Ah, the initial whirlwind romance with Portugal – the dreamy landscapes, the mouthwatering cuisine, the charming cobblestone streets.

Moving to a new country often feels like embarking on a grand adventure, but sooner or later, reality comes knocking at the door. As the honeymoon phase fades away, you might find yourself questioning your decision and grappling with the less-than-glamorous aspects of expat life. But fear not, fellow adventurers! Here are some tips to reignite that spark and rediscover the joy of living in Portugal, even when the going gets tough.

Embrace the Realness

Let’s face it – every love story has its rough patches. The initial excitement wears off, and you’re left with the day-to-day grind, the frustrating bureaucracy, the lack of simple problem solving, and the challenges of navigating life in a challenging new language. Even the little things like dangerously uneven sidewalks, slick cobblestones, and people walking slow/crisscrossing in front of you all. the. time. can get under your skin. Instead of pining for those early days, when you first got here and everything was magical, embrace the authenticity of your new reality. Life in Portugal isn’t always sunshine and sangria, but there’s beauty in the imperfections and a lot to be grateful for.

*10 Ways to Keep the Flame Alive*

  1. Explore Off the Beaten Path Locations: Break free from the tourist traps and venture into the lesser-known corners of Portugal. Discover hidden gems, quaint villages, and breathtaking natural wonders that will reignite your sense of wonder.

Here are some places you may want to explore:

    • Monsanto: Known as the “most Portuguese village in Portugal,” Monsanto is a historic hilltop village with stone houses built into the granite boulders.
    • Mértola: Located in the Alentejo region, Mértola is a charming town with a rich history, including an ancient Islamic past evident in its architecture and culture.
    • Monsaraz: This medieval village in the Alentejo region offers stunning views of the surrounding plains and the Alqueva reservoir, along with well-preserved historic buildings.
    • Peneda-Gerês National Park: Portugal’s only national park, Peneda-Gerês offers rugged landscapes, pristine rivers, and traditional villages, perfect for outdoor adventures.
    • Serra da Estrela: Portugal’s highest mountain range, Serra da Estrela, boasts breathtaking scenery, including glacial valleys, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque villages.
    • Azenhas do Mar: This coastal village near Sintra features stunning cliffside views and a natural seawater pool carved into the rocks.
    • Piódão: Nestled in the Serra do Açor mountains, Piódão is a picturesque village with narrow cobblestone streets and stone houses with slate roofs.
    • Mafra: Home to the impressive Mafra National Palace and Convent, this town also offers charming streets, traditional markets, and nearby beaches.
    • Linhares da Beira: A medieval village perched on a hilltop in the Beira Interior region, Linhares da Beira offers stunning views and well-preserved historical architecture.
    • Marvão: Situated on a rocky outcrop near the Spanish border, Marvão is a fortified village with narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and panoramic views.
    • Belmonte: Known for its Jewish heritage, Belmonte features a medieval castle, a Jewish museum, and a synagogue, offering insights into Portugal’s diverse cultural history.
    • Furnas: Located on São Miguel Island in the Azores, Furnas is famous for its volcanic hot springs, geysers, and lush botanical gardens.
    • Foz do Arelho: This coastal village on the Silver Coast boasts a stunning lagoon, sandy beaches, and opportunities for water sports like windsurfing and kayaking.
    • Castelo de Vide: A charming hilltop town in the Alentejo region, Castelo de Vide is known for its medieval castle, Jewish quarter, and natural springs.
    • Castro Laboreiro: Tucked away in the mountains of the Minho region, Castro Laboreiro offers scenic hiking trails, ancient stone villages, and a unique breed of mountain dog.
    • Arraiolos: Famous for its handmade wool carpets, Arraiolos is a tranquil town with a medieval castle, charming streets, and a relaxed atmosphere.
    • Vila Nova de Milfontes: A coastal town in the Alentejo region, Vila Nova de Milfontes boasts pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, and a picturesque fishing harbor.
    • Fajã dos Padres: Accessible only by boat or cable car, Fajã dos Padres is a secluded coastal paradise on Madeira Island, featuring terraced vineyards, banana plantations, and a tranquil beach.
    • Penedo: This quirky village in the Sintra Mountains is known for its whimsical stone houses, adorned with colorful tiles and sculptures.
    • Estoi: Located near Faro in the Algarve, Estoi is home to the stunning Palácio de Estoi, a rococo palace surrounded by beautiful gardens, as well as Roman ruins and a charming old town.
  1. Culinary Adventures: Indulge your taste buds with a culinary journey through Portugal’s diverse flavors. From fresh seafood feasts to hearty traditional dishes, there’s always something new to tantalize your palate and to remind you how good the eating here is.

