Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice

movingtoportugal


Moving Back to the UK: Five Good Things 0

Posted on July 27, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Throughout all of last week, I kept snoozing a task to write a post about some of the good things about moving back to the UK, to balance out my previous post about things we were missing about Portugal.

Ironically, the main reason I didn’t get the post written was that I went down with a nasty bug, so all non-essential tasks got pushed into this week.

I’d forgotten about summer colds. It’s fair to say you don’t really get them in the Algarve. However, back here in the UK the weather has recently turned distinctly autumnal, and the past weekend was a total washout. I feel partly to blame because the weather turned on the day my new hammock arrived from Amazon.

UK in July

The UK in July

So, against a backdrop of retreating “man-flu” and grey skies, I find myself writing a post that’s supposed to focus on good aspects of moving back to the UK!

Thankfully, I still find it easy to come up with plenty. Yes, we miss Portugal, as I lamented last week, but we really are enjoying life back in the UK. Years away have helped us to see the place through fresh eyes.

Here are five things we love right now:

  1. Beer Gardens

OK, so our beaches aren’t quite up to East Algarve standards, and the weather doesn’t really allow for much sunbathing, but we still have them, and they’re still a wonderful place to spend time.

British Beach

British Beach Life

What we DO have is beer gardens. Hundreds of them. Often with play areas and sometimes even with free bouncy castles (and having a toddler gives us parents an excuse to venture on to those too!)

Moving back to UK - beer gardens

Moving back to the UK – beer gardens

We could head out to a different beer garden every Saturday and Sunday and not even scratch the surface of what’s in our local area. It’s “England’s Green and Pleasant Land” in easily digested portions – washed down with real ale or fruity cider.

Beer garden

Beer gardens

  1. Food

The novelty of food choice in the UK still hasn’t worn off. Supermarket shopping is still a joy, and then we have the food festivals, the farm shops, the delis, the greengrocers, the bakeries, and the butchers’ shops. The other day I realised I’d gone for over a month forgetting we have a Marks and Spencer Food Hall just down the road!

When I mention this, I always seem to court controversy. Yes, there’s some choice in Portugal, but I’m not sure that people who’ve been away from the UK a while realise quite what a revolution there’s been in gourmet and artisan food.

Roast beef

Real roast beef

A few recent examples: Oyster and Vinegar Crisps, made in Kent using Whitstable oysters; a honey chilli chicken dish from the local Chinese; amazing rare roast beef as part of a pub lunch; local plums that simply have to be eaten over the sink because they’re so juicy; and, at the top of the list, a salad made purely from the element-defying produce grown on our patio.

Salad from English Garden

Salad from an English Garden

I could happily spend a fortnight in Portugal eating clams, bream, bacalhau and arroz de pato – but after six months here I’m still spoiled for choice.

  1. eBay

My wife and I love a bit of eBay. It’s great to be able to get even a few quid back for things we no longer need, and I have now started to redouble my efforts to build my son’s legacy collection of retro vinyl records and computers!

Having full and easy access to eBay beats the expat Facebook groups for buying and selling, complete with their timewasters and daft offers. That’s not to say we didn’t have some success selling some bits and bobs before we left, but it was a rather gruelling process.

  1. Television

A full Sky package, complete with catch-up and “on demand.” Now TV for movies, and Netflix for everything else. AND it all just works, without messing around with Filmon and suchlike, or waiting for buffering, thanks to a sensible broadband speed!

Although we have precious little time to watch TV, we now spend that time actually watching it, rather than arsing around getting it to work.

  1. Things to Do

Every weekend, there are at least ten events we’d happily commit our time to, and that’s just in the local area – without even thinking about heading into London.

Yes, there are lots of things to do in The Algarve too, and I miss some of them. However, the parties and festivals tend to follow a predictable annual schedule, which after a few years starts to feel like retracing old ground.

We really miss Portugal. We’ve certainly posted enough about it! However, the above are just some of the reasons why, right now, we really like being back in the UK.

