Is this country for you?
I am the least Portuguese out of all the Portuguese people you’ll ever meet.
I like discipline, punctuality, and early mornings. I don’t like the beach, a slow pace, or late nights.
It’s no surprise I moved out of my country as soon as I could. In the last 12 years, I lived in France, the UK, and Hungary.
But I just moved back to my home country.
There are aspects of living in Portugal that get on my nerves every day, but I have to admit: there are also some pretty nice things about living here.
Let me tell you about some of them.
People Are Nice
We have our fair share of idiots too, but tell me a place that doesn’t.
When I lived in Budapest, I was scared of the cashiers in the supermarket. I never saw any of them smile. I suspect they are a special breed who was born without that basic skill.
But in Portugal, it’s the opposite. Most people are nice and helpful. They are open and engage in conversations. They welcome you enthusiastically and go a long way to make you feel comfortable.
After these years abroad, sometimes I get confused. I meet someone and half an hour later it feels like we’re best friends. Weird. But better than stumbling onto barriers with everyone you meet, right?
The Country Is Safe
Once, I was in Lisbon with three friends who had recently arrived in Portugal for their studies. One was from Russia, one from Guatemala, and another from Mexico.
I swore to them that Portugal is a safe country.
In the three following weeks, the three of them were mugged.
But this is the exception, not the rule. I swear.
Portugal is the 4th safest country in the world, only behind Iceland, New Zealand, and Denmark. Life is truly safe here.
You can walk the streets at night alone without getting scared. It’s super rare to hear stories of anyone being robbed. And even if something happens, it’s almost never a violent crime.
The Food Is Good
The Portuguese follow a healthy Mediterranean diet.
We have good produce and cook it simply but deliciously.
Seafood, fishes including the most typical bacalhau (codfish), fresh fruits and vegetables are all part of Portuguese daily meals. We also have great wines, not just the Porto you might have heard of.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years. Although traditional Portuguese cuisine includes a lot of fish and meat, the veggie scene has exploded here in recent years. There are always new restaurants popping up and the traditional ones now usually have at least a vegetarian or vegan dish on the menu.
We have a sweet tooth and a vast array of cakes and desserts to satisfy it. Our pastelarias (cake shops) are the best out of all the 35+ countries I ever visited. Ok, France is also amazing. But except for the French, nobody else comes close.
The Weather Is Sunny
Lisbon gets an average of 3000 hours of sun per year. To put it in perspective, Rome gets 2500, Paris 2000, and London 1400.
The further south you go in Portugal, the higher this number gets. This is one of the reasons why the Algarve is full of European pensioners enjoying the warm weather.
The temperature is usually mild and it rarely drops below zero. You can enjoy bright blue skies for most of the year, even in winter.
But there is a catch, as I explain in this article. Usually, apartments don’t have heating, so it gets chilly inside from December through March.
It’s (Kind Of) Affordable
For decades, Portugal was the most affordable country in Western Europe. But in the past years, everything got more expensive: groceries, restaurants, rent.
Lisbon is still cheaper than most Western European capitals. I went to Germany last month and paid 5€ for each coffee. In Portugal, you can still have espressos for 0,60€ or a cappuccino for 2€. You can eat out for 12€ and a night out will be much cheaper than an evening at a pub in London.
But it’s not a cheap heaven anymore, especially if you earn a Portuguese wage. However, many of the foreigners here come with a foreign salary. They are digital nomads or people who can work remotely for companies abroad. If this is your case, you can get a very decent quality of life here.
After living in 4 countries, I realized that every place has something to offer. The real question is: is that offer what you want?
Denmark is the best country in the world to raise kids. But I am a single woman without any intention of having babies, so why would I care?
Portugal is not a place to get rich. It’s not where you should come to if you value rules, punctuality, or productivity. But we are very good at all the points mentioned above. If those are your thing, you might have just found your place.