Why Our Family Moved to Portugal


Thank you so much for all the support and great questions after sharing about our move to Portugal this summer. A huge disclaimer at the beginning: we have only just begun our adventure in Portugal, so I know I am not an expert at all!

I will continue to write about our family’s travels in Portugal and Europe and I share some of my favorite blogs from much more experienced families in Portugal below. With that said, I did want to take a little time to answer some of the most frequent questions that I have received 10+ times.

Table of Contents:

  1. Why did you move to Portugal?
  2. What is your visa situation?
  3. Do you speak Portuguese?
  4. How are you? How are the kids?
  5. Blogs from more experienced families
why we moved to portugal family

Why did we move to Portugal?

There are so many reasons why we decided to move to Portugal and they mostly all center around our kids. I grew up moving a lot (14 times before college!) and lived on a military base in Germany and the Netherlands for my 4 years of high school.

I always wanted my kids to have an international experience before college and so for the past 3-4 years, we’ve been researching and visiting places to see if there would be a good fit. We visited Amsterdam, Switzerland, northern Italy, southern Germany, and then…Portugal! I know the term “international experience” is very amorphous, but I guess it comes down to wanting my kids to learn and experience another culture through immersion and in the process learn more about themselves.

This isn’t a revolutionary example, but one small example is recycling here. On almost every other block there are huge recycling containers for the neighborhoods divided by glass, plastic, paper, and trash. You don’t pay for trash or recycling services to a company (of course its paid via government taxes) so someone could decide not to divide out the recycling and just trash everything.

But this is definitely not the case. Our apartment overlooks one of these corners so we can see that all day our neighbors are separating out their recycling. We had a great discussion with the kids about why is there more recycling here, what are the priorities of different communities, what do they think is best etc. And I love that my daughter’s chore now is to go out and recycle each day!

family move to portugal

Nicest recycling area on the beach!

Now onto the meat of the question, why Portugal?? This is the easiest answer, come visit and you will see! We visited in April 2022 for the kid's Spring Break and then again in January 2023 and just fell in love. I don’t want to generalize about the whole country as we haven’t explored outside of the main cities yet but there are just so many reasons to love Portugal.

The people, weather, cuisine, beaches, mountains, food quality, safety… and the list goes on! The other key part is the variety of visas available to non-EU residents. We researched Germany and the Netherlands as well because of my experience there, but the visas seemed to be more complicated.

What is our Visa Situation?

This is the #1 question I’ve received over the past month and I’m sorry I can’t be more specific but as you may know from my Instagram, I like to keep some things private. So instead of saying the specifics for our family, I’ll point you to Portugal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (in English!) which actually has great info on all the different types of visas.

Types of Temporary Stay Visas in Portugal:

  • Work and investigation
  • Study
  • Professional training, internship or volunteer work
  • Health
  • Youth Mobility - International Agreements
  • People living on their own income
  • Religious purposes
  • Familiar (Family reunification)

A note about the “Golden Visa” that you may have heard about in the news. We did not go this route and there has been a lot in the news about the Government potentially ending the program. Here is a Bloomberg article from May 2023.

family move to portugal

Do you speak Portuguese?

No, I don’t speak Portuguese… yet! This is my #1 goal for the next 6 months. Right now, I am just using the Memrise app (DuoLingo is only Brazilian Portuguese) and watching Portuguese TV at night. I’ve had small wins these first weeks like yesterday I ordered a hallway runner in Portuguese and meters. I can tell the grocery checkout clerk my tax number, but that’s about it! Once the kids start school, I plan to attend 6-8 hours of language classes a week.

I’ve read online that “everyone in the cities speaks English.” But I really think that’s an unfortunate attitude to have. First, I haven’t found that to be 100% true, although most restaurants, hotels, and tourist spots do have English speakers. Mostly though, we really want to be intentional about the time we have here, and the way to make friends and understand the rich culture is to speak the language. I’m not worried about the kids and my husband is ridiculously good at picking up languages (he is already 5x my vocab without the apps!) but my upper 30s brain definitely needs the peer pressure of a class!

How are you? How are the kids?

Thanks to my wonderful insta friend Yatzi for this question! We’re starting our 3rd week here and things are finally feeling more settled. Having real beds helps! I will say that all four of us have our moments of processing our emotions. We truly miss our family and friends deeply. Video chats are helping a lot but it’s definitely very bittersweet. (I wrote about 5 Lessons from 12 Years in the DMV here.)

For me, it was a crazy past 6 months compiling the hundreds of pages of paperwork for the visa, finding an apartment sight unseen, and leaving our home ready in Virginia. In all the busyness, I don’t think I really processed all the emotions of leaving a place and people we all truly love so much. I’m ‘skited’ (scared + excited from Glennon Doyle) about making new friends and a new life here. But the biggest emotion is gratefulness and a desire to make the most of this time here.

Blogs from More Experienced Families

We really like Our Rich Journey both their website and their YouTube videos. They’ve lived in Portugal since 2019 with their 2 teen daughters.

I’ve so much from 7 Wayfayers blog as they moved here in 2021 with their 5 school-age kids. They have a great blog post on their 1-year anniversary. I believe Leslie is creating a new website about an American Family in Portugal.

Finally, the Americans & FriendsPT Facebook Page has been invaluable for all things visas and paperwork.