Some thing cant compare

Some things cant compare

It doesn’t mean I don’t still get homesick, or that I don’t miss my friends, the weather, and the sea. But if I can come up with this much enthusiasm after a week of grey skies and coughs and sneezes, there must be something right. Sometimes you need to be away from somewhere a while to appreciate what’s good about it!

Our Moving to Portugal book is still on special offer on Kindle:

Here’s the UK link:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

And here’s the US link:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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Five Reasons to Miss Portugal 2

Posted on July 17, 2015 by Ben Algarve

The time has come for yet another post about the things I’m missing about living in Portugal!

Before I start, I should make clear that in all honesty I’m not really missing The Algarve that much anymore. We’ve all become very used to the UK being “home” again, but there are still some specifics that trigger a feeling of yearning – and it’s those that I list below:

  1. The Weather

Let’s start with the obvious one. It’s was inevitable that we’d miss weather like that shown below:

Weather Portugal

Weather in Portugal

That said, it is summer in England, and it hasn’t been too bad at all. Also, I genuinely like this climate’s changeable nature (and I’m really not just saying that to make myself feel better!)

Having a couple of days of sun and then a couple of wind and rain is actually pretty handy for a freelance worker, because it’s easy to buckle down to work on the inclement days. While I miss the weather in Portugal, I don’t miss wishing I were outside when I had to work, and feeling jealous of the tourists…

  1. Sardines

It’s sardine season in Portugal, and I would love to dig into a huge plateful, complete with a simple salad and some slightly overcooked boiled potatoes!

I’ve been almost tempted to buy some in the UK, but I fear they may taint the memory. I may just wait until I’m back in the Algarve – I’ll let you know…

Portugal Sardines

Portuguese Sardines

  1. Friends and Spontaneity

This is a big one.

We love being back amongst all our UK friends, but we very much miss our friends in Portugal, particularly the fact they were right on our doorstep.

Everyone here is busy, and arrangements have to be made in advance. That’s fine, but we do really miss the doorbell ringing at random, and the ability just to head into town and “see who’s about.”

  1. Earning in Pounds and Spending in Euros

This one only occurred to me today, when I read that the Sterling / Euro exchange rate has hit a high of €1.43 to the Pound in the wake of the crisis in Greece. Several papers are saying it could hit €1.50.

I still keep an eye on the exchange rate, but it only really sunk in today that it no longer has any impact on our lives. If we were still in Portugal we’d be rubbing our hands together right now about how much more our money was worth.

  1. My Moped

Yes, I know I’m like a broken record about my beloved electric moped. It’s actually still in Portugal awaiting our next visit.

Moped

My moped in Portugal

I’ve looked into getting one in the UK, but it’s all about health and safety, ankle protection, and biker jackets.

I’m not interested. I want to ride around in the blazing sun in shorts and flip-flops, with shopping irresponsibly balanced in front of me. I miss it SO much.

So there you have it. That’s what I’m missing about Portugal right now.

Before I sign off, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve temporarily reduced the price of our Moving to Portugal book in Kindle format. For now, it’s just £1.99 in the UK and $3.08 in the USA – grab one now!

Here’s the UK link:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

And here’s the US link:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia

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Portuguese Wine: The Rescue Parcel Arrives 0

Posted on July 02, 2015 by Ben Algarve

I’ve already moaned before about how much we’ve been missing Portuguese wine since moving to England again.

Well, last week, thanks to the valiant efforts of several family members, our problems on that score came to an end. Thanks to a family road trip to the UK and some spare vehicle space, we were reunited with some of our old favourites.

Portuguese Wine - in the UK

Portuguese Wine – in the UK

The objective now is to make them last! So far we’ve been rather restrained and only opened a few, and donated some to friends too. It’s been lovely to taste these wines once more, and best of all to be spared the frustration of spending £6-10 a pop in the UK on bottles of questionable swill from the supermarket!

