Moving to Portugal from New Zealand

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Written by: | Last updated on March 6, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 9 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

For many Kiwis, the allure of Portugal extends far beyond its award-winning beaches and historic cities. Nestled on the southwestern edge of Europe, Portugal offers New Zealanders a gateway to the continent’s rich tapestry of cultures, histories, and landscapes. With the promise of Portuguese citizenship after a few years of residency, the dream of traversing Europe without the constraints of visas becomes an enticing reality.

Portugal’s growing popularity among digital nomads and retirees is hard to ignore. The country’s blend of a Southern European climate, world-class beaches, and a surf lifestyle resonates deeply with New Zealanders, who are no strangers to the allure of the ocean. Add to this the rugged hiking trails reminiscent of New Zealand’s own scenic treks, and it’s clear why many are drawn to this Iberian gem. Beyond the natural beauty, the quality of life in Portugal is enhanced by its warm weather, which offers a pleasant contrast to New Zealand’s occasionally unpredictable climate.

But it’s not just the environment that captivates; it’s the people and the communities they form. Portugal boasts a thriving expat community, with a significant presence of English speakers from countries like the US and UK. This mosaic of cultures creates a supportive network for newcomers, ensuring that even though they might be far from the Land of the Long White Cloud, they’ll never truly feel alone.

Reasons to Move Here

There are lots of reasons that people move to Portugal, but for Kiwis some of the most popular reasons are:

  1. Attainable Visas: For Kiwis dreaming of a European adventure, Portugal offers one of the most accessible paths. Whether you’re a retiree, digital nomad, or entrepreneur, Portugal’s visa options are among the most attainable in Europe.
  2. Proximity to Europe: Nestled in the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is a gateway to the rest of Europe. With multiple international airports, it’s a breeze to catch a flight to iconic cities like Paris, Rome, or London, making weekend getaways or business trips convenient.
  3. Weather: If you’re seeking a respite from New Zealand’s unpredictable weather, Portugal beckons with its Southern European climate. Especially in regions like the Algarve, winters are mild, and summers are sun-soaked, making it a haven for sun-seekers.
  4. Beaches: Portugal’s coastline is a dream for beach lovers. From the golden sands of the Algarve to the rugged beauty of the Alentejo and the picturesque settings of the Silver Coast, there’s a beach for every preference.
  5. Portuguese Citizenship: Portugal offers a streamlined path to citizenship. After just five years of residency, you can apply, which is notably quicker than many of its European neighbours, including Spain. Plus, the language requirement is manageable at an A2 level.
  6. Safety: For those prioritizing safety in their relocation decision, Portugal stands out. Frequently ranked among the safest countries in Europe, it offers peace of mind to its residents.
  7. English Proficiency: While Portuguese is the official language, English is widely spoken, especially in tourist hubs like Lisbon and the Algarve. The younger generation, in particular, often boasts impressive English skills, making the transition for English-speaking Kiwis smoother.
  8. Cultural Richness: Beyond the practicalities, Portugal offers a rich tapestry of history, music, food, and traditions. From the soulful strains of Fado music to the historic streets of its cities, there’s a cultural depth waiting to be explored.
  9. Cost of Living: Compared to many Western European nations, Portugal offers a more affordable cost of living. Whether it’s dining out, renting a home, or enjoying local experiences, your money often goes further here.
  10. Expat Community: While moving abroad can be daunting, Portugal boasts a thriving expat community. With many from English-speaking countries like the US and UK, as well as a small few from neighbouring Australia, it’s easy to find familiar faces and make new friends.

Naturally, there are a few downsides too. Bureaucracy and the quality of housing are two of the main ones, but lower wages, integration challenges, and smaller job market also feature.

As with anywhere, it’s a case of weighing up the pros and cons and deciding whether Portugal is right for you. For many kiwis, the possibility of living in Europe and being able to obtain an “EU passport” means the pros end up outweighing the cons.

Obtaining Residency

There are several ways to obtain residency in Portugal. If you’re lucky enough to have an EU/EEA or Swiss passport, the process is extremely straight-forward. This includes those with spouses, partners, and other qualifying family members that hold one of these passports too. Most others will need to apply for a residency visa, such as the D7 or golden visa, but the good news is that Portugal offers some of the most attainable residency visas in Europe.

