Expatriation to Europe

So you want to move to Portugal huh?

A local view of the rise in expats in Portugal.

Before I write anything else, expats do not exist. Expats are migrants with a superiority complex. The reason I repeat this word throughout post is to differentiate from people who move to Portugal to find a job, earn more money than they do at home (and save us from falling to pieces), and those who already have a stable salary much higher than the local average and are just here for the ✨vibes ✨.

Photo by Michal Balog on Unsplash

Listen, I love my country. Out of all the European countries I have visited, I believe it to be the best. I’m glad we are having some recognition after years of being asked if I speak Spanish and whether Portugal is a region of Spain or somewhere in Latin America.

However, if you are thinking of moving here in current economic times, there are some points I need you to know.

You are not superior to any other migrant.

One of the main issues I have with the recent rise in expatriation is the double standard forced onto other migrants. Portugal, as a colonial country, welcomes every year people from formerly (I don’t believe there is such thing as a former colonial country, colonisation is very much still ongoing, but that’s a story for another day) colonised Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, but also from Eastern Europe, notably Ukraine and Bulgaria.

While they are marginalised, seen as the reason for our economic struggles, solely given precarious jobs, (I, for example, have a Brazilian friend who works in a warehouse pushing extremely heavy cages as a 1m55 woman), rich Americans buying property and relocating here are welcomed with open arms, having to do very little to get residency (just handing the government a big fat check, really).

On any trip to your local supermarket, fast food franchise, clothing branch, and any service-based establishment, a Brazilian person is likely to serve you. Brazilian-born residents are saving a country whose locals fled in mass. Numerous Portuguese are now living in other European nations, particularly French-speaking ones, and non-Portuguese workers have paid a record amount of taxes in 2021, forming a large part of the working force. If it weren’t for the high level of immigration, our country would have collapsed.

So why are our saviours being treated as the country’s scapegoat? And why are those causing our rental prices to peak praised instead?

The houses you call “cheap” are unaffordable to us.

The minimum monthly salary in Portugal falls under €700. To put that in perspective, France’s is around €1,500 and the Netherlands’ is about 1,700€. Same currency. Completely different wages.

It’s always shocking to hear people calling property in Portugal cheap, while it’s the highest it has ever been. Most locals could never even dream of owning. I know I couldn’t. I remember rentals in Lisbon and Porto, the two major cities in the country, lying below €300 for a bachelor-type studio, while it is now difficult to find anything similar for under €600. Now read again the first line of this paragraph.

The minimum monthly salary is under €700. A small studio costs €600 a month. Is that what you call “cheap”?

We are drowning. Between the rental prices, the increase in gas prices since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the electricity that has always been higher than it should, how are we asked to survive?

Families are forced to live in shared houses, with parents sharing a room with their children. Most of us don’t have central heating to survive the winter. And every year, elders die from the cold. Locals have deserted the city centres, as its buildings are often repurchased for short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

Ignoring this phenomenon when you are an active cause of it is purely unethical and just irresponsible.

This is not your tailored-made tax paradise.

I’m glad you enjoy our slow-paced life, Southern rocky beaches, fresh produce, and everything that is great about this place.

But it is not everything there is to it.

Yes, it is true. Many young people speak English. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to learn anything. We will appreciate you if you just know how to greet, thank, and farewell. I have been teaching Portuguese for three years. I know it’s a complex language. But this is your home now.

Think of the person who struggles to find a job here because they don’t speak the language. How are you any different? The only difference is the money in your bank account.

You ought to support small supermarkets, bakeries, and all the families that work from 7am to 10pm, because we no longer can. We have to grocery shop in the Continentes and the Pingo Doces that we despise, just to save any extra penny we possibly can. You don’t have that handicap.

Help us build a stronger and more united country, instead of tearing us down.

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Jéssica De Almeida

Jéssica De Almeida

Portuguese. Full-time language teacher. I question the world as much as I adore it. I write about capitalism and how it is ruining our lives.