Also in our rescue parcel from Portugal was my beloved Weber barbecue, which regular readers of the blog will know is something of an obsession of mine. I must once again thank all those involved in reuniting us with it. I honestly don’t know if the wine or the barbecue was most exciting, but I think probably the latter!

Barbecue from Portugal

Reunited with my barbecue from Portugal

I’ve not got a huge amount of time to update on much else at this point, other than to say that all is pretty good back here in England. Yesterday, we had a trademark English one-day heatwave(!) but by today it was cool enough for jeans once again. I’m genuinely not saying this to make myself feel better, but I actually don’t mind this at all, because it’s far easier to get stuck into work when the weather outside isn’t sufficiently pleasant to entice me out.

However, that only applies during the week. Rained-off weekends are not cool at all, so here’s hoping we don’t have too many of those.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a shot of Whitstable beach approaching sunset last Saturday. With views like this, moving back to the UK doesn’t feel too bad at all – but as I’ve said before, you’ll probably get a different take on this from me come November!

One last thing actually: Quite randomly, I just discovered you can actually buy Casal Garcia, one of Portugal’s favourite Vinho Verdes (Green Wines) online, in ENGLAND, and for a good price that works out to less than £5 per bottle. It’s on Amazon of all places! What an amazing discovery! I’ve put the link here for you. I’m sorry to tell American readers that I can’t find a similar one on the US site :-(

Case x12 -Casal Garcia NV – Green Wine

Sunny English Skies in Whitstable

Sunny English Skies

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Reverse Culture Shock – In Reverse 4

Posted on June 23, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Much is said about “reverse culture shock” when expats move back to their former countries.

As I said in my last post, my wife and I have spent plenty of time missing Portugal after our return to England, sometimes to the point of feeling truly homesick.

So, with this is mind, it was perhaps a little foolhardy for me to book a trip back to Portugal as soon as we had really started to feel settled back in the UK.

The trip back was all rather sudden and unplanned. A good friend had a birthday coming up and my wife unexpectedly asked if I fancied going. I headed for my laptop and booked some flights before she had a chance to change her mind!

I travelled to Portugal alone on this occasion. A recent train trip to London with our now extremely mobile and inquisitive toddler has put us right off attempting to drag him onto a plane until such time as we can reason with him about social norms! While I felt a tad guilty about my wife missing out, we both agreed it was actually quite a good plan, as we didn’t want to find ourselves back in Portugal all together, desperately wishing we’d never moved back to England.

Reverse culture shock - it is not sand but it is home

Reverse culture shock – it is not sand but it is home

Onwards then, to the reverse culture shock. Well, to be frank I’m not sure whether I experienced it back in Portugal or whether I’m still experiencing it here in the UK!

The biggest surprise was how…unsurprising everything was. A friend picked me up from the airport, and heading back to my old stomping ground didn’t feel strange, it just felt…normal. Things don’t change very fast in small Portuguese towns and I was up to speed on the local goings on by the time I’d checked into my apartment and hurriedly changed into some shorts. (One thing I had forgotten after a few sunny English days is that there is actually a very distinct difference between warm and HOT!)

While I was in the Algarve, I wasn’t entirely on holiday; Us freelancers don’t truly get those, so I was having to do some work each day. This contributed a little to the headspin factor, as I essentially just walked straight back into my old life, albeit looking rather more pale, as all my local friends took great pleasure in telling me…

Reverse Culture Shock: So how did it feel?

One way to sum it all up is that it all fell dead centre between “familiarity breeds contempt” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Trips to the beach and on a boat along the Ria Formosa were enjoyable and memorable, and served to make me really rather mad at myself for not taking more advantage of what was on my doorstep for all those years.

Rediscovering my old stomping ground

Rediscovering my old stomping ground

On the flipside, traipsing around three different supermarkets in the heat to find an edible potato to bake one evening didn’t feel quaint and quirky, it just felt really bloody irritating like it did when I lived there. I’ve compared (somewhat controversially) the food options between Portugal and the UK before on this blog, but I stand by the fact that in terms of variety, the UK wins hands down, and not just for convenience food. I should follow this up by saying that this situation is both manageable and enjoyable if you have the time to shop around in Portugal, but for a busy working family, it’s easier to fill the cupboards and remain inspired in the kitchen when you live in the UK. I shall await the backlash on that once again.

