What’s Good and Bad About Living in Portugal?

Living in Portugal

Portugal is one of the most popular overseas locations with Britons considering moving abroad for a better lifestyle whether before or after retirement, but interestingly enough, it is not such a popular choice after people have done their research and looked into the realities of living in Portugal.  We think this may be because large numbers of people are put off by the thought of learning an almost impossible language!

So, what’s good and bad about living in Portugal, and should it be a more popular choice with Britons?  In this article we look at the pros and cons of relocating to soak up the Portuguese sunshine.

The Pros of Living in Portugal

Portugal is arguably home to the best golf courses in Europe and if you are passionate about your golf, you have a fair amount of money put by to afford your annual fees and you are committed to spending your retirement on the greens perhaps, then maybe Portugal should be your number one choice!  But as stated, you will need a fair amount of money to afford to live the golfing life in Portugal.

The weather is certainly something in the nation’s favour – the further south you head the hotter the summers and more temperate the winters, and if you like it s1eriously hot, head away from the Atlantic coastline and into the beautiful interior of the country and you’ll find the summers are baking!

The price of property in Portugal away from the resorts and the coast is affordable.  You can bag bargains in some stunning inland towns and villages and still only be a short drive from major urban areas and the beach.  You will be looking at buying more traditional property rather than developed resort style homes, but you can certainly find affordable property if you hunt for it in Portugal.

The coastline in Portugal is beautiful – as the nation lies on the Atlantic and is lashed by dramatic storms sometimes in the winter, this has led to stunning rock and cliff formations on the coast.  In the summertime the beautiful beaches all the way up the western edge of the nation are to be explored and enjoyed.
Away from the coast Portugal is home to mountains and plains, national parks, lakes, olive groves and rivers – it is a geographically diverse and fabulous nation.

The pace of life in Portugal is laid back – initially for those coming from fast paced and stressed out countries like the UK this can seem like a dream but feel like a nightmare because it can take just so long to do anything!  Queues in banks can stretch for miles as the staff chat about anything and everything with their customers, and customers chat amongst themselves.  Once one gets into the pace of life however, it is a dream come true.  It is such a healthier way to live!

The healthcare system in the country is so much more sophisticated in some ways…for example, more medicines can be bought over the counter from a pharmacist who is able to ‘diagnose’ and assist people with what medicines they should have and this makes it easier to get treatment for minor illnesses.

The Cons of Living in Portugal

The worst thing about Portugal is the language – it really is a very complicated and difficult language to learn and many people struggle to get much further than the basics and every day pleasantries.  It isn’t even a case of persevering for many people – it is just so hard!  However, for those who will be living in the more urban and populous areas where there are lots of expats, international citizens and professional Portuguese, you will find English quite widely spoken…

The bureaucracy in Portugal is quite something else!  There are reams of paperwork and hours of queue standing just to achieve the most basic of tasks and this can really grate.  However, if you prepare yourself for this fact before you attempt to do anything – from taxing your car to getting a new bank account for example – you will be alright!  Just don’t attempt to rush and don’t stress when things take time.  Embrace the Portuguese system and go with the flow otherwise you will drive yourself crazy.

Property prices in the most popular parts of the nation are extortionate.  They really have risen sharply and dramatically and make it hard for people to get a place to live in the most in-demand locations.

The Atlantic is not the Mediterranean!  Okay, this sounds like a very obvious statement to make – but the Atlantic can be rough even in the summer months making it unpleasant to swim in and not as warm or as much fun as the Mediterranean for those who like messing about in the water for leisure and relaxation time.

Other than that, we think Portugal is a fantastic nation to consider – it really does offer a fantastic quality of life and is well worth closer inspection.

4 thoughts on “What’s Good and Bad About Living in Portugal?”

