In Focus
Mar 11, 2024

Embracing Lisbon: Insights from an American Expat on the City’s Allure

Wynslow Wilmot speaks to Marcy Pettitt, an American expat living in Lisbon, about the city's climate, cost of living and cultural diversity.

Wynslow WilmotFeatures Editor

The appeal of Portugal, particularly Lisbon, for expatriates has been steadily growing in recent years, with individuals from various corners of the globe flocking to its shores in search of a new beginning. According to the Portuguese Instituto Nacional de Estatísticas’ 2023 Statistics Report, more than 1 million foreign nationals have made Portugal their second residency. With a total population of around 10.4 million people, this means that foreign nationals make up nearly 10% of the total population of Portugal. I sat down with American expat Marcy Pettitt to explore why Portugal has become one of the most popular choices for those looking to explore life in a new place. 

For Marcy, the decision to move to Lisbon was informed by a multitude of factors, ranging from climate and cost of living to language accessibility and the vibrant expat community. “When exploring different places to move from the United States, there were several factors which informed my decision: weather, cost of living, language, other expats in the area, ability to purchase a home, locality to the ocean, visa accessibility, and food.”, she explained, “Lisbon’s mild weather, reminiscent of Los Angeles, coupled with its relatively affordable cost of living compared to major American cities like Los Angeles, makes it an attractive destination.”

Moreover, the city’s multicultural environment and abundance of international cuisine cater to diverse tastes, “The food scene in Lisbon is world class. While the traditional food of Lisbon, often based around fish, is amazing, because of the diverse citizenry, and history of Portugal, the abundance of international offerings is so attractive. From sushi to vegetarian dishes, to pork, steak or chicken, Lisbon offers it all. And then there are the desserts, one can never forget the desserts, including the world famous Pastel de Nata.”


However, the surge in expats has not been without its challenges. Marcy notes that the increase in demand for housing has driven up prices, posing difficulties for locals and expats alike. “In speaking with locals, for example waiters at restaurants, they all complain about the high cost of housing, and how that makes it difficult to live within the City itself.” She goes on to explain, “While no one has directly come out and blamed the condition on expats, supply and demand, without some type of market intervention, sets prices. But, around the world countries have been experiencing inflation, so the increase in the cost of housing probably cannot just be blamed on the influx of expats.”

Oftentimes one might find locals become disdainful of people moving into their cities, yet this has not been the case for Marcy, “I think that because Lisbon opens its arms, literally and figuratively to expats, it attracts expats and expats are attracted to it. It becomes a win-win for everyone.” The friendliness and welcoming of the Portuguese people has allowed Marcy to become fully comfortable in the city, being embraced while embracing this new culture “While Portuguese is the language spoken by the locals, almost everyone has some degree of English, and the locals are not offended when Portuguese is not your first language. Lisbon is home to many expats, not just from the United States but Ireland, the UK, Australia”

For Marcy, the most rewarding aspect of living in Lisbon as an expat has been immersing herself in the culture, history, and personalities of Portugal. When reflecting upon the most rewarding aspect of her move to Portugal she said it has been, “Getting to know the culture, history and personalities of this new and lovely country.”

Lisbon’s growing expat community reflects the city’s magnetic appeal and welcoming atmosphere. While challenges such as housing affordability persist, expatriates like Marcy remain committed to embracing the opportunities and experiences that Lisbon has to offer, enriching both their own lives and the vibrant tapestry of the city.

Sign Up to Our Weekly Newsletters

Get The University Times into your inbox twice a week.