Anyway, once I’d relaxed back to the Portuguese pace, I was sad to leave, but not as sad as I’d been missing my wife and son while I was there. On my last evening, one of my UK friends asked me online how the trip had felt. With some consideration, my answer was “transformative.”

The fact was, I felt homesick. Just the way I’d felt homesick for Portugal a couple of weeks previously. Now I know this was exacerbated by the fact I didn’t have my family with me, but somehow it felt like affirmation – and in a good way. However, at the same time I felt like I was finally mourning a closed chapter.

Ironically, I felt homesick for Portugal again today, and seeing my friends there again has definitely made me miss them afresh. I’ll be back to that town very frequently, all being well, with the confidence that it seems to remain reassuringly frozen in time.

But, all in all, I’m happy where I live now. The day after I got back was gloriously sunny, and I visited Whitstable on the Kent coast. I ate lobster and chips, and the best oysters I’ve ever tasted. I paddled in the chilly sea with my son, and I took more pictures during that afternoon than I did during five days in The Algarve.

Shellfish back in the UK

Shellfish back in the UK

Sometimes, to avoid that “reverse culture shock” you have to convince yourself you’ve done the right thing – just in order to stay sane. My trip to Portugal was a lot of fun, and I look forward to going again, but most of all it reassured me that I’m not telling myself any lies. For now, this is where I want to be – but feel free to ask me again once winter sets in 😉

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Missing Portugal… 4

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Ben Algarve

I woke up missing Portugal today.

It didn’t help that when my wife opened the blind this morning it didn’t really get any lighter in the room! After a weekend of weather that was sunny enough for sunburn, today we have wind whistling through the house, and a sky so grey it looks like a melancholy tribute to Monday mornings…

It’s funny how things work out, because we had a superb weekend. We had some friends come down and spent lots of time in the sun – on the beach, at home, and in several pub gardens! It really was idyllic, and weekends like this make us very pleased that we chose this place to live.

A beautiful British pub garden

A beautiful British pub garden

So it’s funny that I feel wistful for Portugal on today of all days. However, I think I may have discovered why it works like this, thanks to a very astute forum comment from someone going by the name of “GeniB,” which I will now paraphrase (with permission).

She speaks of a warning from her brother before she first set out to move countries; He said that she was about to become a “third country person.” The meaning of which wasn’t clear to her at the time.

She understands it now, and I do too. The “third country” is a fictional place, created in your mind, that encompasses the best parts of the countries you have lived in. It’s where “home” would be in an ideal world.

For me, it would be the England we’ve just spent the weekend enjoying, with our good friends and our children, but with a week of solid sunny weather now on the cards to make Monday a little more cheerful. Obviously there would be a pool outside the window (and my electric moped). My “third country” would still have London an hour away by train, but also be walking distance from the kind of beaches I now have to fly to.

Weather in Portugal: Impossible not to Miss

Weather in Portugal: Impossible not to Miss

The supermarket in my “third country” would be AWESOME – because it would sell British sausage rolls and jam doughnuts, but also a huge selection of Portuguese wine at 3 Euros or less. And every time you went to it you’d bump into someone you knew, because both your English and Portuguese friends would shop there. Shoppers would shop at Portuguese pace, but the checkout folks would work at English pace 😉

Anyway, that’s enough daydreaming, because sadly my “third country” only exists in my head. Ultimately you have to choose one of the other, at least until you retire! I wouldn’t want to swap back to Portugal permanently, because overall I’m happier here in the UK. But I’d do anything to be able to teleport there for a day or two each week. In the absence of a teleporter, I think it might be time to book some flights for a quick trip back!

Eating tapas in England

Eating tapas in England

What would YOUR “third country” be like? Let me know in the comments!

