Living in Portugal?

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Portugal at a Glance

Living in Portugal

With only about 10 million inhabitants, Portugal, the country on Europe’s western edge, is fairly small. Thankfully, this did not inhibit the development of a fascinating cultural identity that, in combination with the great climate, has led many an expat to consider living in Portugal!

Climate

Those of you who have visited the country as tourists before shaping up plans of living there for a number of years will already know what Portugal has in store weather-wise. Portugal is among the warmest countries in Europe – average temperatures you are likely to encounter will only rarely fall into the single digits. While there are considerable changes in temperature between the different regions of the country depending on altitude, proximity to the sea, and other factors, you will mostly encounter mild to hot weather. If you choose to live in the country’s southern or eastern regions, you can expect the heat to be more oppressive than elsewhere in Portugal.

Life in Portugal is not all sunshine, though: while they are still fairly mild, winters are typically very wet, especially in coastal areas. Don’t leave the house without an umbrella or, even better, rain gear. In the wintertime, you might even catch a glimpse of snow here and there, although not too often or for too long.

Population

The population of Portugal is fairly small, with just less than 10.8 million inhabitants. The majority is concentrated around the northern part of the west coast, between the country’s largest cities Lisbon and Porto. Almost half the population lives in those metropolises and their immediate metro areas. Apart from the west coast, the world-famous Algarve at the southern end of the country is a preferred region for people interested in living in Portugal. As a general rule, however, you can assume the job market – as vulnerable as it is at the moment - in the large cities and their surroundings to be much more promising.

Apart from ethnically Portuguese people, there are larger numbers of people of Eastern European descent living in the country, who mainly came to Portugal in times of labor shortages towards the end of the 1990s and made a new home there. There are also sizeable communities of people from former Portuguese colonies in Africa and South America, as well as from the EU. Numbers of Chinese citizens living in Portugal are also on the rise. It is estimated that about 5% of the population today are immigrants from other nations.

Language

While English is very widely spoken among the educated population, you should prepare thoroughly for your new life in Portugal by learning at least a little bit of basic Portuguese. Any effort from expats trying to adapt to the language and communicate in the mother tongue of the locals will be met with positive reactions – apart from obviously making your life in Portugal a lot easier. A satisfying, rich experience abroad is always partly dependent on how deep you immerse yourself in the local culture, of which language is an indelible part – living in Portugal is no different in this respect.

A word of warning, though: no matter how similar the languages might appear to untrained ears, you should definitely abstain from using Spanish when living in Portugal. Although the two neighboring nations are on much friendlier terms today than they used to be in the past, you always need to remember that they are very distinct countries with their own heritage, culture and language, and equating them will invariably come across as ignorant.

Security

The ongoing harsh realities of everyday life in the wake of the deep recession and austerity measures following the international fiscal bailout in 2011 may raise questions on whether or not the country is a safe place to travel or live in these days. While protests are a common sight, they are only very rarely violent, so there is no cause for concern here. Generally speaking, you will experience a very peaceful nation while living in Portugal – a nation that, as every other country, sees its share of crime, but is not a dangerous place to live in. The general safety measures that you would adhere to in any metropolis in the Westernized world will be more than enough to ensure a secure life in Portugal.

InterNations Expat Magazine