  1. Golden Visa: A popular choice for New Zealanders with the means to invest, the Golden Visa offers a path to Portuguese residency with minimal time actually spent in the country. By investing, typically in avenues like venture capital funds, you can secure your place in Portugal. As of 2024, the standard investment is around €500,000. The key advantage? You only need to spend an average of 7 days a year in Portugal, giving you flexibility to travel or continue working elsewhere. In comparison, most other visas require you to spend around six months of the year in Portugal.
  2. D7 Visa: Tailored for those with a steady passive income, the D7 visa is a great fit for retirees or those with consistent income sources like rental properties. The financial requirement is based on the Portuguese minimum wage, and applicants need to demonstrate a monthly income of more than €820, as of 2024. This visa is particularly appealing for Kiwis looking for a more relaxed pace of life in Portugal without the hustle of regular employment.
  3. Digital Nomad Visa (D8): Portugal, with its blend of history and modernity, is becoming a hotspot for digital nomads, and the D8 visa caters precisely to this group. If you’re a remote worker or freelancer from New Zealand, this visa could be your ticket to Europe. The financial requirement? A monthly income exceeding €3,280, as of 2024.
  4. D2 Visa: For the entrepreneurial Kiwi spirit, the D2 visa is the gateway to Portugal. Whether you dream of opening a coastal guesthouse, launching a tech startup, or setting up a marketing agency, this visa is designed for those eager to start a business in Portugal. The country’s supportive environment for startups and its position as a growing tech hub in Europe makes it an attractive destination for budding entrepreneurs.

Where to Live

  1. Lisbon: The capital city of Portugal, Lisbon is a magnet for digital nomads and remote workers from New Zealand. With its blend of historic charm and modern amenities, it offers the perfect balance of city life infused with Portuguese culture and a pleasant climate. Beyond the bustling city centre, nearby areas like Cascais, Carcavelos, and Costa da Caparica offer a more relaxed pace while still being close to the city’s vibrancy.
  2. Cascais: A picturesque seaside town, Cascais is ideal for those who wish to be near Lisbon but prefer the tranquillity of coastal living. With its beautiful beaches, marina, and easy transport links to Lisbon, it’s a favoured spot for many expats.
  3. Madeira: Known for its year-round mild climate, Madeira is a haven for hiking enthusiasts and those seeking a laid-back lifestyle. The island boasts a strong expat community, and while it offers a serene escape, Kiwis, familiar with island living, might find it reminiscent of home, albeit with a Mediterranean twist.
  4. Azores: A group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores are a nature lover’s paradise. With lush landscapes, volcanic terrains, and abundant hiking trails, it’s perfect for those seeking an outdoor lifestyle. However, it’s worth noting that some islands, apart from Sao Miguel, can feel a bit isolated from mainland Portugal and the rest of Europe.
  5. Algarve: A sun-soaked region in the south of Portugal, the Algarve is renowned for its stunning beaches, golf courses, and warm weather. It’s a hit with retirees, young families, and an increasing tribe of digital nomads and surf enthusiasts. The region offers a mix of bustling towns and serene villages, catering to varied lifestyle preferences.
  6. Silver Coast: For those seeking an authentic Portuguese experience without the tourist crowds of the Algarve, the Silver Coast is a gem. Located between Lisbon and Porto, it offers milder weather and is more affordable. The region’s proximity to major cities, combined with its pristine beaches and traditional charm, makes it an attractive choice for many Kiwis.

Cultural Differences

The following are some of the main cultural differences you’ll encounter between New Zealand and Portugal.

Language & Communication:

  • New Zealand: English is the primary language, with Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language also being official languages.
  • Portugal: Portuguese is the official language. While many in urban areas and younger generations speak English, it’s less common among the older population, particularly outside of Lisbon and the Algarve.

History & Heritage:

  • New Zealand: A blend of Māori and European (primarily British) heritage, with influences from Pacific Islander cultures.
  • Portugal: A rich history influenced by Roman, Moorish, and Christian civilisations, with maritime achievements playing a significant role.

Social Etiquette:

  • New Zealand: Kiwis value modesty, humility, and a “can-do” attitude. Directness is appreciated, but politeness is crucial.
  • Portugal: Portuguese people are warm and friendly but may be more formal initially. Respect for elders and hierarchy is significant.

Food & Cuisine:

  • New Zealand: A mix of British-influenced dishes and indigenous Māori cuisine. Seafood, lamb, and dairy are staples.
  • Portugal: Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on fish, especially cod, various meats, olive oil, and wine. Pastries, like the famous ‘pastel de nata’, are also iconic. Portuguese food isn’t heavy on herbs or spices, and so has some similarities with Northern European food.

Lifestyle & Leisure:

  • New Zealand: Outdoor activities like rugby, cricket, hiking, and water sports are popular.
  • Portugal: Football (soccer) is a passion. Additionally, Fado music, beach outings, and family gatherings play a central role in leisure.

Work Ethic & Business:

  • New Zealand: Punctuality is essential, and a work-life balance is valued. The business environment is relatively informal.
  • Portugal: A more hierarchical business structure. Relationships and trust are crucial in business dealings.

Family Dynamics:

  • New Zealand: Families are often nuclear, but the extended family is still essential, especially in Māori culture.
  • Portugal: Family is central to Portuguese life, with multiple generations often living close by or together.

Attitudes Towards Time:

  • New Zealand: Punctuality is valued, especially in professional settings.
  • Portugal: A more relaxed attitude towards time, especially in social settings. It’s common for events to start later than scheduled.
Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.