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Never Take Portuguese Weather for Granted! 2

Posted on May 05, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Just time for a quick post today; I’m currently on a plane on the way to a business trip and have a spare few minutes.

Last night I was chatting to another expat in Portugal who will soon be moving back to the UK.

We are largely happy with our own decision, so I said little that would discourage her. However, I did point out something I never knew until we decided to move back to England: After a couple of years, you start to really take the Portuguese weather for granted.

As it’s so sunny and warm almost all the time, you become fussy. Things we said while we lived in Portugal included “oh, it might look nice but it’s really blowy,” “I can’t be bothered to go down to the pool until the water is warmer,” and “oooh, it’s not as warm as it was last week.”

May weather in London - not all that

May weather in London – not all that

I take ALL of this back, because we’ve just had our second UK bank holiday weekend featuring thoroughly miserable weather. There was a small period of sunshine on the Monday morning, and I popped upstairs for a shower and missed it!

As such, I’m thankful that the destination of the flight I’m sitting on is Budapest, where the weather forecast predicts temperatures nudging the 30s. I’m going to make the best of my few days there, because I may not see such temperatures again until I visit Portugal!

So, if you’re moving to Portugal, holidaying there, or living there currently, please don’t take the weather for granted. We did, and it’s probably our biggest regret now we’re back.

One last thing: I’ve recently been doing some writing about my favourite places for a new Portugal Holidays site. You may wish to check out this article about our favourite seascape, or this article about one of our favourite (and sadly missed) fish restaurants.

If you’re still hungry for reading matter after that, why not check out our book!

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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Some More Random “Moving Home” Observations 3

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Ben Algarve

We’ve been back in the UK a couple of months now, but everything still seems rather alien!

In my last post I was perhaps a little negative about the Portugal we’d left behind, so I’m going for some more balance this week.

Life in the UK has been good, but with an undulating backdrop of homesickness. It doesn’t help that I still do a lot of writing work about Portugal, and having to write about beaches I am no longer just down the road from isn’t the most fun way to begin a working week!  Suffice to say I really don’t think it will be that long until we pop back to the Algarve for a visit.

That visit would probably feel more urgent if it weren’t for the glorious weather we’ve had in England, and that’s where I’ll begin my list of random observations:

1. The weather here isn’t that bad at all.

I know we’ve been lucky with a dry April, but we’ve just spent a long weekend visiting family and we’ve been happily outside for rather a lot of it. Yesterday we had a pub lunch in a beer garden and I woke up today with a tanned face. That was NOT something I was expecting!

Delightful weather in England

Delightful weather in England

The other pleasant surprise is that even when the headline temperature looks low, it’s actually perfectly warm in sheltered spots. Of course I miss the Algarve weather, but what we’ve had since we’ve been back is more than acceptable, and actually far more practical for our baby son.

2. The UK mobile network is APPALLING!

I said that these would be random observations, so now we go from weather to phone signals!

Last weekend on our big family trip, there wasn’t a single house we arrived at where we could get decent data reception. This includes an area covering Kent, Outer London, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. 3G reception on motorways was rubbish too.

I don’t know if it’s just that the UK’s network struggles with the number of people, but by comparison Portugal’s mobile infrastructure is fantastic.

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

3. We still have Portuguese “muscle-memory”

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we are both still often convinced we are going the wrong way around roundabouts, and occasionally find it hard to remember the English word for something (my wife struggles particularly with “coentros,” which is coriander).

Worst of all, we’ve yet to shrug off the continental “hug and kiss on both cheeks” greeting, which in the UK results in either a near-head-butt or the recipient thinking you’re going in for a snog, neither of which comes across as particularly dignified…

4. England is expensive

This is a complicated point, but overall it’s a very good job there are more earning opportunities in the UK, because it’s far harder to live on a budget.

It’s not that all day-to-day things are more expensive. Groceries, for example, are probably cheaper than in Portugal, and as I’ve said before there is far more variety. Our utility bills are less too, but that’s completely cancelled out by a council tax bill of nearly £200 per month.

