I LOVE living in Lisbon. Lately, people have been asking me if I really love it. I do. But, just like anywhere else in the world, it is not perfect. This is a list of the things I really dislike about living in Lisbon so that those of you who are thinking of moving here can make a truly educated decision before moving. So, while no place is perfect, IMHO, even after all these things you will hate about living in Lisbon, it is still a pretty freakin’ amazing place.
Things You Will Hate About Living in Lisbon
You Will Hate Portuguese Smokers
I lived in the New York area for a long time. I still remember when the smoking ban came into place. Even non-smokers were upset. After a while, we realized how awesome it was. Almost everyone I knew who smoked stopped smoking. Many European places are following suit. Not Lisbon. Lisboetas still smoke like chimneys. I don’t smoke and I find it so ridiculously disrespectful. Heck, as a non-smoker I have no way to avoid it. On a good note, looks like E-cigs are starting to take hold. It’s still a new technology, so who knows how this will go, but I’m kinda excited. But for now, I’ll still complain as I walk down the street trying to dodge smoke. Oh…almost forgot. The cigarette butts also get stuck between the stones of the calcada Portuguesa making the city look dirtier than it actually is.
You will Hate How Expensive Portuguese Electric EDP Bills are
Things are cheap in Lisbon…for the most part. However, electricity is not. I still remember my heart skipping a beat when I got an EDP bill that was almost €500 euros. Luckily, we know the system and know that we do not have to pay €500 for electricity during the winter holidays. We’ve figured out the perfect way to heat our home…but those EDP bills still hurt…maybe not as much…but they still sting a little.
You Will Hate the Calcada Portuguesa
Yeah, the Portuguese streets are gorgeous. They’re hand chiseled, hand installed, and hand repaired. The designs are gorgeous. However, after days of walking on stones, your back is going to hurt – a lot. When it rains, the stones are slippery as heck, and the stones tend to pop out so that when you’re wearing sandals, you stub your toes and break your toenails on them. Oh…and I’ve had to put my entire stiletto collection into semi-retirement. Heels like to get stuck in the spaces between the calcada…that means no Giuseppe Zanottis. That makes me sad. So, yeah, the Calcada Portuguesa is cute the first month…but in time, you’ll hate them.
The Seven Hills
Actually, eight. Lisbon has eight hills. The hills mean incredible views. Unfortunately, these hills are filled with that horrid Calcada Portuguesa. I’ve gotten used to it and my buns are looking like steel, but damn if I didn’t hate those hills the first few months, especially when they got wet. And driving on those hills…I just refuse to do it. That’s all sorts of scary. Anyway…the hills suck and that was a huge consideration for me on which of the best neighborhoods in Lisbon I should move to.
You Will Hate The Language
If you know me, you know I have a thing for language. My first language was Spanish, my native language is English (not really – I had to learn it when I was nine, but it has become my native language), I adore French, and I can get along well in Italian. I’m also learning Japanese in my spare time. Whenever I go to a new country I try to learn at least enough to order a bottle of wine. Languages aren’t really a difficult thing for me. Portuguese is damn hard. I’ve never had such a hard time learning a language. Even with 1-hour classes twice weekly with my amazing private Portuguese tutor, I had a hard time learning the language. There are so many sounds, so many rules…and so many exceptions to those rules. Portuguese is a frustrating language, but I highly recommend that you learn it if you decide to move to Lisbon.
You Will Hate The Portuguese Bureaucracy
Portugal has a fetish with paperwork and stamps. When I first moved here, I spent hours…no, days…waiting on lines at the CNAI, at the SEF, at the AT, at the IMT…oftentimes I found that speaking to different people got me different answers…and it seemed that every time I needed to do something, after spending hours getting all my paperwork together, I’d get to the office in question to be told I needed something else. Changing my US license to a Portuguese license took me three visits and countless hours. I’ve learned to be patient…I think. I’m currently trying to prove to the AT that Antonio and I are not married (we’re not – we’re atheists who don’t believe in marriage and have never been married). I’ve been there three times already…and it is still not resolved. Ugh.
You Will Hate How Animals Are Treated in Portugal
Lisbon is pretty good when it comes to animal treatment (particularly when compared to the rest of the country). Let’s get into why Portugal (not necessarily Lisbon sucks for animal treatment):
Bullfights are Legal.
In Lisbon, there is a bullring that is still in use for animal torture. Yes, the torture of bulls in the name of tradition.
There Are Two Designations For Dogs: working dogs & pets.
Why is this a problem? While dogs are treated fairly well here, there are plenty of dogs and in the city, most are treated well, but working dogs are seen as property, as tools, and are treated like crap. They are left on window sills, roofs, backyards. They are tied to ropes with no human or canine attention. The house across from mine leaves its German Shepherd out all day and night regardless of the weather. It is heartbreaking to see him there alone at all times.
