Join now
Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Portugal’s Trade-Off: Stellar Nature & Safety but Job Woes

Expats in Portugal are impressed with the quality of life of but must grapple with less than stellar career prospects.

Portugal ranks 15th overall in the Expat Insider 2024 survey, seeing a consistent drop in standing from 4th and 10th place in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The Quality of Life (7th), Personal Finance (13th), and Ease of Settling In (15th) Indices are still top performers. However, the Working Abroad (43rd) and Expat Essentials (37th) Indices disappoint, causing expats’ ranking of their overall happiness with their life in Portugal to lose its footing in the top 5 (5th in 2023, 3rd in 2022) to land in 12th place in 2024.

How Expats Rate Life in Portugal

Environmental Bliss & Strong Finances

Portugal’s best-performing index is Quality of Life, coming in 7th place. The country stands out for its exceptional Environmental & Climate (5th) and Safety & Security (9th). It sees top-10 placements for climate & weather (6th), air quality (7th), natural environment
(9th) as well as expats’ freedom to openly express themselves and their opinions (6th) and personal safety (9th).

“It's very peaceful here with no sense of prejudice for one’s sexual identity or native country. It’s easy to find healthy food and have an active lifestyle within walking distance and access to a beautiful beach and ocean environment.” – US American expat

In 17th place is Travel & Transit. Notably, nine in ten expats (90%) positively rate the opportunity to travel (vs. 83% globally), and a similar share (88%) find it easy and safe to get around on foot or by bicycle (vs. 76% globally). This is good news, as results are rather average for the availability (25th) and affordability (21st) of public transportation.

“I like the possibility of traveling around Europe at a relatively low cost.” – Brazilian expat

Meanwhile, Healthcare ranks 20th. Although the affordability (18th) and quality (23rd) of medical care are decent, expats are less satisfied with its availability (30th).  

Another aspect that compliments the quality of life abroad is a strong Personal Finance Index. Portugal ranks 13th, with three in five expats (60%) satisfied with the general cost of living and their financial situation (vs. a respective 40% and 54%, globally).

Job Market & Job Security Woes

In sharp contrast is the Working Abroad Index, where Portugal ranks 43rd overall — its worst performance in an index. Two of its subcategories are in the bottom 10: Career Prospects (50th) and Salary & Job Security (44th). Expats negatively rate the local job market (51st), whether relocating has improved their career prospects (50th), and their job security (43rd).

Moreover, 40% of respondents are unhappy with their personal career opportunities and 31% rate the state of the economy as bad, both of which are notably higher than the global averages of 25% and 19%, respectively.

On the bright side, Work & Leisure is in 23rd place, due to good work–life balance (19th). However, a higher share than the global average are not satisfied with their jobs (26% vs. 19% globally).  

Piloting through Portuguese Puzzles

When it comes to the Expat Essentials, Portugal is in a shaky 37th place. It dropped from a respectable 19th spot in 2022 to rank 31st in 2023 and has only slipped further. Admin Topics (34th) and Digital Life (32nd) are some of the most challenging subcategories.

More than half find it difficult to deal with the local bureaucracy (59% vs. 42% globally), which isn’t helped by mediocre availability of administrative services online (38th). It’s at least not too much of a hassle to get a visa to move to Portugal (21st) or get access to high-speed internet at home (13th).

“Bureaucracy can be frustrating and occasionally worrying as things can take far too long or are lost in the ether.” – British expat

The Language Subcategory (29th) performs the best here, as 65% of expats find it easy to live in Portugal without learning the local language (vs. 48% globally), securing the 18th spot. However, when it comes to learning Portuguese, Portugal ranks lower in 34th place: only 28% of respondents agree that learning it’s easy, which falls below the global average of 38%.

Expats Still Feel Welcome

Portugal is in good form with the Ease of Settling In Index (15th), despite having slipped from a top-10 ranking (7th) in 2022. It’s yet to regain its standing, but the country’s Culture & Welcome (11th), Local Friendliness (15th), and Finding Friends (19th) Subcategories still delight.  

Around three-quarters of expats positively rate the general friendliness of the locals (73% vs. 63% globally) and their friendliness towards foreign residents (74% vs. 61%). And similar shares feel welcome in Portugal (74% vs. 63% globally) and find it easy to get used to the local culture (71% vs. 59%). However, making local friends can be a challenge, with only 49% of respondents saying it’s easy — though that’s at least still above the global average of 38%.

The Typical Expat in Portugal

Further Reading