Lisbon Drops from No. 3 to No. 18 Among Top Cities for Expats

Apparently, expats aren't super happy with career opportunities in the city, for one, but also transport, "health and environment" — is it because we all smoke? — and other issues.

Expats have been flocking to Lisbon like hungry digital nomadding seagulls in recent years, even with all the travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic — but it seems some newcomers aren’t as happy as they once were.

After coming in at No. 3 in 2020 on InterNations’ Expat City Ranking of 66 cities around the world, behind only Spain’s Valencia and Alicante, Lisbon plunged to No. 18 in this year’s ranking of 57 cities, behind Kuala Lumpur in first place, as well as Málaga, Dubai, Sydney, Prague, Madrid, and a host of others.

Let’s see what the problem is, shall we?

We’re not surprised to find Lisbon ranked at No. 2 for expats feeling welcome — frankly, we think it should be at No. 1.

But things get less pleasant after the expats’ arrival, apparently. 

Lisbon was ranked No. 7 for “Getting Settled,” No. 8 for “Leisure & Climate,” and No. 9 for “Friends & Socializing,” behind cities including Málaga, Madrid, Dubai, and Shanghai. 

Related: Portugal a Pandemic Refuge

Things went, well, south, from there.

Quality of life-wise, Lisbon came in 12th, below Vienna, Munich, Madrid, and Dubai, among others.

In the peculiarly combined “Safety & Politics” category, Lisbon was even lower, at No. 15, behind places like Doha, Dubai, and a few others. 

And yes, it was to be expected, considering the difficulty of the Portuguese language, that Lisbon ranked 21st for “Local Language.”

But we found it a bit baffling that Lisbon wasn’t higher up when we learned that InterNations took into account the ease of communication in general:  their survey found that only 12% of expats in Lisbon “disagree that it’s easy to get by without local language skills.” You have to unpack that mouthful a bit, but that presumably means that around nine in 10 expats agree that you can get by without Portuguese, which isn’t surprising to anyone who’s been here for more than a few minutes.

Meanwhile, Lisbon is even lower on the list for “Health & Environment,” coming in at No. 29 — well, ok, but do these expats surf or climb or bike

Anyhow, for Transportation, Lisbon somehow ranked 32nd (come on, people, there are so many scooters and bikes! Also, cheap buses, the metro, trolleys, and boats! And Ubers and Bolts and whatever!) 

But it’s in the “Urban Work Life Index” that Lisbon apparently does worst, coming in at No. 50 overall out of 57 cities. We’ll let the report speak for itself — but somehow we think you’ll find few surprises here:

“Expats rate the state of the local economy (40% vs. 19% globally) and the job security (22% vs. 20% globally) negatively. They are also unhappy with the local career opportunities (49% vs. 33% globally) and their job in general (26% vs. 16% globally). In fact, Lisbon ranks among the bottom 10 for all factors of this index, except for work-life balance (18th).”

And there you have it, from InterNations, anyway.

Related: Portugal Among Top 25 Most Attractive Countries for Foreign Workers: BCG

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