Portugal welcomes expats with open arms, but there are simple things you can do to make your integration even easier...
If you are currently looking for a property in Portugal to move in the near future, you’re probably wondering what your life will be like. The food is delicious, the climate is mild, the country is beautiful and there is certainly lots to see and do... but what about the people?
If this question crosses your mind, know that it's perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by the idea of a new life in a foreign country. However, Portugal is very different from other foreign countries as the Portuguese are well-known for being extremely welcoming! From the cosmopolitan residents of cities like Lisbon to the inhabitants of tourist areas like central Algarve to the coastal towns or rural villages of the Silver Coast... wherever you go, the Portuguese hospitality will be one of the greatest discoveries of your new life in Portugal.
Here are five tips make your life in Portugal even easier:
Although most Portuguese speak at least one foreign language, if you live in a rural village where the majority of the residents are elderly it may be more difficult to find someone who speaks your language. On the other hand, even in the most touristy areas where English is widely spoken, the Portuguese appreciate it when foreigners try to speak their language.
Simple phrases such as "bom dia" or "obrigado" are often enough to show a willingness that is usually acknowledged with a warm smile!
If you are keen to use technology, there are several applications for smartphones or tablets that will help you to learn basic Portuguese, as well as videos on YouTube. If you're willing to invest more time and money, you can also opt for private lessons with a tutor or group lessons. Group classes have the advantage of allowing you to meet other expats with mindsets or experiences similar to yours, as well as local teachers who will gladly share an insider's advice about local customs or the best places to visit.
From Michelin 5-star restaurants to haute couture shops, here you will find the same offer available in any western European country. However, if you want to really experience life in Portugal, the local shops are the place to visit!
Regardless of whether your home is in a big city or a small village, you’ll find plenty of options of local grocery stores, cafés, and restaurants that will allow you to have a taste of the real Portugal.
Don't be shy! Visit the “mini-mercado” in your “bairro” or “aldeia” and take your time to catch up with the local news or find out about all the festivities that will take place nearby. Walk through the corridors of the farmers' market and don’t simply buy fresh ingredients, be refreshed by the seller’s genuine smiles and willingness to help you discover the joy of simple, delicious food.
Do you see that street you never passed through? Why not forget your usual route and pass through there. What about that gentleman who smiles at you every day when you pass by in the morning on your way to buy bread? Maybe he has an incredible story to tell or can give you tips on the best place to buy meat or vegetables.
Portuguese people are friendly by nature and enjoy talking to foreigners. Don't be afraid to get lost in translation or unknown paths… sometimes all it takes to make a new friend is to leave your comfort zone.
Life is made of simple pleasures and the pleasure of discovery in the most unexpected places is one of the most fulfilling!
Depending on the area to which you are relocating, there are plenty of expat groups in Portugal that are doing great work in their community. Contact other foreigners in your region to find out if there are groups where you can volunteer, share your love for literature or theatre, participate in charities or other areas that are meaningful to you.
In Óbidos, for example, Silver Coast Volunteers has more than 200 members that organize numerous activities, such as the Book Exchange located at the entrance to the Castle walls. This is just one of many examples of how expats from different nationalities are making a real difference in their community:
“Saudade" may be a word that only exists in the Portuguese language, but the feeling is common to all nationalities!
Regardless of how exciting a new life in a foreign country may be, if you do feel homesick there are numerous online groups of expats living in Portugal where you can share your experience or simply ask for advice. If you’re on Facebook, just type your nationality and “expats in Portugal” and search for a group with interests similar to yours!
If you prefer to share experiences in person, to hear a familiar accent, to eat food from your country or simply watch your favourite football team with your fellow countrymen, in Portugal it’s relatively easy to have access to all of this, allowing your new home to be even closer to your heart!
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