Why Americans are moving to Portugal

Porto waterfront along the Douro river.
The river Douro flows through Porto, Portugal’s second largest city. Wooden boats called “rabelo” ply the waters giving tourists a great experience of the city. Historically the boats were used to ferry crates of wine from the Douro Valley to Porto.

everywhere I look I see articles about how many Americans are moving to Portugal or considering retirement in this country. I made the move myself in 2019 for a number of reasons which I will explain below. Curious to find out why all these other US residents want to relocate to Portugal I posted the question on a couple of the Facebook groups aimed at that target audience.

There was an interesting similarity to the answers I received. Two reasons came top of the list for most of those who commented. Guess what? Political climate and healthcare costs were the most frequently mentioned reasons people said they decided to make the move.

It’s not hard to understand why Americans might feel disturbed about the political climate in the US. The last few years have seen a new level of turmoil. It’s become a cliché to say the country is deeply divided. But the animosity seems to have reached new heights, with the two major political parties behaving like football teams repeatedly clashing to gain ground while they lose sight of the goals.

Healthcare in the US has long been an industry aimed at maximizing profits rather than actually delivering an improved quality of overall health. Studies have shown life expectancy in the US has fallen in recent years, infant mortality rates are higher than in many European countries and the cost of healthcare is a leading cause of bankruptcy for American families.

Healthcare and politics in Portugal

I recently spoke to a couple who moved to Portugal the same year I did, 2019. A month after they arrived, one of them fell seriously ill with a rare autoimmune disorder and was hospitalized for a month followed by four months in a rehabilitation facility. Portugal has a national healthcare system which provides free or low cost care to the population. This particular couple had private health insurance (this is a requirement for Americans to obtain the D7 visa to move to Portugal), but they were still terrified they would be hit by huge bills. Guess what? They weren’t. “In the states we would have been medically bankrupt,” they told me.

Politically, Portugal has a parliamentary system where many political parties typically have to form alliances. The country just held an election on January 30 where the center-left Partida Socialista of Prime Minister António Costa was returned to power with an overall majority. Costa called the election in November after failing to win support from left-leaning parties for his proposed budget. After living in the US where the razz-a-ma-tazz of elections seems non-stop, Portuguese elections are refreshingly swift and modest affairs. The candidates actually focus on the issues rather than smearing each other’s characters like playground bullies.

Feeling safe

Safety was another factor some people mentioned. After living here for more than two years I can definitely vouch for this. As a woman walking around Lisbon or Porto on my own I have never felt unsafe.

Now for all the other reasons why Americans are moving to Portugal: great climate, low cost of living, beautiful beaches, historic cities and towns etc etc.

Yes, I appreciate those too. I was born in the US but lived most of my young life in various European countries. I longed to get back to a place where I felt more at home, where people mattered more than the competitive consumer culture. But the main reason I decided on Portugal, rather than one of the other European countries I was more familiar with –such as Spain or France– was the Portuguese people. The first time I came to Portugal on vacation in 2011, I was so impressed by the welcoming attitude and kindness of everyone I met, that I began dreaming about moving here. I knew I couldn’t retire in the US. And Portugal has not disappointed.

Blue skies above the city of Porto, the second largest metropolis in Portugal.

3 thoughts on “Why Americans are moving to Portugal

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