Any time that you research Portugal as a potential destination, you'll be inundated with slogans about 300 days of sunshine and relaxed coastal living.
The truth is, any European country comes with a list of pros and cons.
If the thought has crossed your mind and you're thinking of a move to Portugal, then you should be made aware of the challenges that you might find once here.
Our guide details why you may want to reconsider, keep reading!
Let's Move to Portugal!
Various headlines recently might have you thinking that Portugal is a very desirable place for you to pack up your life and move to, and it may be so if you can navigate through the negatives of the country itself.
The fact is that nobody is ever prepared to share the truth behind moving countries and what may have held them back in the beginning, and what may have made them change their mind.
As the saying goes, hindsight is a wonderful thing!
1. Lower Salaries and a Tough Job Market
A simple internet search will show you that there aren't very many job opportunities advertised online for Portugal. The job market can be extremely difficult to navigate.
For those of us who live here, the saying is, it's not what you know, it's who you know. Many job opportunities are found through word of mouth or local sites like the Facebook marketplace unless it's a larger international corporation that actively uses LinkedIn.
Also, salaries in Portugal are quite low according to the rest of the global standards for certain industries. What a marketer earns in the USA for example would almost certainly not translate to the Euro earnings in Portugal. Couple that with the increasing cost of living and the cost of property in Portugal, and you can almost guarantee that the move for a single person may not be viable.
On a positive note, if you work remotely or for a company abroad, then it can be an affordable place to live and work. Also if you have companies abroad you can hire people to work with you in your Lisbon offices for very low salaries.
2. A Challenging Language
Portuguese is a notoriously difficult and challenging language to try and learn. The issue is also that most apps and websites offer to tutor and help in Brazilian Portuguese which is NOT the same as Portuguese in Portugal itself.
Ultimately, the only way you can learn the language is to be in the thick of it, which means throwing yourself in the deep end and hoping you can swim.
Verbs are no longer just verbs, but they have a million variations in a million different scenarios.
Portuguese is Latin based so it's difficult for Anglo-Saxon but not so much for other Latin language speakers. The good news is that almost everyone can speak English, particularly in larger cities and tourist areas.
3. Difficulty Navigating Government and Judicial Services
Anybody who deals with any sort of government service, social security, municipal office, or even school offices in Portugal will have at least one horror story to tell about the length of time it took.
Or, how many miles of paperwork were needed to complete certain actions.
The amount of paperwork required in Portugal to perform simple things like getting a social security number, registering your children for school, or opening a bank account can be very frustrating.
It's also very much a square that must fit in the square situation, so if you don't have EXACTLY what's required, you can forget advancing and you will have to return.
For example, you literally can't do anything without a NIF number. This is why movingto.io was created, the business creates a layer on top of the existing bureaucratic system and makes things easier for ex-pats like us that move from abroad. We compare all the Visas and Law firms, we create content about how and why move to Portugal. We review companies that make NIFs just to make everyone's life easy and save you from lots of headaches, time, and money.
4. Traditional Housing (Otherwise Known as Old and Cold)
If you're taking the scenic route through Portugal on a road trip then it's easy to appreciate the beauty of the old houses and buildings.
Living in them, however, is not so pleasant.
Aside from newer resort developments and more modern areas, the country is predominantly made up of houses that are at least a few decades old. What this means for homeowners is a ton of rock, zero insulation, and outdated roofing. January and February can be really cold, but you can get by with either air con or a fireplace.
This makes winter a rather unenjoyable season. Unless of course, you can afford the hefty prices of having an air conditioning unit installed and run continuously since summer makes these houses extremely hot too!
5. High Tax and Social Security
In terms of taxes and social security, the percentages based on what you earn are quite high. Granted the public health system is pretty good, and the unemployment scheme does work, it still seems difficult to justify the high rates you'll pay.
For any of us, waving goodbye to a large chunk of your salary before it even hits your account is really sad.
