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Enjoying the slower and healthier pace of life in Portugal

Jamie and Constance on beach in Foz

Dianne and Guillermo moved to Lisbon, Portugal in August 2021.  Before that they had been in Guadalajara, Mexico for three years, and previous to that, they lived in Northern Virginia in the USA. They’ve been married for 18 years, and made the move to Portugal with their two dogs in order to explore Europe for a few years. 

Here’s their story of how they left the USA, why they decided to move to Portugal, and how their life has benefited from the move they made. 

Leaving the USA

Dianne and Guillermo arrived in Portugal via Mexico. Dianne wanted to retire early and initially they had considered Colorado as a place to live, until they took a vacation in Guadalajara, Mexico. Guillermo posed the question, “What about Mexico?”  Dianne ran the numbers and given the lower cost of living, it made sense.  It would be the first time Dianne had lived outside the US.

They planned to live in Mexico for 2 years, but due to Covid, they stayed 3 years. Having left the USA, they didn’t want to go back. They no longer found themselves in the rat race and the cost of living and healthcare was much lower.  However, they weren’t completely sold on Mexico, so they started visiting different countries to see where they wanted to be long-term.  

At the same, time, they set up their YouTube channel - Seeking Paradise Bugs - to share the process they went through and information about different cities and countries - across Mexico, South America and Europe. 

Researching the move to Portugal

Dianne and Guillermo decided they wanted to move to Europe and were considering cities in Spain. They took a scouting trip to Valencia, Spain.  While there, they decided to take a trip to Lisbon in Portugal, because Portugal had been recommended for its low cost of living and safety.  They quickly decided to try Portugal for a year as their home base, and have admitted that they’re falling in love with it more and more every day. They are even considering staying in Portugal for 5 years, so they can get a Portuguese passport, which would give them the option to move around and live in different countries in Europe.

The couple are early retirees and qualified for the D7 visa with the income they have from their investments. They did a lot of research online and joined Facebook groups to get advice on the process and where to live.  In fact, that’s how they found Bordr, who helped the couple get their NIF.

The D7 application and move to Portugal was more challenging than moving to Mexico, because there are a lot of requirements for the Portuguese visa.  In addition, due to the pandemic, they weren’t able to visit Portugal to find a rental property.  They had to do that remotely.

Advice on securing accommodation for the D7

They found a site called Flatio to secure their initial rental accommodation in Portugal.  At the time, Flatio agreements were accepted for the D7 visa.  The apartment they found looked good, and accepted dogs.  It was located across the river from Lisbon in a small fishing town called Trafaria.  Trafaria is a very small traditional town, in which almost no one speaks English, but this gave them the push they needed to start learning Portuguese!  They stayed in Trafaria for three months in the end, before moving into Lisbon. 

Dianne and Guillermo recommend that you double check the requirements for accommodation. When they applied, they were able to secure a flat for just six months, but now the requirement is 12 months.  Whichever requirement it is when you apply, make sure that there is an option in the contract to give notice on the flat, before the 12 months is up, so that if there is a problem, you can move house.

A different pace of life in Portugal with some surprising benefits

Dianne and Guillermo have found life quite different in Portugal, although they feel that Mexico helped them to some extent to adapt from life in the US.  Here are just some of the things to be aware of, if moving from the US to Portugal.

Customer service and the pace of life

In Portugal, customer service is not as fast-paced as in the US.  Nobody rushes around after you. People take their time and you have to adapt to that. The reason for the difference in customer service is the general pace of life.  In Portugal, people are very family oriented and time for leisure is more important than time for work.  The stores and restaurants close at odd hours during the day - don’t trust what Google says!  This extends to paperwork too - bureaucracy and official processes take time in Portugal.

“Everything is slow. I used to be very amped up and moving fast all the time, but now I take a slow approach. You just can’t fight it. It is part of the Portuguese culture, and actually we’re becoming very used to it now and happier too!”, says Guillermo.

Portugal is good for your health!

The couple feel healthier in both body and mind.  They put this down to less stress and healthier foods. But they also feel that the healthcare service is of a better quality, in that you get real time with the doctor when you have a healthcare issue, and it costs a fraction of what it does in the US.  Doctors are less likely to prescribe a pill, and more likely to offer preventative care, so that problems don’t become serious.  

The car is not king!  And Portugal is so convenient

Many people do run cars in Portugal, but for Dianne and Guillermo, who live in Lisbon, they use public transport or walk a lot more than they used to in the US. And they attribute the reduction in stress, in part to the fact that they don’t need to drive everywhere on busy roads. 

The couple used to run an SUV in Mexico, but given the hills and narrow streets of Lisbon, this kind of vehicle is just not practical.  For the first time in their lives, they do not have a car, and they don’t miss it!  They rent a car when they want to go on a trip to other parts of Portugal or to Spain and say it’s the best way to do it.

Cost of living comparison

If you’re considering moving to Lisbon, be aware that it is more expensive than the rest of the country.  Real estate in particular is expensive in Lisbon, as well as the restaurants and stores downtown.  But even if you just move 15 minutes out of downtown Lisbon to a more traditional neighborhood, you will find restaurants and markets that are a lot less expensive, although the rent will still be quite high. Despite the higher prices in Lisbon, Dianne and Guillermo estimate that their cost of living is a little more than 50% less than where they were in the US.

Top recommendations for people thinking of making the move

  1. Don’t be afraid to leave the rat race in the US.  Dianne and Guillermo admit that they were very worried about leaving the work and earning power they had in the States, but with the right research, they were able to predict and plan for a lower cost of living.
  2. Be open to new cultures and a change in your way of life.  Know that to begin with you’ll make all types of mistakes, but it’s fine - have fun with it, keep learning. It’s an adventure moving to a new country. 

If you’re considering moving to Portugal, you’ll find more tips in our blog from people who’ve made the move. Get in touch if you need support with setting up a NIF or a bank account.

Jenny Teasdale
January 26, 2023

Jenny Teasdale

Blog Author