When I tell my friends back home that I live in Lisbon and work from home I usually get a reaction of disbelief. And to be honest, sometimes I have to pinch myself because it seems too good to be true.
I decided to move to Portugal for many reasons—it allowed me to be closer to family in Europe, it’s a great place to raise a child, and it’s one of the safest countries in the world. Add to that an affordable cost of living, great weather and healthcare, the list seems to be unbeatable.
Cost of living is a very subjective topic and everyone will have a different take on what is important for their specific budget and priorities. Just as in the U.S. you will have different perspectives depending on a specific location, the same thing is true here.
Private health insurance in Portugal is generally more affordable than in the U.S. and the fact that the public system is available to all residents adds an extra layer of security that if you need medical assistance, it will be provided. That said, if you plan on having a car, be prepared for the cost of fuel. It’s more expensive than in most U.S. cities.
Regarding housing, it’s really about adjusting expectations and knowing what you’re comparing the costs with. The newer houses and apartments will be on the more expensive side—so be sure to know your priorities, research, and plan accordingly.
I decided to live in a town called Oeiras, in the Lisbon metropolitan area. It’s a mix of older buildings and new residential areas that have modern construction and all the amenities. It’s also the place where many multinational companies have their Portuguese offices, so there’s a lively mix to draw from.
One of the aspects that really tipped the scale for me in choosing Oeiras was the proximity to downtown Lisbon (about seven miles from Praça do Comércio, one of the main squares in Lisbon), access to the beach (a 15-minute drive takes you to a great beach with cute bars and restaurants), and the abundance of parks and green areas. You can, quite literally, get the best of both worlds.
In this area, rents will vary quite a bit as it’s so diverse—but you can get a decent unfurnished one-bedroom apartment for around $1,200.
Usually, I work from home since it’s so convenient and pleasant. But being close to the livelier side of Lisbon also provides me with great places to work from when I crave a bit of social interaction.
I’m an expat coach and intercultural psychologist and all my sessions with clients—group and individual—are through video conference. Having lived in over five countries and being an expat for over 40 years, most of my work is geared towards helping people prepare for an international move and how to make mindful and conscious decisions—from the initial scouting trip to the final move. I also create content and training for people who have moved abroad and are having a hard time adjusting to a new culture. On a typical day I’ll have some client calls, prepare presentations for training sessions, record videos for my YouTube channel, and interact with the members of my Facebook group. During the afternoon I like to take a walk in the park near my house after lunch and get back to coaching calls. Most of my clients are in the U.S., so due to the time difference, the afternoons are always the times when I have the most meetings and calls.
Sometimes I get bored of working from home, so I am always on the lookout for great places to work from. For me, it’s important to be in a place that can give me the structure I need to keep focused while allowing me to interact with others (and have great coffee and food in the process!).
One of my favorite places is Maria Food Hub in a traditional neighborhood called Anjos. The food and atmosphere are great – you can get a cod salad and healthy juice and a coffee for $15– and I can chat with many foreigners either passing by or working from there too. It’s actually a great place to interact with people who have moved so I can get firsthand information about their typical challenges and struggles.
Another great place to work from is Padaria Portuguesa—they have over 50 locations in and around Lisbon. They serve Portuguese dishes and pastry, and all the locations I have visited have decent Wi-Fi. For a special experience I like to go to their concept café called LAB on Avenida da República. This is where they experiment with new dishes and yummy pastries so we can get a taste of what they are preparing for the next menu season. It’s a bright, lively atmosphere with people just hanging out and others, like me, looking for some human connection while getting work done.
There are some days when I need to muster the inspiration to create content, scripts for my YouTube videos, and articles for my blog posts. When I’m feeling in the mood for a more mellow vibe, the beachside is always my favorite option. Oeiras is a 20-minute drive to Cascais, a delightful town on the coast of the Atlantic. The train ride is also very beautiful – along the coastline with truly breathtaking views. And the train station in Cascais is right in the city center so there’s really no excuse to not go there!
One of my favorite options to chill, get some great coffee, and write down my thoughts is Paul, a French boulangerie with all the goodies you can imagine plus a view of the Cascais bay. There are truly amazing places in this area for a quick bite, a proper three-course meal, or just dessert and coffee. One of my personal favorites for extra indulgence is Santini, a traditional and one of the most sought-out ice cream parlors in the area. To finish off the inspiration by calories I try to resist and always fail—Arcadia Chocolates, right on the main street in Cascais. All you have to do is sit at a table outside, soak in the sun, and be grateful for living in such an amazing place.
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