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Living In Lisbon

Updated on September 10, 2011

The reason why I enjoy living in Lisbon is not a singular. There are many reasons why I’ve chosen to adopt this city as my home town. The first few are personal ones – and nothing that I’m going to share with the world at large. They are my own, they are private – and despite the opinions of others, frogs are not for human consumption.

Living in Lisbon is certainly easy enough. It’s one of the most culturally rich cities in the world. I am surrounded by some incredibly stunning architecture, both past and present. Portugal, as a country, is steeped in history and has been host to some of the most intrepid sea-going adventurers the world has ever known.

The city of Lisbon itself is a hot-bed of activity – both commercial and urban communities co-exist in perfect harmony. The city dwellers are friendly, warm and interested in who you are – and why you live among them. As a whole – there are many plus points to living here, and of course there are some negatives.

But let’s check out the good stuff. There’s enough rubbish to moan about – let’s not sweat the small stuff. Non of which add up to enough reasons why you, I or anyone else should be put off living in one of Europe’s most beautiful, thriving cities.

Lisbons history is reflected in it's culture, architecture, Fado and monuments.
Lisbons history is reflected in it's culture, architecture, Fado and monuments.
Lisbon earthquake 1755. The city lay in ruin.
Lisbon earthquake 1755. The city lay in ruin.

Lisbon - Portugal

Lisbon has over 20 centuries of traceable history and much of its past is reflected in its architecture, street layout and culture. Originally, it was under Roman occupation, which eventually changed to that of tribes from the Germanic areas of the continent.

After several hundred years of the Romans, and the Germanics, the Moors finally took the city back in the 8th century. They ruled for long enough to still retain an influence over the city to the present day. Some of the Portuguese language has a distinctly Arabic flavour – and the pronunciation most certainly.

I find some of the language quite difficult. The bits that involve me almost hawking (Arabic style) in the back of my throat are the parts that I struggle with the most - usually I don’t quite execute the word so much as end up wanting to spit …

The historical Alfama district still contains architectural evidence of Muslim occupation and the name itself is derived from its original Arabic name of Al-Hamma. By the 12th century, the country was back under Christian rule, courtesy of the crusade involving Alfonso I and his knights.

During later centuries, Lisbon went through a period whereby valiant men set forth to discover and conquer other nations. Aptly called the ‘Age of Discovery’, the famed Vasco de Gama set forth upon the seas and consequently, Portugal became one of the richest countries in Europe, if not the world.

Lisbon became the centre for trade and commerce and slowly built upon its riches. This all came crashing down in November of 1755, when the Lisbon earthquake took a vast toll upon not only the city but the country as a whole.

To date, the earthquake is thought to be one of the strongest ever experienced in recordable history. A direct consequence of the catastrophe brought the country to its knees, financially.

But for the earthquake, it’s likely that the way the country was heading during the 16th century that it would have continued to grow in terms of financial wealth and strength.

For me, both the triumphs and the tragedies of Lisbon create more allure. I love history, I enjoy hearing about victory over adversity. I love how the people I meet have such a naked pride about their country.

Lisbon exudes history, victory and pride. It's everywhere - in the streets, monuments, architecture and people. Another reason why living in Lisbon is oft times a pleasure.

Sebastio Jos de Carvalho e Melo.
Sebastio Jos de Carvalho e Melo.

Lisbon Today

Lisbon today still holds onto its past. The inhabitants celebrate the triumphs of their ancestors and much of their history - which can be found within the lyrics of Fado, a hauntingly beautiful form of music that recounts the days when women were left, weeping on the shores, as their men sailed out to sea.

The downtown area remains largely as it was rebuilt, post the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The style is known as ‘Pombaline’ and named after Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquês de Pombal - the man responsible for the rebuilding of Lisbon.

From the glorious Praça do Comércio to the wonderfully meandering, confusing and maze-like streets of Bairro Alto, to the Alfama district and Northeast to the dramatic, contemporary architecture of the Parque das Nações, Lisbon of today holds many delights. As well as many cool and tasty pastries.

Living in Lisbon really is easy. It’s the language that wrinkles my flippers.

