You might not know the Algarve, but you definitely need know this region of Portugal. The Algarve—which is located in the south of the country—has many things to offer tourists, including spectacular beaches, scenic views, and seafood delicacies. Aside from tourist season, though, the Algarve is an excellent place to live and work.
As a region in Portugal, the people of the Algarve share similar social etiquette as the rest of the country. The Portuguese tend to be one of the more conservative peoples in Western Europe; they maintain some degree of formality when they’re talking to each other. In this vein, they treat each other and tourists with politeness and respect. This politeness is intensified in the case of senior citizens and authority figures.
The locals are warm and welcoming, and they accept others—tourists and expats alike—with open arms (and offers of food). If you ask them for help—or even just stand around looking like they’re lost—they will definitely help you out. To connect with them better, it’s preferable if you learn Portuguese, even if you’re only staying in the country for a few days. The locals will definitely be happy that you tried to connect with them linguistically, and it will give you guys something to talk about.
There is a large community of expats in the Algarve. Although they were pulled in by the prospect of beautiful beaches and lovely weather (indeed, it’s said that Portugal has one of the world’s most comfortable climates), they’ve no doubt been entranced by social and work relationships in the region. Here, there is no pressure to be constantly working, or constantly tied to one’s electronic devices. The people are more relaxed than in large urban centers like Lisbon or New York.
Culture of the Algarve
Portuguese, the main language of the people, is a Romance language, and as such is related to French and Spanish. Although the vast majority of Portuguese speak their native tongue as a first language, you’ll find that—within the tourist spots of the Algarve region—many people speak English as well. Don’t take this for granted, though; not a lot of English is spoken in those regions of the Algarve which are not considered popular tourist destinations.
Although the people of Portugal are mostly ethnic people who speak Portuguese—and 90-something percent of whom are Roman Catholic—in recent decades the country has been taking on thousands of immigrants. The biggest immigrant populations are coming in from Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, China and the Ukraine. There are also many Macanese in Portugal; these people are descended from the interracial Chinese/Portuguese relationships of their forebears.
Despite the inferences from the Portuguese culture, the Algarve has its own distinct, vivid culture as well. You can still see signs of the former Arabic dynasty in the region, for instance. The infrastructure, for example, features narrow, winding streets, and many buildings are ornamented with Arabic designs. Algarve maintains much Arabic influence from the former North Africa dynasty that took over the region. Many towns—such as Albufeira and Alfambras—still have Arabic names.This is hardly surprising, as the Arabs had a foothold in the country for some five hundred years.
There are many festivals and carnivals in the Algarve region. The people of Algarve put a lot of time into planning these huge events, so that’s something you definitely need to check out. There are also dozens of galleries. In addition, the region offers many museums, such as a nautical museum, a Jewish history museum, a science museum and gallery, an archaeological museum, and a museum that explores the sea and the life forms within it. The archaeology found in the region comes from many different places, representing the diverse history of the Algarve and Portugal more generally. In style, it is Gothic, Moorish, and Roman, as well as Portuguese.
Moreover, the region features many panoramic castles and churches. You can also find terrific ceramics, premium lace, and flat baskets woven from the leaves of palm trees made by very skilled artisans. Further, on the dance scene, the Algarve region is home to the Corridinho. Although this form of dance is performed in other parts of the country, it is particularly important in the Algarve. It is augmented with music from the accordion and the triangle.
On the recreational scene, there are many fun activities available in the Algarve: restaurants, pubs, sports centers, and golf clubs, to name a few. The region is particularly known for golfing. This makes sense, since there are a lot of retired people living in the Algarve, and golf tends to be largely a generational activity.
The region also has positively delightful wildlife, such as colorful birds, cork trees, and flowers that bedeck the hills and the two walls. The Via Algarviana—a foot route that runs for more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) through the beauty of the region—is something else you shouldn’t miss.