Today I want to write about something that is rather basic in that it is relevant to everyone.

When talking about migration, being in a city (or ‘everyday life’), and material possessions, storage is an important aspect. This includes the storage of things and the body, but can also be the storage of memories, of challenges. As the title of the blog gives away, I am referring to houses and housing.

As a sociologist-cum-geographer (pretending to blend in with anthropologist for this project), location is a very important aspect to consider in people’s decision-making. In terms of statistics, Greater Lisbon boasts the following figures about mobility within the city (Portuguese Census, 2011).

Total

Population that did not change municipality

Immigrants arriving from another municipality

Immigrants from another country

2,821,876

2,656,749

102,827

26,275

Visually, the distribution of ‘immigrants from other countries’ can be seen in the maps generated through the Pordata website, and compared to that of the total population.

As is evident, the bulk of the population has been recorded as living in Greater Lisbon (and interestingly disproportionately on the main island of Madeira too).

When first looking into the daily life in Lisbon on my arrival in the city, I learnt of the stress on housing caused by over-tourism, the financial crisis, and a lack of public investment in housing. Housing inequality was (and is) rife in Lisbon. In an earlier blog, I spoke about this status of Lisbon as a tourist destination and some of the reasons as well as concerns regarding the same. This was the reason that in 2017, the Caravana pelo direito à habitação (Caravan for the right to housing) undertook it’s journey in Portugal and revealed a number of delipidated and hazardous living situations in which people are forced to live by virtue of being excluded from dialogue about the same, with 5 of 10 sites being in or around Greater Lisbon. It is often found that these sections of society feed the city in terms of being the labour that is unseen, or are unemployed, having been pushed to the fringes of the city. I must flag here that such housing is inhabited by migrants (internal and external) and Lisboetas (Lisboners) alike (as also seen in the maps above).

It is fascinating that paradoxically, on the other hand, ‘expat’ information websites present the very city from which the aforementioned people are expelled as an ideal location for any migrant. Evidently, the key is in the term ‘expat’, which appears to only relate to wealthy, usually white immigrants. With a range of anglicised names and an identification of “good neighbourhoods”, these websites inform you where you can go to ensure you don’t have to confront the ‘problems’ of being unsafe in this capital city.

One such description provided by Expatica (www.expatica.com) can be found in the image below. The description and image are telling of the type of migrants intended for the regions.

The website goes on to list neighbourhoods they suggest expats could live. The text is quoted below:

  • Alfama & Graca – Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, with winding streets and a great sense of both tradition and community
  • Avenidas New & Alvalade – Home to large expensive apartments and good amenities, but can suffer from a lack of atmosphere
  • Bairro Alto – A popular place to enjoy Lisbon’s nightlife, popular with young people and hipsters
  • Lower Town (Baixa) – A big draw for with property investors in search of apartments
  • Belem – A riverside neighbourhood with some of the city’s most famous museums
  • Restelo – Boasts a tranquil and laid back lifestyle, albeit with property prices to match
  • Campo de Ourique – Popular with middle-class families, but lacks a Metro station
  • Nations Park – A little further from the centre, boasts more contemporary architecture and a pleasant waterfront location
  • Prince Real – Within walking distance of the centre, property here can be expensive
  • Santos & Lapa – Popular with middle class locals and well-off retirees

It is interesting that all the descriptions seem to suggest some sort of wealth or capital (‘expensive apartments’, ‘popular’ – relating to gentrified areas, ‘famous museums’) and lifestyles that if spoken about deprived sections of society would not be considered positive (‘laidback’, ‘enjoy Lisbon’s nightlife’, ‘tradition and community’). In addition, when suggesting where to stay, they list areas along the linha (the train line along the coast of the River Tejo) specifically Cascais, Birre and Sintra. These neighbourhoods too are rather wealthy historically and currently.

Another such website with information for people who call themselves ‘expats’ is InterNations (www.internations.org). I will dwell on this further, but I mention this as a potential source of information and route to socialising for incoming migrants (expats/immigrants). The description on the landing page for Lisbon is telling on how Lisbon is ‘sold’ as a city to live in as (wealthy, white) expats.

While I am not arguing that suggested areas for living be primarily deprived neighbourhoods, I do wish to highlight this disparity that may be reinforced by such communication, sidelining certain types of migrants through virtue-signalling.

This is relevant as all my participants (Australians and Germans) for this research thus far live within or very close to the areas identified as desirable by these ‘expat’ websites. Three owned their house (all outside of Lisbon municipality) while two were renting (one within and one outside of the Lisbon municipality). This has a deep impact on how the city is experienced by them as a different class-group of migrants. It makes for an interesting understanding of goods and services and resources to which they have access, and how they structure their lives as migrants.

For more information on Portuguese census figures, visit Pordata (https://www.pordata.pt/).