(You’re receiving this three days early because the U.S. Presidential election will likely devour everyone’s attention spans. So read this while you can!)
I was surprised to receive so many questions in response to my AMA (Ask Me Anything) invitation from my post Two Years in Portugal: A Reflection. In that newsletter, I share what I've learned during my time in Portugal so far.
I promised I'd share the questions and answers in a future newsletter, which is this one. I've made a few edits to the questions for clarity and used first names to protect the question-asker's privacy, yet also to let them know I'm answering their question. I couldn’t share all of them, but I might do another round in the future.
So, let's get to the questions!
I've broken the questions down by category:
As an Italian who moved to the U.K. (and previously to Canada), I am curious about how similar (or not) Portugal and Italy are. I left Italy because of the people constantly judging—short hair, tattoos, being gay, vegan, etc. the culture in Italy is one of constant social bullying at every level: in schools, workplaces, public offices, hospitals.
I see how many expats are crazy about Portugal, and I find it hard to define whether the culture really is more inclusive and friendly over there, or just fascinating from the standpoint of a foreigner.
Thanks for your question, Paola. I haven't been to Italy in many years, so I have to take your word for it regarding the judgment you've seen/experienced. As for Portugal, there is a live and let live attitude. We have many progressive laws, for instance same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010, making Portugal the 8th country to enact this legislation. Although the country is still influenced by the Roman Catholic church, most people (at least that I know) accept other people’s lives and lifestyles.
Additionally, Portugal has a history of welcoming immigrants—one of the many reasons I was drawn to this country—and that continues today.
Why did you choose Portugal, and do you have an income in Portugal?
I chose Portugal because it's in Europe, which is where I wanted to be. It's relatively easy to gain residency, the path to citizenship is short (after 5 years of residency plus the language requirement), and the cost of living and healthcare quality. The lovely Portuguese people were a factor, and that the country is off the radar as far as making the news or getting a lot of attention.
I like that it's low-key—a calm, safe, and peaceful place to live.
And no, I don't make money in Portugal; I run my U.S. based writing and consulting business from my laptop, along with my So, You Want to Move to Portugal coaching sessions. Fortunately, I can work from anywhere with a good internet connection.
How did you make the decision, in the end, to settle in Setúbal?
For the most comprehensive answer, please check out my post from January called Nine Reasons Why I Moved to Setúbal.
The short answer is this: I wanted to live in a place that has good transit, was walkable/bikeable (mostly flat, unlike Lisbon), has a decent arts and culture scene, was on the water with access to nature, and was just far enough from Lisbon (but still easy to get to Lisbon) that it wouldn't be overwhelmed by mass tourism. Oh, and the cost of housing is much more favorable for my budget.
How do you find the weather in Setúbal compared to California?
Setúbal weather is nearly like San Diego much of the year, although the winters are wetter and colder.
LEAVING THE USA
Is there anything you would have done differently before you left the USA to prepare you for this point in time in your life living abroad?
Surprisingly, not too much. I think having a better handle on the myriad financial aspects—how the taxes work, what my obligations are, and streamlining my U.S. financial institution picture would have been useful. Still, honestly, there wouldn't have been much more I could have known until I actually arrived here.
Figuring out the taxes, tax treaties between the two countries, social security obligations to Portugal as a sole proprietor, etc. has taken me many hours of in-depth research and talking to financial professionals. I still don't have it all straight, but it's good enough, and I'm going with that!
Let me ask you something that really intrigues me. Living in the U.S. is the dream come true for so many people around the world. Why don't you miss your home country?
Living in the U.S. might be a dream for some, but not for many who live or have lived there. There's a lot of mythology and romance around the concept of America, but that fantasy doesn't hold up. This idea that the U.S. is a country where anyone can succeed, make their fortune, etc. is a carry-over from the 1950s and the good old days cliche; it isn't the reality for many people.
But why don't I miss the U.S.? I guess because it's never felt like home to me. Just because I was born there doesn't mean it fits my values, ethics, or personal preferences. From the first time I visited Europe, I felt at home. Yes, I was young, and it was strange and new, but I connected with the way life was going on around me. For me, living in Europe is my lifelong dream.
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Have you missed your family and friends enough (at times) to think about moving back to the states just to be closer to them?
Sure, I've thought about it at times, but aside from friends and family, being in Portugal is a better fit for me. I don't feel the anxiety I felt in the U.S., and I don't worry anymore about not being able to afford healthcare or housing. The trade-offs are worth it for me—my mental, physical, and emotional health are better here.
I wanted to know if the friends you've made in Portugal help with the missing of family and friends in the states?
Yes, definitely! Of course, I can't replace my friends and family back in the States, but I am so fortunate to have several friends from various countries—some are even from my hometown of San Diego!
Thanks everyone who took the time to ask questions. I hope you enjoyed finding out a bit more about me and my life in Portugal.
For those interested in moving to Portugal, I highly recommend (again) this news source: Portuguese News in English, for Estrangeiros (foreigners).
Here’s a dose of delight (trust me—it’s a must-read)
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