I arrived in Portugal in 2016 with my wife and our then 3 year old daughter in tow. Our personal reasons for choosing Portugal as our home were the great weather, amazing beaches, and decent international schools. We were curious if our motivation for choosing Portugal was similar to others so we reached out to the members in our Expat group to find the answer. What we learned was eye opening. While many shared our appreciation for the beach lifestyle, it was rarely their primary incentive. Often not even in the top 3. So what were their priorities?
“Having been born and lived in the United States all of my life, I’ve reached the point where I can no longer accept the toxic normalization of wanton violence “ – David Delaney
The most common factor for leaving the States was the inherent feeling of feeling vulnerable. They were concerned about their own safety but also that of their children going to school.
“Our biggest reason to choose Portugal was to not start a school year thinking about bullet proof backpacks and active shooter drills, really looking forward to having normal parent worries on the first day of school (will they make friends, do they like their lunch, are they doing well in their coursework).” – Steven Myers
With the sheer amount of school and mass shootings that seem to be in the news regularly, it’s no wonder this is the main reason given for moving to Portugal. Portugal was rated the 3rd safest country in the world in 2019, so if safety is a concern, Portugal is the answer.
“It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even have any conversation with a friend or neighbor without it turning into an argument about politics. The art of conversation has been lost and everything now seems to be politically motivated. I’m just so tired of it.” – Wendy Shaw
As everyone knows, the politics of the U.S. can be alienating. You’re either with us or against us and if you’re anything in between you’re part of the problem. Many are finding themselves fighting with friends and family over politics, such as whom they’re supporting for President or political correctness. This is causing a political divide of sorts which simply doesn’t exist in Portugal.
“I hope fellow Americans continue coming to Portugal with everything that makes them who we are, contributing to the country’s diversity, just like the Brazilians and others. There is one thing I do hope they leave behind: any polarized and toxic way of debating politics.” – Jacob Neets
While Portugal politics can be interesting, they tend to spark debate rather than fighting. Americans who move to Portugal are welcomed with open arms but requested to leave their divisive political opinions at the door. Many moved to Portugal to get away from such things and bringing up politics in every conversation is frowned upon by other expats.
“Access to affordable health care. One of my greatest concerns is bankruptcy due to medical care/expenses In the United States.” – Lynn Harshbarger
The high cost and high numbers of underinsured and uninsured means many people are at risk of becoming financially destitute should they get sick even once. On top of this, the US healthcare system tends to delay or deny high-quality care for those who cannot afford it.
“Even with Health insurance our deductibles are so high, we can’t afford to get sick.” – Marylou Mills
Portugal has both a public and private healthcare system. The public healthcare system is good but tends to be a bit slow and the majority of the individuals working there tend not to speak English. With private healthcare being so affordable, often Expats choose private healthcare where there is typically no waiting, everyone speaks English, and the monthly rate is reasonable. For example, we pay €135 a month for our family of three.
#4 Slower pace of Life
“We were tired of the rat race of the US where everyone lives to work instead of working to live. We wanted to enjoy our lives again.”- Jennifer Roberts
The hustle and bustle of life in the US is great when you’re young and just starting out, but for anyone wanting to step off the treadmill, Portugal has a lot to offer; beaches, hiking, fishing, and more golf courses than you can shake a stick at.
“We were lured to Portugal by the peace and quiet of our rural quinta (farm) and the Portuguese, who are laid back people with good old fashioned values.”- Michael Osbourn
There is no doubt the Portuguese way of life is slower in general than that of Americans. That said, it does take awhile to adjust to because sometimes things are a little TOO slow. For example, getting builders to show up on time for renovations can sometimes be a challenge. Everything seems to take longer than expected to get done as people seem to care more about spending time with family and friends than working. This of course gives you, or maybe forces you, the opportunity to chill out and do the same.
#5 Buying Property
“I could never afford a beach front property in the US, but in Portugal my dream became a reality.” – Marcus Reves
Property in Portugal does tend to be significantly less expensive than in many other countries, including the US. With the strength of the US dollar buying property in Portugal is becoming even more affordable for Americans. Many who aren’t ready to make the move permanently are purchasing properties for summer vacations and using the property to generate income by renting it out when they’re not using it.