Where the budgeting unravels is in entertainment. Back in the Algarve, ten Euros could mean a good long trip to the bar and a bite to eat to take home. Here, that ten Euros won’t come close to buying the first round.

At the moment we’re spending every weekend catching up with friends and family, so our spending pattern isn’t typical, but suffice to say we keep having to top up our entertainment budget, and the credit cards are coming out far more than they did in Portugal!

Seafood - Available in the UK as well as Portugal - for a price

Seafood – Available in the UK as well as Portugal – for a price

In addition, working longer days and commuting means being more tired, and that’s when the lure of the takeaway menus becomes strong.

Finally, there’s just so much in the UK that you CAN do! After years of missing the theatre, and the easy access to gigs and festivals, we feel like we want to do it ALL. To do so we must work hard to earn it – and on that basis it’s easy to identify the start of that slippery slope back to the rat race. We must proceed with caution!

5. We’ll probably visit Portugal sooner than we thought

One thing that did come up during our manic weekend was the rather sad realisation that once we’d done everything we had to do, we’d be going “home” to elsewhere in England, rather than “home” to Portugal.

This was actually quite a good thing to realise, because it reminded us that we still have plenty waiting for us in Portugal: somewhere to stay; all of our friends, and all the places and things we miss. I even still have my two most beloved Portugal purchases – my moped and my Weber barbecue! There’s absolutely nothing stopping us going and working from there for a few weeks whenever the “homesickness” gets too strong.

Well, there is one thing stopping us, which is that while we continue to socialise “UK style” every weekend, we’ll never have the time nor the money. So, on that note, I shall sign off and get some more work done :-)

Please take a look at our book!

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same

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A Few Reasons why we Left Portugal 14

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Just a quick post today, but one that I’ve really agonised about writing.

Last time I posted, I was discussing our mixed feelings about being back in the UK, and alluded to a certain sense of homesickness for Portugal.

I’m pleased to say that (for now at least) the homesickness has abated. Right now I don’t think I could possibly be more certain that we’ve done the right thing.

Of course, the fact the weather in the UK is glorious today (and significantly warmer than the Algarve!) has a part to play.

Weather in the UK

Weather in the UK

However, it’s actually more been related to a succession of recent reminders as to why we decided to leave.

I’ve yet to go into that much detail about all the reasons and motivations behind our decision, but one of them was definitely that the slow pace of life we’d moved to Portugal specifically for came to be one of our major bugbears. We just weren’t ready to slow down that much, and the fact we came from London, rather than a small town, made the difference even more pronounced.

Examples of this have come through thick and fast this week: Our Portuguese accountant said we’d have our tax estimate “in the first week of April.” It was therefore annoying to politely ask when to expect it at the end of the second week, only to receive a curt response saying it wasn’t done yet – with no commitment whatsoever to another date when we could reasonably expect it.

Deadlines - Often Missed in Portugal

Deadlines – Often Missed in Portugal

Then, following on from having our Portuguese car cleaned and valeted, we relisted it for sale, with the price clearly marked. This hasn’t stopped at least three people asking for the price. One wonders how they are ever going to complete a vehicle transaction if they can’t read three paragraphs of text.

Then there are the expat chancers who think a “sensible” offer for a car is nearly half your asking price.

My wife’s fun and games have involved our Portuguese bank, where getting them to answer the phone, let alone send a simple, promised email, seems completely beyond their capabilities.

Then there’s the clear contrast between doing business in the two countries. I’ve just increased my hourly consultancy rate by the equivalent of €14, with the full approval of every UK client I’ve asked. In Portugal I’ve had people object to paying that for a morning’s work.

Portugal - we still miss this beautiful place

Portugal – we still miss this beautiful place

Let’s get something clear. I love Portugal. I adore it, and miss it every day. But I don’t miss any of this nonsense. There’s just too much short-termism, too much vagueness, and too many people who think that working for cash instead of doing things properly is subversive and clever, rather than something that just goes to ensure they will never have a stable economy they can truly thrive in.

