We were excited to have the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive interview with one of the creators and founders of SameSame Co-living in Lisbon, Gonçalo Caldeira.
An introduction to Same Same Co-living in the heart of Lisbon’s downtown Mouraria neighbourhood, a place to rest, create and linger…
SameSame Co-living in the Portuguese capital Lisbon is at heart a creative co-living community. This does not mean that all the co-livers are or have to be artists but rather Same Same prides itself on providing an environment where the co-livers are free to unleash their creativity.
SameSame co-living even has its own creative workshop space around the corner called Esquina where residents and local artists can get their hands dirty!
SameSame co-living has two buildings, the original 5-story building on 214 Rua da Madalena and also an adjoining building named Beco just around the corner. Both are beautiful traditional Portuguese buildings with signature ceramic tiles on the facades called azulejos.
The Rua da Madalena building has two shared floors with stylish en-suite rooms, 60’s themed living rooms and modern kitchens. The resident co-livers can use these comfortable spaces to chill and mingle with their fellow co-livers. While televisions are not as prominent as they once were, it’s worth noting there are no TVs at Same Same, the focus from day one was on creating spaces where the co-livers could relax, read or socialise.
Each of the shared floors has a cosy little meditation space tucked away in a corner which is great for unwinding and enjoying some quiet time.
The Rua da Madalena building also has private studios, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and a large duplex apartment on the top floor, all stylishly interior designed and decorated.
All rooms and apartments at Same Same Living include high-speed wifi, water, electricity and weekly cleaning.
The Beco building is perhaps better suited for people staying for a shorter time while the shared floors and studios in the Rua da Madalena building have a more residential feel and may be better suited for longer stays. In fact, Same Same co-living has a growing number of co-livers staying long term, the longest being two years.
Whichever building you stay in, you’ll find they share a very similar design DNA.
Same Same Living has its own dedicated co-working space
There is a dedicated co-working space on the ground floor also named Beco where residents of Same Same co-living are able to use hotdesks during office hours for free and can pay for a dedicated desk and 24/7 access for a monthly fee if they so choose. Non-residents of Same Same co-living are able to pay and use the Beco co-working space.
At the heart of the Same Same community is the bar, entertainment space and terrace, Insitu
At the rear of the Rua da Madalena building is the terrace, bar and restaurant space that forms the heart of the Same Same co-living community called Insitu.
At Insitu there are live concerts featuring local artists usually a couple of times a week at least, cool DJ sessions, daily lunches prepared by in-house master chef Antonio Salminen and weekly co-liver dinners prepared by the co-livers themselves. More on that later.
Same Same was the first Portuguese-owned, purpose-built co-living community in Lisbon
Same Same co-living holds the honour of being the first Portuguese-owned, purpose-built co-living community in Lisbon and actually Portugal too.
Back in 2018, Lisbon was a very different place from what it is now. The co-living and even digital nomad scenes were nothing like they are today. Portugal was in the midst of a deep financial crisis so the idea of creating a co-living community was quite visionary and the founders agree definitely a stroke of luck!
Even during the covid 19 pandemic, co-living spaces bucked the trend in hospitality, while most hotels were shut down, co-living spaces were still in operation and achieved quite respectable occupancy levels when compared to hotels and hostels during that time, yet another stroke of luck!
Co-living spaces also provided a vital means for digital nomads to enjoy some degree of travel and community when much of the world was in lockdown.
Post pandemic, the explosion of remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle has catapulted Lisbon into one of the world’s premier digital nomad destinations and Same Same Living is in prime position as an early mover.
Family is at the heart of Same Same co-living
Same Same co-living is not just a business but a real family affair. The story of Same Same Living began in a sense with Gonçalos’s grandmother who had a store on the ground floor of the Rua da Madalena building many years ago. This gave Gonçalos’s father the opportunity to buy the entire building and offer it to his son to make a business out of it. That was over five years ago.
At the time, the Same Same building at Rua da Madalena 214 in the downtown Mouraria area of Lisbon was in a very poor state and had been used as office space and needed a lot of creative vision, money and work to get it to the high standard it is today.
The whole process took close to 4 years. Gonçalo and his team hired young Portuguese architects to help transform the building into a cool, comfortable and stylish co-living space.
Everything about Same Same Co-Living is Portuguese, from the owners, the team, the architects and the local artists and businesses they support. As Lisbon becomes ever more international it’s really refreshing to see a business with 100% Portuguese roots actively supporting local businesses and artists.
Same Same co-living, travelling without moving…
When Gonçalo’s father asked him to do something with the building Gonçalo was not at all enthused by the idea, far from it actually, Gonçalo was finishing his studies and wanted to go travel. The last thing he wanted was to start a business or manage a building in Lisbon.
Still, Gonçalo spoke with some of his closest friends and they convinced him that this was potentially a huge opportunity that should be taken seriously.
With a strong wanderlust burning, Gonçalo was torn about what to do. The world and travel were calling, being tied to a run-down building in Lisbon wasn’t very appealing at all, but then a very close friend suggested that maybe he could create a business where he could be travelling, without travelling.
The spark of an idea to create a business where it would be possible to travel without travelling paved the path for what has become Same Same co-living. The Same Same team is meeting and engaging with people from all over the world, sharing stories and experiences, so as Jamiroquai sang, the team are indeed “travelling without moving“!
Same Same co-living was founded by three friends, Gonçalo Caldeira who was 25 at the time, Filipa Meirelles who was 23 at the time and Gonçalo Lopes who was 28 at the time.
