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First Anniversary Of Living In Portugal: How Are We Doing?

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Last Updated on July 15, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

Given the flood of questions about our relocation to Portugal and being American expats, I’ve taken the plunge and launched a second blog titled ‘American Family in Portugal’. Join us as we share our journey and insights into expat life in this beautiful country!

Hey friends! I don’t often do family updates as we are primarily here to empower and enable you to travel more with your families, whether full-time or short-term. However, we just passed our year anniversary of moving to Portugal, and I always get a lot of interest in how things are going as ex-pats!

If you are new to my blog, we traveled the world full-time as a family for nearly three years, including when Covid occurred. We left intending to find where our family should live long-term. We initially expected to find a new home inside of the USA, but over time and with more and more travel, we realized the entire world was open to us.

We involved God in our entire process and received a revelation that Portugal was to be this new home. You can read about why we moved to Portugal here.

Keeping a work-life balance in Portugal

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Opinions shared are my own, and I only endorse products I support. By clicking on any of the links below, I may get a small commission if you purchase at absolutely no additional charge to you. I appreciate your support.*

Common FAQs We Get As Americans Living In Portugal

Can You Speak Portuguese?  

The answer: Yes! I strictly held a conversation this morning for over 20 minutes in Portuguese with a Portuguese Benfica Futbol Player. The fact that I can understand what he is asking me AND respond well enough to hold a conversation surprises me.

However, the reality is I still feel very inept. I think I have the conversation skills of a 1st grader and constantly yearn to express myself. Learning a new language humbles you.

I’ve embraced that I am simply a good listener!

I practice patience with the knowledge that I can someday express all I want and eventually understand nearly everyone. Because I learned my language skills so far from Lisbon-based Portuguese natives, I can understand them the best.

Any foreign accent, such as French, Spanish, or other Portuguese accents, can throw off my game. I have one woman I go to church with from the north of Portugal, and I have yet to understand her. She speaks extremely fast and with an accent I need to familiarize myself with. Vou conseguir! (I will do it!)

New school and new people to meet. Harry, Lincoln, and Grace are real team players!

Are The Children Fluent in Portuguese?

The children are all attending their second school year in Portuguese schools. They listen to Portuguese for 6-8 hours daily and have friends to communicate with.

One downside is their classes are not focused on learning Portuguese from the foundation up (except for our preschoolers), so they lack verb conjugation skills (something their peers already know how to do). 

Another disadvantage is that they do NOT wish to speak Portuguese at home. The home lends a safe, comfortable space after a long day, and they only want to talk in English. 

Therefore, I don’t know how fluent they are.  

I get glimpses when I hear them speak to others, and I recognize that, like me, they understand nearly everything.  The younger children seem to see English and Portuguese as simply one language, not two.  The rest of us attempt to embrace Portuguese and not rely on translation in our head to and from English.  The entire process is quite fascinating.

Bringing on the Halloween vibes in our new home in Portugal

Do You Feel Part Of The Culture Of Portugal?

The answer: I no longer fear running errands or being in public alone! Haha.

That is an accomplishment!  I feel like we have our home, and I am comfortable getting around, meeting new people, and always learning how our new home works.

However, I have made peace with the idea that I will always be an American. I’ll never fully assimilate, and that is perfectly OK. 

Thankfully, the Portuguese favor Americans, and I’ve learned to embrace the fun parts of this. I throw massive Halloween parties, introduce American foods to our new friends, like tacos and baked potatoes, and try to find the happy medium between being an ex-pat and embracing my new country.

Have You Made Friends In Portugal?

The children have had varying degrees of success in this regard.  We are a big, busy family, and like all families in Portugal, it’s hard to find the time.  Nearly all adults work in Portugal, sometimes multiple jobs, to make ends meet.  This leaves little time for socialization for adults and children alike. 

Surprisingly, we only have a couple of ex-pat friends, but I cherish them.  We’ve made wonderful Portuguese friends in our church community and hope to deepen those relationships with time.

I know there are extensive ex-pat groups in Portugal, and I’d love to get to know more people, but we are balancing as much as we can and are in a good place overall.

Mastering my Portuguese in school with these wonderful people

How Long Will You Stay In Portugal?

The answer: forever

I don’t think we will live here until we die, but I don’t rule it out either. I have had personal confirmation from God that this is our home.  With time, our hearts are learning that, also.  

Moving back to the USA and settling into that routine would be very easy. When we visit the US, it feels like a grand vacation. Everyone understands us, and we speak the language with ease, know how things work, and have friendships that are more than a decade in the making.  It’s wonderful and always tempting, on some level, to move back.  

However, in the long run, I want to grow and constantly improve, stretch, and do new things. Living in Portugal provides deep satisfaction to my inner soul in ways I could never have anticipated. I am grateful every day for the chance to live here.

In truth, I expect the day will come when we reside more in the USA than Portugal, but I think, finances willing, we will have residences in both locations and consider both our homes (as we do now, to some extent).

My next goal: get my parents to move to Portugal!  Haha.

Expat life in Portugal is more exciting because of the fantastic views! Some are just a few minutes away from our home.

Do You Regret Moving Abroad?

The answer: Not for a single minute.

There are traditions, holidays, and people that we constantly miss, for sure. Like, I’ve been seeing homecoming pictures of my friend’s teens and grieve a bit for the loss of an experience for my teen (Lucy). Our area has no school dances, and I wish she, too, could go to homecoming.

Yet I love to see her growth and development, her budding second language, ability to have grit and do tough things each day. In the short term, it’s a bit sad, but in the long run, I know it is for our best.

As much as we can, we try to sample our favorites from the US and get those experiences. I hope that next year, she can attend homecoming if we time a trip around then. We are blessed to still travel to the US often for business needs.

