Portugal's prestige and economy have never regained the heights they reached during the golden ages of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Yet although it remains one of the EU's weakest economies, Portugal is a remarkably unified country - there are no minorities agitating for independence, while rivalry between the north and south consists of little more than gentle mockery. Indeed, Portugal is generally a very tolerant nation and has integrated a substantial population from its former colonies in Africa, Asia and Brazil with relative ease.
Contemporary Portuguese tastes are influenced by the flavours, sounds and styles of Brazil, Angola and Mozambique in particular.
It’s a Catholic country – there are ancient churches in every community – and while support for the institutions of the Church may have waned, a belief in traditional values remains. The Portuguese have embraced contemporary life without ever quite getting rid of the more appealing aspects of previous centuries. Fully wired town centres have WiFi hotspots and cell-phone shops by the score, but they also have a butcher, a baker and (quite literally) a candle-stick maker. Children will be both seen and heard at any time of the day or night, as the family remains at the centre of most things.