenced by the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. The further you go into the interior, the influence decreases and the weather is more unstable. In the south of Portugal, in the Algarve, you’ll find a Mediterranean climate. This makes the south the main destination for sunbathing and swimming. Peniche is located north of Lisbon and thus in the temperate zone and, due to the big waves, is a hotspot for surfers.


Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Portugal’s long stretch of coast has always been an important and popular destination for sailors around the world and they all brought with them a piece of their culture. The influences of the Greeks, Romans, Moors and many more can still be felt today. Above all due to this favorable situation, the history of Portugal is characterized by territorial wars and struggles for political power.

2000 BC: Immigration of the Iberians

600 BC: Immigration of the celts (by mixing with the Iberians, the tribe of the Celtiberians was formed)

450 BC: Conquest by Cathage

1143: Portugal becomes independent

1256: Lisbon becomes the capital of Portugal

1498: Vasco da Gama discovers he sea route to India and concludes a trade agreement with the ruler of Calicut

1500: Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered and conquered Brazil

1536: The church introduces the Inquisition

1557: Portuguese fleet reaches China, Macau becomes trading base, Portugal is leading sea and trading power with colonies in South America, Africa, Arabia, India and China2008: Barack Obama becomes the first colored president

1580: The house Avis dies, Portugal falls to the Spanish line Habsburg and becomes Spanish province with loss of parts of its colonies

1640: The duke of Braganza successfully leads an aristocratic uprising against the Spanish rule and proclaims himself to King John IV

1668: Peace of Lisbon, Spain accept Portugal's independence

1949: Portugal becomes a founding member of the NATO

1955: Portugal joins the United Nations

1986: Portugal joins the European Community

2002: Portugal introduces the euro


The Portuguese government has been the parliamentary republic since the 1970s. The president is elected directly by the people every 5 years. He appoints the government, which consists of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. Added to this is the Parliament, which is also determined by the people every four years. The judiciary is the supervisory body.

Portugal was a founding member of NATO and has been a member of the UN since 1955. Since 1986 Portugal has been a member of the EU. Since then, Portugal has been one of the poorest early Member States of the EU. The recession caused by the Eurozone crisis has greatly impacted the economy. The most important economic factors are wine production and tourism.

Political Situations

Similar to the political system in Germany, the United States of America obtain the principal of division of powers. The USA are a presidential republic. At a federal level the congress is the law-making part. If a new law gets introduced, first of all the senate, as well as the Representative chamber, have to acquiesce. The president of the United States does have a lot of power, compared to the German one. The main difference is that the US-president does have a power of veto, which can only be outvoted if 2/3 of both houses vote against it. The United States and Germany have been in an amicable relationship for quiet a long time. The US always assisted Germany in political and economical ways, especially in the times after war. Until today they work together and are closely related.

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