More gradual and balanced life in Europe is our way to go!

What Do You Love About Europe?

There are too many things to count, but the top five things I adore are:

  1. Food.  We know from some genetic testing that many members of our family are sensitive to things like food dye and certain pesticides used in the USA on wheat and corn. Most of these are banned in Europe. Thus, I know we’ll live healthier lives in Europe. School lunches for my kids consist of homemade vegetable soup and a home-cooked meal daily, with teachers who “make them eat it.”  The food overall is incredible and better for us.
  2. Focus on family.  Portuguese people love family, and they embrace it. Most families live close to each other, have lunch at least weekly, if not daily, value time together over most other activities, and love children. They welcomed our kids with open arms, which we cannot say of many other countries worldwide.
  3. Access to Europe. We are a cheap flight, train ride, or car ride away from dozens of new countries and cultures. A weekend trip to Paris, London, or Spain is something we’ve done and love to do. Enjoying getting to know Europe better is a major perk!
  4. Lack of materialism. While we love to shop in the US, and the Amazon guy knows the path to our house well on our visits, and the quality of goods in the US is fantastic, we don’t miss the focus on materialism in our beloved home country. Buying more, having more, having the best… it just isn’t a thing in Portugal. At least not in our circles. Everyone is working, trying to focus on the joys of life when they come and not get too out of balance.
  5. We are where God wants us.  In the end, this is all that matters, and we feel the daily blessings we relieve because we are following His will over our own.
The day we moved to Portugal.  We only took luggage, but we took a lot!

Will You Buy A House In Portugal?

The answer: Yes, we plan to. 

We wanted to see if we could handle this new life and are ready to make things more permanent.  However, we currently host a Ukrainian family in the guest house on our rental property and won’t be making any changes while they are still with us.

Sadly, we cannot buy the current home we are renting, which we love!

What Has Been The Hardest Part Of Living Abroad?

A good life boils down to the relationships you have. This is also what you miss the most when in a new place. We miss friends and family fiercely. Thankfully, we can often visit our family and have them come to us as well.

Additionally, trying to learn the customs of a new culture can be taxing to me.  I don’t want to be the annoying foreigner and try to assimilate as best as possible. It takes quite a bit of work.

Top Things To Do In Portugal

Portugal is gifted with tons of fantastic places to see! From colorful trains and buildings to museums, mountains, and beaches.

As Americans living in Portugal, we all grow and learn together

Top Things To Do In Azores

The Azores Islands are famous for whale and dolphin watching, but we also love the hot springs! Here you can also find amazing local tea.

Top Things To Do In Madeira

One of the most significant parts of life in Madeira is its landscapes and coastal villages, and Ponta do Sol is said to be the most beautiful.

Onward to Year Two

Overall, our second year in Portugal feels lightyears different than when we first arrived. We are grateful for our growth and all we have learned. We look forward to continuing to grow and learn and enjoy our beautiful home as much as possible!

Have additional questions?  Leave a comment below.

Note also that I am working in the background. Coming soon is a new blog dedicated to helping other Americans understand how to move to Portugal.

Xoxo,

Leslie

Book your flight to Portugal with Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Check out top-rated hotels from Booking.com, Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Learn more about Portugal through guided tours from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads

Capture your best travel memories in Portugal as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

Six-Month Update On Moving To Portugal: How Is Everyone Doing?

30 Amazing Things To Do In The Azores With Kids: Ultimate Family Guide To São Miguel Island

Visiting Poça da Dona Beija Hot Springs With Kids: All You Need To Know

19 Comments

  1. Sounds really wonderful. I’m an expact currently residing in China, going on 11 years. I have always felt a draw to Portugal. I’m impressed at all you’ve done! Having a comunity around you is crucial!

    • Leslie Stroud

      Thanks, Jane! Portugal is a lovely place to be. Having friends and adjusting to the culture was not easy initially, but it’s possible. Just give yourself time. How’s China?

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  5. Hi
    We’re considering living in Portugal for a year with our 3 kids just so they can have an experience abroad. They’re 13,11 and 4. They’re all born in US (where we’ve lived for a long time) but we’re from Brazil and all our kids speak Portuguese at home. We visited Portugal this past March and traveled all over the country. We felt in love with the country and even though their accent is a bit different it still felt like home to us.
    I would love to get some tips from you specially about school etc. Did you have to hire a lawyer to help with school enrollment? House hunting? Did you rent a furnished house? We would apply for the nomad visa and my husband would keep his US job.
    Loved reading about your experience!!
    As of now the plan would be to move next year during summer 2024 🙂

    • Leslie Stroud

      Hi, Tatiana! First of all, I’m so glad you also fell in love with Portugal! It’s a wonderful place with some quirks, but amazing people.
      Yes, we hired a lawyer and would highly recommend doing so if you have the money to spare. It makes everything faster and easier. However, it’s not required!

      We rented an unfurnished house and had to furnish it, which I think is more the norm. That was a bit expensive, but we plan to be here for many years to come. You can use a real estate agent for this or use Idealista, the most common real estate site for both buying and renting.

      I’ll be sharing more about school experiences soon and am actually going to start a blog all about Portugal, so stay tuned! Be sure to subscribe to my email list so you can get an update there 🙂 Best of luck, and feel free to email me as well!

      Here are some of my blog articles that might help you as well:

      Moving Your Family to Portugal from the United States: What to Know
      How To Obtain A Portuguese D7 Visa For Your Family: Everything You Need To Know
      Why We Are Uprooting Our Family and Moving To Portugal

      Xoxo,
      Leslie

  6. Kirstine Clark

    We are moving to Portugal in August 2024 for 9 months with our 13 and 18 yr old daughters. We are a little overwhelmed but excited for new experiences and growth. I am learning from your experiences. Thank you

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