We spent several years considering whether we wanted to move abroad. We did our research and visited many wonderful countries. Portugal kept going to the top of our list over and over again. This small nation sitting in the southwestern part of Europe, bordered by Spain on the east and the Atlantic ocean on the west. If you look at it on a map, it resembles the state of California, but it is only about the size of Indiana.
If you’re looking for somewhere abroad to make a new home, consider making a visit to explore this beautiful country. Here are some of the reasons we chose Portugal when moving abroad.
1. Amazing Food
We admit it. Food is one of the most important aspects of our lives. Of course, writing about food and travel doesn’t just happen by accident. So when we started to consider places that we could move to, we knew there would have to be good quality food with fresh ingredients and enough variety to keep us interested. Portugal ticks all the boxes.
Incredible fresh seafood and produce, meats, dairy, bread, and bakery items are all plentiful in Portugal. Each region of the country has its own specialties, too, making it fun to explore. Everyday restaurants are affordable and delicious. And if we want to splurge on Michelin-starred dining, we have 28 restaurants from which to choose. We won’t even go into the phenomenal wine regions here. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
2. Friendly People Accepting Of Foreigners
Another consideration for us was how well we would be able to establish a new life when moving abroad. Fortunately, Portugal has a well-earned reputation for being warm and welcoming. This friendly attitude is extended to visitors as well as foreigners like us who decide to stay long-term in the country. We have had wonderful experiences with everyone from rideshare drivers to people we meet randomly at restaurants and walking in the park. There’s a special feeling of belonging that comes easily here, even if you have just begun to start a new life or are planning to retire in Portugal.
3. Diverse Landscapes
We love a variety of scenery. Landscapes that spark our enthusiasm include mountains, oceans, valleys, farmland and vineyards, rivers, lakes, and everything in between. Fortunately, Portugal has all of these landscapes and more. It’s not unusual to go from a sandy beach to a pine forest in less than an hour. Although we don’t miss the Midwest snow yet, if we find we need a dose of the white stuff, we can even head to the Serra da Estrela mountain range to make snowmen, go skiing, and sip hot chocolate by the fire. There is also Madeira and the Azores if we feel like an island getaway.
4. Abundant Arts And Culture
While Portugal may not be as familiar as its larger neighbor Spain, it has a long history of exploration. Arts and culture abound. No matter what interest we have, there are plenty of places we can go for education, information, entertainment, and sheer pleasure. The architecture is stunning, from churches and historical buildings to churches and even the tiles on railway stations. Portugal has symphony orchestras, ballet troupes, opera companies, live theaters, and cinemas. It has art museums as well as unique attractions celebrating Portuguese heritage, natural history, science, and even the sea. There is a lot of pop culture, as well, and we love the variety of options waiting for us to enjoy.
5. Temperate Weather
Many who spend cold, wet, snowy winters in places like Wisconsin and Chicago, as we did, eventually think about moving somewhere warmer. We like the temperate climate of Portugal, which varies around the country. Nearer the coastlines, the weather is cooler. The north can get quite cool and very wet in winter. Larger cities can be warmer and drier, as can the Algarve down south and some of the more inland areas. We like the fact that the temperature where we live is generally mild and not usually too hot. We definitely feel the seasons change, though nothing like back in the Midwest.
As we considered where to move abroad, a concern that became increasingly important was our personal safety. Not only do we have to consider the fact that we are a same-sex married couple, but we also began worrying about the increasing violence we saw happening around us.
Portugal is a peaceful country. We experienced no anxiety about gun violence, carjackings, and violent crime in general. Drugs have been decriminalized here and are not evident anywhere. We feel safe everywhere we have gone, including as two women alone walking in a city late at night. Many friends here feel the same. Portugal is LGBTQ friendly and has recognized same-sex unions since 2001 and same-sex marriage since 2010, when it was written into the country’s constitution. Importantly, in reality, we have not experienced any discrimination continue to feel safe.
7. Visa Requirements
Practical considerations sometimes have to take a place when choosing where to move abroad. One of the places we considered was Greece, where Diana has family associations but the process was long and onerous. Portugal has several different visas, each with its own requirements. For us, it was a rather straightforward process that took several months to prepare and only a month to get approved. It does not always happen that way, and as we often say, we’d rather be lucky than smart. But overall, the visa requirements were clear and we were successful with our first application.
8. Value For Money
While we would not want to mislead anyone that you can live for next to nothing in Portugal, the value and quality of life here is excellent. Housing can be expensive, as it can be anywhere, but the location, size, and amenities we have are comparable to those we had back in the United States. We can eat wonderfully well and enjoy wine and dessert for a reasonable price at local restaurants. Using public transportation is quite easy and saves a lot of costs. Also, there are so many places, activities, and experiences we can enjoy that cost us little or nothing that we have lots to keep us busy while also keeping to a reasonable budget.
9. Strong Expat/Immigrant Communities
It can be scary moving abroad, especially if you don’t speak the local language. Fortunately, Portugal has some wonderful expat and immigrant communities that we tapped into even before we arrived. Facebook groups, Meetups, and other groups of people who share common languages, interests, and locations are easy to find. Friends of friends who live in Portugal introduced themselves to us. From there, we met some of their friends, introduced them to some new friends we have made, and our own social circles keep expanding. We’re also happy to meet with others who are coming to Portugal on a scouting trip or just for a fun visit. We have met some that fell in love with Portugal the way that we have, and soon they will be joining us as friends here too.
10. World-Class City Centers
Enchanting villages and fairytale towns were certainly an attraction for us, as they are for many who choose to move to Portugal. But for day-to-day living, we need access to cosmopolitan cities with lots of amenities in the modern hubbub of life. With three major airports, one in each region, Portugal has accessible and vibrant major cities as well as the charm.
Lisbon is a world-class city center, with industry, technology, and every sort of business imaginable. It is the home of an annual Web Summit, which brings tens of thousands of technologists to the city to learn and advance the state of the art. Lisbon is a city that works. In the north, Porto is another phenomenal city, one that might be likened to San Francisco for its creative, somewhat less buttoned-down vibe. There are lots of resources in both cities.
Editor’s Note: Stuck between the two cities? Here are the key differences between Lisbon and Porto.
Beyond the established metropolises, areas like Oeiras are fast becoming home to corporate headquarters from around the world.
11. A Great Home Base
When deciding on where we could comfortably, practically, safely, and affordably live abroad, Portugal was the place for us. Being located in Europe, it provides a great home base for many of our travels. There is good infrastructure and transportation in place, making it easy for us to get around Portugal as well as to explore other parts of Europe. We can also fly from Lisbon non-stop to the United States, making visits to family and friends manageable.
These are just a few of the many reasons we chose Portugal when moving abroad. We love our new home and look forward to exploring its many wonders in years to come.