At the very beginning, on offer was a building that needed a lot of work in a prime Lisbon downtown location which was a great start, but, there was no money to actually start the co-living business. So, the two Gonçalos and Filipa put in everything they had to bring their vision to life.
Today, two of the three original founders, Gonçalo Caldeira and Filipa Meirelles (pictured above) are still the driving force behind the Lisbon co-living community that is most certainly, same same, but different!
Gonçalo is mainly responsible for the finances and overall management while Filipa is responsible for carefully crafting the Same Same style and image and communicating it to the world. Supporting Gonçalo and Filipa is a dedicated team including Zala Haller, Maria Salminen and Antonio Salminen (pictured below) who make sure everything is going to plan and ensure the community is happy and well looked after.
Same Same but different!
I asked Gonçalo why the Lisbon co-living space is called ‘Same Same’. He said that he was travelling through south-east Asia and often at the street markets he would be asking about the prices of things and he kept hearing the market vendors say “same same but different“. What they were saying was that the two articles were the same price, but actually different, like a different colour or pattern and you could choose whichever one you liked, the price was the same. This expression stayed in Gonçalos’s mind and became the inspiration for the name of the Lisbon co-living space that became “Same Same”…..but definitely different!
What makes Same Same Living different from other co-living spaces in Lisbon?
According to Gonçalo, the principle difference is in the personalisation of the interactions Same Same co-living offers. The idea was to create a relatively small and personalised community where it would be possible to build friendships and have the chance to meet like-minded people.
Same Same Co-living is physically limited to hosting a maximum of 40 co-livers making it in some ways ideal to build an active community. If the numbers were bigger, say 100 people or smaller, say 8 – 10 people staying at any one time it would be much more difficult to create a real sense of community and engagement.
Putting community and people before profits can be profitable!
The other difference is that the founders purposefully put people and community first instead of looking at the whole venture from a purely financial point of view. If finances and the bottom line were the priority every decision would be highly influenced on how to maximise profits instead of building a happy and thriving community.
As it happens this strategy has paid off and Same Same co-living is usually booked up months ahead. It just goes to show that putting people before profits clearly can work!
Gonçalo and his team live the Same Same co-living experience every day and as he said to me, it really doesn’t feel like work, even though it is hard work to manage an operation such as this.
I asked Gonçalo to tell me more about the community side of Same Same Co-living and what it means to the team
Building and nurturing our community is central to life at Same Same co-living
Community is one of our core pillars and we work constantly behind the scenes to set the scene for our co-living community to interact with each other and build friendships. At the heart of our community is our bar/restaurant/terrace Insitu which is where most of the activities take place. Insitu is the central meeting point for all residents of Same Same.
The weekly co-livers dinner
One of our most popular and successful initiatives has been our weekly co-liver dinner which takes place every Tuesday evening. We invite one of our residents to host the event and cook a meal of their choice, sometimes it’s a dish from their native country or just something they would like to share. Naturally, our team provides plenty of support to help prepare the dinner which can be for up to 20 people or sometimes more.
To me, this activity is beyond a get-together but a form of love by cooking for your fellow co-livers. I find it so fulfilling to see our co-living community engaging with each other and having a great time over a home-cooked meal.
Same Same week, an annual celebration
Another one of my favourite activities at Same Same is our special week of celebrations. We had our very first one in January of this year (2022).
Same Same week wasn’t an idea that came from nowhere, it was a celebration. We spent a year getting to know people who stayed with us and built friendships, so we thought it would be nice to have an annual celebration where we invite people to come and stay with us and during this week we make all the facilities available exclusively to this select and closed group.
Of course, it’s quite challenging to choose who to invite as we have limited capacity and in the end, it comes down to inviting the people who we feel truly touched us and the rest of our Same Same community. Same Same week is also an opportunity for likeminded members of our community to meet others they may not have met yet due to being with us at different times.
It’s really like us inviting friends to a party, a place where people who know each other and those that haven’t yet met to have a great time.
In the spirit of community, we gave everyone on our list a task or responsibility to participate in making the event special, this is very important, we feel that the participants are not simply attending an event but are actively participating in making it special and gives them a chance to give a bit of themselves to the group.
During our first ever Same Same week, we had a week full of activities including games, hiking, dinners every night, surf lessons and a 60’s themed fancy dress party to top it off where members of the group even wrote and performed an original song for the rest of the group. It was truly magical and we can’t wait for the next one!
I asked Gonçalo his views on competition in the Lisbon co-living market?
It’s an interesting question, my answer is probably the opposite of what you might expect, I was actually wishing there was competition when we started as it would have been much easier if there were others doing something similar, so the increase in co-livings in Lisbon and Portugal was only good and still is.
I think there is nothing bad thing about competition if you don’t consider yourself the same as others. We focus on what we’re doing at Same Same and aren’t afraid of competition. Until now competition and the increased awareness of co-living specifically in Lisbon have been good for us.
In addition, many of our co-livers have stayed at other co-living spaces and have often given us positive feedback when comparing their experiences. This is really rewarding for us as a team. So essentially we focus on our vision and what we want to deliver to our community and don’t worry about competition but rather embrace it.
I asked Gonçalo if anyone can join the Same Same Co-Living community
Until recently anyone could stay at Same Same Co-living, like reserving a hotel room, hostel room or renting an apartment. This is changing now though. As we are a small community and fortunately experience high demand we are now implementing an interview process as we see growing importance in the duality of the relationship between ourselves, the team behind Same Same and the co-living community that we serve.
It’s important not to forget that we are not simply a “service provider”, we are the other side of the relationship and also want to invite people to stay that we want to get to know, spend our time with and build lasting friendships with.