So Why Portugal?

Written by  //  March 16, 2011  //  visit  //  8 Comments

Why Choose Portugal?

My wife and I get asked several times each month why we chose to move to Portugal. The people asking us include business associates, tourists we get chatting to in restaurants and even fellow expats. So why DID we choose Portugal?

The first time we visited Portugal, it was for a reason no more sophisticated than the fact we were cold in England, stressed about work and wanted to go somewhere cheap and hot. We never expected the place to capture our hearts, especially given that our destination was the Algarve’s well-known Praia de Rocha, a resort with a stunning beach, but also more than its fair share of high-rise holiday hell as a back-drop!

It was off-season though, and I’ve always been someone who researches things thoroughly, so we found ourselves in genuine local’s restaurants down the road in Portimão, stepping away from the usual tourist trail.

A lucky evening in the resorts casino led to us having a few extra euros rattling around. We were so bowled over by Portugal we spent a morning on the phone and online, arranging to extend our holiday, and explored places further afield. Our love affair with Portugal and the Algarve had begun.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact point when our love for Portugal as a holiday destination became a concrete plan to move here, but one change was instantly apparent. Each time the moment came to log on to the computer to book a quick weekend away, we weren’t even considering exploring other destinations—we just wanted to come back to Portugal.

On each trip back, we explored further, checking out more of the Algarve, Lisbon, the Alentejo region and the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo, where one stand-out moment in our decision making process took place. At about 5pm on this tiny, sandy island, I saw a local man who had obviously just finished work, head out to the shore with his young son. They both looked tanned, happy and relaxed. I knew right then that no amount of the status or material wealth that London life can deliver, compared with being that man or his son, and I still believe that whole-heartedly.

So, fast-forwarding five or six years, we find ourselves living in this wonderful country and still being asked why we chose Portugal. There are so many reasons, but they all centre around a fundamentally different way of life compared to the UK. Where we live, children play in the street—and when I say play, I mean kids games, as opposed to playing with firearms and drug paraphernalia. When I walk in the morning, I share a “Bom Dia” with almost everyone I pass.

Portuguese life is just somehow more compatible with the people we want to be than life in England was. Back there, I encountered far too many people with more money, gadgets and designer labels than they knew what to do with, and a lot of them really didn’t seem very happy. A lot of people here don’t have much to speak of at all, but they still have the time and inclination to wish a stranger on the street “good morning,” and THAT is why we fell in love with Portugal.

Ben and his wife moved to the Algarve in 2009. You can read more about his adventures at and

8 Comments on "So Why Portugal?"

  1. Rui Martins April 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm · Reply

    Well, I hope you enjoy your new life here. It´s like you said, it feels good to have someone greet you with a Bom Dia.

    I live in Lisbon, where that does not happen. All differences aside, in that matter, London and Lisbon are not that different.

    But in the Algarve and the Alentejo, you still get that feeling of the good old days when people had time for each other.

    Enjoy your stay.
    Rui Martins

  2. Jeanne Nooney April 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm · Reply

    We are preparing to be in Lisbon (outskirts) for the month of June. We are serving at the Greater Lisbon Training Center about 20-40 hours a week. (It’s looking to me like most of our work time will be on weekends.) I am wondering what we should try to see while we are there. We may be back next year for two months, depending how we like it.

    What are some places where I might paint, take in a shore or scenery or quaint villages? If you have any ideas, I would love to have you share that with me, if you’d be so kind.

    Thanks so much. We are really looking forward to this.

  3. eva hamori July 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm · Reply

    Thanks Ben!
    It is so true of Canadian’s also! They have the new car, the new house with gorgeous granite, beautiful expensive clothes, but they live to work. I’m looking for a life where the people work to live, and take the moments to experience what life is really about.
    I’m not sure how to add a guest blogger yet, but of course you can!


  4. Gwen McCauley July 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm · Reply

    Great article. While I’ve chosen not to move to Portugal from Canada . . .yet . . .I do spend a lot of time in the Algarve each year where I create and lead retreats. I’ve had a love affair with Portugal since way back in 1975! My focus may be the Algarve these days but I’d go almost anywhere in Portugal at the drop of a hat. Can’t wait to get back for my next retreat series in October/November!

  5. gmr February 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm · Reply

    I purchased a second home in Cascasis and get the same question from fellow Americans. For me, the turning point was when I was having dinner in a Pousada and I could not decide which of two cakes to select from the dessert cart and the waiter gave me 1/2 of one slice and 1/2 of my other choice. I tried that in another restaurant, and received the same results. Now that is a country I could live in and so here I am. The Portuguese are not hung up on rules, but function generally using common sense and a great respect for others.

  6. Jay February 24, 2012 at 4:49 am · Reply

    Interesting to read these comments after reading the withering comments made elsewhere on this site about customer service in Portugal. Those comments alone make me glad I’m living in the United States, where customers are by and large treated decently.

  7. GeniB April 11, 2012 at 9:13 am · Reply

    Agree with everything you say.loved the Algarve for more than 30 yrs after a first trip to the tiny fishing

    village of..Albuferia..boy has that changed! Now fortunate enough to live here as a resident after a

    long ex-pat life in other countries..mainly the Netherlands.It is vital to learn the language,you can

    never be a part of the country without it.Also to learn to STOP comparing it to home.Its not the UK

    the USA or Canada..It has its faults but so do those countries we left behind….we left them behind for a reason.

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