On Portuguese Humour

It’s no secret that I often poke fun at Portuguese peculiarities on this blog.  Truthfully, it’s difficult to resist, because they can be so delightfully odd, but in case you’re ever in doubt about the tenor of these jokes, I can assure you it’s all done in good spirit, perhaps made easier by the endearing fact that the Portuguese don’t shy away either from highlighting their own flaws and absurdities with considerable glee.
Today’s post is therefore a short one – a clip from a group of Portuguese emigrants in North America fondly mocking the eccentricities of their own culture.  I hope it serves as a nod to their ability to laugh at themselves.  Many nations can learn from them.

For more audio and video clips from the same group, click here.

If you’re interested in reading more about theories of humour  and in particular about the Portuguese sense of humour, here’s an interesting article (it’s in pdf) by the Estonia-based Journal of Folklore.  In short, when making fun of other cultures, the Portuguese employ a fair amount of superiority with a hint of malice (e.g. Two Brazilian tourists are visiting Rome and are admiring the Colosseum.  “Isn’t it amazing?” says the one.  “Yes,” replies the other. “Now just imagine when it will be finished!”), but when making fun of themselves, they tend to highlight the absurd and incongruous as a way to minimise and accept their flawsBut enough theory.  Here’s (from the paper) the final joke of the day:

The Heads of State of Portugal and Switzerland meet one another at a European Summit.
The Portuguese head of state introduces his delegation to the Swiss head of state. “These are my Ministers of Health, Education, Culture and Justice.”
“Pleased to meet you,” replies the Swiss head of state and turns to introduce his own team:  “These are my Ministers of Health, Agriculture, Education and the Navy…” he begins.
The Portuguese leader laughs in surprise. “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but… well… if Switzerland has no sea, why do you have a Minister of the Navy?”
“What do you mean?” replies the Swiss leader.  “I didn’t laugh when you introduced your Ministers of Health, Education, Culture or Justice, did I?”


2 responses to “On Portuguese Humour

  1. Hi!

    I found your blog yesterday and spent a good hour reading. It’s so much fun seeing my country through foreigners’ eyes, quirks included 🙂 I’ve been living in Sweden for 4 years now and I know how important it is to vent – I often use my blog for that! Luckily, Swedes can also be good at laughing at their own peculiarities, so I can get away with my venting.

    It’s been a while since you’ve written, hope Portugal is treating you well and that the house is coming along.

    P.S. I think you can probably add “touradas” (bullfighting) to the list of Portuguese vices. Luckily, they are only popular in the south of the country.


    • So nice to hear from you, Joana – I visisted your blog briefly and will certainly go back to see what’s happening in your strange world. You must miss the sun! We’ve been so busy with our project that I’ve been bad about updating the blog in the last few weeks, but I promise to write something soon.

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