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5 Expat Tips From a Portugal Insider

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.

Thinking about making the move to Portugal?

That’s pretty darn exciting, but let’s face it: It can also be pretty intimidating to settle in a new place.

Portugal might be a whole lot different than what you’re used to, but fear not, my friend. I’m going to give you some insider tips on how to adjust to your new life in this Old World great.

Let’s begin.

1. Learn the Local Language

Estoril, Portugal
S-F / Shutterstock.com

First things first: Let’s talk about learning Portuguese.

If you’re coming from the States, you might be thinking, “Who’s got time for that!” But trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Learning Portuguese will show locals that you’re making an effort to fit in, and that can go a long way toward integrating faster and feeling like a local yourself.

Plus, you don’t want to be left in the dark when folks are gabbing away in their native tongue.

There are plenty of resources out there to help you get started, like apps, language exchange programs, and even good ol’ textbooks.

To get started on understanding Portuguese, try joining a local conversation group where you can practice your skills in real-time with native speakers. You might even make some new friends along the way.

2. Relax

Beach in the Algarve region of Portugal
David Jeffrey Morgan / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of fitting in, let’s talk about the culture.

Portugal is a pretty relaxed place, but there are still some things you’ll want to keep in mind.

For starters, folks here tend to be more laid-back than your average American. That might mean that customer service is a bit slower or that most people don’t rush around quite as much.

That’s just part of the charm.

Another thing to keep in mind is that folks here value family and connections, so building relationships is key. Whether you’re at work or just hanging out at the local cafe, take the time to get to know the people that you meet.

3. Watch Your Step

Madeira, Portugal
Artur Bociarski / Shutterstock.com

Portugal is full of stunning landscapes and beautiful views, but something that stands out are the steep hills all over the country. From Lisbon to Porto and beyond, Portugal has some of the most dramatic hills in Europe, with breathtaking vistas at every turn.

One of the best ways to get around in Lisbon and Porto is walking, and whether you’re visiting or you choose to live there … get ready to climb. On the other hand, all those pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) aren’t going to walk themselves off.

In addition to the hills being steep, they’re often tiled. The smooth and polished surfaces provide a unique aesthetic to many Portuguese streets, squares, and sidewalks … However, they can be hazardous if you’re not careful. Walking on them requires extra caution, as it can be easy to slip and fall due to their shiny texture.

The wetter climate in Portugal means that rain and moisture add an additional layer of danger for unsuspecting visitors who aren’t used to walking on such slick surfaces.

With some practice and getting used to their environment, anyone can learn how to walk safely on Portuguese tiles. Just remember: Take it slow.

Don’t forget to pack your sturdiest and stickiest shoes to tackle the steep and slippery hills.

4: Take Time Out

The Algarve region of Portugal
Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com

Sesta time is a cultural quirk that you may have heard about.

While this isn’t universally practiced, it’s common enough for some shops or businesses to close midafternoon for a nap or lunch break, which might be from around 1 to 3 p.m.

5. Get Connected

Friends toasting with red wine and eating charcuterie
PeopleImages.com – Yuri A / Shutterstock.com

Portugal has a large and welcoming expat community, with many areas having significant concentrations of foreign residents.

This means it’s usually easy to find people who speak the same language and have similar interests, making the transition easier.

Portugal has a variety of social networks dedicated specifically toward helping new arrivals integrate into society, such as InterNations or ExpatsPortugal, which both offer online forums where you can ask questions or get advice from other expats living in the area.

All this makes it simpler than ever before for newcomers to quickly settle down in Portugal and start enjoying all that this beautiful country has to offer.

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