Back to School in Portugal


I know that most of you are busy buying last-minute supplies and helping your children get over their nervous jitters about the upcoming school year.  In Portugal, school doesn’t get underway until mid-September, so families across the country are soaking up the last beach days.

Unlike in America, there are very few public kindergartens. Instead, most children go to private pre-schools that include a kindergarten year. One of my favorite traditions is that both the boys and girls in these schools wear smocks, called bibes, throughout the school day. These bibes allow the children to paint and color and play without worrying about damaging their clothing.

Throughout Portugal you can see children walking to school–either with their parents or grandmothers–in their smocks. When the weather is nice, entire classes of identically-clothed children head to the park. They navigate the streets in long lines and each child holds onto the smock of the child in front of him.

The tradition has stayed the same for decades, although the smocks have become more colorful. I especially love this photo of Isabel, the daughter of Filipa Tavora from our logistics and buying department, in her bibe.

Filipa's daughter

Another Portuguese school tradition that I value is that each school has a huge kitchen and staff who prepare home cooked lunches for all the students. Each meal starts with a soup and includes a main course of meat or fish or pasta and then ends with fruit. 

From the moment you drop off your child, you can smell  the aroma of these delicious home-cooked meals. For me, it’s a wonderful reminder of the importance of slowing down to enjoy sharing a meal together–a value that can be hard to come by in our time-pressed lives.

What are your favorite traditions at your children’s school?

2 Responses to “Back to School in Portugal”

  1. 1 Eugenia September 8, 2009 at 10:32 pm


    I have very limited time to spend on the computer but I am so enjoying your blog (even the word sounds strange to me). I do have a suggestion – could you have an “email” option so that I may forward it to other people? Perhaps there are others who are not so computer literate too. Your clothes are wonderful – almost as beautiful as my grandchildren………


    Eugenia Davis

    • 2 papodanjo September 9, 2009 at 1:46 am

      Dear Eugenia:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I think your idea for an email subscription is great and I’m going to look into how to make it happen.

      All best,


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