afpop Michael Reeve (by Michael Bruxo) 37

Safety remains Portugal’s strongest asset

“People love the fact that they feel so safe here”

Michael Reeve, CEO of Portugal’s largest foreign residents’ association, afpop, explains how the country’s safe image remains its biggest asset in the eyes of foreigners.

Anyone with just a fraction of knowledge about Portugal knows that it is home to stunning beaches, rich history, delicious food and great weather. But for foreigners looking to move to the country, it is its safety that comes to the fore.

The Resident sat down with Michael Reeve, CEO of afpop, the country’s largest foreign residents’ association, to discuss the top factors that prospective residents look at when considering a move to Portugal, and particularly the Algarve region.

“People love the fact that they feel so safe here,” Reeve told us. “They feel that you can leave your handbag on the seat of your car by mistake and not have your car broken into, or that you can leave your front door open, and people won’t come in and nick all your stuff.”

It is this feeling of general safety that makes Portugal such an appealing destination to many foreigners.

“I can’t remember anyone ever saying to me that they felt nervous going out. So, I think it is the safe and friendly atmosphere that they like the most,” he said.

Portugal’s famous friendliness is another major contributor, the association’s CEO added.

“Foreigners are struck by how friendly and helpful the Portuguese are generally in day-to-day life.”

American ‘boom’ continues

While Brits continue to represent the largest number of foreigners moving to Portugal, the so-called American ‘boom’, which intensified in the last two years, has continued in 2023.

Michael Reeve emphasised the power of “word-of-mouth” recommendations from Americans, who share their positive experiences in Portugal with their friends and family back home.

According to afpop’s CEO, this approach has helped spread the message about Portugal faster and more effectively than the country’s traditional advertising methods.

As he explained, Americans will be more likely to believe the praise when it comes from Americans themselves rather than Portuguese who, in theory, would have more to gain seeing the praises of their country sung.

Portugal’s consistently high rankings in global safety indexes have also helped cement the interest of Americans, who also see the country as a place to escape from the political ‘back-and-forth’ that has taken over in the US.

Health insurance “main concern”

The main issue that concerns afpop members when moving to Portugal is health insurance, according to Michael Reeve, especially among Americans.

While public health systems can be found in many European countries, including the UK, Americans view health insurance as a necessity.

“Here in Europe, we call it health insurance, while Americans call it medical insurance. I know it’s only semantics, but, in my eyes, we see it as something to use ‘if you have ill health’ while they see it as something they use for all medical procedures,” Reeve said, adding that afpop has been educating its American members about the SNS national health system in Portugal.

afpop is also frequently asked about car importation, which never ceases to surprise Michael Reeve.

“I never understood why you would bring a car with you, especially if you’re from the UK: why bring a right-hand drive car to a left-hand drive country?”

Nevertheless, the issue is brought up so frequently that afpop has even created a special brochure dedicated to the subject.

Other issues that afpop is questioned about are the every-day doubts relating to subjects such as going to the local health centre, neutering dogs, or how to set up electricity contracts.

“Do your research”

There is one simple piece of advice that Michael Reeve gives to anyone considering a move to Portugal: Do your research before you get here.

“Make sure it’s a place you want to be. The Algarve, for example, is a different place from one end to the other. It’s not like saying ‘I’ve gone to Nottinghamshire’. The Algarve is different. If you want to be in the mountains, you have to take into account the difficulties of shopping. If you want to be in the Portuguese town areas, you must realise you will be speaking a lot of a foreign language. But if you want to live around more foreigners, then you won’t really be a part of the Portuguese community. So do your research.”

For those with the ability to do so, Reeve believes the best option is to rent a property for some time – around six months to a year – and visit the country, exploring the different areas and then deciding which area is best for them.


BLIP’s ‘Community’ section ‘here to stay’ – but with some tweaks

Every year, afpop hosts its trademark Better Living in Portugal (BLiP) event, designed to provide foreign residents a better idea of the wide range of services and companies that the Algarve has to offer.

Last year marked the debut of a new ‘Community’ section, which featured around 20 non-profit or charitable organisations from a wide range of social causes. Michael Reeve guarantees the section will return next year, but with some changes.

“It was successful, people enjoyed it, and it was great to give something back to those who do so much for nothing in return. But as soon as I saw how it was set up, I knew I had made a mistake,” Reeve told us, lamenting that all the exhibitors were concentrated on one side of the area, separated from the remaining exhibitors.

“What we will be doing this year is having ‘Community Islands’ spread out throughout the arena,” he said, adding that the event will also feature a restaurant once again in this year’s edition, which will take place on October 14 and 15 at the Portimão Arena.


afpop nearing 10,000 members

A major milestone may be just around the corner for afpop, which is approaching the 10,000-member mark.

“We’re about 100 and something away, which would be a massive milestone in our history and would mean that we would have doubled our membership in the time I’ve been here,” Michael Reeve proudly said.

By Michael Bruxo
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