Portugal VS Greece: Where Should Expats Choose to Live?

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Last updated on June 14, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 10 minutes

Living in Portugal and Greece offers a chance to immerse oneself in two distinct yet equally enchanting Southern European lifestyles. These two countries share certain commonalities, such as a delightful climate, beautiful beaches, a laid-back culture, and a strong emphasis on family bonds. However, they also possess unique attributes that make them stand out.

Greece, for instance, is renowned worldwide for its illustrious historical and cultural heritage, while Portugal boasts its own captivating history and an emerging reputation as a vibrant destination. In this comparison, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between living in Portugal and Greece, providing insights into what makes each country a captivating place to call home.

In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both. Be sure to read our other articles about Portugal vs Italy and Portugal vs Spain.

Residency Visas

Both Portugal and Greece offer a number of residency visas aimed at encouraging people to move there. In particular, both Portugal and Greece offer a golden visa program, which offers residency in return for investment.

In simple terms, this means you can obtain residency in either country by investing (e.g. buying property or investing in companies in that country). After maintaining your residency for the fixed period, you can then apply for citizenship.

Residency Visa Options in Portugal

Portugal offers a range of residency visas to suit different profiles and aspirations, making it an attractive destination for international investors and entrepreneurs. These visas are accessible to individuals from around the world, providing diverse opportunities for those seeking to establish a life in Portugal.

  • Golden Visa: Tailored for individuals interested in making significant financial investments in Portugal, the Golden Visa grants residency in exchange for financial commitment. What sets it apart is the minimal residency requirement, with an average stay of just 7 days annually. As of 2024, the standard investment threshold stands at €500,000, making it an appealing option for global investors.
  • D7 Visa: The Passive Income Visa, known as the D7 Visa, is designed for individuals with a steady passive income stream. It’s ideal for those drawing a pension, earning rental income, or enjoying other forms of passive income. Applicants are required to demonstrate a monthly income exceeding €820, as of 2024, aligning with the Portuguese minimum wage.
  • Digital Nomad Visa: The Digital Nomad Visa, or D8 Visa, caters to modern remote workers and freelancers who can sustain themselves in Portugal. In 2024, the income criterion for this visa mandates applicants to have a monthly income north of €3,280, offering an enticing option for those seeking a flexible work-life balance in Portugal.
  • Entrepreneurial Visa: The Entrepreneurial Visa, known as the D2 Visa, is designed for entrepreneurial spirits eager to start a business venture in Portugal. Whether it’s establishing a guesthouse or launching a marketing firm, this visa provides an avenue to pursue entrepreneurial dreams in this vibrant European destination.

These visa options are accessible to a global audience, providing a gateway to Portugal’s rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and diverse opportunities for individuals from all walks of life.

Citizenship Possibilities

While both countries offer citizenship through naturalisation, Portugal is the winner as you can apply sooner and the language requirement is easier.

Portugal:

  • Residency Requirement: To become a Portuguese citizen through naturalisation, you typically need to have legally resided in Portugal for a minimum of five years. There are exceptions, such as for spouses of Portuguese citizens or individuals of Portuguese descent, which may reduce the residency requirement.
  • Language Requirement: You will need to show an A2 level of Portuguese (or higher). As well as the language, you may also be asked to prove ties to the local Portuguese community (e.g. membership of clubs). You are only required to get 55% or above in the language exam to earn a pass.

Greece:

  • Residency Requirement: To obtain Greek citizenship through naturalization, you typically need to have legally resided in Greece for at least seven years. Like Portugal, there may be exceptions for certain groups, such as spouses of Greek citizens.
  • Language Requirement: Applicants will be required to demonstrate their proficiency in the Greek language through both a written and oral examination, equivalent to the B1 level. A minimum passing score of 80% of the highest achievable score is necessary to successfully complete this language assessment.

The Language

Comparing the languages of Portuguese and Greek, we encounter distinct challenges and advantages for learners:

Portuguese:

  • Portuguese is often regarded as more accessible for learners when compared to Greek. It is considered somewhat more challenging than Spanish or French due to its complex pronunciation and verb conjugation, but it is generally perceived as easier than Greek.
  • One of the advantages of learning Portuguese is its membership in the Romance language family, which includes Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian. This shared ancestry means similar grammar and syntax, along with a significant amount of common vocabulary, which can facilitate language learning.
  • Another notable advantage is the widespread use of Portuguese around the world. In addition to Portugal, Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, making it highly practical for travellers and language learners. The familiarity with Portuguese can also be advantageous if you plan to visit Spain or Latin America, as there is some linguistic crossover.
  • The challenge with learning European Portuguese lies in its pronunciation. It can be quite different from what learners might expect, requiring practice and adaptation to the way native speakers pronounce words and phrases.

Greek:

  • Greek, while not impossible to learn, is often considered more challenging for non-native speakers, especially those with no prior experience with languages using the Greek alphabet.
  • Greek belongs to the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European language family, and its alphabet consists of 24 characters, each of which is pronounced as it appears. The alphabet, with its unique characters, can be initially daunting for learners.
  • Learning Greek offers a deeper understanding of the culture, history, and literature of Greece. It is particularly rewarding for those interested in exploring ancient Greek philosophy, mythology, and classical texts.
  • Greek pronunciation and grammar can be more complex and nuanced, making it a more formidable task for beginners.

While neither language is “impossible” to learn, Portuguese is generally regarded as more approachable for beginners due to its similarity to other Romance languages, wider global use, and more straightforward alphabet.

