‘Black In Portugal’ Is Creating Community for Expats: Meet The Black Women Behind It

Black Women Expats celebrating Juneteenth In Portugal - Black In Portugal group
Black Women Expats celebrating Juneteenth In Portugal - Black In Portugal group

As more Black people consider moving abroad, in a movement often referred to as a Blaxit, you may notice some destinations come up in conversation more often than others. Portugal is one of those countries that consistently rank on the top of the list among those who have Blaxited. One space where you will find community among expats across the diaspora is in the Facebook group, Black In Portugal.

In total, there are more than 900,000 expats living in Portugal from around the world. It’s a place where it’s easy to fall in love. The weather is beautiful year-round, and it’s affordable for Europe.

For Black expats, safety, lifestyle and a growing Black cultural scene make the Western European destination more attractive.

Black In Portugal  

The Black In Portugal Facebook group is a resource for visitors who want to connect with other people that look like themselves in Portugal. It’s also an essential resource for Black people looking to make Portugal a primary or secondary home. Members answer questions about working abroad, the visa process, education for small children, how Black people are treated and represented, and more.

The Facebook group’s administrators, Anna Sanders, Ashley Osborne, Heather Proctor and Kam Clemons, are Black women who are leading this effort and creating this community. They are using their own experiences to help others navigate a move abroad, while creating a healthy community among Black people through social gatherings.

All four women decided to move to Portugal for various reasons, but the one thing they all have in common is that their decisions boiled down to the quality of life.

Travel Noire spoke with them about the most important things to know before relocating.

Lisbon, Portugal
Photo Credit: Aayush Gupta

Travel Noire: Does Portugal live up to your expectations?

Kam Clemons: At a point, I questioned whether Portugal was for me because everything felt like a [challenging] task from setting up health insurance to getting my bank information together. Many things were going on in my life, and I thought maybe Portugal was not for me.

What ultimately kept me here is the community. I know I will not find this anywhere else. By giving myself extra time to adjust, I’ve been able to ease into the Portuguese lifestyle.

Part of the reason I wanted to be here was to slow down. You can’t slow down, if you want anything to happen so instantaneously – a way of life in the States. There has been a lot of unlearning, and now it feels like home.

Heather Proctor:  I have mixed feelings about this question. Let me say before I moved here, I joined the Facebook group. Nothing was happening in the group like our Mexico group, so I was nervous because I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anyone there.

I moved to Portugal without any expectations because I knew going in that the community I wanted didn’t exist, so I had to create it.

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TN: What has surprised you the most?

HP:  It has a lot to do with personal growth. I am an introvert, and I’ve never been willing to go out and meet people. I usually keep to myself, but my daughter and the people here in Portugal have brought out an extroverted side of me.

I couldn’t imagine the type of relationship I have with people. The community I’ve built here does not compare to the U.S. I’ve never had this family-style community.

Anna Sanders: Having time and the mental capacity to explore my creative hobbies, interests and passion has been a pleasant surprise.

I started feeling burnt out in the U.S. and was uninspired by my surroundings back home. I didn’t realize until recently that it was my previous environment.

Ashley Osborne: I was scared because I was here for a month when I first came in 2019. Visiting and living somewhere are different experiences. It’s living up to my expectations, and it’s been surprising how Portugal has felt like home so quickly.

What also surprised me is how content I am. I’m used to living in bigger cities, [like] Los Angeles [and] New York. I’m used to the fast life, but now I’m 35, married and settling down to build a family. I’m content and finding peace here.

Expect Challenges

TN: Are there any challenges or hurdles you wish you had known before moving?

KC: Give yourself a grace period when you’re moving. Some say you’re significantly better once you move to a new country. If you’re mentally struggling with things in the U.S., you’ll still have to unpack that.

For me, I had to unlearn my American ways. I had to learn to trust and lean on people, which is hard. I always recommend having a support system when you’re going through a transition like this, whether going to therapy or having friends you can talk to.

AS: I struggled with survivor’s remorse. It’s tough living abroad with family at home in the United States. Your heart is in two places.

We all know the situations we came from in the U.S., whether it’s racial trauma or the day-to-day heaviness. Being black in America and living here in Portugal, where it’s almost the complete opposite, I sometimes feel guilty for feeling so happy. I’m also very fearful for my family and friends still living in the states. Sometimes, it’s tough to be entirely at peace.

Black Women Expats standing in front of a store In Portugal
Photo Credit: Black In Portugal

TN: What should people know before relocating to Portugal?

AS: Do your research. Many resources are available on the internet, including our community. We try to provide as many resources as possible with other Facebook groups and YouTube channels because nothing beats your research. Everyone’s circumstances are different.

This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.