Shortly after I moved to Portugal, someone told me something. They said that if a Portuguese business has a target of taking €100 per day, but somehow takes €200 on the Monday, they won’t see it as smashing their target; Instead they’ll close on the Tuesday and take it easy.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. But it’s not us. It’s never been us, and I can’t imagine that it ever will be.

I’m prepared for flack for writing this, having seen how defensive people were when I dared to suggest there was more choice in UK supermarkets than those in Portugal! However, I’ve always set out to give an honest account of my experiences.

There are loads of comebacks to what I’ve said here. I should be more patient, perhaps, or try harder to understand the culture of the country I moved to? Both are fair comments, to a point, but I’m trying to paint an honest picture for people thinking about moving to Portugal.

If you’re prepared to slow right down, put up with people continually missing deadlines without getting irritated by it, and are content to quibble about sums of money that wouldn’t buy you a weekly London TravelCard, then you’ll be perfectly happy. We weren’t as prepared for this as we thought we were, and life got frustrating. I hope at least some readers appreciate me pointing this out.

One final point: You obviously cannot write a post like this without some generalisation. There are clearly thousands of highly dynamic Portuguese people who meet their deadlines and reply to emails when promised. There are probably even some expats who do everything by the book, rather than cherry-pick the rules that suit them. I’m only sharing our experiences, not seeking to tar everyone with the same brush. So please bear that in mind before attacking me in the comments :-)

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Blowing Hot and Cold 3

Posted on April 09, 2015 by Ben Algarve

It’s far too early to say whether or not our decision to move from Portugal back to the UK was the right one, but we’re being asked the question an awful lot already!

All I can therefore do is tell you how we’re feeling about it right now – and to put into context how much things have changed, I’m currently typing this on a commuter train home from London!

That side of things isn’t bad at all, surprisingly. Especially as I type this, because the Easter holidays meant the London commute (thankfully something I only have to do once per week or so) was hassle-free. The fact it’s been gloriously sunny today in South East England has helped too.

Zooming to work and back

Zooming to work and back

I should also add that after several years away, I again feel that shiver of excitement as I pull into the big city, whack up the volume on my iPhone, and join the throng heading for the tube. When I left I’d truly had enough of it, and if I had to do it daily I soon would again, but being part of the beating heart of the city is something you come to miss, assuming of course that it appeals to you in the first place.

In other respects it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. We’ve just finished the long Easter weekend, which flew past heartbreakingly quickly, especially as it was the longest work-free break we’d had since Christmas (and that does include the time we were moving countries!)

In the run up to the break we were loving every minute of being in England – and not in a “rose tinted” way. We’ve really settled in our new house, and love our local town and all it has to offer.

Then Good Friday came around, and we were reminded of what a cruel mistress the British climate can be. We stoically set off for our planned drive around the coast anyway – a coast that turned out to be so foggy and dull we couldn’t see the sea despite driving within metres of it. Meanwhile, Algarve weather reports taunted us from afar.

A grim UK day

A grim UK day

After a relaxed Saturday, we had friends around for a dinner party on Sunday. It was lovely to chat about careers and politics instead of expat life and village gossip. Once again everything felt right.

Unfortunately a boozy dinner party now takes me twice as long to recover from as a three-day festival would have “back in the day,” so I felt distinctly jaded as the long weekend came to an end, and with that came my second real burst of homesickness for Portugal.

Homesickness is a strange thing, because it really is like a kind of sickness, and one you have to wait to run its course. We experienced it several times for England throughout our early days in Portugal, and I’m sure it’s not the last time we’ll have an attack of it this way around.

The strange thing is that if I were to revisit the “pros and cons” list right now, it would still fall 80/20 in favour of being in the UK – but that’s talking about head before heart, and I’m pretty sure homesickness comes from the latter.

Anyway, let’s zoom back to now (or at least the time I typed this post).

