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Baixa in Lisbon
Baixa in Lisbon
Baixa in Lisbon

Lisbon

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees talk about what it is really like living in Lisbon, Portugal. They offer advice about meeting people, cost of living, finding a home and more.

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What do I need to know about living in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Lisbon, they said:

"I would tell them to meet as many local people as possible and to learn some Portuguese to get situated quickly. Even though most people speak English, knowledge of the language would help them get settled and find good accommodation deals that otherwise would be hard to find," explained one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

"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," said another expat in Lisbon.

"Grab a Portugese phrase book, and spend time focusing on learning crucial phrases that will help you in conversing with the locals," added another expat who made the move to Lisbon.

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How do I meet people in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Lisbon about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"There are a wide number of groups that you can join in Lisbon that will help any newcomer get situated. For women, I would recommend: Lisbon Girl Gone International. For digital nomads: Lisbon Digital Nomads. For expats looking to make a move to Portugal: Portugal: The good life Meetup.com is also a great site for events and meet ups," mentioned another expat in Lisbon.

"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," commented one expat who made the move to Lisbon.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

Will I be able to find a job in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Lisbon, they reponded:

"The main industry in Lisbon is tourism. Most opportunities exist in the tourism and hospitality industries. Networking with the locals and business groups would be the perfect way to find new jobs," added another expat in Lisbon.

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Lisbon.

"Job employment agencies are the best way to go for looking for work. However, most require fluency in Portuguese. If you come from the United States, the UK, or any other English-speaking country, your best bet is to look for companies from your home country that are specifically looking for English-speakers," explained one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

What is life like in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

When we asked people living in Lisbon what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Lisbon is a great city for socializing. There are many expats and digital nomads here who are always open to meeting new people. It is great for young people, as well as older expats with is wide range of options and close proximity to the beaches and lots of bars, clubs and restaurants," added another expat who made the move to Lisbon.

"Without a doubt, the vast majority of folks that I have met are first and foremost concerned with quality of life. This begins with family and friends. Sure, the economic crisis is hitting hard in Portugal, so one can expect to hear a lot about the hardships and difficulties being wrought by the austerity measures, but one can also begin to feel right a home with new friends. Conversations can certainly be started by anyone interested in football, and any chance to question locals about the rich cultural history is met with excitement and enthusiasm. Basically, if one opens their hearts and minds to Portugal and the Portuguese people, they can expect to meet warm caring people with a propensity for eating, drinking, and sharing times with friends," explained one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

"There's a little bit of everything in Lisboa (Lisbon). Public transportation is a must in this city. There are a number of outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a coffee and people-watch. However, sports is the priority in Lisbon. Futebol (Soccer) is king here. Sporting and Benfica are the top soccer teams in the city. Be careful about wearing green (Sporting colors) in the Benfica neighborhood," mentioned another in Lisbon.

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What do expats in Lisbon appreciate most about the local culture?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

"My vastly improved diet. Without any actual effort, I’ve lost 25 pounds since I got here, which I attribute to eatting a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables and walking on cobblestoned up and downhill sidewalks. The extreme level of consideration for other people among the Portuguese. Because of an obstruction in the left venticle of my heart, I have to stop and catch my breath about every block, and I had to learn almost immediately how to say “I’m OK. I’ve got water. I just need to take a short rest before I move on,” because people stop all the time to ask," added another expat in Lisbon.

What do expats find most challenging?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

"Mastering the language. This sounds silly, but steaks I can afford and no A1. Sizes. I’m built on a much bigger frame, particularly compare to Portuguese my age, and I wear size 8.5 3E shoes. I’ll just have to look for men’s shoe that will fit and pass. CUSTOMS which basically prevents ordering anything from beyond the EU. And Covid of course, though Portugal has handled it beautifully in my opinion," said another expat in Lisbon.

Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Lisbon accepting of differences?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

"Lisbon is remarkably diverse. The area of intendente itself is home to 87 nationalities! Portuguese are very friendly people and accepting of all people from every background. There is a little India area, little Chinatown, African cafes, Nepalese restaurants and also lots of options for vegan and vegetarian people," added another expat who made the move to Lisbon.

"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," explained one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

"Lisbon is very diverse. While the vast majority of the population are Iberian (Portuguese & Spanish), there are immigrants from all over the globe (former Portuguese colonies in Africa, Brasil) Ukrainians make up the largest immigrant group (after Brasilians). While certain groups tend to stick to themselves, people appear accepting of everyone here," mentioned another in Lisbon.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

What are the pros and cons of living in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Lisbon responded:

"Almada is a great city to live close to Lisbon and easy to get around by car or public transportation. The cost of living in Portugal is great especially compared to the US. The people are warm and friendly. The food is good but sometimes bland. But I do think it is better for your health:)," commented one expat living in Lisbon, Portugal.