There are many culinary adventures to discover in your area but here’s one that we can personally recommend in Lisbon.

   – Lisbon Food & Wine Walk: Explore Lisbon’s culinary scene with a guided walking tour by Samuel through local eateries and historic neighborhoods. We’ve personally taken this tour and it is so fun. Come hungry and enjoy sampling traditional Portuguese delicacies.

And here are a few more that look really good too.

   – Seafood Cooking Class: Join a hands-on cooking class focused on Portuguese seafood dishes. Learn from local chefs how to prepare classics like bacalhau à brás (codfish), grilled sardines, and seafood rice.

Porto:

   – Porto Secret Food Tours: Embark on a guided food tour through Porto’s historic streets, tasting traditional dishes such as francesinha (a hearty sandwich), bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish fritters), and port wine.

   – Wine & Cheese Tasting: Discover the flavors of the Douro Valley with a wine and cheese tasting experience. Sample a variety of wines, including port wine, paired with artisanal cheeses from the region.

Funchal (Madeira):

   – Madeira Wine Tour: Explore the vineyards and cellars of Madeira with a guided wine tour. Learn about the island’s unique winemaking process and taste a selection of fortified wines, including the famous Madeira wine.

   – Traditional Food Experience: Join a culinary tour focused on Madeiran cuisine, featuring local specialties like espetada (grilled meat skewers), black scabbard fish, and passion fruit pudding.

  1. Learn the Language: Break down barriers and connect with the locals by learning Portuguese. Even mastering a few basic phrases can open doors and deepen your appreciation for the culture. Learning the language can really make a difference in terms of your experience in Portugal because it makes navigating doctors’ appointments, government agencies, and even day-to-day errands that much easier.There are some fun language immersion tours where you learn the language while practicing Portuguese with a local guide. Visit landmarks, interact with locals, and learn useful phrases in everyday situations. Check out Tours by Locals & Airbnb Experiences to find one of these tours in your area.

Also, Preply is great for finding affordable private tutors to work with online and from the comfort of your home. We got started with Preply and it was really helpful. And of course, there are language schools, exchanges, workshops and meetups that are available in most regions throughout Portugal.

And if you’re trying to get your language certificate for your citizenship qualification so you don’t have to take that pesky national language test, look into NIALP and  EdPro.

  1. Cultural Immersion: Immerse yourself in Portugal’s rich cultural tapestry by attending festivals, concerts, and art exhibitions. From Fado nights to street art tours, there’s no shortage of cultural experiences to explore. Reminding yourself why you moved here in the first place can go a long way to getting over the lull while you wait to file for permanent residency or citizenship.

Here are some museums and theaters that host cultural programs in different regions of Portugal.

Lisbon:

   – Calouste Gulbenkian Museum: This renowned museum in Lisbon hosts cultural programs, including concerts, film screenings, and art exhibitions, showcasing both Portuguese and international artists.

   – São Carlos National Theater: São Carlos is Portugal’s premier opera house, offering opera performances, ballets, and classical music concerts throughout the year.

Porto:

   – Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art: Serralves hosts a variety of cultural events, including contemporary art exhibitions, outdoor concerts, and film screenings in its beautiful gardens.

