Biggest Mistakes People Make When Moving to Portugal

6 mins read

When looking at the biggest mistakes people make when moving to Portugal, they are pretty common. Nearly everyone wishes they had done something different when looking for somewhere to live permanently. Some retirees have wild stories while working expats often talk about legalities and laws they wish they had known. Most expats who live in Portugal or somewhere else, say they made mistakes.

However, lifestyle experts often say moving house evokes stress, so to move to another country and settle in permanently is an achievement. Reaping the benefits of your new lifestyle make a move worthwhile. Sitting on South Europe’s Iberian Peninsula and bordered by Spain, Portugal includes islands and mainland places to live. Portugal’s cultural substantial influence also spreads across the globe, and the country offers high living standards. So, let’s look at common mistakes when moving to Portugal and advice and tips to make sure your move goes smoother.

Biggest Mistakes to Make When Moving to Portugal

biggest mistakes when moving to portugal

1: Preparation and Research

Many expats think finding somewhere to live is the first thing to do when relocating to Portugal. They then plan to deal with red-tape, legalities, and bureaucracy. However, before moving abroad, start researching and preparing as much as possible, whether this is about visas, bank account, residency rules, car ownership, and carrying pets. Rules differ for various nationalities, and no one can ever be too informed before moving to Portugal.

2: Financial Mistakes When Moving

Think like an accountant, especially if keeping the property in your home country. Manage finances precisely because Portugal operates in the Euro, and expats receiving pensions or incomes in foreign currencies will need to run two sets of financial records. Things to consider include currency exchange rates, savings pots for ad hoc emergencies, and living costs. Know your income, and tally this against debts, bills, and savings, to form monthly and yearly budgets to stick to.

3: Non-Habitual Resident Tax Scheme

Learn about the non-habitual resident tax scheme of Portugal to determine if you qualify for tax rebates. After obtaining a Número de Identificacao Fiscal or NIF tax ID number, register in the Portuguese government online portal to find out more. Please don’t listen to others who say you can’t claim because we have come across expats in Portugal who missed out.

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4: Good Healthcare Options in Portugal

Residency in Portugal gives access to state healthcare, but expats must pay for separate appointments and procedures. Depending on your health needs, you may need private insurance. Also, remember that dental care in Portugal is not covered, and expats complain about pricy prescription medicine. Know your healthcare options and plan accordingly for future events.

5: Using Removal Companies

Removal companies these days do great jobs. You pay them to pack up belongings with care and consideration and ensure they reach your chosen place within a certain period. However, things inevitably get broken, and dreaded customs rules complicate things. It is easier to sell items back home and buy new ones here. Just bring across personal sentimental items.

6: Avoid Renovation Projects

Many clients often ask us about renovation projects. They want to buy a crumbling property and renovate the shell to make a home from home, or rent it out. It sounds good. But in our experience, this is stress, heartache, and financial strain. In all cases, renovation costs far outweigh the budget. In addition, the price does not add value to the property. Lastly, paperwork takes ages to come through, and workers often work at their own pace with their ideas.

expat mistakes

7: Balance Your Lifestyle

Most people first visit Portugal on holiday and fall in love with the country. The sunshine, lifestyle, and laidback attitude easily lure them here. They then move here to rent and live, carry on that lifestyle, and within a few years, their health and finances take an impact. Holiday mode is fun but not long term sustainable. Spending all day in bars while ignoring life practicalities and responsibilities ensures your move ends up a big mistake.

8: Culture Shock when Moving

Holidaying and living in Portugal are two different lifestyles, and when moving here, expats discover Portuguese culture behind closed doors. The slow pace, ridiculous red tape and poor customer-friendly service irritates expats but is unavoidable. However, Portuguese people have their way of life, so either plan days accordingly or be frustrated.

9: Leisure Time in Portugal

Your days will be hectic as you navigate settling into your new home during the initial move to Portugal. However, once you settle down, non-working expats should take up hobbies. Maybe play golf, in which case, Portugal steps up with word-class championship courses. Charities rely on volunteers, or you can get creative with painting, art, and music. Having hobbies will help keep you mentally and physically strong. The number of possible hobbies is endless and you will definitely find one you like.

mistakes when moving abroad

10: Expat Syndrome

Expat syndrome involves thinking doom and gloom and the glass as half full. Unable to cope with unfamiliarity, routine changes, and inability to adapt lead to homesickness. Simple things can set off moods, like needing our favourite foods or missing family and friends back home. However, don’t throw the towel in too early. Give yourself six to twelve months before making any rash decisions. Often, the feelings subside, and you get to enjoy your new life abroad in Portugal.

11: Neglecting Technology

Older expats in Portugal often say they can’t learn something new. Still, apps, expats groups, and online information centres make things easier when moving abroad, whether this is simply translation, current exchange rates, or messaging services to keep in touch with friends and family back home for free. Living in Portugal is much easier when you join local online groups to learn about procedures for expats and local events. Tap into the online resources to make day to day living in Portugal more manageable, and keep abreast of relevant news.

12: Speaking the Portuguese Language

Ok, many clients have remarked, one mistake is struggling to learn the language. We all find that as we get older, our ability to learn new things and soak them up lessens. However, the more Portuguese you speak, the better your lifestyle will be. We recommend even trying to understand one word a day—download language learning apps such as Memrise for free to learn about grammar rules. Even learning one word a day means that by the end of the year, you will know 365 Portuguese words.

13: Be Open-Minded

When moving to Portugal, be open-minded and curious. Get out of your comfort zones and travel around to different places. Speak to locals and know their history, culture, food, and traditions. By learning as much as possible about Portugal, your move overseas will go much more smoothly.

14: Social Circles in Portugal

Expats in Portugal tend to stick together; however, limiting social circles and neglecting to make new friends is a big mistake. Instead, make friends with both expats and Portuguese locals. After all, expats know about things like residency and driving cars, but the best people to learn about Portugal from are those who were born here.

More Guides About Moving to Portugal

Finding a permanent home in Portugal throws out many possible destinations for any expatriate. To move and start a new life, this guide about important regions in Portugal is helpful. These seven regions further break down into 18 districts, of which some stand out for travel and overseas living Discussing popular areas like Lisbon and the Algarve, the article will help expats relocate to Portugal.

Alternatively, if you are buying property in Portugal, browse our portfolio of apartments and villas for sale. Or, if you have more questions about the biggest mistakes people make when moving to Portugal or would like advice about the Portuguese real estate market, call us and speak with an experienced agent.

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About Natalie

Natalie is a dedicated real estate professional currently working at Spot Blue International Property. With over a decade of experience in the industry, she has acquired a wealth of knowledge and expertise regarding global properties.