"The weather is generally very good, access to goods and services makes it easy to live here. Covid has impacted everything of course which has made things more difficult. Health care is accessible and affordable. Learning the language has taken longer but English is often understood. There's access to lots of outdoors activities like cycling, hiking, water sports, which is important. There is an old world charm and a lot of history to learn about. Also access to other places in Europe make this location good. Previously lived in several countries in Asia. Europe also closer to the US for trips back- when possible again," remarked another expat living in Lisbon.

"Portugal is very orderly and people are respectful of one another. You take a number at most retail shops or medical facilities and simply wait your turn. I like this aspect of life here a lot. No one tries to jump a cue. Also people are generally very nice and helpful to one another. The one thing I hear the most complaints about is the government bureaucracy. But again my experience is one of just waiting your turn or number to be called," said one expat living in Lisbon.

"There is little to dislike, so I will start with that. Lisbon has a lot of grafitti. In many ways it distracts and detracts from the charm of the city, but over time you look past it and appreciate the other aspects. The portuguese drivers are impatient and act agressively on the road. Their personal space, including the cars on the street, is less than in America. It took some time to adjust. If you buy a place, don't expect any neccessary upgrades to be completed as quickly as in the States. The good things...the weather, the beauty of the varied geography of the country, the bread, the wine, the warmness of the people towards strangers ( being friendly to someone and inviting them into their home are different things here. It may take a good friend/acquaintance some time before they invite you into their home), the literature (another good reason to learn the language), the comedy (again language), the rich culture, and the overall comportment of the portuguese (they are very slow to anger and are far less prone to violence than americans), etc. A final note on learning the language. Without being conversant, one can do well here and enjoy many things. With a good knowledge of it, you can experience everything that the country has to offer," mentioned another expat inLisbon.

"Some of the best coffee in the world (and at 0.65-0.70 Euro, cheap). The breads are very high quality, delicious and not expensive. The wines (I only drink red) are *very* good: you can go into almost any store, buy a 2-3 Euro a bottle, and it will be very good. Transportation system is generally good and more or less reliable. A monthly pass (if you're over 65) is only 20 Euro/month, and you can travel quite far on the pass," commented one expat who moved to Lisbon, Portugal.

"We purchased an apartment in November 2016 in Cascais Portugal, just outside of Lisbon. We love the ambiance of the village, food, weather and history. We are a short train ride (40 mins) to the big city when we want to explore the wonderful city of Lisbon and can escape to the quiet and solitude of our place in Cascais. We feel very safe here in Portugal and there is a sense of relief now that we have moved from the USA. We haven't seen a wahoo, open carry gun toting nut job since we got here, except on TV. Neither of us speak much Portuguese and 95% of the time it isn't an issue and when it is, there are translating apps that we use to bridge the gap. The cost of living is fabulous and the healthcare is cheap and top notch," remarked one expat living in Lisbon.

What type of social life can someone expect in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Lisbon, they replied:

"Easy to make friends most speak English but important to learn Portuguese as best you can," mentioned another expat inLisbon.

"As retirees, it has been easy to make friends with other expats especially through our language school. Making social connections with the locals has been more difficult as portuguese society is somewhat closed to strangers. However, our upstairs portugues neighbor has been very socialble and has helped us improve our language skills and interact more with the locals. Over time we have made more portuguese friends and expect to make more in the future," commented one expat who moved to Lisbon, Portugal.

"If you your goal is to really be a part of the culture and social experience, it is necessary to reach a good conversational level of portuguese. Many interesting activities are only in portuguese," added one expat living in Lisbon.

What advice to expats in Lisbon have about housing?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

"The prices are rising in Lisbon, but there are still plenty of places at reasonable prices. If you need more than 100 sq meters, then expect to pay a lot more. Places outside the city are much cheaper," added one expat living in Lisbon.

What are medical services in Lisbon like?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Lisbon, they replied:

"Is a crime what the US charges for same services I get in Portugal for a lot less," added one expat living in Lisbon.

"Finding a specialist takes trail and error. But that is true even in my home country," commented one expat who moved to Lisbon.

"Most of the medical professionals speak excellent english. If you choose to live outside the city, I recommend reaching a conversational level of portuguese to make sure you can communicate your needs," said another expat.

Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Lisbon?

Live in Lisbon? Answer this Question

"The cost of a private plan is half or less than charged in the US. Health insurance can be purchased through banks or a few organizations, such as the Automobile Club of Portugal or 'afpop'. These offer even better group rates than the bank rates," remarked another expat living in Lisbon.

"We are required to have a private policy that meets the Schengen Community requirements (go to their website). The highest quality of coverage won't cost more than 3,000 euros a person/year (2017) and most retirees are paying only 2,000 euros annually. This includes dental and eye care, surgeries, private hospital room, unlimited doctor visits and tests," said one expat living in Lisbon.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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