I’ve been fortunate to visit so many cities around the world, but I usually find myself thinking, “that’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” I love the comforts of home and familiarity – who doesn’t? Well, that thought changed within a couple of days of being in Lisbon. Lisbon, darling – you’re a nice place to visit AND I totally want to live there! Here’s why:
1) Lisbon is beautiful: The city has gorgeous black and white tiled sidewalks, the buildings are colorful, and the city is right next to the water. The alleyways remind me of quintessential Italian villages (if you’ve read my posts long enough you know I adore Italy) and the many hills and trolleys remind me of San Francisco. Plus, its 25 of April bridge is a dead-ringer for the Golden Gate Bridge (they were built by the same people).
2) The city center is walkable: You can walk from the neighborhoods Alfama to Bairro Alta to Baixa in the same day, which works out great for both tourists and locals! On a similar note, a lot of locals actually live within a 15min commute of the city. Just imagine all the things you could do if your commute to work were that short!
3) The climate is perfect: Because of its geographic location, it is blessed with Mediterranean climate. Living in Southern California, the perfect weather would be hard to give up, but it doesn’t look like I’d have to if I moved to Lisbon. The city has fair weather year round and it barely rains!
4) Stores close late: The city really takes advantage of all the daylight it gets. In fact, you can get food as late at midnight! A local I met explained it best when he said that stores open later because people are out later… and since people are out later, the stores close later. It’s a nice self-sustaining cycle they’ve got!
5) The Mediterranean lifestyle: 1.5 hour lunches are the norm as are 6 espresso breaks throughout the day. When my friend asked the local, “What if I don’t want to take 1.5 hour lunch and instead, I want to go home earlier– is that possible?” The local replied, “That question doesn’t make sense to me. Why would I want to give up my 1.5hr lunch?” Uh, yeah. Sign me up!
6) You can drink on the streets: Lisboans seem more relaxed and it might be because of their lax attitude towards alcohol (and their 1.5 hour lunches and espresso breaks). Everyone drinks with their meals and it’s acceptable to drink on the streets. The best part, however, is that people don’t abuse this privilege unlike some US cities I can think of (ahem, Vegas).
7) Barely any fast-food chains: While we’re on the topic of food and drink, Mc Donalds, KFC, and Burger King are around every corner in the U.S. It was refreshing to be somewhere where the golden arches (and all other similar chains) have yet to be a big presence.
8) The public transportation rocks: The bus system in the city deserves a medal. I barely had to wait five minutes for a bus the entire time I was there. Not only that, they have this cool system where you can send SMS messages to find out how many minutes until the next bus or trolley shows up.
9) Racial tolerance actually exists: Lisbon’s immigration history is unlike any in the world. The Portuguese realized long ago that they weren’t big enough to become a “world empire” so they opted instead to become a “commercial empire”. To do so, they sailed the world, lived in other countries, and married natives in other countries. As a result, this allowed them to have more influence in other countries since they were so already intertwined with the locals there (genius!). In fact, at one point, the Portuguese had a presence in all the coastal cities from Africa to Asia! Anyway, those who married locals in other countries were often in the Navy so when they moved back to Lisbon with their immigrant wives, it meant that the immigrants in Lisbon were often the spouses of high ranking officials. As a result, immigrants in Portugal were respected and accepted. This is a place where racial tolerance actually exists.
10) They are more liberal and it works: While the U.S. is still debating whether same sex marriages are legal or not, same sex marriages have been legal in Portugal for the last five years. Transgenders can also be recognized as their gender of choosing by changing their gender on their ID cards and no one actually questions them (what a concept!). The government also chooses to fight only the bigger battles. For instance, drug use is legalized but the sale of huge amounts of drugs is not. Why? It allows the government to focus their efforts on combating the big drug lords instead of wasting their energy on the “everyday” druggie. Addicts, instead, can ask for clean needles and get help without worry about repercussions. This strategy has actually decreased the overall number of drug users in the city.