   – Rivoli Theater: Located in the heart of Porto, the Rivoli Theater hosts a diverse range of cultural performances, including theater productions, dance shows, and music concerts.

Funchal (Madeira):

   – Madeira Cultural Center: The Madeira Cultural Center in Funchal hosts cultural programs such as theater performances, musical concerts, and art exhibitions, showcasing local and international talent.

   – Museum of Contemporary Art (Funchal): This museum in Funchal features contemporary art exhibitions and cultural events, providing insights into Madeira’s artistic scene.

Coimbra:

   – Machado de Castro National Museum: The Machado de Castro Museum in Coimbra hosts cultural events, including art exhibitions, lectures, and workshops, focusing on Portuguese art and history.

   – Convento São Francisco: This cultural center in Coimbra offers a variety of cultural programs, including theater productions, concerts, and dance performances, in a historic setting.

Évora:

   – Évora Museum: Évora Museum hosts cultural events, including art exhibitions, lectures, and workshops, showcasing the cultural heritage of the Alentejo region.

   – Lope de Vega Theater: Located in Évora’s historic center, the Lope de Vega Theater hosts theater productions, music concerts, and dance performances, providing a platform for local and national artists.

  1. Nature Therapy: Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and recharge your batteries in Portugal’s stunning natural landscapes. Whether you prefer hiking in the mountains, surfing on pristine beaches, or stargazing in secluded valleys, nature offers solace and serenity.

Here are some stunning parks to check out.

    • Peneda-Gerês National Park: Portugal’s only national park, offering rugged landscapes, pristine rivers, and scenic hiking trails.
    • Serra da Estrela: The highest mountain range in Portugal, known for its breathtaking scenery, including glacial valleys and cascading waterfalls.
    • Ria Formosa Natural Park: A coastal paradise in the Algarve, featuring salt marshes, lagoons, and sandy beaches, perfect for birdwatching and water sports.
    • Douro Valley: Famous for its terraced vineyards, the Douro Valley offers stunning views of the river, as well as opportunities for wine tasting and boat cruises.
    • Sintra-Cascais Natural Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its lush forests, historic palaces, and dramatic coastline.
    • Berlengas Islands: A pristine archipelago off the coast of Peniche, featuring rugged cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life, ideal for snorkeling and diving.
    • Arrábida Natural Park: A hidden gem near Lisbon, boasting secluded beaches, crystal-clear waters, and rugged cliffs, perfect for hiking and beachcombing.
    • Azores Islands: A volcanic archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, offering stunning landscapes, including crater lakes, hot springs, and rugged coastlines.
    • Madeira Island: Known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic,” Madeira offers lush forests, dramatic mountains, and scenic hiking trails, as well as botanical gardens and levada walks.
    • Praia da Marinha: One of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve, featuring golden cliffs, turquoise waters, and natural rock formations.
    • São Miguel Island: The largest island in the Azores, known for its volcanic landscapes, including crater lakes, thermal springs, and picturesque villages.
    • Cabo da Roca: The westernmost point of continental Europe, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean from rugged cliffs.
    • Penedo Furado: A hidden gem in central Portugal, featuring a series of waterfalls and natural pools, surrounded by lush vegetation.
    • Alentejo Coast: Stretching from the Alentejo region to the Algarve, the Alentejo coast offers unspoiled beaches, rugged cliffs, and charming fishing villages.
    • Fragas de São Simão: A natural paradise in central Portugal, featuring stunning waterfalls, rock formations, and hiking trails, ideal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
    • Serra do Caramulo: A mountain range in central Portugal, offering scenic drives, hiking trails, and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
    • Lagoa do Fogo: A crater lake in São Miguel Island, known for its crystal-clear waters, surrounded by lush vegetation and volcanic landscapes.
    • Peneda Waterfalls: Located in Peneda-Gerês National Park, these stunning waterfalls cascade down rocky cliffs into natural pools, offering a refreshing retreat on hot summer days.
    • Portinho da Arrábida: A picturesque beach nestled between rugged cliffs and turquoise waters, offering excellent conditions for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
    • Serra da Lousã: A mountain range in central Portugal, offering scenic hiking trails, charming villages, and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
  1. Community Connections: Build a support network of fellow expats and locals who understand the highs and lows of life abroad. Join expat groups, language exchange meetups, or volunteer organizations to forge meaningful connections and share experiences. Our friends in Portugal make all the difference plus having people going through it with you provides great opportunities to vent, laugh at the absurdities, and to problem solve when stresses crop up.
  1. Creative Outlets: Channel your inner artist and unleash your creativity through pottery workshops, painting classes, or writing groups. Expressing yourself through art can be cathartic and therapeutic, helping you navigate the ups and downs of expat life. Painting traditional azulejos or diving into Portugal’s rich artist and music communities can be very enriching and inspiring and get you over the post honeymoon hump.
  1. Mindfulness Practices: Cultivate a sense of mindfulness and inner peace through yoga, meditation, or mindfulness retreats. Embracing the present moment and practicing self-care can help alleviate stress and foster a deeper sense of well-being. Portugal is host to some of the most beautiful and peaceful retreats and perches for meditation and relaxation. Being in the moment can really help too. Taking a beat to enjoy and be grateful for the beautiful architecture, street art, sunny days, delicious food, the small language victories, and kind interactions can do a lot to rekindle your love of Portugal.
  1. Travel Adventures: Take advantage of Portugal’s strategic location and embark on weekend getaways to neighboring countries. Whether you’re exploring historic cities, savoring exotic cuisines, or soaking up the sun on pristine beaches, travel keeps the spirit of adventure alive and reminds you of what a wonderful location you live in to be able to travel to new countries and cultures within 1-3 hours.
  1. Laugh it Off: Sometimes, the best way to cope with life’s challenges is to simply laugh them off. Embrace the quirky nuances of Portuguese bureaucracy, shrug off cultural misunderstandings, and find humor in everyday absurdities. After all, laughter is the universal language of joy…plus, a glass of vinho verde outside at your favorite quiosque never hurts!

