According to the study “Heading for a “Better Life”? Why Swedes Move to Portugal” by Daniel Rauhut and published in the Nordic Journal of Migration Research, the majority of respondents to the study cited “disenchantment with Sweden, political correctness and a perceived collapse of the Swedish welfare system” as the reason behind their move from Sweden to Portugal. However away from dissatisfaction with Sweden, the positive of aspects of Portugal also shine through as reasons behind the move.

The study involved in depth interviews with Swedes permanently living in Portugal to discover what made them take the plunge, while also attempting to find out the type of people who are making the move south.


Swedes in Portugal


While there has been a long tradition of British, Irish and German citizen choosing to move to Portugal permanently, this trend from Sweden has been more recent. Statistics from INE show that there has been a marked increase in the number of Swedish citizens choosing Portugal in recent years.

The INE data shows that there was a very gradual increase in the number of Swedes in Portugal from 2000, from just over 1,000 to almost 1,500 in 2007. There was then a sharp decline in 2008, in line with the global financial crisis, and then the gradual increase again until 2015 when number began to rise sharply up to a peak of 4,900 in 2019.

The latest data which shows numbers form 2017, shows that Swedes moving to Portugal are clustered around the Algarve (30.2%) and Lisbon (30.8%) and this number is predicted to have increased further as more people from Sweden choose Portugal as their new home.


Why Portugal?


According to the study: “Almost all of the respondents claimed that the climate and the food made them chose Portugal as a country of destination. Unanimously, the respondents also highlighted the friendliness, politeness and welcoming mentality of the Portuguese, which played an important role for the choice of destination. However, these were not the only reasons for choosing Portugal.”

The study found that for low earners the attractive cost of living was an important factor, while for others the beneficial tax regimes were a key factor in choosing Portugal over other destinations.

However quality of life as a whole was a significant factor for the majority with many highlighting the level of security, low crime rates and also the health care system as being instrumental in their choice. One respondent said: “I still meet people who think that Portugal is a poor country… Health care is superb, which people do not believe”.

A sense of community was also seen as being key: “You still have a butcher you go to and you get fantastic raw materials only when it comes to meat, vegetables on the market – it is really locally produced …And wine … where you can also go directly to the vineyard and buy”. Another respondent said that Portugal reminds them of Sweden when they were young in the 1960s and 1970s. “Portugal reminds me of Sweden when I was a kid … and this is something I like”.


Moving to get a life


The study concludes that while there has been much public debate about wealthy Swedes moving to Portugal for tax benefits in the past, the reality of it being only high net worth individuals coming to Portugal is actually far from the truth.

Indeed there are wealthy immigrants living permanently in Portugal coming from Sweden however, “The findings in this study indicate that it is not the wider middle class who are leaving Sweden for Portugal, and although a few of the emigrants are very wealthy indeed, the majority of the respondents are to be found on the lower level of the social hierarchy. Poignantly, the majority of this latter group does not move to get a better life; they move to get a life”.