Portuguese tiles, known as azulejos, are different and wonderful
What to see in Portugal that goes beyond the so called "must sees"

Why are some expats leaving Portugal

Portugal became a popular destination for expats - many of whom came from North America. Escaping high costs of living and healthcare as well as political instability - they visited, fell in love - and put down roots. Now a few are coming back. There can be many reasons why expats give up and come back home. Some say that about half of Americans now end up leaving.


Some of the common reasons are:

Cultural differences: If you want to move to Portugal, then you need to want to move to Portugal. Because living in a different culture can be a challenging experience, and some people may struggle to adapt to the new way of life. The differences in customs, traditions, and social norms can be overwhelming and may make expats feel isolated and out of place. You need to have a good working knowledge of history and culture. You loved Portugal as a vacation, but day to day was different. Some just failed to do their homework, or saw what they wanted to see in Portugal - but not the truth. 

Homesickness: Being away from family and friends can be difficult, and some expats may start to feel homesick after a while. They may miss their familiar surroundings, food, and language, which can cause them to feel disconnected and unhappy. Some complained about missing Mexican food, half and half or certain beers. And if you don't love the food, that can be an issue.

Career and financial challenges: Some expats may face difficulties in finding a job or maintaining their standard of living in a new country. They may also struggle with language barriers, work culture differences, and visa restrictions, which can make it hard for them to settle down and establish themselves. The banking and tax system is very different.

Builders.... Portugal is many things - but it is a survivor nation. Growing up in the shadow of Spain, Portugal has survived Spanish, Arab and French invasions. The people of Portugal survived fascism, hard times, poverty and economic collapses too. This is far for an excuse of dishonest builders - and some expats struggled to find a good and honest partner to do work. This can be a major issue.

Real Estate: With the real estate boom, Portugal's market is a bit like the wild west: Dishonest brokers, false listings, and mislabeling are a bit common. More than one expat has bought land that cannot be developed, or did not have clear title. Get a lawyer and roll up you sleeves....

Language: Portuguese can be a challenging language to learn for some, especially for people who are not familiar with the grammar and pronunciation rules of Romance languages. Yes, it is not impossible to learn, and with consistent effort and practice, anyone can become proficient in Portuguese. But while many Americans don't speak a 2nd language, Portuguese proved a barrier  

Costs: The rising cost of housing in Portugal is a complex issue that has been affecting many residents in recent years. There are several factors that contribute to this trend, including population growth, increased demand for housing, limited supply of available housing, and big spending expats with their  investment in real estate. But it is not cheap anymore.

One of the main drivers of the rising cost of housing in Portugal is lopsided demand. As more people move to Portugal, particularly to major cities like Lisbon and Porto, the demand for housing has increased significantly. At the same time, the supply of available housing has not kept up with demand, leading to a shortage of affordable housing options.

In addition, there are several government policies and regulations that have had an impact on the cost of housing in Portugal. For example, rent control policies have limited the ability of landlords to increase rents, which can make it more difficult for property owners to recoup their investment and discourage new construction.

Ok, so the process of evolution has a way of working itself out - and then we ask what lesson can we learn from this? Well, Portugal is still amazing.  Affordable living, good healthcare, kind people and safety for all. 

Research the country thoroughly: Learn about Portugal's culture, customs, language, and laws. This will help you better adjust and integrate into the new environment. Don't be an expat, aim to be a Portuguese.

Develop a support network: Try to establish a network of friends, colleagues, or expat groups that can help you navigate your new environment. They can also provide support and guidance when you face difficulties. And get to know the Portuguese. They have made this place work for 800+ years - so don't reinvent the wheel.

Try to learn the language: Knowing Portuguese will make it easier to communicate with the locals, make friends, and understand the local culture. And, you can communicate with your builder, and the local town hall, too. Keep up on the local news, attend local events, learn to love a cold Sagres.....

Be open-minded and adaptable: Being open-minded, flexible, and adaptable is crucial to adapting to a new culture and environment. Don't criticize. Portuguese might be very welcoming, but they reserve the right to harsh criticism of the nation to themselves. 

Don't just look at the usual places. Lisbon was an affordable city, until expats ran up the market - and now it is not. Look to the Azores, Alentejo, Beira Alta and Minho.  Surprise: Few Portuguese refer to the "Silver Coast" as a place.

Embrace the experience: Treat your expat experience as an adventure, embrace the challenges and opportunities, and enjoy the new experiences and opportunities that come with it. Try life the Portuguese way - long lunches, less stress, family first... and a nice glass of wine.

Take care of your health: Moving to a new country can be stressful, and taking care of your physical and mental health is essential to cope with the challenges of expat life. Don't forget yourself in all this.

Keep a positive attitude: Maintaining a positive attitude, even in difficult situations, can help you navigate the challenges of expat life and make the most of your experience. See the small things, want to be in Portugal - and see it for what it is, not what you want it to be.


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Jay Gorman

I am single, 80 year old retired American currently living in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico and I have read so many great things about Portugal that I would like to visit for 3 months starting in early July 2024 to see if Portugal is a place that I would like to relocate to. I have read about Porto and have heard that North of Lisbon is an up and coming area to consider. I would appreciate any input that those that have traveled before me might have to share. I am in good physical condition, play golf (not very good anymore) but still enjoy the beauty that golf courses have. I enjoy a warm climate but I am not opposed to multiple seasons as I have lived in several US states including Hawaii and Florida. I enjoy the countryside as well as the city and I would like to explore as much of Portugal as possible before making my move.

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