How do the Portuguese really relate to the foreigners in their midst?


I’ve talked about this a little somewhere. Costa Rica has a fairly high percentage of foreigners - I think pushing 10% - and it doesn’t bother them that much. Portugal seems like it might be like Costa Rica but clearly it isn’t the same country. There are similarities - a lot of the “expats” in CR are Nicaraguan and not exactly rich, for example, and it has a heavy dose of retirees from the US and Europe. There are severe issues with poverty among the migrants, some resentment of stealing of jobs, and the like.

However CR has the advantage that the cultures are not so dissimilar; people have been migrating into CR from Nicaragua for quite some time, so there’s a “installed base” of families and sympathetic friends, many activists on their behalf - there’s tensions but it seems managed. Or so I read. All this is balanced by the Americans and Europeans, many retirees, who bring cash which helps everyone. The cultures are different but Pura Vida seems to mellow everyone out about it all.

The PT news tends to say rather less about these kinds of things than say the Tico Times. The migrants are from Africa; I don’t see a lot of commonality there. Though if you look at the SEF stats of visas issued, the majority of visas issued are actually from Brasil and Israel, of all places. I’d think these are rather more benign sources of immigration - but perception and reality differ. I’ve been avoiding talking in FB groups because I don’t want my US friends to know I’m thinking about anything like this. But what I do note is that the CR FB groups I’ve followed have a mix of Ticos and foreigners interacting in very normal neighborly ways. I didn’t see that so much in the PT groups. But maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. And I know near squat except as a tourist and having a Portuguese friend or two, neither of which I know well enough to learn or extrapolate too much from.

I’m curious if there are folks here with more boots-on-ground experience.


Great topic, thank you for posting this!

I have discovered an inexpensive source of 1x1 cultural coaching for various foreign destinations: italki. There are dozens or hundreds of teachers offering language lessons for a few dollars an hour. I often spend a whole lesson or two asking practical questions about life on the ground:

  • Do people speak English in the cities? In the countryside?
  • Are they welcoming to western foreigners?
  • What role does religion play in average people’s lives? Does it create a barrier to interaction? Is it a pluralistic society?
  • What kinds of financial and social investments can I make to earn my place in the community?

Across four countries and 7 teachers, I’ve observed that about half want to focus on language lessons and half are happy to talk openly about life in their country. If you’re concerned about it, you can probably get a good sense of this before the first lesson by exchanging written messages with a prospective teacher.

An unexpected side benefit of this project is that I have identified a couple enthusiastic in-country supporters who will be very happy to help me with errands, translate documents, perform in-person translation at government offices, show me around the town, etc.

As for expat life in Portugal and Costa Rica, my experiences in Portugal have been fantastic, but that offers no insights about what to expect from day-to-day life. Costa Rica struck me as pointedly indifferent about Americans when I spent a month there, twenty years ago, but again that provides no clues about what it’s like to live there.


That’s a really good idea. Thanks.

We know Costa Ricans and people that live there, and we go down regularly; I wouldn’t have used the word “indifferent”- “unconcerned”, maybe. Some Americans would argue that the other Americans there are more of a problem than the locals. :slight_smile:

Let me start by saying that I am Portuguese. And that this post, of course, reflects my view of things. :wink:

Portugal has, since its inception, been a “melting pot”… Iberians and Celts in the beginning… Then came Arabs… Jews… We had the British forces here for some time… The French forces too (if I recall my history lessons correctly)…

In the colonized countries we mixed a lot with the natives (“a lot” meaning significantly more than what was usual at that period for European people to do)… Resulting in pretty much whole cultures of “mixed race” people, particularly early Brazilians…

We’ve also had significant immigration in the last 5 decades, mainly due to the independence of the former colonies… and the unification of Europe under the EU. This immigration has been happening without any significant social problem.

So, from what I shared, you can see that Portugal’s history is one of integration of people arriving here… As well as we ourselves — during the maritime expansion period — going out to distant lands and mixing with people there…

Of course I’m giving you the bird’s eye view… And there were difficult periods for many people (wars, Inquisition, aggressive colonization)… but, as you know, that was a long time ago… And, after all these historical events, the Portuguese ended up a very cosmopolitan people…

In fact, Portugal was a cosmopolitan country already in the times of Fernando Pessoa (and possibly much before)…

The Portuguese:

  • are a cohesive people, without significant identity divisions between regions
  • typically speak several languages (including English)
  • being of latin culture, are quite open if, e.g., you talk to them on the street, and if you want to establish friendships.

From what I know from foreigners coming here, the Portuguese are a very friendly and welcoming people.

Also, from the election results of political parties, you can see that about 95% of people are open to people of different races, cultures, etc.

We are also, in general, “calm people”. “Um povo de brandos costumes.”

It’s true that a minority of people are worried because the house prices suddenly became much higher — in Lisbon and Porto… But I see this as a small “knee-jerk” reaction.

So… to end this long post!… Let me finish by saying that, frankly, this culture of openness is so ingrained in us… that… I don’t see it changing, ever! :grinning: :sunny: