Expat Advice: Living in
An expat in Lisbon talks about learning Portuguese, the warmth of the Portuguese people and living in Lisbon.
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
How long have you lived there?
What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?
In my experience, restaurants and cafes afforded me the opportunity to meet new people, develop friendships, and practice speaking the language. At nearly every turn, I was able to find people willing to speak English with me and to offer useful help in developing the ability to speak Portuguese. For my part, I have not made any attempts to join expat communities. Instead, a little humility and lots of hard work trying to learn the language has opened doors to friends and families in the local community. All this began by trying to frequent the cafes and restaurants that had employees and clients who were willing to communicate.
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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.
As readers likely know, the long tradition on this end of the Iberian Peninsula of traders, explorers, and mixing cultures means that Portugal is a place of extreme diversity. It should go without saying that one can find pockets of people with more narrow views. The influx of disadvantaged people from the ex-colonies in Africa and to a lesser extent Brazil means that there are those cold shoulders blaming economic hardship on immigrants. However, speaking from the point of view of a US citizen, even the most hard-lined opinions about politics and capitalism were nearly always tempered with a good measure of curiosity about my experience and life before Portugal. A little curiosity and understanding on the part of the newcomer about Portugal can almost guarantee a smile and a bit of friendly conversation.
What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?
The Lisbon area serves a great number of industries. Tourism and service tend to be areas of extreme importance at present. Technological industries and research in science and medicine also play important roles for many. But with the current austerity measure biting deep into the pockets of many Portuguese, potential immigrants to Portugal are well advised to research long and hard from abroad before making a move hear. Unemployment hovering around 17% means that there are plenty of eager local workers hoping to snap up the few job opportunities that exist. In fact, many young people graduating from universities are finding their opportunities outside of Portugal. Having a clear plan and perhaps prearranged employment behooves the would-be expat.
If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.
First, plan on learning the language. One need not speak Portuguese in order to survive here, but in order to truly experience all of the wonderful aspects of the city and her inhabitants, speaking the language or even seriously trying too opens doors, shows real respect, and can help you work your way into the hearts of the Portuguese people. Work is a little hard to find right now, but the quality of life and the warmth of the Portuguese people means that if you have enough to get by, you just might feel richer than living a money driven life.
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