I really appreciate all the rich responses readers shared with me about my “making friends” article - for both less and more traveled folks.

I get to hear from readers both through my email and the comments section at the bottom of the article. The comments section allows the trolls among us to blurt out insults secure behind their anonymity. But many of them, along with the gracious non-trolls, make some genuinely good points.

In the “comments” section for this article what comes up repeatedly is the staunch belief that all English-speaking immigrants – that is if they’re thoughtful and well-intended – should be mingling and making friends with Portuguese by speaking fluent Portuguese.

However, Chris from Lisbon weighed in with a very balanced perspective saying that he felt lonely in looking for friendships but eventually discovered a “shared interest” group and found his people.

He added this wise insight:

“More than meeting new people it is finding friendship from those of a shared mindset. We always seek to integrate and we are inclusive but whilst the Portuguese language challenge evolves and barriers remain, it is always step by step.”

I have to agree with Chris on this point (even though later in his comment he called me a patronising and self-indulgent American).

We’re mostly all doing our best

Regardless of whether we learn the language, whoever actually intends to move to another country and be narrow-minded and detached? Susan who shared her thoughts in the comments section, has a generosity of spirit in mind: “I agree that none of us should limit ourselves to building relationships only with other expats or immigrants,” she says. “However, until my Portuguese language skills are MUCH better, it's very hard to build relationships with local people. That being said, I do have Portuguese friends who are kind enough to converse in English and/or gently correct my Portuguese.”

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Becca Williams;

Stacy, an American who emailed me, is well traveled having lived in Santiago and Lima and now in Lisbon for 5 years. “I always befriend Americans,” she muses, “but the real challenge and the real reward is making friends [with the nationals] from the countries I'm living in.” She notes that the Portuguese are polite and gracious but hard to get to know, yet after putting in the work, she’s made great Portuguese friends and values those relationships.

Julie and her husband moved from South Africa last year. She says,

“It was so great to read your thoughts on being an immigrant here in Portugal. We are going through a similar experience. We have found it a little challenging making friends due to the language barrier, but we are determined to learn the language as we get more settled.”

Matt says, “So glad you wrote that article on friends. I have been giving it a lot of thought recently. I have been all over Portugal trying to find a place to live. Since I am single, I figure it is pretty critical to be somewhere I can have community and ideally, friendships.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Becca Williams;

A few readers reached out with recommendations:

Karen says that, As an expat and resident for 12 years in Portugal I would suggest you join the International Women of Portugal group it’s a great way to meet people.”

Adrian shared with me that his wife runs a weekly painting “get-together” at a local social club. He adds, “I must point out that this is not a ‘serious enterprise’ and is more of a get-together with a little painting and coffee drinking in the local café.” (I include this because anybody could put the word out to start something like this.)

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Becca Williams;

Jackie, an executive language trainer, emailed and told me she had to leave Portugal after 15 years because of some issues with COVID. She reminisced, “I loved my Lisbon life, but also struggled with the meaningful friendships dilemma when I first arrived. It took me a while to embrace the 'joining' things activity (eye-roll here), having liked organic connections before. Meetup.com opened a great circle for me, along with a heavy spoonful of open-mindedness. We will meet all sorts in such joining events, but we can still find our little tribe.”

Words to live by

And finally, Thomasine, an American, emailed me saying that her time to move across the pond to Portugal is drawing near. Her attitude of gratitude is infectious so I will leave you with her pithy parting prose, “Throughout life, my ventures always brought newness. Change with all it’s challenges often brings goodness.”


Becca Williams is originally from America but is now settling into small town living in Lagos, a seaside town on Portugal’s southern coast. Contact her at AlgarveBecca@gmail.com

Becca Williams