As an American expat in Portugal, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the country’s emphasis on work-life balance compared to the US.

As an American expat in Portugal, I've noticed a significant difference in the country's emphasis on work-life balance compared to the US.

Living and Working in Lisbon: A Freelancer’s Perspective


A Change of Pace

Kaitlin Wichmann, a freelance digital marketer from Kansas City, made a life-changing decision in 2022 – to move to Lisbon, Portugal. This American expat was on the hunt for a place to settle down, and from the moment she arrived in Lisbon, she had a gut feeling that this city was meant to be her new home.

The transition was surprisingly smooth for Wichmann, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Navigating travel restrictions, she had to hire someone to assist her in opening a bank account before making the move. But it was all worth it, as she found that her quality of life in Lisbon improved significantly.

Safety, Affordability, and Weather

One of the key factors contributing to Wichmann’s improved quality of life is the sense of safety she feels in Lisbon. The city also offers an affordable cost of living, allowing her to stretch her earnings further. But it’s not just about the financial aspect – the weather in Lisbon is also a major draw for many expats, and Kaitlin is no exception.

The Advantages of Freelancing

Being a self-employed freelance digital marketer comes with several perks, including the freedom to choose where and how to work. For Wichmann, this meant taking advantage of co-working spaces around the city. Using the Croissant app, she can easily book a workspace of her choice, giving her the opportunity to work independently while still being surrounded by other like-minded professionals. This flexibility prevents monotony and adds a refreshing twist to her work routine.

Embracing a Healthier Work-Life Balance

Perhaps one of the most significant changes Wichmann noticed in Lisbon is the emphasis on work-life balance. Lunch breaks, for example, are not rushed affairs. In Lisbon, the tradition is to take ample time to enjoy a leisurely meal. These breaks often extend beyond two hours, with some people even taking a break for an espresso afterward. This stands in stark contrast to Wichmann’s previous experiences in the United States, where lunch breaks were often skipped or treated as working lunches.

Wichmann explains that back in the US, the common mindset was to reply to emails immediately and work non-stop. In Lisbon, however, people prioritize taking breaks and spend more time outdoors, perhaps even heading to the park after work. While this change is mostly positive, Wichmann acknowledges that it can sometimes slow down productivity when she’s trying to get things done quickly.

Managing Time Zones and Boundaries

Even though all of Wichmann’s clients are currently based in the United States, she has recently signed a contract with a Portuguese agency in the hopes of establishing local clients as well. When interviewing potential clients or agencies, she makes it clear from the start that she lives in Lisbon and operates according to Portuguese hours. This means that the latest she’ll ever work is 6 p.m., which corresponds to around 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

Setting boundaries is essential for Wichmann, especially given her self-employed status. While some of her friends face challenges when working for American companies due to conflicting time zones, she believes it’s crucial to work with people who respect her boundaries. This sometimes means potentially losing work, but she values the importance of finding clients who align with her values and work ethics.

Finding the Perfect Balance

Kaitlin Wichmann’s decision to move from Kansas City to Lisbon has allowed her to find a better work-life balance. The city’s work culture, focus on taking breaks, and overall affordable and safe environment have been an absolute game-changer for her. As she continues to thrive as a freelance digital marketer, Wichmann hopes to balance her portfolio of American and Portuguese clients, ultimately embracing the best of both worlds in this lively and vibrant city.