Tehno suadades ...
Tehno suadades ...
Language Learning Software
Language Learning Software
Sometimes - I'm unsure what I'm saying. In Portuguese. And I don't know when to shut up.
Sometimes - I'm unsure what I'm saying. In Portuguese. And I don't know when to shut up.
Embarrassment is a universal emotion. No translation required ...
Embarrassment is a universal emotion. No translation required ...

Lisbon, Language And Lost In Translation

Living in Lisbon means many things to me - most of them are wonderful ... reasons to be cheerful. One or two are not so. The first is the missing of my family. The Portuguese have a word for such a feeling ... 'saudades'.

There is no direct translation for its meaning. It can be longing, yearning, missing, nostalgia, a hauntingly melancholic feeling … a desire for someone or something you need so badly it’s almost tangible. Yet tinged with a depth of love that’s equally difficult to describe.

The second difficulty I have with living in Lisbon is the language. If ever I meet a Portuguese man or woman that doesn’t swallow consonants and vowels with wild abandon, I’ll let you know. I am of the mind that ignoring important letter placement or simply scarfing down random vowels is a national past time.

Along with cake scoffing a beer drinking.

What tickles me about the Portuguese is their reaction to my attempts to murder what really is a beautiful language. Whenever I find myself in a public forum (read: a bank, a chemist, a café – not really a public forum but as far as the Portuguese are concerned, they may as well be) I can positively feel the ears of my queue companions twitching.

I am not a native therefore I cannot talk like one. This appears to elicit two responses from my fellow city dwellers:

  • They watch on, indulgently. I always feel like a two year old saying a sentence for the first time. Most appear to view my attempts as ‘cute’ …
  • They will try and help me pronounce their language correctly. Cue me, hawking and ‘shushing’ accordingly. Note not successfully. I usually attempt to point out that they do not speak English with an English accent but this is often of little or no importance to a native Portuguese

I have endured some excruciatingly embarrassing moments, whereby I have somehow conveyed the wrong message to whoever I’m trying to talk to. One time springs to mind.

I suffer occasional bouts of IBS. I mustered up enough Portuguese words to attempt to convey my pain and suffering to a local pharmacist. Unfortunately, wires got crossed. That would be that my neurons were not firing on all cylinders.

Having entered a local chemist, I waited my turn. Bu this time, the place had a few old ladies hanging around. I started by explaining I was English (and an idiot) and plunged straight into my ‘little’ problem.

Unfortunately I discovered (rapidly) that I’d said something wrong. Five minutes later, I descended into verb hopping, charades and pointing. At which point the pharmacist appeared somewhat enlightened and wandered off.

The ladies to my left were utterly rapt. I wondered why.

I discovered the object of their captivation when the pharmacist returned with some haemorrhoid medication. It appeared that I’d managed to convince him (and my audience) that the problem was with my arse. He put two and two together and diagnosed my problem as being something to do with hemorrhoids.

I was too mortified to object and besides which, I’d lost the will to live, not just talk. My audience looked on with a mixture of abject pity and mirth. After all, they’d reached 70 odd and their arses were intact and working just fine.

Unlike the poor English womans’ …

Humor aside – it’s a politeness to learn the language of the country you may find yourself dwelling within. On top of that, adapting to the culture is another important factor. No one likes an arrogant comer-inner --- most especially the Portuguese.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Living In Lisbon In A Nutshell

In short, there are many reasons why I enjoy living in Lisbon. The Lisboetas are happy, amicable people. They live their lives in a way that is not intended to become detrimental to yours.

They leave you and your business alone. They don’t pry or offer meaningless platitudes. They’re warm and inviting, once they get to know you. Some are helpful beyond measure – if they think there’s something they can help you with.

They pass their days, working hard and their evenings and weekends are often spent with family and friends – entertaining and enjoying each other’s company. Although I remain unaware of where my future will lead me, for now, I'm happy with my choice of home.

But for my lack of contact with my family, Portugal and Lisbon would be my preferred choice, over my home town in the UK.

If ever you do decide to take the plunge and move to Portugal, be assured that you'll be living among some of the warmest, heartiest and proudest people in the world.


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    • profile image

      Ana F. 5 years ago

      I'm working on a project that involves having people who live in Lisbon or are in Lisbon tell about they're absolutely favourite restaurant in Lisbon or nearby (Lisbon's outskirts). If anyone has any to share do let me know. And, as a Lisbon native, thanks for all the great words on my city, too!

