No matter how perfect another country might seem to you, there are certain things that might be not as good as you are used to. Or even, let’s be frank here, sometimes things are so drastically different, that it might cause you discomfort. It is important to consider potential negative sides to your retirement in Portugal to think whether you can deal with them or make some kind of compromise. So what are the pros and cons of relocating to soak up the Portuguese sunshine in retirement?
The Pros of Living in Portugal
This bit is really easy, isn’t it? You can probably name straight away a dozen or so positive changes that will happen to your life when you relocate to Portugal. The main advantages are as follows:
1. Amazing Golf
Portugal is arguably home to the best golf courses in Europe. 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, then Portugal should be your number one choice!
There are only 70 or so golf courses in the country, and the total number of golf club members are less than 20,000. But despite (or maybe thanks to) these modest numbers the quality of golf courses is very high and the country’s popularity as a top golfing destination has been steadily growing.
The Algarve region alone counts for more than 40 golf courses, many of them world-famous championship layouts. Elsewhere you can play equally esteemed courses along the Lisbon coast and even on beautiful Madeira Island, set in the Atlantic Ocean. Whether you’re an experienced player or just a beginner, there’s a golf course in Portugal for everybody, with brilliant layouts where you can hone your skills, improve your game, and maybe even lower your handicap into the bargain.
2. The Weather and Climate
However obvious this upside of Portuguese life is, we cannot skip the weather topic. This is very often a primary reason for people to choose Portugal as their retirement destination, so we have to add at least a line or two to the common praise of Portugal sunshine.
It is certainly something in the nation’s favour – the climate of Portugal is very diverse. The further south you head the hotter the summers and more temperate the winters, and if you like it seriously hot, head away from the Atlantic coastline and into the beautiful interior of the country and you’ll find the summers are baking!
In warmer areas, such as the Guadiana river basin, summer highs can reach beyond 45 °C. In the north, on the other hand, snowfall is common, and winter temperatures can drop below −10.0 °C.
So whatever climate you like, there is a place for you in Portugal that will tick your “weather” box.
3. Brilliant Surfing
Portugal has almost 500 miles (800 km) of coastline. Yet one of the lesser-known Portugal facts is just how good the country is as a surfing destination.
Indeed, Portugal is a surfer’s paradise. Knowledgeable people say the country boasts 364 days of surf. In 2011 at Praia de Norte, a beach near the town of Nazaré, Hawaiian Garret McNamara broke records by surfing the biggest waver ever caught, which was an astonishing 90 ft. high! That’s nearly 27.5 meters!
If you are a devoted surfer or want to learn surfing, or your children and grandchildren love this kind of pastime – retire to Portugal and take advantage of its fantastic surfing opportunities.
4. Lower Property Prices
Property market in Portugal is undervalued and among the most affordable in Europe. On the whole housing is cheaper to buy there and investors can make more money from rentals than in many other European countries.
The price of property away from the resorts and the coast can surprise you even further. 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.
5. Natural Beauty
The coastline in Portugal is stunningly beautiful. As the nation lies on the Atlantic and is sometimes lashed by dramatic storms in the winter, this has led to stunning rock and cliff formations on the coast.
For walk lovers it is one of the best countries in the world to explore on foot. In the summertime the beautiful beaches all the way up the western edge of the country offer a brilliant opportunity for those who love to explore coastal paths. 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.
6. No Stress Lifestyle
The pace of life in Portugal is laid back, relaxed and unrushed. It takes time to get used to it, but once you stop being annoyed at how long it takes for a simple task to be done, it is a dream come true. Remember, there is nowhere to rush. Have a glass of port instead and enjoy the magnificent views from the balcony of your villa.
7. Healthy Food
Speaking about healthier living – nothing can be better for your health than Portuguese cuisine and eating habits.
The Portuguese are the biggest fish eaters per capita in Europe, and all kind and sort of fresh fish is available daily at the local markets. It explains endless varieties of seafood arriving in a traditional cataplana pan to your lunch table. In addition, the abundance of sunshine in this part of the world means veg and fruit and other fresh produce is cheap and easily available everywhere.
8. Low Crime
Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime is limited to street crime during the busy tourist season.
9. Low Cost of Living
The cost of living is lower than in the UK, is among the lowest in Western Europe, on average 30 percent lower than in any other country of the region. A retired couple could live here comfortably but modestly on a budget of as little as 1,100 or 1,200 euros per month.