Well, the sun’s still shining; the crowd on the train has thinned out, and I’m left sitting very comfortably with a table to myself. Soon I will hit the part of my train journey with lovely coastal views.

Meanwhile, I’m digesting a delicious burger and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack in Covent Garden – something I would have obsessed about for days in the Algarve, but which today I was simply able to grab on my way home from work.

Burger from Shake Shack

Burger from Shake Shack

The simple fact is that both places have their pros and cons. If you took the opportunities of South East England and dumped them in the warm and picturesque paradise of the East Algarve, then the whole world would want to live there. In many ways (and on certain days) I still want to live there anyway…

BUT…that’s why we went through the pros and cons for such an agonising length of time. Deep down we know we made the right decision, but I’m sure I’ll always feel a sense of longing when I see the many photos of us enjoying our Portuguese dream, photos that now adorn the walls of our lovely new UK home.

Flipping it the other way, however, it took me ten minutes to type that last paragraph because I was transfixed by the beautiful view out of the train window. I think I can only conclude that your physical location is just a small part of a far bigger and more complicated picture…

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

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Car Insurance After Returning to the UK – A Moan! 1

Posted on March 30, 2015 by Ben Algarve

One rather bitter lesson we learned from living abroad is that the universe doesn’t really seem to reward honesty and doing the right thing.

I’m one of those people (many would call me a mug), who likes to do things by the rules. This sometimes attracts incredulity – from clients who can’t believe I want to give them a proper invoice for a small piece of work, or from accountants who can’t understand why anyone would want to move to Portugal and do things right, rather than staying “under the radar.”

As part of our quest to do things right, one early issue for us (going back many years now), related to driving licences.

A Driving licence - The EU flag is meaningless

A Driving licence – The EU flag is meaningless

The laws around UK licences in Portugal will have expats arguing themselves in circles until they’re dizzy, but the basic facts are quite simple: If you have a UK photo card licence, and you no longer live at the address printed on it, the licence is technically invalid. This is partially due to a British law around not producing UK licences with foreign addresses on them.

The simple way around this is to visit your local IMTT in Portugal, who provide you with a supplementary piece of paper to go with your licence that makes it valid in Portugal. This is actually one bit of Portuguese bureaucracy that’s usually very easy to sort out.

A bigger problem occurs if your UK photocard expires, as happened to my wife. At this point, assuming you still live in Portugal, you have to go through the process of exchanging your licence for a Portuguese one.

Portugal

Portugal

The exchange took over a year for us, during which time we had to return to the IMTT three times to have a temporary form stamped (that’s a whole other story). But eventually Louise received a shiny Portuguese licence.

At that point we didn’t know we were going to move back to the UK. Nor did we know how much hassle this long-awaited licence would cause us.

Back in Britain, we purchased a cheap car from a friend, while we wait for someone to make a sensible offer for our car in Portugal. We thought sorting the insurance out would be a doddle. Not so.

The trouble is that car insurance decisions are pretty much all made by a computer, and that computer asks certain questions. If you don’t tick the right boxes, everything gets confusing.

For example:

“How long have you been resident in the UK?”

Erm…two weeks.

“Do you hold a full UK driving licence?”

Shit, no, it’s a Portuguese one.

Computer says no

Computer says no

The computer then assumes you’re a brand new Portuguese arrival who has never before driven on English roads, and goes on to quote you more for a year’s insurance than you paid for the car itself!

After sending one big firm packing, who thought the difference between a UK and Portuguese licence warranted a loading of £1400 on our policy, we finally found an acceptable deal, albeit one at nearly three times the price we were paying for insurance on a far more valuable car before we left for Portugal.

The lesson learned is a depressing one. None of the “under the radar” types who ignore all the rules would have had this hassle, or had to pay as much as us. Things like this seem to happen a lot.

We’ll never turn into different people. The fact we play by the rules is part of who we are. But it turns out there’s a hell of a price premium on doing things properly to sleep soundly at night. And that doesn’t seem at all fair somehow.

 

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