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 6 years ago

      Thank you Anthony. Lisbon is (I believe) one of Europe's finer jewels :)

    • profile image

      Anthony 6 years ago

      Lovely description, and confirming my impression when I visited Lisbon. Your warm words towards the city is the final motivation I needed. Thanks, and cheers from Norway.

    • profile image

      miguel 6 years ago

      ...keep in touch with english people living in lisbon.miguel.

    • profile image

      miguel 6 years ago

      im portuguese living in uk for 5 years but finally moving to lisbon.i think im so use to the english culture,language that im going to strangule to become portuguese would like to keep in touch with english people living,please.miguel

    • profile image

      cosmopolita 7 years ago

      hi frogdropping I was born and I live in Lisbon and I'm not good speaking English, but I'm learning. I'm really glad to find someone foreign who thinks that Lisbon is so interesting. Despite being Portuguese, I perfectly understand how difficult can be my language. If you need some informations about anything related to Portugal, you totally can count on me.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Oh wow earnest, thank you very much! Such a great compliment. I was just saying to Simões I miss being there. Right now Yorkshire is home again but we hope to make both our homes sometime in the future. Frog-hopping will take on a whole new meaning :)

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      What a buzz to read a hub so well constructed that I almost felt like your next door neighbor! A wonderful hub about a beautiful place. Lisbon Portugal. Voted up and Awesome!

    • rui paiva profile image

      rui paiva 7 years ago from Somewhere in the world

      Great article. Despite being born and living in northern Portugal, I worked and studied several years in London. I went through moments in this magnificent city. Thank you.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Hey André :) Thankyou for your (very) kind words .. truly you are a Lisboeta! And the fact that you were touched only means one thing ... you are definitely Portuguese to the core :):) As for my name, it's Andria and the language ... so so!

    • profile image

      André Santos 7 years ago

      Hello, (and where is your name? sorry didn't find it)

      I was now looking for websites about "living in brasil" and I discovered yours.

      I am Lisboeta but living in Berlin for 1.5 year after an internship. I am finding really curious and interesting to see your experiences in Lisboa. The things that you probably find strange are so natural to me :) I confess that I had to be strong a couple of times not to cry here in the middle of my work as I was reading your words.

      I hope you're doing better and improving your portuguese. I am being able to maintain conversations in german already, meanful ones :)



    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Hey - now that must be handy for you. A home in each country, lucky you! And thanks for the compliment. As frogs go, I'm not too bad ;)

    • Mamelody profile image

      Mamelody 8 years ago

      Lisbon is my second home after Rio. I own my house there and my grandmother lived there so I'm a frequent visitor. Totally agree with you there mate.

      a propósito você é a rã mais bonita que eu topei com hahaha

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Hey :) Good to hear that someone has a good knowledge of Portugal! And you're welcome fastfreta - it's a great city (as I keep saying) and good to know you feel as though you know it a little better ;)

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 8 years ago from Southern California

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub, because I am traveling around the world, virtually through hubs of others. So thank you for the tour through Lisbon. These are places that I absolutely know I will never visit, so thank you for your very descriptive journey.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I've been to Lisbon (Lisboa), Portugal, along with my co-workers (seafarers) way back 2002. We asked one policeman about the direction to the chapel; he answered iglesia. You can really be lost in translation in Lisboa. We mingled with the town folks at the plaza overlooking the container terminal and the dockyard for yatch club until sundown. P.S. The famous mariner who first circumnavigated the world was a Portuguese (Fernando Magallanes) who worked in the name of Spain. He also discovered the Philippines (Las Islas Filipinas) by accident while searching for the Spice Islands (Mollucas). Thanks for this hub, ms. frogdropping.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Rebecca - of course you should visit Lisbon. It's one of those 'must see' cities! And thankyou very much :):)

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 8 years ago from Canada

      Now must go... need to go, and all because of you! (thanks) you do know I've bookmarked this and Stumbled Upon this as it is so good.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Nick Matyus - thankyou for stopping by and thankyou in general :)

    • profile image

      Nick Matyas 8 years ago

      It's an awesome posting.

      It is also very useful for many people like me.

      Your writing is always fabulous.

      Wishing that u will deliver this type of post in future also.