Living in Portugal you can easily afford the lifestyle you are used to for less money and squirrel away the rest to build up your family wealth. Or, if you wish, you can buy a much fancier lifestyle for the same money you used to spend back in the UK and indulge in luxuries you have always wanted to try.
10. A Wealth of Culture and Heritage
Culturally Portugal is a rich country. There is everything there to satisfy the most demanding minds – music, theatre, opera, arts, architecture, numerous festivals and shows, museums exhibitions and cultural events all year round. It is simply impossible to get bored living in Portugal.
If you are a culture vulture, you need to be a bit more particular about choosing your location in Portugal. However attractive and sunny the Algarve is, you might want to look closer to Lisbon or Porto to enjoy the cultural riches of Portugal.
11. A Very Stimulating Environment
It’s a brilliant country for both active and more contemplative retirement. The coast is a perfect place for those who love all kinds of water sports, the country is full of wonderful walks, the scenery is amazing and from the north to the south the diversity of a landscape will reward a devoted explorer with most stunning views.
It is the country that will make you want to try something new: take up photography, research wines in theory and in practice, try fishing or learn to play the guitar. In short, it is a truly inspirational place where it is easy to keep your mind and body healthy and engaged.
We have highlighted most common and obvious advantages of living in Portugal in retirement. Those who have a long-lasting love affair with Portugal and know the country well can probably expand this list to the infinity, citing such details as friendly people, excellent healthcare, famous vinho do Porto (port) and amazing vintage Madeira, unprecedented sunsets from Cape Saint Vincent and the most delicious pastel de natas (custard cakes) in the world.
There is a lot to fall in love with in Portugal, and everyone finds their own bright sides about living there. However, when choosing your retirement location, it is really vital to look at the possible negative sides of the country you are planning to retire to.
Let’s be honest – there is no totally perfect place in the world. It’s good to know the negatives beforehand – it gives you a chance to decide whether you are prepared to live with them and whether they won’t become a too big annoyance in your life.
The Cons of Living in Portugal
“There is so much to make up for any minor irritations, and of course we are now so laid back, things don’t bother us much anymore anyway”
From a Portugal Expat Forum about the negative sides of living in Portugal
1. There is no rush to do anything!
Remember the advantage of the slower pace of life that we mentioned earlier? Well, with this comes one of the biggest challenges every foreigner relocating to the Mediterranean has to face at some point.
Initially for those coming from fast paced and stressed out countries like the UK, it feels 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. Two cars can stop on a narrow country road side by side, and the drivers will discuss their family affairs while other cars are waiting patiently behind them.
As we said before – get used to it and enjoy! No point to get stressed out, just accept this is how your life is now. Which is where the next point comes in: Fado Culture.
2. Portuguese Fatalism or Fado Culture
Those melancholic and mournful tunes of Fado music reflect the whole approach to life in Portugal – an attitude in music, literature and even the way the Portuguese speak. It is characterized by melancholy, resignation and a belief in capricious fate. In short – don’t put too might fight, it’s probably wiser to go with the flow and submit to your fate.
The Portuguese say oxalá, meaning “hopefully/if only” which is the very expression of Fado culture. Oxalá comes from the Arabic inshallah, meaning “God willing”, which came to the Portuguese language when the Umayyad Muslims invaded from the south of the country in 711, making Portugal a part of its Caliphate for well over 5 centuries.
Living in Portugal means accepting Fado culture and enjoying what you have. You can, of course, make plans and undertake some actions to implement them, but don’t overexert yourself or any local trades involved in your plans, and don’t worry too much – things will work out themselves, oxala!
3. The Language
The most difficult 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. If you live 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 Algarve, for example, is being anglicised rapidly thanks to international expats.
However, if you make an effort and do advance your language skills beyond simple shopping routine, the reward will be immense – from great local respect to building local friendships to being accepted as a full member of local community.
4. The Red Tape
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.
Driving styles of the locals in Portugal can shock you at first. But as many expats will advise you wisely – “you will soon get used to it”, just watch out for a first month or so and don’t get stressed out whatever happens.
Other than that, Portugal is a fantastic nation to consider as your retirement destination – it really does offer a great quality of life and a lot more on top. The pace of life and the consequent relaxed approach to life are common to the whole Mediterranean culture whatever country you choose. Believe us, it’s not a downside, it is a part of a healthier lifestyle.