When I first visited Lisbon in September of 2015, I wrote in my journal, “I could live here.” Then I argued with myself in the next sentence, “But the world is so big and I have so much still to see.” Little did I know that six years later, I would be living in the city with a sweet tooth with newly-acquired Portuguese residency.
I am here on a D7 visa, a visa for foreigners with passive income or foreign income. I started the process in April 2021, turned in my documents in Washington DC in June, and received my acceptance in early July. August 19, I boarded my flight to Lisbon with two big suitcases, one carry-on suitcase, and a ukulele. I didn’t tell anyone outside my family and closest friends until I was at the airport, afraid that I’d get an “oops, we made a mistake” email.
The two most common questions I get are: “Why?” and “How long will you be there?”
Let’s start simple. The D7 visa is a path to permanent residency and citizenship. To the best of my understanding at this time, I’ll be eligible for permanent residency in five years and citizenship in six. So, my best answer is: this move can be permanent—but it doesn’t have to be forever. At the moment, I have no plans to leave Portugal. I’m working hard to learn the language and build a life here, and am excited to make this country home.
Now, for the why. It’s as simple as “I love Portugal and I want to be here.” (I’m not alone. Condé Nast just ranked Portugal as 2021’s Best Country in the World.) It’s also a move that is a good fit for the life I want to live. No place is perfect, but at this point in my life— it’s perfect for me.
Curious about the specifics? Here’s a few reasons why I moved to Portugal:
Some lead with their heart, I lead with my stomach, and the food is good!
Portugal is a foodie’s paradise. There are so many things for foodies to do in Lisbon, and I’m discovering new foods and pastries almost every day. From the 28 Michelin-starred restaurants across Portugal to the €2.90 prego no pão (beef sandwich) down the street, almost everything I’ve tried here is fresh and tastes absolutely amazing. Umm… and did I mention they invented the pastel de nata?
Work/ life balance
My natural state is productivity. I’ve actually been told by coworkers to work a little slower because I was making them all look bad.
Over the past few years, I’ve tried to adopt a “work to live” life, instead of a “live to work” mentality. I work hard, and I put my all into every project I take, but I also plan time off. Living in Portugal allows me to do that.
You’ll hear Portugal touted as a place that’s SO CHEAP. But really, it depends on your lifestyle. I’m renting a room right now that has effectively cut my living expenses by nearly 75%. I choose to spend less on rent so I can take weekend (or week-long) trips around the country or across Europe.
Sure, I can find places that will happily take my €100 for a degustation-style meal, but my favorite sandwich is bigger than my hand and less than €3, and my favorite bottle of wine is less than €5.
I’m not going to perpetuate the “Portugal is so cheap” sentiment, because foreigners willing to pay above-average rates (but still “cheap” for them) are driving up the cost of things for locals. I will acknowledge that because I earn a foreign wage, I’m able to save money here.
Ease of travel
Speaking of travel, it just got easier for me to visit the rest of Europe! My visa requires me to be in Portugal at least eight months out of every year, but when I want to explore a new European country, I’m just a short plane or train ride away.
Easy, affordable healthcare
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on how tax dollars should be spent. I, for one, am excited to live in a country where my taxes will go toward the healthcare of Portuguese residents. The Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) covers the full cost of most essential services, and non-essential services are available with a co-pay.
I recently asked a friend (who has private insurance) about her monthly fee. After telling me that it’s on the expensive side, she told me that she pays €38 per month.
After spending 25% of my income on healthcare in the US this year (and that’s WITH insurance), it feels really good to be in a place where another unexpected event won’t bankrupt me.
“You’ll never see Portugal on the front page of a worldwide newspaper”
That’s a direct quote from my Uber driver the other night. He’s an immigrant, just like me, but he’s just recently achieved citizenship. He said that in Portugal, there’s “good food, good weather, and good people” and “you’ll never see Portugal on the front page of the paper.” I’m definitely in the honeymoon phase now, and I’m under no illusion that Portugal is perfect, but I really love being in a place where I feel more at peace.
Warm, sunny days make me smile
I don’t know about you, but blue skies make me happy. Portugal has over 300 days of sunshine every year and still manages to have some of the most dramatic sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Even when it’s cold, it’s not that cold. In the winter, temperatures dip at night to around 46 – 50°F in Lisbon.
Portugal ranks #3 in the world for safety
Anything can happen, anywhere. Of course, some places tend to experience higher rates of crime than others. Portugal was ranked #3 on the 2020 Global Peace Index list. The US is ranked 121st on that list, primarily due to military expenditure, civil unrest, and homicide.
It’s my dream destination
A couple of years ago, I made a list of the qualities of my dream place to live:
- Scuba diving
- No mosquitoes
- Near a beach (but without frequent natural disasters)
- Rock climbing
- No cold winters
- Great food (especially desserts)
Ok, so mosquitoes are jerks and you’ll find them pretty much everywhere. Otherwise, Portugal ticks all the boxes.
For almost five years, I lived out of a suitcase. I LOVED discovering new places and meeting new people. At the same time, I also was feeling really burnt out with full-time travel. I longed for relationships without the “expiration date” of a lapsed visa and the thought of hanging my clothes in a closet filled me with giddiness. (Seriously! I just went to IKEA for more coat hangers today!)
I am so excited to make Portugal my home and hope I’ll be here for a long, long time. My favorite outfits are hanging in the closet, and the suitcases are stored away (for now), as I settle in.
I can’t wait to explore more of this gorgeous country, and I’ll bring you along on the journey. Do you have questions for me? Pop them in the comments!
You can read all about my first trip to Portugal here. My favorite pastel de nata has changed and some of my other recommendations have, too, but I’m not updating the post so I’ll always remember my first time here!
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