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A guide for digital nomads wanting to live and work in Lisbon

Jamie and Constance on beach in Foz

Why digital nomads are choosing to live and work in Lisbon

Working online has been a growing trend for a while, but the global pandemic has accelerated its popularity as businesses realize that many roles can be done from anywhere in the world. For freelancers working online, the hardest choice is deciding from where they want to work, and Portugal, specifically Lisbon, is an increasingly popular choice. But why?

Digital nomads, like many people moving to Portugal, are attracted to the country for its good weather, friendly people and tasty food. It’s a safe and easy place to move to for many. European citizens don’t need a visa to work from Portugal, and those from outside the EU can apply for a D7 visa and show proof of a minimum revenue coming from their work abroad.

The cost of living is competitive against other European countries. The wifi in most places is extremely reliable, and there are a number of digital nomad and entrepreneurial communities you can join when you arrive in Portugal, to help you make friends and find your feet.

We spoke to Stephen Choi, founder of House Manifest, a growing entrepreneurial community based in Lisbon, to find out more about his story. Here he gives his advice on how to meet and connect deeply with people when you first move to a new country, especially if you’re a digital nomad or entrepreneur.

How Stephen arrived in Lisbon

Until he arrived in Lisbon, Stephen had moved country every couple of years and so had experienced a lot of different cultures - the US, Korea, UK, Indonesia, and New Zealand.. Since 2019, Stephen has been developing startup projects to facilitate connections on and offline. In November 2021, he was invited by an entrepreneurial community to pitch his startup to a panel of investors at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon. He booked a last minute flight and flew to Lisbon to pitch.

An Entrepreneurial Co-Living Concept with a Difference

While Stephen was in Lisbon, he was participating in an online hackathon to test out another idea. Stephen had had the idea for an entrepreneurial co-living community and had tested the idea in Bali on a small scale. In Lisbon, he decided to try it again, but this time with a view to building a larger and deeper community of founders and freelancers.

He searched (as many do) for a place to stay on AirBnB and rather than just a room or small apartment, he found a stunning 10-bedroom villa on the hill in Estrela with an incredible view of the entire city. Luckily it was low season in Lisbon, so he spoke to the owner to secure the house for a couple of months. The next challenge was finding people to live with him. Being a startup founder, he developed a brand, put up a landing page and form and started to recruit people.

Why consider joining a co-living community or entrepreneurial collective?

Some co-living communities are more than just a random group of people living together. Collectives, in particular, are intentionally curated communities, in which people sharing similar interests or values consciously decide to live together and help each other, sharing chores, skills and time to organize together.

It’s a concept that’s becoming more and more popular around the world, especially as the cost of living rises, and people live less and less in inter-generational homes. For digital nomads and entrepreneurs, it’s a chance not only to live together, but to work alongside each other, and develop and bounce ideas off each other - a perfect opportunity to grow personally and professionally without the commute!

As Stephen told us:

“You quickly realize when you live with someone, that you get to know them on many different levels and develop deeper and more meaningful connections faster. You also very quickly discover if those people are your people or not!”

Stephen’s community concept, now known as House Manifest, brings entrepreneurs together from all over the world. to work on their visions and businesses during the day, and in the evening join each other for activities and workshops. Each entrepreneur signs up to stay for at least two weeks, but most people extend their stay to a month or even two months.

A growing community of freelancers and startups

Stephen soon discovered through his Friday night open events, that there’s a large and vibrant community of expats, founders and digital nomads in Lisbon. The cost of living is relatively low, and locals and the government are open and welcoming to foreigners who want to live and work in the country. The advantage for anyone arriving in Lisbon to work is that you can easily tap into these communities for advice and resources, as you start to find your feet in the city.

House Manifest event in Porto

Stephen's recommendations for digital nomads

Stephen is an expert at meeting people and making a deep and meaningful connection fast. Here, he gives us his recommendations for digital nomads and entrepreneurs setting themselves up in a new city.

First you have to find where people hang out who might become your friends or colleagues.

  • There are a lot of offline events and meetups happening in Lisbon. To find them, join local Facebook groups, or meetup.com, and search for the hobbies or interests that you have, in order to find people who you might become friends with.  Telegram is also used quite a lot, especially in the tech and crypto space in Portugal, and you’ll find that many of these are lively groups who organize regular events.
  • Visit local co-working places. Many co-working spaces have public events, especially on Thursday and Friday evenings. You’ll find speed networking sessions, which help you to meet people and Ted-talk events that you can drop into easily.
  • Join a co-living community or a collective. This might sound like a scary option if you’ve never tried it before, but in Stephen’s opinion, living with strangers is one of the strongest ways to build lasting friendships.  Check out hostels like Selina, or in Lisbon, Stephen’s business, House Manifest, in which you join a residential accelerator program.
  • Host your own events. Once you’ve found your feet and met half a dozen people, Stephen recommends inviting those people to a picnic or meetup event, so you can really start to get to know each other well.  The added bonus is that you get to choose who to meet with!

After you’ve found people, here are some good ways to break the ice and start talking to new people.

  • Be the first person to make small talk and listen deeply. Be brave and leap in, saying hi to strangers. And then go a bit deeper by asking open questions and finding out another person’s story. Be genuinely interested and curious, and you’ll soon find yourself having great conversations with strangers.
  • Be helpful. If someone is new to a city, you may be able to help them settle in. Your experience finding an apartment or a meetup may be the advice that they need to find their feet in a place. Ask questions about what projects they’re working on and if you can help them move closer to solving their business problems, you’ll soon find collaborators for your own project.
  • Be a person who connects others. Once you’ve met a few people, you may discover that two people you know will benefit from knowing each other. Introduce them to each other, or bring them both along to events they might enjoy, and you’ll soon find yourself becoming friends. Three or more people meeting is also less pressure than just you and one other person.

Looking to the future

Stephen has never lived anywhere for longer than three years, but is enjoying his time so far in Lisbon, and has set up his latest business in Portugal. Looking to the future, he’d love to open more nomad friendly co-living spaces around the world. You can find out more about House Manifest at his website and follow Stephen’s journey on his YouTube channel.

Jenny Teasdale
June 28, 2022

Jenny Teasdale

Blog Author