It’s simply crap, but unfortunately, he is a designated guard dog and as such does not have the same rights as my animal de estimaçao (my Portuguese Podengo – Santino Maria) who is a dog of leisure. Hunting dogs that don’t perform are tied to trees and left to starve.
Cats are Burned in the Name of Tradition
This does not happen in Lisbon, but in Mourao, they put a cat in a basket, put the basket on a pole, set the pole on fire and see what happens – in the name of tradition (Mourao – unless you’re working to change this, you are an a-hole).
It’s crap. It makes me angry. This is probably the one thing that infuriates me. Each time I see news like this it just makes me want to destroy some “humans”.
I’d go on, but I’m already angry and Antonio is working on a piece that will explain the situation without me having to get upset while I write.
You Will Hate The Lines
The first thing you need to know about Portugal is that any time you walk into a store or need a service, you will need to take a ticket. If you don’t take the ticket…you’ll get skipped on lines over and over. Lines are everywhere. Lines are long. You’ll get cut by tias de Cascais – often. People will get on a line and leave their cart or basket and then come back and get upset if you have moved ahead of them. Patience will be your biggest ally when you move to Lisbon. There are a few rules you must remember when waiting on lines.
- Let older people cut you
- Let pregnant women cut you
- Let women with kids cut you
- Let people with 1-3 items cut you
These are unspoken rules, but the sooner you learn them, the easier your life will be.
You Will Hate Tourists & Cruise Boats
Tourism is great for Lisbon. It’s also horrible for it. In 2017 alone, tourism rose by 12% in Portugal to 12.7 million. Most of these people visited Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. There are neighborhoods in Lisbon that are insufferable. Bairro Alto is filled with British tourists that seem to live to be drunk by 10 am. When the cruise boats arrive at the Alfama, the city is filled with people who flood these small, traditional towns so much that they are almost unnavigable. I’m all for tourism helping the city, but I really wish that they’d cut back on the cruise boats…just a little at least.
You Will Hate the Noise from the Planes in Lisbon
Yeah…so tourism dollars are great, but planes are damn loud and my house is right on the flight path. On days when the winds are rough, planes tend to fly lower and are even louder. During peak travel season (April to October), the planes start landing at 5 am and end at 3 am…so that’s only 2 hours of noise-free sleeping. There is an awesome resource from the Camara Municipal de Lisboa that shows you a map of the noise pollution in Lisbon…funny how it coincides with the flight path…and did I mention that Lisbon is getting a second airport soon? Joy! Bookmark the map, it will come in handy when you begin to search for an apartment in Lisbon. Did I mention we’re getting a second airport in Lisbon?
You Will Hate The Smell Of Bacalhau
There are few smells more nauseating than the smell of dried, salted Bacalhau. If you head to supermarkets – especially during the holidays – and you go towards the fish section, you will be brutally confronted by the pungent, powerful smell of Bacalhau. It is revolting and somehow, Portuguese people love it. It is said there are 365 ways to cook bacalhau…after living in Lisbon, I would be happy to never smell dry bacalhau again. I’m fine with cooked cod…but the dried salted stuff is repugnant. And wanna know what is even crazier…they don’t even have that fish here. It comes from Norway. Go figure.
You Will Hate The Rising Prices
People starting moving to Portugal because they kept hearing how cheap it was. And yes…it was. However, the cost of things in Lisbon is rising. They’re not rising enough to stop people from moving here, but they are rising enough that locals are getting priced out of the city. There are some neighborhoods that are more French or English than they are Portuguese. I get it. This happens. Heck, it happened in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and it is happening in Queens. Gentrification is real in Portugal, the problem is that it is happening at an incredibly quick rate that it is not allowing locals to adjust. The prices of apartments make it very hard for native Lisboetas to live here. The average salary in Lisbon is 860 euros. Rental prices for a decent apartment in Lisbon start at 1,000. Needless to say, the numbers just don’t work. This issue also causes strain on their relationships with expats/immigrants like me who add to the very complicated housing problem. It’s not just low salaries, Airbnb, and new foreign residents that cause the issue, it is many, many things that exacerbate the issue, So while I know that I am a part of this issue, I try to live here with respect to those who were here before me and to support the local economy as much as possible.
You Will Hate the “Parking Assistants”
I drove for a living for a long time when I sold wine in New York City. I am an incredible driver and I can park a car in the tightest of spots. Unfortunately, just like in Colombia, there are men here who are self-employed as parking assistants. They will “help” you get into parking spots in street parking location. They do this in exchange for a Euro or so – whether you need it or not. I’ve come to terms with this service and just let them help me park. It’s incredibly annoying though.
Even with all these things, you will hate about living in Lisbon, I think you will love it. I do…and as I mentioned, the only thing I regret is not moving here sooner. If you have questions about moving to Lisbon, running a digital business, or other similar things, just leave a comment. Antonio or I will get back to you!