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It’s not just the sunshine: Why Portugal attracts US expats

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The reasons for Alfreda Chandler’s move are evident on her new home block, in the Areeiro district of Lisbon. 

Next door is a cafe with a mouthwatering display of pastries. A block away is easy transportation downtown. But more important to Ms. Chandler than this picturesque European urbanity is that in Areeiro, she talks to more neighbors than she did back in suburban Indiana.  

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Portugal is gaining popularity with U.S. citizens looking to move abroad. Reasons include the expected, like weather and the cost of living, as well as ones that hint at people’s deeper needs when trying to build a good life.

For the past few years, Portugal has topped the list of “hot destinations” for U.S. citizens looking to move abroad, whether for retirement, a home base for remote work, or a shift in lifestyle. Although Americans make up only a small percentage of the foreigners living in this country, the number has grown to about 10,000 U.S. citizens in 2022, up 239% from 2017.

Explanations for this increase often focus on Portugal’s low cost of living, lovely weather, and minuscule crime rate. Other draws: the appeal of a culture with less focus on consumption and “productivity,” and more freedom from the stressors of racism, gun violence, and toxic political divisions. 

Few Americans say that their new country is better than their homeland. It’s just different. 

“Everybody knows everybody here,” says Ms. Chandler from her seat at her local coffee joint.

The reasons for Alfreda Chandler’s move are right here, on her new home block, in the Areeiro district of Lisbon. 

The sun-drenched promenade of apartments and eateries is still considered an authentically “local” section of this increasingly global city. Across from her pink building there is a fruit stand shaded by a stone portico. Next door is a cafe with a mouthwatering display of pastries. A block away is easy transportation downtown. 

But more important to Ms. Chandler than this picturesque European urbanity is that in Areeiro, she talks to way more neighbors than she ever did back in suburban Indiana.  

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

Portugal is gaining popularity with U.S. citizens looking to move abroad. Reasons include the expected, like weather and the cost of living, as well as ones that hint at people’s deeper needs when trying to build a good life.

“Everybody knows everybody here,” she says from her seat at an outdoor table at her local coffee joint. “Living alone in a big house – it’s isolating.”

As if on cue, a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk notices her, exclaims, rushes over for a hug, and encourages Ms. Chandler to keep practicing her Portuguese.

“See?” she says with a grin. 



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