    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      ralwus - I thankyou :)

      I hope you too had a fabulous holidays with your loved ones - I certainluy did, though I split it between the UK and here!

      Dim - hey there :) lol I am now back to my normal naked greeness. The party season is over and I need to get my head down and put some hours in. And thankyou ;)

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Your hubs are always great but this time I just have to pass comment on the allure of string and paper decorations on the lovely frog. Very festiv.

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      Well congratulations on your awards darling froggy. So deserving too and more. Love and hugs and Happy New Year too.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Labybird - then I take it you're planning to stop by? It's certainly worth hanging around for a couple of days :)

      Candie - I'd love to see a hubber or two in Lisbon. We could meet, take coffee, have a laugh at my expense and paint the town blue with my horrible attempts to speak Portuguese!

      Emma - I really can't do anything other than agree with you! They have the best intentions but sometimes I feel like a kid at Christmas - you know ... when you've got that sneaking suspicion that St Nick doesn't exist but you keep being told that he does.

      I know my Portuguese is horrible but usually I'm met with nothing short of indulgent applause, I wish someone would just say 'cala-te ... fala Inglês, seu Portugûes é mal!!'.

      But no one ever does!

    • profile image

      emma 8 years ago

      Hi frog!

      The only people who are not effusively complimentary about my portuguese speaking are my dearest friends, who apparently cannot bear more than two words from me before they immeadiately change into english with an expression like I just brought on an IBS attack. So if it weren't for them, I'd be convinced my portuguese is just perfect... the portuguese can be so sweet and encouraging... and such liars.

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 8 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      Well, this should inspire some hearty travelers to visit Lisbon!! Maybe in the hopes of running into the blond girl hocking up in the market?? You are a hoot! Hugs my dear friend!

    • Ladybird33 profile image

      Ladybird33 8 years ago from Fabulous USA

      I love Lisboa, thank you for helping me as I was planning my travels a couple months ago. I loved the culture of the city so much. It was as you say above, beautiful description and loved the pictures. All my best and thanks again.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      ralwus - thankyou very much! I hope you've had a fabulous festive season and I wish you and your loved ones an equally fabulous future x

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      I am most hoppy for you FD. I know what it really means to you. Hoppy New year too. x

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      LizzyBoo - Lisbon is well worth the visit. if not only to see the only walking, talking mouth of frog. other than kermit of course ;)

      CG - Then come. It's cheap and has much to offer the interpid (or otherwise) travellor ;)

      GH - well hello there :) And thankyou - I will pop by and read what you're tapped out GH, thanks for letting me know! Happy New Year to you too!!

    • GeneralHowitzer profile image

      Gener Geminiano 8 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

      Great Hub about Portugal's capital Lisbon... Btw I answered your request about teaching... Happy New Year my friend... :D

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Great Hub On Portugal! Makes me want to visit there!

    • LizzyBoo profile image

      LizzyBoo 8 years ago from Czech Republic

      Thanks to your hub I would love to visite Lisbon. Excellent description. Well done!

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      2patricias - I can understand it a bit better than I can speak it. I'll get there though, it's about persevering I guess! And I hope you've both had a great Christmas too ;)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      emi - hey :) I've a couple or three more relating to Lisbon in the making. It's the finishing that's the problem! But I get you with the language. Damn hard work sometimes, but always worth it. I'm quite proud of the Portuguese I've thus far picked up. One day, I will be fluent :)

      REH - thankyou :)

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      A very interesting Hub. Pat frequently visits the Algarve (family connection) and despite trying to learn some Portuguese finds it extremely hard to understand. So many words send to end in the sound 'sh' or 'osh' . But everybody is always friendly and polite.

      Hope you write more about Lisbon. Merry Christmas.

    • RealEstateHelper profile image

      RealEstateHelper 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing :)

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hey froggy, love your hub and reading about your experiences. I know the feeling about languages. I know the local language here but my accent is sometimes horrible and I sometimes mix my words :). Fortunately, people here can understand my real language (Tagalog) and will indulge me by speaking it, now their accents sound funny :). But from the sound of it, I think you're enjoying yourself there (except for the homesickness). Hope you feature Lisbon in your hubs in the future. Thanks for sharing and hubbing about your experiences :). Merry Christmas!

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Lol, thanks for the laugh.

      What a lovely description of your city.