Laid-back Lisbon ticks post-Brexit boxes

Sun 13 Aug 2017

For London-based financial entities considering a move after Brexit, there is a lot to love about Lisbon: cheap labour; a highly-educated multilingual workforce; tax incentives; a stable government; membership of the EU’s Single Market and euro zone.

It is also a prime location for access to Europe, Africa and the Americas, including 250 million inhabitants in the Portuguese-speaking markets.

Staffers moving from the UK capital will be even more excited about the laid-back lifestyle. “Lisbon is a much more manageable city and has a huge amount to offer,” says the British expat Tim Seconde, 42, the head of capital markets at Retail Partners Europe, who moved to Lisbon 17 years ago. “When you can get from the city centre to a beautiful beach in 20 minutes you know you’re getting something right. Eating out and nightlife scenes have also changed considerably since I’ve been here. There is much more on offer now and the city has become much more trendy.”

The city has come along way in the last decades says Rui Coelho, the executive director of Invest Lisboa, which was created in 2009 to attract companies of all sizes to Lisbon. “At that time the city was bankrupt, unmotivated and with an empty and decaying city centre. Now Lisbon is beating all-time records in real estate investment, tourism and entrepreneurship. Many of the best companies in the world are choosing Lisbon for their innovation and service centres; one of the last ones was Daimler with its Digital Delivery Hub. The annual Web Summit put us on the map for start-ups all over the world. The BBC said Lisbon is the best European capital for work and play. So Lisbon is not a secret anymore…”

“Lisbon offers everything a normal city in Europe offers and more," says Jeremy Bryant, 40, who moved from Paris to Lisbon in September 2014 to establish TimeResQ (www.timeresq.com), a grocery delivery service for Airbnb guests. He discovered the city in 2004 while on assignment for his former employers, the Metro International newspaper group. “I was fortunate to have made good friends back then, who I visited every year until the opportunity came to move here.”

The city’s rich culture and history, the kindness of its people and the high quality of life are the things he likes best about Lisbon. His list of drawbacks include the bureaucracy, male-dominated society and traffic jams. At the weekend, he and his wife hit the beach or take advantage of the city’s vibrant cultural scene, going to an exhibition at the new MAAT (Museum Art Architecture Technology), or a gig at the CCB (Centro Cultural de Belém).

They found it easy to settle down. “The Portuguese are very welcoming and open-minded. We quickly and easily integrated and most of our friends are Portuguese. However, to integrate successfully, be kind, always, as Portuguese are calm and react poorly to quick-tempered people. Every Portuguese has a family member living abroad giving true kindness towards any stranger they meet. However the expats, being expats, tend to stick together.”

Mr Bryant says that at the moment, most expats are Brazilian or French, many of whom, like him, live in the historic but untouristy Lapa, the design and embassy district. “It is now a mix between the ‘earlier discoverers’, from early 2010, and and the second phase of the successful entrepreneurs, thanks to the fiscal tax rebates.”

Logistically there is plenty set up for expats and their families. “Schools and hospitals have very high standards,” he says. “It’s easy to carry an insurance for expats to cover any medical bill. As the minimum wage is still low, all services are very affordable and it’s very common for families to employ a live-in nanny.”

English is also widely spoken and there are several international schools including the American School and St Julian’s. “I have a young family and schools in general are of a good standard with plenty of international and bi-lingual options,” says Mr Seconde. “My son is starting at a bi-lingual school in Lisbon in September and I’ve been very impressed by the options. He’s currently at a state-run nursery which has exceeded my expectations.”

Some Londoners will also finally be able to afford to buy their dream home. Pedro Lancastre, the Portugal managing director for the global real estate firm JLL, says Lisbon is three to four times cheaper than London for a prime property. A property in London worth €27,000 (Dh116,295) per square metre will cost about €8,000 per square metre in central Lisbon.

“Lisbon is becoming more international and London expats do not differ from what the international markets seek in Lisbon,” says Mr Lancastre. “The prime historical zones of Avenida da Liberdade, Principe Real, Chiado, the Avenidas Novas but also the Lisbon-Cascais axis, by the sea and where most international schools are located.”

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