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Living in Portugal: Cultural Clashes and Expectations

When moving to Portugal, you may notice somethings are not as you are used to in your home country. That's completely normal! You're in a different country after all.

On this week's post, Savvy Cat covers some cultural clashes or just somethings you might not even thought about and what to expect while living in Portugal!

Young woman with a hat travelling in Porto


Street with vintage buildings

One thing you might notice in most Portuguese houses is that we have very bad insulation conditions. At least, in older houses/apartments. Recently renovated houses and in places with higher expatriate population, we do find that the trend is changing and some places now (fortunately) now have proper insulation systems.

Nonetheless, most places still don’t have a good climatized system and rely on heaters in the Winter and fans for the Summer.

Up to 2008 there was barely any legislation regarding house insulation. For this reason, constructors would essentially be “cheap” and spare as much as they could in order to have a bigger profit.

When it comes to sound and thermic insulation?

This has an easy fix if you purchase property. If you rent it, you are dependent on your landlord to install proper insulation.

How can you know if a property has good insulation?

Short answer - you can’t.

A good way to assume if they have good insulation or not is checking if the property is a new building (after 2010) and if it followed the regulations set after 2008.

Anything prior to 2010, probably does not have good insulation, unless it was recently renovated.

Keep in mind that (especially if you’re renting) even some renovations still don’t have the proper insulation.

Cost of insurances

Arranged wooden blocks with icons, used to introduce the topic of the cost-effectiveness of various types of insurances when living in Portugal compared to the US.

This is mostly from an US perspective - insurances in Portugal tend to be a lot cheaper compared to the US.

Whether that be medical insurances, car insurances or house insurances, amongst others, our North American clients are usually quite surprised by their low cost by comparison and how efficiently they can be acquired.

Customer services

Worker repairing cables

Our public services tend to be very slow. And this is something you will notice right away, especially if you come from a country where services tend to be fast paced.

Bureaucracy and paperwork are always a pain no matter where you come from, but in Portugal we really seem to like to make things extra complicated for everyone.

Besides the fact that dealing with these services is an absolute nightmare, the insane waiting times and slow services really is the cherry on top of this extremely frustrating mix.

Public health services

Doctor with patient in a waiting room

One of the things that can be very attractive to future residents is our public health care system, Sistema Nacional de Saúde (SNS) especially if you come from a country where it’s lacking one. Urgent care is accessible to anyone in the country with a Visa, including a tourist visa. However, to get full care and follow up appointments and check-ups, you do need to have a residence permit.

Most medicines are almost fully supported by the SNS, but you may pay a very small percentage of the price, especially for chronic illnesses, if you have a prescription.

Keep in mind that our Public Health system is nowhere near perfect. In fact, we are currently facing some major issues due to severe lack of medical staff, hospitals are old and not in the best conditions, closing down urgent care in some areas, extreme delay in scheduling exams, etc.

Walkability of cities

Man and woman walking in a colorful street

This is one we keep including in our posts for a reason! It seems like some clients are positively impressed by the amazing walkability of our cities.

This is especially true in bigger and medium-sized cities in which you can easily walk anywhere.

If you’re wondering if you should have a car in Portugal or not, check out our previous post about this, where we talk about this topic in more detail:

Portuguese cobblestone streets

Bright square in cobblestone in Lisbon

Have you ever thought about this one? Probably not!

Attention to all the people who enjoy a good high heel, you might want to keep an eye for these wobbly cobblestone streets because they are present in a LOT of cities. Wearing comfortable shoes if you’re planning a whole day exploring your city is definitely a must!

You will feel it not just on your feet, but if you’re driving within some city centers, your car tires will also probably notice.

Street art

Graffiti of a fox in a building

Not much of a culture clash per se, especially if you’re from a big city already where street art is also common.

If you’re not originally from a big city and you’re moving to one in Portugal for the first time, then you will find a lot of street art in murals and buildings.

We’re not talking about graffities that someone did on a mural but actually Art paid by the city town hall! And why not? It attracts tourists and curious locals while embellishing the city a bit more in areas where otherwise would probably be something not that attractive.

Savvy's CEO, Ana Caramujo, tells you all about this topic in one of our latest videos!


Hope this article was helpful, any questions you might have feel free to contact us! We are always available at or if you need any assistance ;)


1 Comment

I love the street art. It is everywhere.

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