Expat Q&A: US Expat Living in Portugal

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Kamra Clemons is a US citizen living in Lisbon, Portugal. She is a budget travel and holistic wellness blogger, as well as a co-founder of Black in Portugal, a community that brings together locals, expats, and travelers by providing a soft space for each group to land. Her website connects travel and wellness through storytelling, advice, and tip sharing.

 

We met up in Lisbon in October to record a video interview. Unfortunately, the sound came out poorly, so this interview has been transcribed and minorly edited.

Who are you?

My name is Kamra. I am the co-founder of Black in Portugal, and I’ve been living in Lisbon for over a year now.

Why did you move to Lisbon?

I was looking for the next city that I wanted to be in. I was living in Thailand, and I knew that I didn’t want to be in the States. I was trying to find a city that was more international, a city where I could blend in, and a city that was a little closer to the US but also affordable and that worked well with my lifestyle.

How’s it been?

It’s been a journey, full of ups and downs. I think a lot of times when people are blogging about living abroad they’re only showing the positive parts of it, but I dealt with a lot of adversity since I’ve been here

What kinds of challenges have you dealt with?

With the housing situation, trying to find something that fit within my standards. In Portugal, there aren’t as many regulations with housing, people can give you whatever you want. But on the plus side, you only have to fulfill a third of your contract. So if you sign a year lease, you only have to stay there for 4 months before deciding you want to leave and live somewhere else.

 
I’ve had a lot of problems with the housing. I moved four times within seven months. The first time – this is kind of embarrassing – I was living in a co-living space and there were bed bugs. And then the second time, I was living with a bunch of university students, and they didn’t mesh well with my lifestyle because I’m past that. And the third time I was living in a tiny, tiny apartment, so tiny I was basically touching every single side of the apartment. And it was in a very touristy area so I couldn’t sleep very well.
 
And then I finally found my place in Campo de Ourique, which is about 600 square feet, which is pretty big for Portuguese standards
 
 Also navigating the healthcare system, trying to get my public health ID number. And sometimes when you’re talking to people they’ll give you different answers. So setting things up has been the most difficult part of living here with my apartment, with my insurance, with my metro card, everything feels like a task sometimes. But once you get that out of the way, ease.

What do you like about living in Portugal?

The community for sure. All of the adversity I went through, I wouldn’t have been able to get through that all without the strong community that I have here. I’ve just been able to meet people who are so genuine. I’ve gone through a lot in my short time being here that doesn’t have to do with Portugal necessarily, and I’ve been able to lean on my community.

 
I like that Portugal teaches you to slow down. In the US we want everything instantly, and that’s not how things work here. So you kind of adapt to the mindset that, Ok maybe it’s not working out this time, but it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve learned to enjoy my Tuesdays and my Wednesdays by meeting up with friends at the park for coffee and to play on the jungle gym. So I like that it teaches you to slow down, and that there’s such a strong community here in Lisbon.

You mentioned earlier that when you moved here there was a plateau of emotion.

When you move abroad there’s a lot that you have to deal with on an emotional level. You’re leaving behind your family, your friends, a routine that you’re used to. And you’re assimilating to a new culture. So learning how to be more patient and slow down was a difficult task for me. But also not having, initially – I had people I could lean on, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing it because I didn’t really know them yet – so that was difficult for me.

 

And the bed bug situation.

 

And having to move. Trying to find housing. Not having a co-signer. Yeah, there were a lot of things that came up that made it difficult for me, and the community was what made me stay.

So how are things now?

Good! I signed a 3-year lease this year. I also have a community, Black in Portugal, and we’re thriving. We have over I think 13,000 people, collectively on Instagram and Facebook. So, the community has been thriving here, and I have my apartment. I have really great friendships that I am so appreciative of. And everything has become normal, taking public transportation, all of that.

What’s your experience with Cost of Living in Portugal?

Cost of living is going to depend on your lifestyle. If you’re coming from the US and you want to have the same lifestyle here, I would say that you’re going to spend about €2,500 a month. If you are someone who does not mind eating at the pastelerias, and you’re vegetarian like me, you’ll spend €2000 a month. For rent, I pay €575, but most people are paying around €1000 – €1200 a month, and then groceries can be €40-60 a week for a single person. The monthly metro pass is either €30 depending on if you want to stay in Lisbon center, or €40 if you want to be in the metropolitan areas. Health insurance can be as low as €9.90 a month. It can be all the way up to €75 a month. I would say the biggest cost is the housing, but outside of that everything else is really affordable. It can be cheap, it can be expensive, it depends on how you live. If you take Ubers everywhere, you’re going to rack up the cost.

What’s one thing that people who might be thinking about moving to Portugal would be surprised to know.

That lemonade here is sour. I’m joking, but it is true. I was really disappointed in the lemonade.

 

I would say how slow things are, but in a good way. You want to unlearn your American ways, and just being able to slow down, don’t expect everything to be fast paced. Expect to take your time with things.

What’s one thing you love about Portugal?

One thing I really love about Portugal is how safe it is. Obviously there’s no place in this world without crime. But Portugal has been ranked the third safest country in the world. And I feel safe walking by myself. But you want to have to be street smart, you don’t just go walking on your phone not paying attention to your surroundings.

 

I’ve felt safe traveling solo and I just love that the crime is really low here.

Tell me about Black in Portugal

We are a resource for those who are wanting to come to Portugal, and those that are already living in Portugal. We highlight black businesses in the metropolitan Lisbon area and hopefully other cities soon. We also host monthly meet-ups. And then we have Facebook and Instagram where people can ask us questions about relocating to Portugal, how to find housing, things of that nature. So overall, a tool for our community and to bridge the gap between expats and locals.

Thanks so much!

Of course!

 

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