Final Thoughts

While you’re trying to rekindle your love for Portugal again, beware of the Negative Nellies. There has been a huge boom of online forums, especially on platforms like Facebook, dedicated to moving to and living in Portugal, and it’s essential to exercise caution. Some of these forums tend to focus on the extremes of expat life, often veering into confirmation bias and presenting a skewed picture of reality. While they can offer valuable insights into potential challenges and issues to be aware of, they may exaggerate both the positives and negatives, failing to capture the nuanced reality of life in Portugal.

Ultimately, your decision to move to Portugal should be guided by your personal WHY – whether it’s seeking a simpler and safer way of life, better healthcare, a break from the political climate back home, cultural immersion, or a path to EU citizenship.

Understanding the ups and downs of daily life in Portugal is crucial for determining if it aligns with your goals and aspirations. And having a deeper understanding of whether it will be a general fit for you will be important for navigating this lull in your experience, or what we like to call, “the terrible twos” of living in Portugal.

Living in Portugal offers a myriad of benefits beyond its picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture. From affordable healthcare, welcoming people, and a high quality of life to a laid-back pace and rich cultural heritage, Portugal has much to offer those who choose to call it home. 

Obtaining  citizenship not only solidifies your ties to this enchanting country but also unlocks a world of opportunities. With Portuguese citizenship, you gain the freedom to live, work, and study anywhere in the European Union. You can vote in local and national elections, access social welfare benefits, and enjoy visa-free travel to over 180 countries worldwide. 

While living in Portugal isn’t always a fairytale, it’s an adventure worth embracing. By welcoming the realness of expat life, exploring new experiences, and connecting with the vibrant community around you, you can rediscover the joy of living in Portugal. So, when the honeymoon is over and the rose-colored glasses come off, remember – you can rekindle the magic of living here, you just have to be grateful for the little things throughout the day. Here’s to embracing the journey, the challenges, and the beauty of everyday life in the land of saudade.

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