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Living in Portugal – An Insider’s Guide

Living in Portugal, Streets

Living in Portugal is a trending topic on Google. As locals, we understand the appeal to the many arriving from the US, Brazil, and Eastern nations. We couldn’t help but give you an insider’s guide on living in Portugal – the good, the bad, and the bits no one tells you about. While you can easily find dozens of expat influencers covering specific areas, we’ll bring a few missing spots to light.

Our perspective is not only of a group of professionals who live in Portugal – and Brazil – but also as former expats ourselves. So before you start booking your flights, the following few lines come from a kind, transparent place and are intended to help you understand the complete story.

Living in Portugal – The Good

Living in Portugal, Streets

Let’s start with the obvious: the weather. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that living in Portugal is fantastic due to its weather. We tend to agree, depending on your current location. Winters have been milder, and Summers haven’t been as torrid as previous years. That said, it’s a nice place to live where you can go outdoors all year round.

People are friendly, but they used to be more tolerant. There’s no way around it – we face extreme challenges, particularly in the housing front and the immense pressure on public services. Some people find Portuguese to be very self-centered, and somewhat rude. Our perception of corruption is amongst the highest across developed nations, so take this as a caution retail, but also as something you have to know how to deal with – or ignore, altogether.

The number of expats living in Portugal exploded in recent years, and no one was ready for it. Rent prices in Portugal are now among the highest in Europe, particularly in cities like Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Funchal (Madeira Island). You can move outside the large urban centres, but need to come to terms with the shortage of public transportation and infrastructure.

Overall, you’ll still feel welcome if planning to live in Portugal, but keep a hanging note that the mood seems to be changing, and with far-right parties and ideology on the rise, we don’t expect it’ll get any better soon. We understand this results from years of social injustice and nepotism – particularly in the labour market – but remain concerned about the future.

Living in Portugal – The Bad

We mentioned a few lesser-than-fantastic bits about living in Portugal, but let’s place further focus on the downsides of living in Portugal for a moment. We have structural issues that can make anyone think twice about moving, and some of which make Portugal a nation where young generations have constantly opted for moving and living abroad. It’s not an opinion, the stats prove it.

Wages are low, and taxes are high. There, we said it. If you expect to own a company or even freelance, expect surprises by the thousands of euros and high labour costs. We know what you’re thinking – you already pay high taxes as it is – but you’ll slowly start to feel frustration eat you up when healthcare, education and many other areas don’t rise up to the level of expense.

Corruption is still our Achilles’ heel, and nepotism is deeply rooted in our society. Need something done? Someone will know someone. Need to get things done faster? Then you need to do something for that someone. The parallel economy is strong, and with such a high tax burden, every single chance anyone has to escape it, they will. Justice? It’s a notion, a concept, rather than a system that works towards a democratic, fair society.

Again, Portugal is amongst the top European nations where corruption is more clearly perceived.

The housing costs, along with everything else high inflation brought, keep challenging us. A decent apartment can cost €2.000/€3.000 a month in Lisbon and Porto, or you can settle for far less, but do understand there are significant issues with mobility and access to some of the basics you’d expect while living in Portugal.

Buying a car in Portugal is particularly expensive, with models costing thousands of euros more than Spain and other southern European nations. Used cars cost an arm and a leg, and there are endless scams. The same can be said for petrol and energy, consumer goods, and the endless pile of taxes, big and small, that keep dripping from everyone’s pockets.

Speaking of energy and aligning it with corruption, houses are poorly insulated, meaning noise, extreme cold and heat will be your companions. Good luck finding someone to fix a house for you, as you’ll definitely need to know someone – who knows someone – and trust your money into their hands.

Challenges No One Tells You About Living in Portugal

Living in Portugal, The Bad

We seem to keep prioritising the wrong things. Instead of productivity, we focus on the status quo, and you’ll have difficulty finding another European country with as many luxury cars on the road. Bought used or through a company. Our life’s perspective places family and friends at the centre of everything we do – and at that point, we do welcome expats if they make an effort – but most would still sell their mom for a Mercedes.

Jokes aside, our country is not an easy place for self-initiative. Creating wealth is challenging when the taxman takes 48% off everything you make above €84k/year. In comparison, such a threshold of richness comes above €300k/year in Spain. We still have a long way to go in terms of political strategy, considering the Socialist tendency we’ve witnessed in the past 30 years.

Living in Portugal in 2024 should bring some core changes, and not all for the best.

Is Portugal a Good Place to Live?

Yes, but. If you already live in a developed nation, you’ll feel the hardship of over-stretched public services you’ll pay with your hard-earned money and taxes. The previous tax incentive for Non-Habitual Residents recently came to an end, and while investment was very welcome in that period, it grew too fast, too far, leaving profound asymmetries that will take years to fix.

Most of our team would welcome a move abroad again, with preferences for nations that can offer more and better green spaces, public services and transportation. We want to see more rigour and honesty from leaders, companies and services, both public and private. If anything, we don’t feel our mentality has evolved at the same pace as other EU countries.

We are still highly dependent on EU funds and have very little understanding of the concepts of how to create wealth. Companies still struggle to be competitive and are highly demotivated by high taxes and heavy bureaucracy. It’s far easier to open and run a company in many other countries than it is to do so in Portugal. At any corner, we find invitations to mediocrity, dishonesty, and the sense that it’s simply not worth the sacrifice.

The insistence of those who stay relate mostly to personal reasons, mainly family, cultural heritage, and language. Other than that, no measure of warm weather and comfort food will convince us that living in Portugal is easy and as appealing as many influencers make it to be. In fact, many expats, including Americans, are now leaving due to many of the reasons stated here.

Take our opinion with a pinch of salt – it is and remains only an opinion. We’ve experienced life on more than one side of the many fences out there. And while we love this bit of land, we surely won’t make it sound like it’s all rainbows and roundabouts.




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