From Cagliari to Lisbon for work: An expat's story

Expat interviews
  • Lisbon
Published on 2022-11-18 at 10:12 by Francesca
Christian moved to Portugal four years ago. He left Sardinia to go to work in sunny Lisbon. He had no difficulties adjusting to his new life. He loves spending his free time playing soccer, surfing, meeting friends and exploring the country, which reminds him so much of home.

Please introduce yourself briefly. Where are you from, and how long ago did you leave Italy?

My name is Christian, and I come from Sardinia, more precisely from Cagliari. I moved to Lisbon in January 2019, so we are quickly nearing our fourth anniversary.

Where did the decision to move to Portugal come from?

The idea of leaving Italy matured over the years. It became more obvious, especially in the second half of the last decade. It was motivated almost entirely by the lack of work opportunities, not only in our country but, more importantly, in Sardinia. Such a dramatic situation became a dead-end, particularly for people like me who, on the one hand, possessed a specialized and impressive CV and who, on the other hand, were too "old" for the Italian labor market. This situation simply meant that if you wanted to work in Sardinia, you had to be able to make a profitable contribution to the taxman and therefore be in your twenties. So, after years of being subjected to this type of narrative, I had no choice but to consider moving either to Manchester, in the rain, or to Lisbon, in the sun. For a Sardinian with connections in both cities, the choice was easy.

What do you do, and how did you go about finding this job?

My fields of specialization are diverse, both technical and managerial. They range from IT and networks to publishing and advertising, with a punt in retail.

I joined the company I am working for, thanks to a "recommend-a-friend" system, where I was referred by a friend.

Did you have any difficulties adjusting to the new life, and how did you deal with them?

Looking back on these four years, I must admit that I had no problem adapting to this new life. I socialize easily, so I didn't suffer from loneliness, partly thanks to the good network of friends I had built up. And it is also due to the fact that, despite its status as the European capital, Lisbon remains a human-sized city with a relaxed lifestyle and dynamic and exciting cultural activity.

Can you give us an idea of the cost of living in Lisbon (rent/bills/food/transport)?

The cost of living in Lisbon has been rising for four years, long before the ongoing geopolitical crisis and its impact on the cost of living for everyone. But we should bear in mind that Lisbon is not Tokyo or Dubai, and that Portugal is not just Lisbon. That said, in the city, on the rent side, whether it's for mid-range and high-end houses or for single rooms, we are within the price range of any Italian metropolis. We are talking about a minimum of 300-350 euros for a room in a less popular area, up to 450 euros for a room in the center, regardless of the value of the building itself. House rents, on the other hand, start from 700 euros, for a T0 off the city center, up to 2,000 euros for a T1 in the city center. The cost of buying a nice apartment downtown, or in a neighborhood like the one where I live, Parque das Nações, is around one and a half million euros, on average.

Transportation is one of Lisbon's strong points. With a monthly pass for 40 euros and family discounts, you can use the entire metro system, buses, streetcars, trains and even ferries to Almada. This allows you to travel on a route from Sintra to Setubal within a radius of almost 100 km. Not bad, indeed!

Food and energy are the items of expenditure that will have suffered the most significant price increases. If last year, the total cost of public services such as gas, electricity and telephone was on average about 50 euros per month, today we are experiencing a 20-25% increase. The same goes for the household basket, with milk and bread that have increased by an average of 15 percent and oil and sugar by almost 20 percent.

Outside Lisbon and tourist areas, such as the Algarve or Porto, the situation is different. The increases there are less than 10%.

How do you like to spend your free time in Lisbon?

As a true native of Cagliari, when it comes to sports, I spend my free time between soccer and surfing. I also enjoy long aperitifs with my friends. I also like to read whenever I can, but I travel a lot to discover the country that reminds me so much of mine in terms of flora, fauna, food, wine, and especially in the attitude of the Portuguese themselves.

Have you been able to establish a network of friends locally?

Thanks to work and sports, I can count on a wide network of friends who come not only from Italy but also from Portugal, Brazil and many other countries.

There are probably aspects of life in Portugal, positive or negative, that you have discovered only by living there. What are they?

In a country that is changing fast, it would be a fastidious job to talk about all of these aspects in one go, but since we have limited time, I will give you some examples.

One of the positive aspects, from my personal point of view, is that Portugal is like Sardinia in the 1980s and 1990s. The increasing development and fast-growing “hypertechnology” coexist with a society still very much linked to a land of agriculture and stockbreeding, where the "human" component still plays an important role. For me, this is an extremely significant feature that characterizes the true quality of life in this country.

On the other hand, it also means a near-total absence of an industrial sector, which translates into an increase in the cost of equipment and many other goods that have to be imported, mainly from Spain.

Another negative point, though obviously related to the collapse of the world economy in 2007, is wages. The Portuguese minimum salary is among the lowest in Europe, especially for local workers, and although government actions have been going in the right direction for years, there is still a long and bumpy road ahead.

The last "negative" element, and not the least, is related to health care! It is a mix of the Italian system and the American-style insurance system. The public health service, which provides care to all citizens, is, to be kind, infinitely inferior to the worst in Italy. And for those who can't find a job, access to the service can be even worse in most clinics. On the other hand, thankfully, the cost of insurance is not that high at the basic level.

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