I have followed your blog and Instagram for many years and I know you and Antonio have settled in Lisbon. I was thinking of doing that with my husband coming from New Jersey. We both do online work and our kids are young enough that the move won’t effect their school. We’ve been to Portugal on vacation and love Lisboa but do not really know “life differences” in the long run. How would you categorize it compared to your NYC life?
Great question. Putting together my thoughts on it but I think this has to be a much bigger piece.
As a world traveler (been traveling for 13+ years to over 45 countries) who has settled in Portugal I think I can answer the question. My answer is a view from someone who has lived for over 30-years in NYC and now lives in Lisbon. So make sure to temper my answer with that in mind.
I will break-up my answer into five parts; Economics, Lifestyle, Relationships, Growth, and Spiritual. Each bares high level in my mind for pushing me to move to Portugal so I think each should be looked at differently.
Let’s face it, Portugal is 1/3 the cost of NYC. Dinners cost €20 per person, Lunches €10, movie theaters €6, apartments €1500, car rentals €80, etc. It’s a cheap country when compared to New York. With that your financial planning becomes easier. When your out at a place and want to order something from the menu like oysters you assume it’s less then €3 per, when you take an Uber you assume €5-€6. It’s stuff like this that removes lots of NYC stress of being afraid to go to a place because you will be priced out.
This fear of going to places in New York effect you in every level of life. Get invited to a party and now you have to bring a bottle of wine. Oh crap wine starts at $10 for crap wine but you need to look good so you buy a $30 bottle. In Lisbon at least you can buy that nice bottle for €15.
Now to balance that there is the other side of the economical financial ledger which is the revenue side of the proverbial ledger. Here in Portugal there are no jobs. Our ad revenue, user signups and premium clients for Socialdraft and FriendsEAT are almost non-existent here. The reason is our prices are too high, our ads revenue gets pennies from the local market and the marketers here do not understand the benefit of SaaS products.
So to make any real monies here in Portugal you either have to have a big client like the government or financial institutions or work abroad somehow. This being the case it could add a lot of pressure to people coming looking for a job.
If you are coming to Portugal thinking you will teach English or just find a outsourcing job at something like Teleperformance except to make about €8 an hour. Not enough to travel Europe but enough to eat, get a roommate and hang out for cheap beers.
This economical issue of having a cheap quality of life but the lack of the ability to maximize it would definitely deter a lot of people from doing the move. For us since we have thousands of international clients it has not. We use the advantage of being a global company to our advantage and see Portugal as a growth opportunity.
When I was in New York my days were a mix of work, meetings, walk the dog, basketball, cook dinner and then more work before I went to bed. I didn’t really have time to go the park for just a walk, hit the beach with Blanca or even just take day trips to the country. Everything was work focused or de-stress focused. We lived and worked on Central Park but the only time I would just sit on a bench and have lunch would be when it was a work meeting or an obligation like dog walking. Rarely was it just to do some…nothing.
This is something that Portugal has plenty of, stuff just to fill time. You want to take a walk in a neighborhood and look at architecture you can do that. Want to go to the beach in the winter you can do that and not freeze. Want to learn to Samba dance, you can do that. I am not saying you cannot do these things in New York but the access to them is much easier here in Lisbon. Everything is 15-30 minutes away, cheap and foreign.
The foreign thing I believe is a big one. Since you have to learn constantly between the language, the people, signage and culture your brain is always soaking in new information. It isn’t the consumer information your soaking in NYC. It’s not like “Oh, Green is the color of the season” it’s more like “Oh, Green is the color of those windows in the derelict building. Be nice when they fix it.”. It’s just so different the mindset.
With that new bits of information you receive you are also dealing with a different culture that does things different the US. Meals are more formal and last longer. When you go to a party getting drunk or “letting out steam” isn’t the goal. People don’t always talk about work. A common question you will get when you first people after they get your name might be “How is you family doing?” or “Are you enjoying Portugal”. This is way before people ask you what you do for a living or pry on your political affiliations. It’s just quite nicer.
This brings me to relationships. In Portugal they can be strong and fleeting. This is different then in New York where you have your core good friends then lots of acquaintances. Here, depending on how social you are to begin with you will create expat friends who can become close, people you meet on a whim and core friends who will invite you to there summer house.
The expat friends may be similar the acquaintances you meet in NY because they may only be digital nomads visiting Portugal for a few months or even a year then heading to a new destination. So the connection you make with them might not be strong enough to be invited to meet there parents for example. Some who decide to make Portugal there home can become long term friends and you should definitely seek them out because they may be similar to you. But that’s a “catch-22” because lots of them aren’t like you except they just moved to Portugal. So it may be hard for you to have stuff in common.
I personally have had that happen plenty of times. We are similar in that we travel the world but they are hippies or red-state republicans or don’t believe in vaccinations. Some weird thing that makes the digital nomad and me not compatible.
The longer term people who I have connected with here in Portugal are brilliant and loving. It’s similar to my time in France in that once you make an effort to go beyond the “I am just an American tourist and you are a local” you get to exchange the nuances about your lives. The pains, the struggles, the fun the fears. You become friends and begin relying on each other as friends. You need help with something, you message them. They have family over you make the effort to go “meet and greet”. The little gestures friends, true friends make you get that after you have broken through the “wall”.
A few things have helped us in this matter are:
- Speaking multiple languages (Portuguese and French helps)
- Saying Yes to things (Saying no closes conversations, saying yes opens doors)
- Helping people when needed
- Being yourself and not an American Caricuture
- Being self critical of you and even your beliefs
- Leaving the house and meeting people different then you
All these things can be said about New York also but I personally got stuck with lots of fake people in my time in NYC. Lots of people who were users, liked me for my status or monies and who would lie constantly to others about how important they were. It was like a popularity contest to see who could B.S. the most. I have cut off all ties with those people and you know what, none have asked me for a loan recently.
I am missing so many things until I can feel like a Renaissance man and some of those things are coming faster here in Portugal then in New York.
I am working on my language learning which has so eluded me in the states. Being around so many people from different countries my ear and voice is begin to speak lots of the languages I semi-know. I am even taking classes in Portuguese. What is so cool about this is as I travel to other countries the speed of my immersion into the culture is much quicker.
Before when I traveled to Italy everything was a learning curve. How to hail a cab, how to order a drink, how to talk to a stranger. But being in Portugal so long and having to do that on a daily basis in a culture which isn’t your own you learn the language and mannerisms. Our year here has given us the “life vocabulary” to deal with Europe which is very different then the USA.
It is pretty profound and has made me a stronger person.
On top of cultural understanding I am growing at speeds in my learning. I literally have taught myself plumbing, carpentry, electrical engineering and even new cooking styles here in Portugal. Why? Because when I initially got here I needed a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician and how to cook Portuguese food. I didn’t speak the language so I had to watch Youtube and learn them. Scarcity creates some of the best resourcefulness
To be continued…