  1. There have been 3 IMF bail-outs in Portugal in the last 40 years (1978–79 / 1983–85 and 2010-2014, which was a consequence of the country being unable to repay or refinance its government debt without the assistance of third parties. To prevent an insolvency situation, Portugal applied for bail-out programs and drew a cumulated €79-billion just as of November 2014. Portugal is also named a peripheral country in Europe for the weakness of its economy. In fact, the country has essentially become an increasingly service-based economy since joining the European Community in 1986, with tourism and insanely high taxes (VAT is 23%) covering up for the vast majority of its under-performing industries. (Greece, Spain, Portugal…The state is bankrupt)
    Portuguese is the 9th most spoken language in the world with 229 million people speaking it as their native tongue, being the vast majority of speakers from Brazil. With the exception of Brazil, Portuguese is spoken in widely unknown African countries. Macanese Portuguese is spoken by less than 1% of Macau’s (Macao’s) population, the only (part of a) country in ASIA speaking the language.
    Portugal’s economic freedom score is 63.4, making its economy the appalling/embarrassing 72nd freest in the 2018 Index (Source: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption). Smaller countries than Portugal (some with a smaller population) have much larger economies and/or wealth distribution such as Singapore, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Hong Kong (which is part of China), New Zealand and Qatar.
    Portugal’s claim to be a safe country with a good justice system is truly misleading. It is a corrupt “shithole”. The first case worth mentioning is the invasion of a football academy last year. The football academy of ‘Sporting Clube de Portugal’ was invaded by barbaric gangs that ended up bashing the players and their 64-year old manager, Mr Jorge Jesus. As a result, most players cancelled their contracts with the club. Sporting meltdown casts shadow over Portugal’s World Cup buildup / Sporting Lisbon chaos continues as more players terminate contracts after season that ended with training ground attack). The second shocking case is the CASA PIA paedophile scandal. Portuguese Judiciary Police (Polícia Judiciária) officials estimate that more than 100 boys and girls of the 4,600 pupils enrolled in Casa Pia at the time, a Portuguese state-run institution for the education and support of poor children and orphans, including some deaf and mute, were sexually abused throughout several decades by highly notable personalities of Portugal, which were protected by the political system by not having to stand in court. (Casa Pia child sexual abuse scandal – Wikipedia). The list goes on with the GOLDEN visa scandal (Buying their way in), the corruption scandal involving their former prime-minister Jose Socrates (Portugal plagued by corruption claims as ex-PM Socrates held), the constant cases around fake driver’s licenses (Vendiam cartas falsas), the ‘Apito Dourado’ football scandal (Apito Dourado – Wikipedia) and the former BES bank scandal (Portugal’s Banking Crisis Isn’t So Much A Banking Crisis As A Corporate One / Former head of collapsed Portuguese bank BES put under house arrest). Portuguese politicians are known, even in Portugal, for being corrupt which is now evident by the detention of former prime-minister Jose Socrates. Unfortunately, the EU Commission is a ‘job for boys’ club (and therefore an extension of the same system implemented in Portugal) where Portuguese politicians get hired without being elected by the populations of EU state members. Guterres was elected to fulfill a certain agenda at the UN and is far from being a good example (or a competent one). Would Centeno get elected if people were voting for their Eurogroup president? Not in a million years.
    Portugal is one of the countries with most of their citizens living overseas, number which has increased in the last years, due to their salaries in the country being tiny. The most hilarious non-sense said by Portuguese is that they believe that they are bringing knowledge to other countries when research shows that the exact opposite is true. Most Portuguese are performing clerical/construction/entry-level work overseas and Portuguese universities don’t even appear in the top 200 or 300 of the QS Top university rankings (Source: Infographic: The Countries With The Most People Living Overseas). In Portugal, only 47% of adults aged between 25 and 64 have completed upper secondary education, much lower than the OECD average of 74%. (Source: OECD Better Life Index). In 2017, only 16.1% of the Portuguese that migrated to other EU countries possessed an undergraduate degree (Source: Há cada vez mais portugueses a viver noutros países da União Europeia).
    Portuguese claim that they are ‘the mecca of food in Europe’ however there is no recognisable international Portuguese chain of food in the world. The biggest cuisines/brands internationally continue to be the Italians, French, Thai, Chinese and Indians.
