Working online has been a growing trend for a while, but the global pandemic has accelerated its popularity as businesses realize that many roles can be done from anywhere in the world. For freelancers working online, the hardest choice is deciding from where they want to work, and Portugal, specifically Lisbon, is an increasingly popular choice. But why?
Digital nomads, like many people moving to Portugal, are attracted to the country for its good weather, friendly people and tasty food. It’s a safe and easy place to move to for many. European citizens don’t need a visa to work from Portugal, and those from outside the EU can apply for a D7 visa and show proof of a minimum revenue coming from their work abroad.
The cost of living is competitive against other European countries. The wifi in most places is extremely reliable, and there are a number of digital nomad and entrepreneurial communities you can join when you arrive in Portugal, to help you make friends and find your feet.
We spoke to Stephen Choi, founder of House Manifest, a growing entrepreneurial community based in Lisbon, to find out more about his story. Here he gives his advice on how to meet and connect deeply with people when you first move to a new country, especially if you’re a digital nomad or entrepreneur.
Until he arrived in Lisbon, Stephen had moved country every couple of years and so had experienced a lot of different cultures - the US, Korea, UK, Indonesia, and New Zealand.. Since 2019, Stephen has been developing startup projects to facilitate connections on and offline. In November 2021, he was invited by an entrepreneurial community to pitch his startup to a panel of investors at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon. He booked a last minute flight and flew to Lisbon to pitch.
While Stephen was in Lisbon, he was participating in an online hackathon to test out another idea. Stephen had had the idea for an entrepreneurial co-living community and had tested the idea in Bali on a small scale. In Lisbon, he decided to try it again, but this time with a view to building a larger and deeper community of founders and freelancers.
He searched (as many do) for a place to stay on AirBnB and rather than just a room or small apartment, he found a stunning 10-bedroom villa on the hill in Estrela with an incredible view of the entire city. Luckily it was low season in Lisbon, so he spoke to the owner to secure the house for a couple of months. The next challenge was finding people to live with him. Being a startup founder, he developed a brand, put up a landing page and form and started to recruit people.
Some co-living communities are more than just a random group of people living together. Collectives, in particular, are intentionally curated communities, in which people sharing similar interests or values consciously decide to live together and help each other, sharing chores, skills and time to organize together.
It’s a concept that’s becoming more and more popular around the world, especially as the cost of living rises, and people live less and less in inter-generational homes. For digital nomads and entrepreneurs, it’s a chance not only to live together, but to work alongside each other, and develop and bounce ideas off each other - a perfect opportunity to grow personally and professionally without the commute!
As Stephen told us:
“You quickly realize when you live with someone, that you get to know them on many different levels and develop deeper and more meaningful connections faster. You also very quickly discover if those people are your people or not!”
Stephen’s community concept, now known as House Manifest, brings entrepreneurs together from all over the world. to work on their visions and businesses during the day, and in the evening join each other for activities and workshops. Each entrepreneur signs up to stay for at least two weeks, but most people extend their stay to a month or even two months.
Stephen soon discovered through his Friday night open events, that there’s a large and vibrant community of expats, founders and digital nomads in Lisbon. The cost of living is relatively low, and locals and the government are open and welcoming to foreigners who want to live and work in the country. The advantage for anyone arriving in Lisbon to work is that you can easily tap into these communities for advice and resources, as you start to find your feet in the city.
Stephen is an expert at meeting people and making a deep and meaningful connection fast. Here, he gives us his recommendations for digital nomads and entrepreneurs setting themselves up in a new city.
Stephen has never lived anywhere for longer than three years, but is enjoying his time so far in Lisbon, and has set up his latest business in Portugal. Looking to the future, he’d love to open more nomad friendly co-living spaces around the world. You can find out more about House Manifest at his website and follow Stephen’s journey on his YouTube channel.