Sep 5, 2023
An In-depth Look at the Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal
Portugal is the new hotspot for expats looking for a second home or a calm and sunny retirement. But what is the reality of moving to this foreign country and all the complex processes that may come with that? Like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to living in Portugal, detailed below.
But first, let’s start with a bit of information about the country of Portugal.
Portugal is a small country, located on the western most portion of the Iberian Peninsula that is shared with Spain. It’s surrounded by water, and has beautiful pristine beaches, ideal for swimming, surfing, sailing, kayaking, and many other kinds of water sports. Portugal is also full of natural beauty, with plenty of mountains and parks to explore.
This unique location gives Portugal several advantages. First, if you are living in Portugal and are doing business in the United States or Canada, the fact that Portugal is the closest European country to the US or Canada gives you an additional hour of business time compared to other major EU cities, such as Madrid, Spain, for example.
The second advantage of Portugal’s southern location is the weather. The summers are warm and dry, usually around 83°F (28°C) and rarely going above 94°F (34°C). Winters usually dip down in the mid-40s (average 4-10°C). So that means cool weather from November to January, very comfortable March through May and hot mid-May through September.
Partly because of the great weather, and because of the warm, friendly people and the good food and wine, Portugal has a great nightlife scene. Portugal also has a strong coffee culture, and coffee in small espresso cups are consumed throughout the day. There are small local cafes everywhere to sit and enjoy coffee and pastries with friends.
To sum up, Portugal has great weather, amazing beaches, beautiful landscapes, and coffee. Now let’s look at the day-to-day life there and if the pros of living in Portugal outweigh the cons.
Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal: The Pros
Portugal’s socioeconomic background and future outlook
Many people wonder if Portugal is a poor country and the short answer is yes, compared to its western neighbors. For example, the average wage in Portugal is €760, about half that of Germany.
Like many countries, Portugal suffered a recession during the pandemic. The country’s economy was negatively impacted for a long time, and then covid happened. However it bounced back after covid rather quickly, and in 2021 and the beginning of 2022 it had surpassed its prior GDP.
Today, Portugal’s future looks bright. There are a lot of large foreign companies that come to Portugal to expand their business, and the startup industry in Portugal is booming. Portugal has been setting up infrastructures such as coworking spaces and incubation programs, and has high-speed and reliable internet throughout the country, which is one of the reasons businesses and remote workers find it easy to relocate to Portugal.
Healthcare in Portugal
Portugal is known for its great healthcare. It scores higher than many of its neighbors, including France, Spain, Austria, Sweden, and Norway. The only countries rated higher are Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. It is ranked 17th in the world for quality of healthcare. Additionally, the public healthcare system is available to expats who become residents and is very affordable.
Many prefer to purchase health insurance as this allows them to get faster appointments and treatment from private healthcare facilities. Private healthcare in Portugal has a good reputation, even better than the public. It’s a good option for many, as a comprehensive health insurance package averages only about 70 euros per month.
Is Portugal Good for Retirement?
A study in 2021 of older individuals who consider themselves “well off” asked about the best countries for a comfortable retirement. Portugal came in 5th in the world. Ease of obtaining residency, a good healthcare system, good weather, and respect for property rights were all cited factors.
Portugal is Very Safe
Portugal has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and ranks sixth out of over 160 countries for safety by the Global Peace Index in 2022. Violent crime is rare, and people feel safe to walk around alone, even at night. However, it is still important for everyone to take sensible precautions and be aware of their surroundings, especially in crowded touristy areas where petty thefts can happen.
Portugal’s education system
There are many expat families with young children that relocate to Portugal. The country has consistently scored in the top 30 in the world for its education system, which is free. There can be problems for children who are entering the public system and do not speak or understand Portuguese. However, there are also private schools available where English is spoken. They also have mandatory English classes for their children.
As mentioned above, Portugal is home to gorgeous beaches and natural beauty, has a warm and sunny climate for the most part, and has fresh seafood and delicious cuisine, not to mention wine. People are generally friendly and welcoming, and in the main cities of Lisbon, Cascais, Porto, Lagos, and Faro, the population is quite liberal and diverse.
Cons of Living in Portugal
When thinking about moving to a foreign country, there are always pros and cons. Let’s look at some cons of living in Portugal.
While most people in Portugal’s big cities like Lisbon, Porto, and some Algarve cities speak English fluently, many struggle with the language. Of course it is the duty of the expat to learn the language of the host country as well, but if you have just moved to Portugal and are still learning basic Portuguese, the language barrier can be an issue. The good news is that English is a mandatory subject in school, but still, it is easy enough to get by with simple tasks like shopping and asking for directions, and it’s another story when dealing with visas or buying property.
Bureaucracy in Portugal
The common complaint by expats and immigrants in Portugal is the bureaucracy, which tends to be slow and at times complicated. People often have to wait a long time to get an appointment with the immigration offices, known as SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras), or to exchange their driver’s license, and this can be a very frustrating experience.
Warm Weather but Poor Insulation
While Portugal is known for its sunny and warm climate, no one tells you about the poorly insulated houses. Unless it’s newly built within the last 20 years, there is a high chance of you living in a house where you will feel really cold in the winter. That’s because older houses have been built to keep the heat out. This makes sense for the summer time, but during winter, you can actually feel colder inside your house than outside.
Hierarchical Work Culture, Salaries, and Work-Life Balance
Despite a big focus on the startup industry and modern remote/hybrid working style, Portugal unfortunately still has a very hierarchical work culture, where only people in high positions have a say. This, along with low salaries, and a poor work-life balance can make working in Portugal challenging.
Conclusion on Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal
Living in Portugal can be an amazing experience, which is evident by the growing number of expats moving to the country. However, it’s important to have the full picture and be aware of both pros and cons of living in Portugal, so you can be mentally prepared.
If you need any guidance for your move to Portugal or integration into the country, book a call with us and we will gladly help you.