Cultural and social differences between Spain and Portugal

Jun 30, 2022 | Cultural dimension | 0 comments

In this blog you will discover the social and cultural differences between two highly developed countries, Spain and Portugal. These countries, although very close to each other, are at the same time similar and very different. We can then compare the countries using 5 Hofstede criteria: distance to power, individualism vs. collectivity, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long term vs. short term orientation.


Distance from power

The distance to power is a criterion that evaluates the population’s acceptance of the unequal distribution of power between the social classes and the workers, and therefore the relations at work.

Spain is one of the European countries with the highest social inequalities, almost three points higher than the EU average. An inequality in distribution that is accentuated in the lower brackets, producing very high levels of extreme poverty.

Portugal’s score on this size (63) reflects that hierarchical distance is accepted and those who hold the most powerful positions are allowed to have privileges for their position.


Individualism vs. collectivism

The second criterion we study is individualism; this means the commitment that workers have to the company and whether they behave individually or loyally towards the company. In France we have work that we can call individual, but that does not mean that there is no teamwork.

Spain, compared to the rest of the European countries (except Portugal), is collectivist. However, compared to other parts of the world, it is considered clearly individualistic. This has made Spaniards quite easy to relate to some cultures -mainly non-European- while other cultures can be seen as aggressive and blunt. On the other hand, teamwork is seen as something totally natural, employees tend to work in this way without needing a strong motivation from the management.

Portugal is also collectivist. This translates into a long-term commitment to the member group, whether it is a family, an extended family or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is fundamental, and exceeds most other social rules and regulations. The company promotes strong relationships in which everyone takes responsibility for the members of their group.


Masculinité VS féminité

The third criterion is masculinity or femininity: we are talking about the life ideals that drive people to make decisive choices. If a country tends to be male, it means that the population targets more on competition, results and success. On the other hand, if a country tends towards femininity, people will have ideals more about quality of life and social cooperation, thus respect and consideration for others.

The Spanish people today recognise the independence and autonomy of women. The status of women, women’s rights and their roles in society in Spain.

Women in Portugal have also received full legal equality with men through the mandate of the Portuguese constitution.


Avoidance of uncertainty.

The fourth criterion we analyse is the avoidance of uncertainty. This criterion assesses the way in which a country or society makes decisions to deal with the future, with concerns that might arise in an unknown moment.

If there is one dimension that defines Spain very clearly, it is the avoidance of uncertainty, as shown by a high score of 86. Spain is considered the second noisiest country in the world. People like to have rules for everything, changes cause stress, but at the same time they are forced to avoid rules and laws that actually make life more complex. Comparison is avoided as it causes a lot of stress and scale up to the personal level very quickly. There is a great concern for changing, ambiguous and undefined situations.

If there is one dimension that defines Portugal very clearly, it is avoiding uncertainty. Portugal has a score of 99 for this size and therefore has a strong preference for avoiding uncertainty. Security is an important part of individual motivation.


Long-term orientation VS short-term orientation

The last criterion is the long or short term orientation, we are talking about the capacity of the population but especially of the companies to adapt to changes. To have a long-term orientation is to accept social cultural shifts and embrace change. On the other hand, a short-term orientation means attachment to cultural traditions and thus to the country’s roots.

Despite an intermediate score of 48, Spain is a normative country. Spaniards like to live in the moment, without much concern for the future. In fact, Spain is the country that gave the meaning of ‘party’ to the world. In Spain, people are looking for quick results without delays. In addition, there is a need for clear structures and well-defined rules that prevail over more pragmatic and relaxed approaches to life, especially in the long term.

A low score of 28 indicates that Portuguese culture prefers normative to pragmatic thinking. People in such societies are very concerned with establishing absolute Truth; they are prescriptive in their thinking. They show a high respect for tradition, a relatively low propensity to save for the future, and an emphasis on achieving quick results.



These are, in short, the socio-cultural differences between Spain and Portugal, however, this analysis does not work on an individual basis but takes into consideration the broad trends of a population, with all its complexity.

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