Where is the French community in Algarve? According to figures provided by the French embassy in Portugal, at the end of 2018 the French made up the seventh largest foreign community living in the country. Most of the French citizens living in Portugal can be found in Lisbon and in the North, but the third largest contingent is in the Algarve.
Although they are spread out over the district, the biggest community in the Algarve is in Lagos. However, an increasing number of French citizens have chosen to live in the Monchique mountain region. They have been purchasing small estates by the sea.
The French in Portugal are mostly well educated, and one third are retired, according to the 2018 report of the Borders and Foreigners Service (SEF).
The French community in Algarve is centred on the Union of French Abroad (UFE Algarve) – the largest association of French expats in the world – which has about 1,500 members in Portugal, says Patrick. They choose Portugal above all because it is a “welcoming, peaceful, sunny country, with a very accessible cost of living”.
The Union of French Abroad (UFE) is a public utility organization which was founded in 1927, which stands up for the interests of all French citizens living outside of France and has 170 chapters in 100 countries. The UFE Algarve is the chapter which covers the South of Portugal.
The UFE Algarve is open to all “French expats, French abroad, francophones, former expats and all those who are otherwise involved in the world of expats and international mobility”. Its aim is to share and provide access to information, in France, Portugal or any other country, which might be useful for citizens looking to move to the Algarve. It does this through its website, regional and country guides, welcoming brochures, information meetings and personal appointments, among others.
Besides this, Patrick explains that the role of the UFE with the Algarve community includes “welcoming, helping and socialising”, which makes the association a “network of relationships in Portugal”.
Besides the Algarve, this global association of French citizens abroad is represented elsewhere in Portugal, through the Centre-West and Lisbon chapters.
Given its location and the good weather in the Algarve, the French community in Algarve enjoys a number of opportunities for activities. Every day the UFE shares information with its members by email, about meetings, dinners and other group activities. The chairman provides some examples, such as “hikes, bowling, pétanque, trips, boat outings, motorbiking, parachuting, cards and reading groups”.
There are also groups dedicated to different forms of art, such as theatre, and the French Theatre Festival, for instance, will have put on nine plays by the end of the 2019-2020 period, in what is one of the main projects of the French speaking community in Portugal.