Just about 4 years ago I moved to Portugal with my partner who had secured a teaching position at the French school (Lycée Francais) in Lisbon. We had vacationed in Lisbon in 2008 and we both really connected with the city. It was a big move, from Los Angeles, but the decision was easy. Now I am preparing a return trip to Los Angeles to focus on more challenging work opportunities and of course I am thinking about all that has happened in these 4 years.
Here are a few things that I just did not plan for even though I had spent time in Portugal and had done a lot of research prior to our arrival.
- That the Portuguese are among the friendliest and most humble people on the planet. I knew the Portuguese were nice but I have encountered such amazing people who are kind, supportive and caring. I doubt it’s just good luck but people are really kindhearted and the Portuguese language uses a lot of very polite phrases. Like when you go to pay somebody, they ask if they can take the money. It’s really the little things that truly speak about a nation (especially during difficult financial times).
- The discovery of a startup scene. Most visible traces of a startup scene go back about 3 years now, but of course there have always been startups in Portugal. We all know that the Portuguese travelled the world ahead of the rest and created many new and innovative businesses and there have been a number of Portuguese companies that have had much success in the past few decades. But the real Portuguese startup scene did come alive not long after I arrived in Lisbon. I lived through the other West Coast startup evolution in California and I never expected to witness this incredible startup growth activity again.
- That the country is 2 degrees of separation especially in the startup world. Yes, Portugal is a small country, but people get out and do many things and get to know each other. When I meet somebody new, it often turns out that we know 50 of the same people on LinkedIn. You can build a network fast here.
- That I would be in Lisbon when the entire world is now discovering or rediscovering Portugal. If you have not visited this amazing country, add it to the top of your travel list. The energy is great, the weather quite good, the history very visible, the prices very affordable, the mix of activities fantastic and again, the people are very friendly and helpful.
- That I would ever give up Italian wine! Yup, my pallet has totally converted to Portuguese wine. There is such a great offering of very affordable red, wine, and green wines and when you go to dinner, the price of a decent glass of house wine can be less than the cost of a coke. Regardless of the price, the wine industry has a lot to offer and the Douro region is spectacular.
- My surprise to learn that there are so many polyglots in Portugal. Many people in Portugal speak 3+ languages and are comfortable speaking English. This really does help to get to know people while you try to learn their language. And it makes learning Portuguese even tougher if you speak English, Spanish and/or French. Obrigada for speaking such good English!
- That even after years of exploring Portugal, I feel like I have so much more to see! It’s easy to move around to other cities and popular places without a car in Portugal, but to really see a country, you need to have time to really roam and get off the main roads. We’ve done some of that but never enough.
- Education! It seems like everyone I meet has 2-3 degrees in Portugal. It’s very impressive and it seems like many people have been able to get really amazing educations affordably. Now all that is needed is more jobs!
- That I would fall madly in love with this country (when I always wanted to live in Italy where my grandparents were born). I knew when we moved here that I was really going to like it, but I adore Portugal. OK, all the car beeping, and you know who you are, is strange and out of character, but it’s a country with a lot of good infrastructure. You’ll find clean water, good transportation (when not on strike), good internet speeds for residential use, lots of great tourism opportunities, excellent language skills and so much more. And the cities and towns are just beautiful, much like the people.
- That I would work with and mentor over 200 startups! Meeting, mentoring, coaching, teaching, advising and networking with so many startups, and most of them Portuguese, has given me this amazing inside view of the country. I have had the great opportunity to meet many smart, educated, risk taking, global thinking entrepreneurs ready to take on the world, create a cool path for themselves and help to make Portugal an even better place. Being part of Beta-I and involved with Startup Lisboa has been key to coming into contact with so many startups. Thanks!
- That it would be so hard to earn a living with Portuguese clients. Like many, the lack of strong career opportunities has driven a lot of Portuguese outside of the country and hopefully salaries will start to rise and money will start to move around more.
So as I prepare to depart in mid-July, thank you to all of you with special thanks to the team at Startup Lisboa, Beta-I, Portugal Startups and Startup Pirates the IPN team in Coimbra, Startup Braga and to each and every startup I have had the opportunity to meet and work with through many different programs. There is DEFINITELY something happening in Lisbon!
Thank you for welcoming me into your lovely country and I will be back. And you are all invited to ‘my Los Angeles’ where there is a lot of startup movement. Think of me as your connection to ‘the other west coast’!
>>>Keep up-to-date by following me on Twitter @SandraSick and KEEP TWEETING PORTUGAL!
Here are some pictures from startup activities;