    Portugal ranks above the OECD average in housing, work-life balance, personal security and environmental quality, but below average in income and wealth, health status, social connections, civic engagement, education and skills, subjective well-being, and jobs and earnings. (Source: OECD Better Life Index).
    The inefficiency of the Portuguese legal system – including the appeal courts – is well known to practitioners and investors alike. According to the statistics made available by the Department for Justice Policies, the number of appeals that are finalised each year in Portugal’s appeal courts has slightly risen from 33,930 in 2013 to 35,776 in 2016. The figures for 2017 are not yet available.During the same period, however, the number of cases that have entered the system has increased from 33,634 in 2013 to 36,661 in 2016. In other words, the efficiency improvements are seen as weak and are outweighed by the increasing demand, fuelled by years of economic stagnation within Portugal. Although practitioners, politicians and investors agree that the inefficiency of the court system impairs investment and growth, it seems unlikely that the reforms and investment needed to turn the situation around are close at hand, which has led to the increase in alternative means of dispute resolution, such as arbitration, particularly for complex, high-value transactions. According to the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard, the average time for a first-instance court to rule on a commercial or civil case in Portugal is just over 700 days. This means that it is common to see cases in first-instance courts drag on for three to four years, or even more. This is because of inefficiency of the system as a whole and a high number of pending cases. According to the Scoreboard, Portugal is among EU countries with the highest score in the number of pending civil and commercial cases, with 12 cases per 100 habitants, against just two in France and six in Italy.
    Portuguese started the slave trade: a) 1441: Start of European slave trading in Africa. The Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão captured 12 Africans in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and took them to Portugal as slaves; b) 1444: Lançarote de Freitas, a tax-collector from the Portuguese town of Lagos, formed a company to trade with Africa. He lands 235 kidnapped and enslaved Africans in Lagos, the first large group of African slaves brought to Europe; c) 1452: Start of the ‘sugar-slave complex’. Sugar is first planted in the Portuguese island of Madeira and, for the first time, African slaves are put to work on the sugar plantations. Slavery as an institution becomes officialised when Pope Nicholas V issues Dum Diversas, authorising the Portuguese to reduce any non-Christians to the status of slaves. d) 1454: Pope Nicholas V issues Romanus Pontifex, a bull granting the Portuguese a perpetual monopoly in trade with Africa; e) 1461:The first of the Portuguese trading forts, the castle at Arguin (modern Mauritania), is completed. f) 1462: The Portuguese colony on the Cape Verde Islands is founded, an important way-station in the slave trade. And in Seville, Spain, the government allows Portuguese slave traders to begin operations; g) 1481: A Portuguese ambassador to the court of King Edward IV of England agreed not to enter the slave trade, against the wishes of many English traders; h) 1481-86: Diogo da Azambuja builds a castle in Elmina (modern Ghana) which was to become both the most substantial and notorious of the slave-trading forts in West Africa; i) 1483: Diogo Cão discovers the Congo river. The region is later a major source of slaves; j) 1485: Diogo Cão makes contact with the nation of Kongo and visits its capital, Mbanza Kongo. He establishes relations between Portugal and Kongo. k) 1486: João Afonso Aveiro makes contact with Benin and Portuguese settle in the West African island of São Tomé. This uninhabited island off of West Africa becomes a major sugar operation centre populated by African slaves. l) 1487-88: Bartolomeo Dias rounds the Cape of Good Hope and explores the Indian Ocean and the East African coast;
    Corruption is reportedly widespread in Portugal’s public procurement sector. Companies perceive favoritism in decisions of government officials and diversion of public funds to be common (GCR 2017-2018). A significant majority of companies believe that corruption is common among both national and regional authorities (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Procedural irregularities that lead to abuses in the awarding of public tenders are a recurring problem for the municipalities, and represent a potential risk to private companies (EUACR 2014). For instance, more than one-third of Portuguese companies refrained from taking part in tenders due to the perceived tailor-made criteria, while almost half report that corruption prevented them from winning a tender or contract (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Around one-third complained of impossible deadlines, collusive bidding and of deals being agreed upon beforehand, while more than two-thirds reported conflicts of interest in the evaluation of bids, and abuse of emergency grounds to get around competitive procedures (European Commission, Feb. 2014, EUACR 2014). Weak monitoring systems prevent officials from identifying conflicts of interest and favoritism in tender decisions (EUACR 2014). Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are widely used by the government to launch public contracts for the building of hospitals, water systems and road construction (EUACR 2014). Weaknesses are demonstrated by insufficient transparency in tender procedures, shortcomings in project evaluations, and unclear reasoning behind award decisions (EUACR 2014). To mitigate this scenario, the government has strengthened the Court of Auditors’ auditing powers and capacity to perform ante and post control of public contracts (EUACR 2014). The defense sector is also highly vulnerable to procurement fraud (GDACI 2015). An investigation into fraud in the provision of food to Air Force mess halls is underway (HRR 2016). The case, dubbed as “Operation Zeus” is said to have cost the state as much as EUR 10 million over inflated food prices (Portugal Resident, Jul. 2017). Sixteen people were arrested in the case, including high ranked Air Force officers and a major general (Portugal Resident, Jul. 2017). Companies are recommended to implement special due diligence procedures to counter the likelihood of encountering corruption in Portugal’s procurement process.
    Regulations and poor administration have held back Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain’s economies, illustrated here using Doing Business data (Graphic: How bureaucracy is slowing Europe’s recovery)
    Portuguese always call themselves ‘Dr’s’ (Dr this, Dr that) after completing their bachelor’s degree, which is absolutely laughable. This is common practice because degree holders want to ”distinguish” themselves from the 53%-portion of their population that has no degree. If you don’t have a doctorate degree, you are not entitled to add ‘DR’ to your name.
    Bureaucracy is ridiculously painful and an impediment to investment. Of course this doesn’t have much effect on you if you’re on a tourist visa. But if you’re a citizen or permanent resident and work in Portugal, dealing with the administration is a part-time job in and of itself. Doing anything requires stacks of documents and endless photocopies (for some reason the Portuguese state loves photocopies) sent by registered mail. The bureaucracy frequently loses or misplaces your file or rejects it for no reason, leaving you to wonder what on earth happened. Even though they may lose or burn your dossier, you are still responsible for getting your paperwork done on time and the civil servants have zero sympathy. And no, in most cases you cannot apply for your residency permit (or health insurance, or housing assistance) online. This fondness for paperwork extends into private sector tasks too, such as opening a bank account or getting a library card. Backwards, sickening mentality that constantly stops foreign investment.
    But, as long as they win an European championship in football or the Eurovision contest, everything is OK. Also, when you critise them, the first question that Portuguese will ask you is “Have you ever been to Portugal?”, in a futile attempt to disregard the evidence, which is a brainless, idiotic and absurd approach. We are not talking about the next Switzerland of Europe with world class standards. In fact, we are taking about a highly corrupt, peripheral economy in Europe with a vast population living below European standards. It is the same way an ignorant Portuguese official once told me that he read that, in Australia, we limit ourselves to swap property titles around without registering newly acquired properties with the relevant authorities. Was it a fiction book? And, before you ask, YES, I have been to Portugal (too many times) and can definitely articulate a number of pertinent issues (and I am not impressed).

  2. Excellent comment. I’m portuguese and support every word written. This post is not accurate at all. Well done PJ. I think the world doesn’t realize how Portugal is actually controlled by a mafia and that portuguese are helpless against it. My biggest surprise is why or how a civil war hasn’t happened yet, if we had more of a french or spanish mentality perhaps things would be different but as long as there is cheap beer and good food I don’t think anyone will do anything..

  3. If you plan to build a house or order any goods or materials while living in Portugal. Don’t. You will break down before the construction or delivery begins. Absolutely selfish people with total lack of respect for themselves and for your time. And yes, superficially they act “friendly”, but will screw you on every occasion.

  4. Damn! I guess we have been extremely fortunate with the people we’ve met here in Portugal. They have been friendly, honest and helpful in the extreme. Yes, the bureaucracy can be a pain but, again, we haven’t had the kind of problems described.
    And yes, we are here for the rich culture, great weather, food and wine and we love it!

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