Why *NOT* to move to Portugal

Hi there, Brady here, and I wanted to talk about some of the recurring themes I saw from people who did not like their moves to Portugal.

Caveat – we’re not even there yet. This could all be some kind of horrible mistake that we regret – well, not really regret, but more feel like that Portugal just isn’t the place for us. I’ll never regret trying something new that seemed like a challenge.

In my research on what we’re hoping is going to be our new country, I ran into a Facebook group that had people who were returning from Portugal back to the US, for various different reasons. I started seeing some patterns in there, and while our time over there was just wonderful for us, I was wondering what types of problems folks were running into. I eventually found that group to just be a little bit ‘sad’ so I decided to unfollow it. But here’s what I learned, combined with what worked well for us:

Learning the Language

If you’re going to talk to Portuguese people, you should learn the Portuguese language. And not Brazilian Portuguese (though that’s much better than nothing). If you learn European Portuguese, you’ll be able to talk to pretty much everyone. If you learn Brazilian Portuguese, you’ll definitely be able to understand and talk to the many, many Brazilian folks you’ll see around town. But you’re going to have a very hard time understand the European Portuguese folk who run a lot of shops, bars, restaurants, you name it. I know, Duolingo offers Brazilian Portuguese as an option. Don’t do it. The difference between the two is, like…the difference between Cockney English and, I dunno, Cajun English. I can’t come up with a metaphor that’s strong enough. But the European Portuguese folks will very likely be able to understand Brazilian Portuguese. You just won’t be able to understand them, at all. It’s all going to sound like “MoozhMoozhMoozhMoozh.” So take the time, spend the money, learn European Portuguese. It’s hard, but I think it will be worth it.

Don’t Move to Portugal Because it’s Cheap

First off, yes, it kinda is in a lot of places. Groceries, meals, drinks – all much less expensive than in the US. But generally what I’ve seen is that people who move to Portugal just for cost reasons tend to have a bad time. You won’t be able to be in a city center. You’re going to be dealing with rural folk, if you want cheap real estate. In major cities, you’re going to be paying prices that aren’t exactly US prices (and this is us coming from San Diego, not a cheap city), but you’re still going to be paying. Make sure to do your math.

And there are lots of hidden costs that will get you, anyways. Energy is pricey. VAT is a pretty gnarly tax on just about everything. Taxes are going to be unpleasant. And the hidden tax on everything – massive amounts of red tape and paperwork – needs to be taken into consideration as well.

Don’t get me wrong, Portugal has a lot of things that are wonderful and inexpensive, and I can’t wait for us to get here at the end of May. But if you move there just to save money I feel like you’re just not going to get a lot out of it.

Don’t “Bubble” Yourself

If everywhere you go is “ex-pat” meetups, you’ve already lost. We met wonderful people (caveat: in Lisbon, so they’re going to be pretty metropolitan already), from Portugal, and the former colonies, and elsewhere. At this time we don’t have any need nor desire to go to any ex-pat meetups. If we meet an American while we’re out in the world, that’s great! Saude! But I just can’t see the desire to do that for us. There’s plenty here already. We’ve had plenty of great conversations with tourists from Italy, Germany, and the States. We’ve had great conversations with Portuguese folks. There’s no need to do these things unless you just want to whine about how you can’t get Ranch dressing. I think your time is better served looking forwards. I can’t guarantee that we’ll never attend such a thing, because, hey, it might be nice sometimes. But we’ve spent a few months over there and never felt any need to attend any such thing.

Social Conservatives might have a rough time

The political system over there seems pretty fluid, but right now is dominated by pretty left-wing parties. I’ve met a few of the folks on their ‘right’ and they would look like absolute commies relative to the right in the states. You can probably maintain the fiscal conservative, libertarian-ish tendencies and do okay (though, as I mentioned, totally outvoted at this time). But if you’re a social conservative – don’t like gay marriage, don’t like trans people, stuff like that – you’re just going to hate it there. Don’t bother. And, furthermore, honestly, I just don’t want you there. They’re there, I’m sure, and you can probably find them, but I just don’t think you’ll be comfortable. And, again, I actually just don’t want you there.

Don’t come if you can’t handle inconvenience

Love the place, can’t wait to get there, but let’s be honest – some stuff is annoying. Trying to just buy a ticket for the metro using a credit card can sometimes be a pain; cash ends up being easier. And I hate cash. Paperwork is everywhere. You’re not going to be able to find the brands of things you’re used to. Some things that you can handle in an hour in the States will take you weeks over there.

And I really do hate that. As someone who very likely has undiagnosed ADHD, handling things like paperwork and lines and waiting are not at the top of my skillset. But I can tolerate it for being there; it’s worth it to me. You have to figure out if that’s going to make you nuts, or if you can manage to somehow just handle it. I’m hoping I can.


I really do think that Portugal is a lovely, wonderful, warm place, and I can’t wait to get there soon. I’m prepared for what’s coming – there’s the known unknowns that I’ll figure out, but the scarrier part is the unknown unknowns – and I have no idea what those may be, hence the name. But we’ll do our best and give it our best shot. You should do the same – go there in earnest, try to be there in earnest, and I think you will have a great time. If you don’t do the work, or you aren’t there for the right reasons, I think you’re going to have a bad time. And nobody wants that – not them and definitely not you.

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