Even receiving parcels from countries outside the European zone can fetch a hefty import tax which means your favorite aunt in England can't send you a football shirt because you'll have to pay again when it arrives, even if it was a gift!
Having said that though, ex-pats can benefit from the NHR program which in the long run, can save you tons.
6. Very Slow Pace of Life
Portugal is definitely, 100%, unarguably not the place to move to if you're after a fast-paced, vibey lifestyle.
Everything in Portugal moves slower and in a relaxed fashion.
Even the locals can be heard saying, "Yes I know we said 15:00, but it's only 16:00, we're on Portuguese time!"
It can be a little (or a lot) frustrating when you need things done quite quickly and you seemingly aren't getting anywhere. Even more mundane daily tasks can seem to take longer than they should, like going to the grocery store or supermarket.
Ok, truth be told, it's not British punctuality but it isn't all bad. There are good things about being laid back. Everyone is always up for helping you. For example if you don't have enough money to get the bus they will let you in, or if you are missing a document in the bank they will let you send it later but still let you do whatever you want to do.
7. Property Is Atrociously Expensive
This one is no secret!
Property in Portugal is very expensive, particularly in a city like Lisbon or along the coast in Algarve.
We're talking about hundreds of thousands of euros on properties that still need refurbishment work or more money spent on them. The amount of young families that simply cannot afford to purchase their own houses because they're not able to is astonishing.
Also, speaking to those of Portuguese heritage, you'll find that there's often a mess with the inheritance of a property, and the family members are asking for more than what the property is worth.
Unfortunately, with the influx of European citizens looking to take advantage of tax schemes like NHR and a lower cost of living, these exorbitant prices are being paid, which in turn, keeps the cost of property sky high.
So for those us middle-class families with less spending power, it may seem near impossible to buy property unless you're willing to live more inland or do apartment living.
8. Being Foreign Doesn't Help With Mortgage and Finance
Portugal is very welcoming to those who come from foreign places and you'll be surprised to find a large community of expats in almost every area.
But those that are here, managed to come with some savings to help in buying property. When it comes to mortgages and loans, it's quite difficult for a foreigner who doesn't hold citizenship to get very good rates.
For example, one bank will give a Portuguese citizen a 90% mortgage loan on a property, but that same bank will only give a South African citizen with residency 50% on the same loan. This is irrespective of earnings. Before buying anything, ensure you get a visa.
9. Over-Tourism Is an Issue
There is definite evidence of the overloading of infrastructure during peak season. Summertime in Portugal means an immeasurable influx of foreigners coming on holiday.
Some will tell you that the population of the Algarve alone triples in the months of summer due to the amount of tourists.
This means one thing: busier shops, longer queues, worse traffic, and it ultimately does affect your day-to-day life negatively when you're just trying to get to work on time. The good news is that things aren't as busy as they were pre-COVID.
10. Countryside Living Is Rough
Availability of deliveries and services. Now, this is the problem if you need to live a little outside of a densely populated area.
You'll find that it's difficult to get courier services to find you if you're not in a mainstream town. Also, municipal water and sewage don't make it too far out of the main towns and cities. So you're looking at water tanks needing filling, sewage cisterns needing to be pumped out, and a whole bunch of other things that make countryside living a little tough.
Out in the country, you'll find fewer tar roads and a bigger need for off-road vehicles. This also means higher fuel bills if you need a tractor or mower too.
There are also a whole list of rules to be adhered to when you look at living a little outside of town, how often your trees need to be cut back, fire safety rules, and others.
Portugal isn't the most modern country outside Lisbon and Porto but this is part of the beauty and why some people actually want to move here, it really all depends on what you're looking. There are always upsides to perceived downsides!
Move to Portugal, they said, it will be fun, they said.
The thing is you can look at our list of reasons not to move to Portugal in two ways, either it's a list of reasons not to move to Portugal or it's a list of things to be conscious of if you still decide to make the move.
Really, any country you move to, it's about your outlook and your willingness to make it work.
If you're still looking at moving to Portugal, then check out our comprehensive list of visa options!
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