"Why would you relocate to Lisbon?" was the question asked repeatedly when I decided to move to the post-recession city in 2013. That question now has an obvious answer.
Four years ago, I gambled on Lisbon and ended up hitting the jackpot. Now that the secret is out and the world has discovered this hidden gem, I thought I would share some of the winnings.
Lisbon is the supermodel who turns out to actually be much deeper than her million dollar pose. Just as perfect complexion and never-ending legs only go so far, so does incredible weather and postcard-perfect beaches. While I will be the first to tout the quality of life this incredible city can give you, I recognize the reason I stayed is so much more.
Growing up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, I dreamt of living in southern European. There was nothing more appealing than the thought of winding streets, bottomless pitchers of sangria and endless nights spent eating, drinking and dancing till dawn. And then I grew up, traveled a bit, went to university and came to the conclusion I needed to base myself in a location that had more economic opportunity.
Isn’t life funny though? It never plays out as you plan. It’s like a pesky younger sibling always doing the opposite of what you ask. After traveling from East to West, living and working in some of the most economically charged markets in the world, I found myself in Lisbon, Portugal a few years post recession, Troika still in full swing, thinking ‘how the hell did I get here?’.
How I got here is besides the point (hint, hint: tall, dark and handsome), but why I stayed is much more interesting. Lisbon has been (re)discovered in the last few years, which is incredibly exciting and scary. The city is changing at an alarming rate. As a New Yorker friend says we are living in the Brooklyn of Europe and experiencing the Lisbonification of Lisbon.
Trendy, fusion style restaurants are springing up faster than you can say ‘cabeleireiro’ (a word I still cannot pronounce - also besides the point). Crumbling buildings are being renovated and modernized preserving the traditional Portuguese tiled-twist. Museum openings, music festivals, obscure art exhibits in old hospitals, massive tech conferences (cough cough Web Summit), high-end co-workings, Michelin star food markets - all of this happening on top of the already breathtaking city where you can still grab a beer for one euro. ONE EURO! Oh yeah, and Madonna? She’s moving here too.
Tech, entrepreneurship, foreigners - these words define the city at the moment. Le Wagon taking off in Lisbon is symbolic of the city’s rapidly changing environment. The batches of students that are coming through are internationally diverse with two-thirds being foreign. On average, there are nine nationalities represented in a given batch. And some of these foreigners come and stay! They don’t leave! It seems I am not the only one affected by Lisbon’s aphrodisiac.
As that same New Yorker puts it (he’s an actual writer), to make it in Lisbon one needs their own ‘economic steam’. Wages and services are still quite a bit lower than the average in Northern Europe and North America. But if you can base yourself here to start your company, work remotely, study or just a little R&R while you live off some meager savings, there’s not a better place. Inexpensive and beyond fantastic quality of life coupled with a city open and eager for change, makes for the ideal environment to comfortably explore new opportunities, be it launching a company or learning a new in demand skill (#learntocode #changeyourlife - sorry, couldn't help myself). So the secret’s out. Who’s in?
Still not convinced? Don't just take my word for it 👇