Life in Portugal: what next?

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Flavia L. Lamattina

After living in Portugal for only two years, I’ve noticed an increasing number of people questioning their decision to reside here. Why are they considering leaving Portugal? Why do some families, after overcoming the challenges of relocating to a new country, find themselves at a breaking point?
In recent years, Portugal has emerged as one of the most desirable destinations for migrants seeking a mild climate, affordable cost of living, friendly locals, excellent schools and universities, healthcare, exquisite food, and more.  There has been a surge in the migrant population over the past five years, drawn by the allure of Portugal’s promise. However, speaking with individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, including some who returned to their home countries only to give Portugal another chance,  I have identified certain pressures  that may lead expats to reconsider their decision.
Visiting a place during vacation is vastly different from living there permanently. Many families just picked the wrong place to live in this country. A lack of essential amenities such as hospitals, nightlife, or quality schools can be stressful. Additionally, It is challenging to find non-Portuguese speakers in rural areas, leading to isolation and frustration. Adapting to a new culture takes time, and patience is crucial. While the countryside may have been enjoyable during the pandemic, it can become dull once regular life resumes, especially for those accustomed to the offerings of a big city. Advertising also can be misleading, such as “California of Europe”, “a new Berlin”, especially if you are not looking to have new experiences abroad, but only moving away from somewhere or someone else. Those individuals may just start to wonder if there is a better option out there.
Since 2019, especially in real estate, prices have skyrocketed, forcing some people to relocate to Portugal To seek alternative locations or re-balance affordability and quality of life. Enjoying travel and gastronomy has also become challenging due to financial constraints arising from the price of, for example, groceries, utility bills and transportation. Running   a car in Portugal  can be much more expensive than in other countries in Europe. Some people moved, lacking a backup financial plan,and found themselves being unlucky with their business, having problems with a purchased house or rental, or simply not being able to afford to live here anymore. Some people’s original plans, such as online work, investments, or business ventures, may not materialize as expected. Even the hope of enjoying the reduced taxes as advertised by the Portuguese government may not meet expectations when the truth is that with few exceptions, most people end up paying tax entirely. Changes in laws or regulations can thwart income expectations, leading to frustration. Portugal can change their rules fast, leading people to uncertainty.  After the pandemic many employers have reduced the flexibility of home working, which encouraged some people to work remotely from Portugal. Finding local employment in Portugal with comparative  salaries is very challenging.
Another point is dealing with bureaucratic hurdles, a common complaint among Portuguese residents. This can be particularly challenging for migrants who are reliant on paperwork for work, travel, or study. Even routine tasks like obtaining a driver’s license or arranging utility services can be frustrating. In some countries, the value of efficiency or doing things by the book is very important, and trying to find a last-minute solution instead of a plan cannot be a great match for them.
Being away from family support can also be a challenge. Parenting in a foreign country can be tougher than anticipated. Children may struggle to adapt to new schools, languages, or environments. International Schools are an option, but they are very expensive and only available in a few cities of the country. Family illnesses may also necessitate a return to their home country or even having a partner that passed away.
Finally, surrounding oneself with negativity can overshadow the many positives Portugal offers, including safety, sunny weather, affordable travel, delicious cuisine, diverse people, and the opportunity to learn a new language. Many people, for example, talk about animal cruelty (like bullfighting, a cultural tradition). Why not do something about it? Join a volunteer group, for example! You will feel integrated and make a difference.
Ultimately, the migrant journey offers valuable self-discovery and the chance to experience life from different perspectives, stepping out of your comfort zone. Moving to Portugal, or any other country, involves an adjustment. Flexibility, determination, and a dose of humor are necessary. You can find yourself being self-reliant and resourceful, or even adapting easily when finding a net cheerful people, even learning how to love the place you are when you understand it, gaining a global mindset. The most important is to be open and know that every decision you make is in one only direction: bring joy to your life! ■

Acknowledgements:
Imagem de Julius Silver por Pixabay
Lucy Gray (Feature Editor)