A short introduction in to a life of an expat living in Lisbon.
I will not beat around the bush and tell how amazing the fairytale of Portuguese expat living is as you may imagine in your head. I’ve heard people would say, “oh, you live in Portugal! Your life must be a dream near the ocean and palm trees with its always sunny weather, and always smiling people”. But those are just comments of people that have never visited the country or never had an opportunity to see it from the inside. There are obviously pros and cons like everywhere because we live in a duality where the world is divided into black and white, good and bad, yin and yang. If you see a country in the magazine which looks absolutely perfect – don’t believe it! Try to find what’s inside of it – it might mesmerize you or it may disgust you. There is a secret hidden behind all that shines.
Lisbon – a beautiful ancient story of ships, pirates and tasty wine, which back then was cheaper than water. Today, there is almost no Portuguese family that wold go without a glass of wine during lunch or dinner or even both of these daily events. In Portugal, your meal is a very important process and a topic of discussion throughout the day. Don’t be surprised if you hear local people talking about food all the time, sometimes even during lunch they would already be engaged in a very active talk over upcoming dinner later that same evening. Once you are there, you will notice that Portuguese people are very conservative in their looks, their thinking and tend not to open their close friends circle right away. I would say that a real Portuguese is a hard nut when it comes friendship or personal communication. Historically they were invaders and nobody here would like you to invade what doesn’t belong to you. Be a friend and show that you have an interest in their culture and language and then the ice will break.
I fell in love with the country when I first came here in summer. The heat was not a disadvantage to me, it was a part of the Portuguese city vibe. I loved to take a train from Cais do Sodre station and go to the ocean to feel the scorching hot sand contrasted with ice cold ocean water. It’s a city of a contrasts with beautiful tall palm trees and people of all nationalities. Once you end up being at the end of the Cascais shore – you will notice the waves getting higher and higher and the wind getting stronger. My favorite beach place is in Guincho where the sea meets sandy dunes and pine forest. It’s a little Dubai desert where you can still see golf valley and surfers in one place. Occasionally horses getting ride on one side and cars beeping the other. A perfect place for those who wonder where to learn surfing and a more secluded place fo those who want solitude.
What do I do if I want to stay in the country? What are my options?
Portuguese universities are considered to be ones of the best. There are thousands of new students coming here every year with the program Erasmus. There are those who come on their own will like I did. To my opinion there are two universities that you would want to think of when applying to: 1. Universidade Catolica and Universidade Nova de Lisboa which is where I studied. A very positive thing is that you do not need to pass exams for applying to the university. However, you would need to have all the documents like: secondary school or your hometown university translated into English or Portuguese altogether with your grades. You will be enrolled into the program basing on your scores from the last institution. And if you are applying to the Master’s program that would be a plus if you had a working experience so as you would also need to submit your resume. A nonsense but that what is required here.
Don’t get too happy if you did get enrolled to your desired university. So as passing your exams will be another kind of story. Before applying please consider learning at least basic Portuguese language and if possible get an intermediate level, so as the majority of professors will be native Portuguese and might not want to conduct a class or talk to you in English. As you came to this country and stayed – their basic demand would be respect to their language and to their almost royal persona. There is a high probability that you will not pass to the next level if you expect a lot partying with friends. Portuguese university requires a lot of time and dedication! Just in case you don’t pass you can stay for one more semester for which you will have to pay accordingly to the university policy. Some people here are all-time students since this process of passing exams is quite tiresome and differs a lot from what you have seen before in your country. For example a process of writing your final diploma might take several years, in my case that was a year and half. Just keep calm and do the hard work.
2. Getting a job
The other option would be finding a job in Portugal. Since the last five years there has been a “boom” of international students and immigrants coming to the capital with it’s still minimal wage of a bit more than five hundred Euro, there is still an opportunity with international companies based here in Lisbon. Most of young people nowadays try finding their luck at a call center, most popular of which could be reached from Oriente train station. Companies that are gladly hiring are Teleperformance and Sitel which is where I started. Working in an international environment requires a lot of persistence and stress resilience. For a lot of students, just starters, university graduates that want to start somewhere but still haven idea where they need to land, that might be a good starting point. You will have a chance to understand and learn other cultures, their advantages and disadvantages, while learning whether it’s a really your life path that you need to follow. For me personally, that wasn’t my true passion even though I am immensely grateful to that experience regardless of the outcome. Yes, this is a regular 9 to 5 job, sometimes even with night shifts that would tire you easily, but if you enjoy different foreign languages and feel like you could learn and use your skills – you could give it a try.
3. Expat workplae
“Second home” is another solution for expats and digital nomads. A perfect place if you already have your own project or work as a freelancer. It’s a place of exchanging ideas, collaborating with other great successful people and just a useful and comfortable place to work. If you just landed here in Lisbon and have no idea where you could find meaningful communication and a little space for your laptop because we all know, you still need to respond to e-mails – feel free to drop me a message and I will show you around or at least send you required details.
I hope that was useful to you.