Expat Stories: Interviews with Expats in Lisbon

Expat Stories: Interviews with Expats in Lisbon

When moving abroad, it is often helpful to ask fellow expats for advice. After all, they have all been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. They will be able to provide you with tips no online guide will, based on their own valuable experience and hard-earned life lessons. 


There is no doubt then that it is worth it to talk to someone who has relocated in the past when you plan to follow in their footsteps. But what if you don’t know anyone like that, and you don’t know where to find them?


Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! As a job board focused on helping multilingual candidates find a job abroad, we know thousands of expats who are happy to share their top relocation tips. 


Find out what a few of them had to say about living in Portugal:


Q: What were the stereotypes that you had about Portuguese people before arriving? Have you changed your mind after meeting them?


E1 (Expat 1): Honestly? One of the things I remember I kept hearing was the fact that Portuguese people are short and hairy. After meeting some, I think I know what people meant by that, but I would say that the new generations are different. People are much taller and even if the guys are hairy, they can take care of themselves (and they are soooo good-looking!).


E2: I thought they were welcoming, and they definitely are, even more welcoming than I thought.


E3: I thought they were more like the Spanish, but they are completely different. 


E4: The stereotypes I knew were: lazy, always late, and hedonistic.

It t doesn't have a positive connotation, as I experienced it as a student, but still, whenever you plan a meeting or a dinner reservation, you should allow at least 1 hour more, and hedonistic is not a bad thing - I enjoyed the lifestyle there and literally enjoyed life.

Q: What is your favourite food from Portugal?

E1: OMG, this is not a fair question when it comes to Portuguese food! There are so many, but I would say my number one is Francesinha, and I do love all the ways they prepare Bacalhao. They can make it in one thousand different ways and it's always delicious!


E2: Frango ao churrasco - a traditional dish of marinated grilled chicken and rice.


E3: They are specialists in fish and meat, and the food was very good. I recommend el Bolo de Bolacha, a cookie cake.  


E4: All seafood - the dried fish was amazing. The wine was a real highlight - I didn't expect such good red wines. 

Q: What is something surprising that you didn’t expect before moving to Portugal?


E1: In my case, it was learning Portuguese. I found it quite easy, and now it allows me to understand many different languages. Oh, and also that the Portuguese are soooo good at speaking English!


E2: They have the best coffee in Europe.


E3: Before going to Portugal, I was curious about the tradition of fado and the concept of nostalgia. Living there taught me to appreciate and understand their culture. They are extremely welcoming people and always willing to help. Sea people used to welcoming foreigners.


Q: What challenges did you face when adapting to a new culture and how did you overcome them?


E1: I think there were quite a lot of challenges back when I first moved to Portugal. A funny cultural aspect was that since my first day, people at school started to say hello and give me two kisses on the cheeks. For me, it was so strange because I didn’t even know them!

Later on, I discovered that this is normal behaviour when you meet new people in Portugal. Still, I tried to avoid it, as for me this is something reserved for people I’m closer with, not strangers.

Of course, I also had to accept the open-mindedness It really helped me adapt, as things are very different in the country I am from. 


E2: The biggest challenge was to deal with my shyness and get out of my comfort zone. However, I think I didn’t manage to overcome it completely, so I’m afraid that I wasn’t able to fully adapt to their culture.


E3: I had to adapt to the ups and downs, as a lowland person I was not used to it.


E4: Adjusting to the long lunch break and late evening classes 


Q: What advice would you give to fellow expats who are considering or are already living abroad in Portugal?


E1: I would say, do it! You have nothing to lose by moving to another country. In any case, you will gain a lot of new knowledge and will be able to learn more about a different culture. You will also step out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons.

And don't forget about your network! Meeting new people is always valuable. I don't think I have ever met someone who told me they don’t like Portugal, so just give it a try!


E2: Just be kind and try to create emotional bonds. I think that is the fastest way to get a connection with someone: friends, workmates etc.


E3: I advise the Portuguese not to lose their authenticity and spontaneity. They are very selfless sea people. 


E4: Just enjoy it and travel around in your free time. Portugal is also a great place for surfing.


Q: What is your most embarrassing story involving you trying to speak Portuguese? 


E1: So in Portuguese, there is the word pau-stick, and another one which is pão-bread. The sound of these 2 words is quite different, but it must be harder to hear for foreigners, so I kept hearing people in the bakery ordering sticks instead of bread!


E2: I confused the word pila in Spanish, which means battery, and pila in Portuguese, which means penis … so bad.


E3: Embarrassing story: bread is called pao pero. Spoken with a different accent, it means penis, so at the supermarket, I asked where to get some... you know.


E4: I didn't have a bad experience - I learned the basic words quickly. Most people speak English or Spanish, so you can get along quite well.