Safety

Safety is a paramount consideration for anyone considering a move to a new country. While measuring safety can be complex, one commonly referenced indicator is the Global Peace Index. In 2023, Portugal secured the 7th position, reflecting its reputation as a peaceful and secure destination. In contrast, Greece occupied the 60th place, highlighting some differences in safety perceptions between the two countries.

In Portugal, many individuals report feeling extremely safe, especially in smaller towns and cities where communities are closely knit. However, like many urban centers worldwide, some areas in Lisbon and nearby regions, such as parts of Amadora and Martim Moniz, may be considered less safe. However, in general, Lisbon feels much safer than Athens.

One aspect of safety worth noting in Portugal is the prevalence of pickpocketing and break-ins, particularly in central areas of Lisbon and Porto. While these incidents can occur, practicing common-sense safety measures, such as safeguarding personal belongings and securing your home, can significantly reduce the risk of such incidents.

While the Global Peace Index provides valuable insights, personal safety perceptions can vary. It’s advisable to research specific locations and seek advice from locals and expats to gain a comprehensive understanding of safety in your chosen destination within Portugal or Greece.

Cost of Living

When considering the cost of living between Portugal and Greece as of October 2023, key factors emerge. Greece generally boasts lower rent prices, making it a favourable choice for budget-conscious individuals. However, Portugal offers more affordable day-to-day expenses, with consumer prices and groceries being notably lower.

  • As of October 2023, Numbeo suggests Consumer Prices in Greece are 15.4% higher than in Portugal (without rent).
  • Rent Prices in Greece are 41.9% lower than in Portugal.
  • Groceries Prices in Greece are 14.3% higher than in Portugal

In particular, Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, stands out as a cost-effective city compared to Athens, Greece, with lower restaurant and grocery prices, albeit with significantly higher rent costs. The decision between the two countries ultimately depends on your specific budgetary priorities and lifestyle preferences.

  • Rent Prices in Lisbon are 106.3% higher than in Athens
  • Restaurant Prices in Lisbon are 15.5% lower than in Athens
  • Groceries Prices in Lisbon are 9.3% lower than in Athens

Food

Portugal and Greece both boast rich culinary traditions deeply rooted in their Mediterranean climates, resulting in delicious and diverse cuisines that celebrate fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors.

Portuguese Cuisine:

  • Portuguese cuisine is celebrated for its use of fresh seafood, olive oil, and an array of aromatic spices. One of the most iconic dishes is “Bacalhau à Brás,” a delectable codfish preparation, along with “Caldo Verde,” a hearty green soup.
  • Portugal’s extensive coastline offers an abundance of seafood, including sardines, sea bass, and octopus, often grilled to perfection. “Francesinha,” a hearty sandwich with layers of meat, cheese, and a spicy sauce, is a beloved comfort food.
  • Portuguese desserts are a sweet indulgence, with “Pastéis de Nata” (custard tarts) being the most famous. The country is also known for its exceptional wines, such as Port wine and Vinho Verde.

Greek Cuisine:

  • Greek cuisine emphasizes the use of fresh vegetables, olive oil, and an assortment of Mediterranean herbs and spices. “Moussaka,” a layered dish of eggplant, ground meat, and béchamel sauce, is an iconic Greek specialty.
  • Seafood is also a vital component of Greek cuisine, with dishes like “Saganaki” (pan-fried cheese with tomato sauce) and “Octopus Salad” showcasing the bounty of the Mediterranean.
  • Greek desserts are a delightful finale to any meal, with “Baklava” (layered pastry with nuts and honey) and “Loukoumades” (honey-soaked doughnuts) being popular choices. Greek wines, particularly from regions like Santorini, are well-regarded.

While both cuisines share common Mediterranean elements like olive oil, fresh ingredients, and an emphasis on simplicity, they also exhibit distinct regional flavours and specialties.

Size

When comparing Portugal and Greece, one of the first noticeable differences lies in their respective sizes, both in terms of population and physical landmass.

Population:

  • Portugal has a population of approximately 10.33 million people (2021), making it a moderately populated country in Europe.
  • Greece, on the other hand, has a slightly smaller population, with 10.64 million people (2021). Both countries have relatively small populations compared to larger European nations.

Physical Size:

  • In terms of land area, Portugal is geographically smaller than Greece. Portugal covers approximately 92,000 square kilometers (35,500 square miles), while Greece is significantly larger, spanning around 131,957 square kilometers (50,949 square miles). This difference in size can influence factors like travel distances and regional diversity.

Climate:

  • Both Portugal and Greece enjoy Southern European climates, characterised by warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. However, there are regional variations within each country:
    • Portugal features a mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic climates. Coastal regions have milder temperatures, while the interior experiences more extreme temperature fluctuations.
    • Greece’s climate varies from the Mediterranean in the south to more continental in the north. Islands and coastal areas have milder winters, while the northern mainland experiences colder winters.

Choosing between Portugal and Greece as a destination to call home offers a unique set of advantages and considerations. Portugal often emerges as a winner for its ease of language, more attainable residency visas, and a robust expat community, making it an inviting option for newcomers. Additionally, accessible flight connections, especially from the US, can be a practical advantage.

On the other hand, Greece boasts a host of alluring selling points, including its breathtaking beaches, stunning islands, rich culinary traditions, captivating history, and vibrant culture. The decision ultimately hinges on your personal preferences and what draws you more – the practicality and expat community of Portugal or the allure of Greece’s natural beauty and cultural richness. Both countries offer unique and rewarding experiences for those seeking a new adventure abroad.

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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.

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