“We have a word in Portuguese,” a friend from Lisbon, Miguel, told me once, “that doesn’t exist in any other language.
“The word is saudade. It means a longing for, a missing or a yearning for something. It’s a noun, not a verb, and its meaning is born from the feeling of a young wife for her husband sailor long at sea.”
“Yes, and this is connected to another important word for us,” another friend, João, interjected. “Saudade is connected to fado.
“Fado is our traditional music, but it is also our destiny. It is not good, it is not bad. It is simply the way it is… the way your life is because of the choices you have made.”
“Yes,” Miguel explained. “Saudade is the fado of the woman who has chosen to marry a sailor. It comes with the territory.”
Most of the world looks at Portugal as the edge of Europe. The Portuguese look at the world map and see themselves right at the center, at the heart.
Portugal identifies herself with the sea. For the Portuguese, the sea is part of their territory, a continuation of their domain. For them, therefore, Portugal is quite expansive.
In recent history, Portugal has been mostly ignored and overlooked, but there was a time when this country had the world’s attention. It was the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator, an architect of the Age of Exploration, who bid his men to “sail on, sail on.” Those orders compelled brave adventurers around the Cape of Good Hope to China and India and then across the Atlantic.
Those orders were given, specifically, from the very bottom of the country’s long Algarve coast, in Sagres, where Henry built his famous School of Navigation. It was from this point that Portuguese explorers set off to discover if indeed dragons lay beyond these shores. At the time, this was the acknowledged end of the world.
Portugal’s Algarve region is a unique bit of European geography at the southwestern corner of the Continent, at the longitude of Great Britain and the latitude of Delaware. It is protected from winter by the movement of the ocean in the Gulf Stream, and, as a result, it has the best climate in Europe, with more sunny days than any other country in this part of the world and steady winds that mean the region is never unbearably hot and rarely humid.
This country’s Algarve coast offers a one-of-a-kind lifestyle that could be described at once as quintessential Old World and 21st-century resort and that represents one of the Continent’s best values.
And it is just the beginning of the geographic, cultural, historic, and lifestyle diversity that Portugal has to offer.
Why do I say that Portugal is not only a top option for a new life in Europe right now, but, in fact, one of the world’s best places to spend time today?
1. Great weather. This region enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world and 3,300 hours of sunshine per year, meaning more sunny days than almost anywhere else in Europe. As a result, the Algarve has a longstanding reputation as a top summer destination among European sun-seekers and a top winter retreat for those looking to escape Northern Europe’s coldest months. The Algarve has no bad weather months, but it does have a winter. January and February can be cold enough that you’ll want a coat. The best months can be September and October, when the summer crowds have gone but the weather and sea temperature are still ideal.
2. Safety. Portugal ranks as the 12th safest country in the world. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime is limited to street crime during the busy tourist season. As well, this country has managed to keep itself separate from the immigration crisis that is playing out in other parts of Europe.
3. Good infrastructure. Portugal and the Algarve have enjoyed important infrastructure investments in recent years, specifically to do with the country’s highway network and airports. As a result, this is an easy region to get around and also a great base for exploring all of Europe and North Africa.
4. International-standard health care available for a very low cost. As a result, medical tourism is a growing industry in the region, in particular for cosmetic, hip replacement, and dental specialties.
5. Golf. The region boasts 42 courses in less than 100 miles and is recognized as a top golfing destination in Continental Europe and the world.
6. Great beaches. The Algarve’s 100 miles of Atlantic coastline are punctuated by jagged rock formations, lagoons, and extensive sandy beaches, many awarded coveted Blue Flags from the European Blue Flag Association. The water off these shores is azure, and the cliff-top vistas are spectacular. Most beaches have lifeguards during the summer season. Note that restaurants and snack bars are sometimes open only seasonally.
7. Affordable cost of living. Outside Lisbon, the cost of living in Portugal is among the lowest in Western Europe, on average 30% lower than in any other country of the region. A couple could live comfortably in this country beyond its capital on a budget of as little as 1,500 euros per month. With a budget of 2,000 euros per month or more, you could enjoy a fully appointed lifestyle in this heart of the Old World. Add 20% if you’d like to live in Lisbon or nearby Cascais.
8. Thanks to decades of British influence, English is widely spoken.Living here, you could get by without learning to speak Portuguese… though any effort to learn the local language is a show of respect and appreciated.
9. Healthy living. The Portuguese are the biggest fish eaters per capita in Europe, and fresh fish of great variety is available in the ever-present daily markets. The abundance of sunshine in this part of the world means an abundance of fresh produce, too, also available in the local markets. Meantime, pollution rates are low, and streets, towns, and beaches are kept clean and litter-free.
10. Retirement (and sometimes other) income is not taxed.Recent legislation allows resident foreign retirees to receive pension income in the country tax-free. The law also provides for reduced taxation on wages, intellectual property, interest, dividends, and capital gains under certain circumstances.
11. Severely undervalued property market in regions. Real estate in Portugal is among the most affordable in Europe. Further, Portuguese real estate has one of the most favorable price-to-rent ratios (a measure of the profitability of owning a house) and price-to-income ratios (a measure of affordability) in the region. What that means is that housing is cheaper to buy and property investors can make more money from rentals than in many other European countries.
Here’s one more compelling reason to think about spending time in Portugal right now—the relative strength of the U.S. dollar versus the euro. If you have income (earned, investment, or retirement) in U.S. dollars, it goes far in Portugal right now.
This article was originaly posted on Apr 6, 2018 and has been recently updated.