Q: What is your favourite place there?


E1: Portugal is a tiny country, but it has sooo many beautiful places, I cannot mention all! I love the ocean side, of course, because being in front of such fierce water is breathtaking, when you know you are standing in front of the Atlantic. 

But they also have amazing nature - one of the places not to miss is Gerês, this amazing natural park with waterfalls. But also, each city has something beautiful to offer.

And let’s not forget the islands! Just google them, and they will all go on your to-go list!


E2: Sintra.


E3: My favorite place in Lisbon is the royal prince's garden, where my giant tree is. 


E4: The most beautiful place for surfers and spending quality time with your friends: Ericeira


Q: Is living in Portugal expensive?


E1: You know, if we compare it to some other countries, I would say no… But if we talk about living there, receiving the Portuguese minimum wage, and living in the big cities such as Lisbon and Porto - yes. I think in the last few years, these two main cities became something impossible for locals.

Tourists love it, but is that enough? Although if you live somewhere outside of these big cities, it gets better, and also you can enjoy the amazing nature!


E2: Not really if you have a salary from abroad.


E3: Not at all.


E4: My experience is that the regional products are good and coming from Germany, I would say that life in Portugal is quite cheap in comparison.


Q: Is Portugal a good place to live?


E1: Definitely! You wanna party-party, you go to bigger cities. You wanna rest, you go more to the countryside and enjoy the beauty and calmness of the landscape.


E2: Yes.


E3: I would live in Lisbon because it's cheap, and there are so many scents enveloping the streets, food, and breathtaking views!


E4: To be honest, it is nice to live there for some time, but you can see that people are quite poor there. Every young Portuguese student I met wants to leave... so I guess the lifestyle is nice, but if you want to earn money, it is not the first choice.

Q: Why you should live in Portugal?


E1: One of the aspects is that Portugal is a safe country. I have been in other countries where I didn’t feel safe but in Portugal, I really do. People are always so nice and welcoming to you, everyone is willing to help anytime. 

Food is just amazing, especially in those little places where it’s prepared by locals.

You wanna ski in winter? You can!

You wanna swim in the summer? You can!

You wanna surf and see some of the biggest waves? Guess what - you can!

Portugal has endless possibilities for everyone, and of course, be prepared for football fanatics :)


E2: Good food and beautiful nature. 


E3: Portugal is very open to different cultures, and if you like nature and camping, it's a real paradise!


We have also consulted our experts at Europe Language Jobs to answer the most frequently asked questions about the technical aspects of living in Portugal. Find out how to find a job in Portugal, whether you need a visa to do it, what is considered a good salary there, and more!

Q: Do you need a visa to live in Portugal?


If you are a holder of a European passport, you do not need a visa to live in Portugal. If you come from outside of the EU, you will need the D-type visa for a long stay in the country. 


The visa requirements differ depending on your personal circumstances, the purpose and duration of your stay, and your nationality, so we recommend inquiring at your local Portuguese embassy or consulate to receive personalised, verified, and trustworthy information.

Q: How can a foreigner get a job in Portugal?


First of all, you don’t necessarily need to know Portuguese to find a job in Portugal. Job boards such as Europe Language Jobs list positions with languages in different sectors, allowing you to work abroad in your native language. 


Have a look at our jobs in Portugal and discover the variety of language jobs there.


As an EU citizen, you do not need any special permission to legally work in Portugal. If you come from outside of the EU, you will need to obtain a Portuguese work permit. You will also need the D-type visa to be able to find a job in Portugal.

Q: What’s a good salary in Portugal?


The minimum wage in Portugal in 2023 is €887. However, according to Salary Explorer, the average salary in Portugal is much higher than that, standing at €2750 monthly (€33000 yearly). 

Q: How many expats live in Portugal?


According to research by the Portuguese Migration Observatory (Observatório das Migrações), the number of foreigners in Portugal has reached its all-time record in 2021, nearing the benchmark of 700 000 for the first time. The number of expats in Portugal has been fluidly increasing since 2016


The current number of immigrants in Portugal represents 6.8% of the country’s total population. This data is collected based on the number of resident permits who have been granted by the Portuguese government. This means that everyone staying in Portugal illegally isn’t included in those numbers. 


Q: Is living in Portugal safe?


Portugal is a very safe country to live in. The 2022 Global Peace Index ranked it 6th in the world, and 5th in Europe, in terms of safety. 


We hope we - with the help of expats in Portugal - have answered all your questions about living in Lisbon. You were provided with four different points of view and various opinions about moving to Portugal. You can now analyse them and form your own conclusions based on what fellow expats have shared. 


A big thank you to everyone who has helped us create this article! And good luck to everyone who is about to start their adventure as an expat in Lisbon. 


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