“We found our dream home in Lisbon, which is probably the coolest capital in Europe. It has all the nightlife, restaurants and beaches we could hope for.” – Jenny Jones
With borrowing rates being less than half of the US, foreigners are flocking to Portugal to get their mortgages approved and buy their little piece of paradise. Americans can typically get approved with a 25-30% deposit and a 2.5-3.5% mortgage rate.
#6 Beaches & Sunshine
“Coming from New York, our winters can be horrendous. We chose to escape the bitter cold by flying to Portugal for 6 months every year.” – Giles Manning
With 300+ days of sunshine each year and 84 blue flag beaches, it’s easy to see why snowbirds choose Portugal.
“We want a place with weather that is not too cold and dark or hot and muggy for many months on end. Somewhere we can spend more time outside enjoying the fresh air and Portugal seems to have that in spades.” – Steven Whyte
The quality of life in Portugal does appeal to the outdoorsy type. There’s so many beaches, hiking trails, and places to explore outside, you’re not likely to run out of places to explore and things to do.
#7 The Portuguese People
“Now that we finally arrived in Portugal, I can’t imagine ever living anywhere else. We love the people most of all. The sense of community is overwhelming and something we haven’t felt for years in the states. And yes, we had friends we adored…but it’s different here. I don’t think it’s something you can explain. You have to experience it yourself.” – Margaret Spicer
As a group, the Portuguese people have been the most welcoming of any country I’ve ever lived in before. Not only do they go out of their way to make us feel welcome, most speak English making it easy to communicate with them and make new local friends.
#8 Cost of Living
“Living in the US sucks every penny from my pension whereas in Portugal I have a fuller life and still have a little left at the end of each month.” – Dale Mason
Whether we’re talking about going out for dinner, buying a house, healthcare, or almost anything (fuel/electricity being the exception) Portugal’s cost of living is significantly cheaper. Rent prices are 110.67% higher in the US, restaurant prices are 78.24% higher in the US, and local purchasing power in the US is 108.05% higher than Portugal.
“With the price of ordering food on the rise and wait staff requiring a 20-30% tip on top, we rarely ate out. In Portugal we can eat out a few times a week without breaking the bank.” -Diane Breen
While you can easily find mouth wateringly good Michelin star restaurants, Portugal has a wonderful “prato do dia” or “plate of the day” option as well. These delicious options are often served in local Portuguese owned restaurants and typically include bread, coffee, wine, your main dish, and a dessert for around €10-15 euros tops. While you’re free to tip what you want, 5-10% is typical for tourists while others round up to the nearest whole number.
“We can no longer afford The U.S. Financially, Emotionally, Psychologically, Physically, Politically, Spiritually, or Mentally.” – Emilie Grant
“I wasn’t shocked by the comments from the US on here over gun crime. That was a recurring theme with Americans we met at ex pat groups. We moved from the UK where we lived in a village with a virtually nil crime rate (a diesel theft made the local headlines). There are parts of Herefordshire where it is possible to stand and know the view has probably changed very little in hundreds of years. In our area alone there are 46 miles of medieval homes, so a lot to love. We also love the village culture and community BUT as a result of a childhood accident, lung problems my husband had got increasingly worse with age (aggravated by the agricultural area we lived in). The cold and rain also got to us, winter seemed endless. We spent time in Portugal before we moved nearly three years ago, and the change in his physical condition with the good weather and daily physical exercise on the coast was truly amazing. We will spend the summer in the UK, rest of the time at our home in Portugal. I would add to the above the ex pat community is vast, there is always a social event, the beaches and food are marvellous, rail network great, and the people are so friendly. Low crime rate was also a consideration. Best decision we ever made.” – Jan Mari
There are many good things about the US that can’t be ignored. It still remains a country of great opportunity, innovation and beauty. However as political division, rising costs, and unrelenting mass shootings dominate the news daily, many are finding solace in Portugal. What’s your reason for moving to Portugal?
“Why Portugal?!? Slow and easy lifestyle, friendly and hospitable people, lovely country, few political extremists, great history, beautiful cities and towns, amazing architecture, fine food and wine. Need I say more.” – Stuart Black
Scott Kirk is the owner of BuyProperty.com and the online communities “Moving to Portugal” and “Expats in Portugal Q&A” which helps over 400,000 members relocate to sunny Portugal. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.