"You can't buy happiness, but you can buy a ticket to Portugal, and that's pretty much the same thing!" says Antonio Barbosa, known for his passion and dedication to promoting Portugal's culture, food, history, international influence, and more on his social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Instagram, and Clubhouse. António Barbosa is a realtor with more than 20 years of experience in Real Estate.
Portugal is composed of the mainland area plus the Azores and Madeira Islands. Portuguese is the official language, and 60% speak a second language. Lisbon is the capital, with a 500,000 population. “The name Portugal was likely derived from Portus Cale, Porto's Roman port and city.
As the pandemic and remote work transform how we live and work, people are moving and changing careers based on what fulfills them most. I’ve spoken to dozens of people who moved to Portugal in the last few years to start a new venture or revamp their lifestyle. Many talked about their move with a sense of renewal and hope as they could finally live the life they envisioned, one that seemed unattainable where they came from.
What many foreigners say draws them to Portugal is its low cost of living and high quality of life. If a basket of goods and services cost $1 in the U.S., it would cost 57 cents in Portugal, according to 2020 World Bank data.
Portugal is cheaper than many Western countries because the country “is poorer,” says a Portuguese economist and professor “A lot of the costs of the services you buy are labor costs—Portugal’s poorer. Wages are lower. Therefore the costs of most things that require a lot of labor are cheaper.”
As a tourist based in Geneva, Switzerland, daily living in Portugal feels cheap. One evening, I enjoyed a three-course meal — including soup and salad, fresh fish, ice cream, and sangria — for about $17 in the small seaside town of Carvoeiro. A three-hour boat ride along the Algarve coast costs $30. An Uber ride across town in Lisbon at nearly 1 a.m. on a Friday set me back about $19. In comparison, I cry inside anytime I need a late-night taxi in Geneva, and before, when I was living in New York City - my ride typically costs 30-40$.
Corey says she always lived in a “closet-sized space” in Hong Kong and Washington D.C. After moving to Lisbon in the summer of 2021, the 35-year-old consultant now rents a three-story house with two offices, a dining room, and a garage just outside the city center.
Jennifer spent three months in Lisbon in 2020 before officially relocating from New York City in the summer of 2021. The 39-year-old’s monthly expenses now range between $2,100-$2,500/month, compared with $5,000-$6,000/month in New York City. She spends $1,250/month on a renovated one-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the city center, with a balcony and plenty of natural sunlight. In contrast, Jennifer paid $2,250/month for a studio apartment in New York City.
Foreign residents also have access to the country’s free national healthcare
Portugal is often referred to as “the California of Europe.” Except you get California temperatures and beaches without California prices. I visited in November and enjoyed sunny 75-80-degree weather for ten days straight. There’s a natural beauty, but also culture. Expats tell me they haven’t struggled to assimilate. Much of the Portuguese population speaks English because they learn it in school from an early age, and they’re generally welcoming to foreigners.
Portugal is also safe. The country ranks as the fourth-most-peaceful nation on the Global Peace Index, assessing crime rate, violent demonstrations, political stability, and involvement in domestic and international conflict.
I also spoke to many expats recovering from burnout, who told me they’re finally able to find personal fulfilment beyond work. Some say they're finally learning to savor all the simple moments in life.
Despite the laid-back culture, many young workers aren’t moving to Portugal to relax. It’s somewhere many expats feel capable of taking a risk and starting a new venture. When you can afford to live comfortably without working around the clock, “I think it makes it a lot easier to have space to pursue your creative entrepreneurial desires and aspirations because you have time,” Jennifer says, who started her own creative writing coaching company online.
Based on economic research from professors and professionals, starting a business in Portugal is relatively easy. You can open a business in 1 hour with a rather limited amount of paperwork.
Portugal is increasingly known for its start-up scene, mainly in Lisbon. Funding to tech startups headquartered in the country grew to over €180 million in 2021, up from about €1.2 million in 2016, according to the 2021 Portugal Startup Outlook. According to the report, a third of founders who established startups in Portugal between 2015 and 2020 were not Portuguese.
During my multiple visits to Lisbon, I have spoken to some Portuguese locals who expressed frustration with the country's current situation. As more people come to start a new life and build their dreams, Portugal as a nation is also undergoing a dramatic transformation. You will see lots of cranes and construction in Lisbon, bringing to life the infrastructure necessary to serve the city’s new inhabitants and visitors.
In some ways, Lisbon is getting a new lease on life. And in some ways, Lisbon is being stripped away. Many locals and small businesses have been priced out of the city center due to rising rents. Furthermore, many apartments have been taken off the market and converted into short-term vacation rentals.
Living in Portugal isn’t cheap for those earning local wages. The minimum monthly salary is about $800. According to OECD data, the average annual wage in 2020 was about $28,000.
Overall, economic experts say the growth in foreign residents and tourism positively impacts the country because it stimulates the economy and helps create jobs. Some people come with high skills, and started businesses with bought-produced goods.
Attracting foreigners were part of a government plan to help lift Portugal out of recession in the 2010s. As recently as 2015, people were not moving to Portugal for a better quality of life and more opportunity. Young workers were leaving the country.
Unemployment peaked at about 18% in 2013, while GDP shrank for three years between 2011 and 2013. To help stimulate the economy, Portugal welcomed immigration in a couple of different ways: the relative ease of obtaining a residence visa and tax benefits for new foreign residents.
Many articles online and people that moved to Portugal said that moving to the country is relatively easy. The most common visa, the D7, requires applicants to show a monthly income of at least the Portuguese minimum wage, currently €705.
I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with Antonio Barbosa, a realtor with more than 20 years of real estate experience. He said that Portugal's Golden Visa has always been a popular program among many Americans looking for residency in Europe. Besides its apparent benefits in Portugal, Golden Visa offers Americans mobility in Europe, a solid Plan B, and possibly a profitable investment.
Portugal Golden Visa stands out with various investment methods that cater to different types of investors while offering them unique benefits that other Golden Visa programs fail to do. If you’re an investor from the U.S., who wants to get a second residency that can lead to citizenship on relatively easy terms, check out how Portugal Golden Visa can benefit you, or you can directly contact Antonio and discuss further.
Portugal is incentivizing immigration by giving foreigners a tax break under the non-habitual resident tax regime. New foreign residents are tax-exempt on any taxable income they receive from abroad. That means, if I moved there, I would not pay taxes in Portugal on the income I earn from the company I work for the next ten years, as long as I’m being taxed in my country of origin or citizenship.
These incentives seem to have worked. But very few people I spoke to mentioned them as reasons for moving. Their motivation was the promise of a better life.
Growing up, I mostly heard about people moving to the countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States to chase a better education and life. It seems like many are chasing that lifestyle elsewhere, like in Portugal.