Porto Calling: How We Made Portugal’s Beautiful Second City Our Home

The flag of Portugal - Porto Calling: How We Made Portugal’s Beautiful Second City Our Home by Expat Empire

Dipping Our Toes in Portuguese Waters: How We Moved to Portugal

For some time now, one country at the southwest tip of Europe has been attracting a noticeable wave of expats. Portugal has, by and large, embraced the talents and skills of foreigners who want to work as well as those who are looking for a relaxing retirement. In doing so, Portugal has become one of the biggest magnets of those seeking a life outside their home country. With the many perks of living in Portugal, it’s clear that expats have realized something irresistible about the country.

Our move to Porto has been an incredible experience as we adapted to a new culture and a new lifestyle. We first went to Portugal as tourists in October 2018. At first, we weren’t sure whether Lisbon or Porto would be right for us, but we knew that we wanted Portugal to be our home. Sometimes you just fall in love with a country!

Once I got a job offer in Porto, things started to fall into place. When moving to Portugal, my wife and I were pretty lucky to have the assistance of the company I was working for throughout the process. They offered either a set amount of cash upfront, which would have been taxed or direct assistance in the form of settling-in services with a relocation company. That company would help us find an apartment, set up all of our utilities, register at the local tax and health offices, and so much more.

While the cash was enticing, it was an easy decision for us to opt for the service assistance since we’d been through moving to a new country in Europe before and knew the potential challenges and frustrations involved. We also didn’t speak nearly enough Portuguese to get us through all the steps and bureaucracy, which were notoriously difficult in our previous home in Germany. On top of all of this, I only had two weeks to get settled in Portugal before starting my brand new job.

A stunningly beautiful view of Central Porto - Porto Calling: How We Made Portugal’s Beautiful Second City Our Home by Expat Empire

Location is Everything: Finding the Right Neighborhood in Porto 

For our first few weeks, we decided to rent an Airbnb for a month in Leça da Palmeira, a neighborhood just north of Matosinhos, in turn, a beachfront satellite city of Porto. This gave us a base of operations for getting settled into our new life without racking up crushing hotel bills, though it did give us the self-imposed deadline of four weeks to find a new apartment. In retrospect, it was the right choice for a fairly relaxing introduction to Portuguese living and keeping us focused on our goals.

The relocation company we worked with pushed hard to give us plenty of options to fit our specifications and desires. Beyond our monthly budget, they looked at location, layout, amenities, as well as some other criteria we prioritized. Most of all, we wanted to move from expensive Berlin to cheaper Porto while still upgrading our lifestyle. This meant moving from a 1-bedroom apartment in Berlin to a 2-bedroom apartment in Porto without blowing our budget. 

As with even the most attractive cities in the world, apartment location makes a huge difference. Matosinhos was an attractive option because it was within walking distance to a gorgeous beach, one of the larger parks in the Porto area, as well as my office. Downtown Porto, on the other hand, would offer a more exciting lifestyle albeit with a higher daily cost of living prices in addition to a much longer daily commute. The appeal of an easy walk to both my office and the beach proved too much to resist, so we decided on Matosinhos for our new apartment.

The attractive beaches of Matosinhos - Porto Calling: How We Made Portugal’s Beautiful Second City Our Home

Moving with Ease: How Relocation Services Made All the Difference

To find the perfect apartment for us, our relocation consultant searched for interesting property listings that matched our numerous criteria and booked appointments to see our top picks. We saw our first location on a Saturday without the relocation consultant while another family was in the process of moving out. Despite the clutter of the family’s moving process, we immediately fell in love with the apartment. A few days later, we visited another eight apartments back-to-back, but none of them really had a better mix of attributes than the first one we saw. Not only was the first apartment in a relatively new building, it was on the 8th floor with a view of the sea, had a comfortable and spacious 2 bedroom and 2 bath layout, and even had a lower rent than the other options we saw! After sleeping on it for a night, we called the relocation consultant to tell her we were ready to pull the trigger on the first apartment.

When it came time to sign the contract and move into the apartment, our relocation assistant held our hands through each step of the process. She accompanied us to the contract signing after negotiating some of the finer points to get us the lease that would serve us best. She also joined us at the final home inspection before moving in so that we could be sure to note all the existing damage to the property so that we would not be charged for it when we moved out in the future. 

Ringing in 2020 in Matosinhos
My wife and I ringing in the new year, completely unaware of what kind of challenges 2020 would bring.

Going the Extra Mile: Assistance After the Move

However, this was only the beginning of the high-quality help we received. Our relocation assistant accompanied us to the local tax office to register us as the rightful renters of the home, then to the health center to get us registered in the Portuguese health system. She arranged our utility contracts so that all we had to do was sign them in one sitting. She then did the same with our Internet and mobile service providers. She was always ready to help us with any concerns or questions throughout our moving process and even afterward. 

With the help of our relocation company, we realized how truly valuable it is to have someone helping you through these steps in your move. Before you get a grasp on the language and local regulations, it’s frustrating and downright intimidating just trying to get going. Even with the cash offered by my company, we would have run into some major challenges that would have wasted our time and left us exasperated and demoralized. Since I was also intensely busy beginning my new job during this process, it was a huge weight off our shoulders to have someone we could rely on to guide us and keep track of all the smallest details. It truly made the transition to life in Portugal much smoother.

Making a home in Matosinhos near the beach - Porto Calling: How We Made Portugal’s Beautiful Second City Our Home
The beach near our new home in Matosinhos, Portugal

How to Get In Touch With Our Relocation Services Partners

If you are in the process of moving to Portugal and need some help finding a property to rent or buy, searching for the best schools for your children, registering with the local authorities, purchasing insurance, or anything else, we would love to put you in touch with our trusted relocation partners. If you’re just beginning to consider a move to Portugal, here is how we can help you make your move to Portugal a success. If you’re not sure where you want to move to or want some help thinking through the complex task of moving abroad, please get in touch with us at your earliest convenience.

Start Your Expat Journey

Whether you are looking to move abroad or just country hop for a while, Expat Empire is here to assist you with those big questions. Take a look at our consulting services to see which of them will take you to the next step in your journey abroad.

As the founder of Expat Empire, David McNeill is focused on inspiring people to move abroad and showing them how to do it. David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. He left the United States in 2014 and has since lived in Tokyo, Berlin, and Porto.