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

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Guest Post: My Wife’s View

Posted on May 12, 2010 by Ben Algarve

I thought it would be interesting to give a slant on my sometimes perhaps slightly rose-tinted view of our move to Portugal, so I asked her to write a guest post reviewing her first six months in this wonderful, sunny country! Here’s what she said:

Sunrise on another beautiful day

Sunrise on another beautiful day

Being asked to write a guest post for my husband’s blog started me thinking seriously about how I feel about Portugal after six months of living here. It also made me think about the life I left behind in London.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve adapted to some things, while other things still take me by surprise every day. Greeting people in Portuguese and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road felt natural within weeks of being here, yet I’m still surprised and overjoyed by how bright the sunshine is each morning when I open the blinds.

The cost of life in Portugal is also something I take for granted now. I was genuinely shocked at the cost of dinner out for two last time I was in London: £100 for the meal, plus the train there, the drinks before and after, and the £35 taxi back to the hotel. Here we can get all the fish we can eat for €9 per person – and that seems normal now.

It’s also strange that the things I miss are so different from the things I thought I would. Missing family and friends was always a given, but with regular trips back to England, having visitors here and the wonders of Skype, I don’t actually feel like I’m missing out too much. It’s the little things that I’ve been most surprised about missing – things like spring onions and Thai food (yes, I am as food obsessed as my husband!)

So, how do I feel about it overall after six months? The true answer is that I’m very, very happy to be here. I’ll gladly live with never eating Pad Thai again if it means that I can stay in

Spring onions - Worth Missing Out on

Spring onions - Worth Missing Out on

this wonderful country. The people are so welcoming and supportive of (well, amused by) my efforts to speak their language and settle in their country. Each day brings some kind of small triumph, whether using a newly learned word in conversation or making our first green salad with leaves grown entirely on our balcony. Life now is so far removed from those hours spent fuming in London traffic and feeling tired/stressed all the time that I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.

Before this starts to sound too sugar-coated though, there are definitely some unexpected downsides to living in Portugal. Mosquitoes, for example. While numerous bite-riddled trips abroad have long since taught me that my blood tastes particularly delicious to these flying cretins, I’ve never seen mosquito bites as more than a minor irritation. Until I lived here. Now every bite brings with it ridiculous swelling, incredible itching and the feeling that my skin is on fire. All of which last for days. I suppose I should be grateful that this gave me the chance to put into practice the ‘trip to the chemist’ module from my Teach Yourself Portuguese CD. It’s hard to be philosophical about it though, when my arm looks like a balloon.

Another unexpected downside is… Hmm… Ok, so I’m sitting here stumped as to what else is bad about living here. I do really want to give a view of both sides of life here, but the only other bad thing I can think of is that shampoo is a bit more expensive than it is in England. As is conditioner.

I’ve thought long and hard whilst writing this about whether I have any regrets about leaving London to live in Portugal and the simple answer is no. For someone who values happiness over money and loves the simplicity of life in the sunshine as much as I do, all I am left wondering is why I stayed in London for so long!

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21 to “Guest Post: My Wife’s View”

  1. OlivAmor says:

    I too suffer with bad reactions to bites like that (A mosquito allergy is it? Haven’t the foggiest) I tend to suffer through it, so no advice here.
    But on another note, it appears that you have made the right decision thus far. Continued best wishes!

  2. saz1 says:

    Hi, there is quite a good Thai restaurant in Vilamoura (almost opposite Mcdonalds on the raod into the town) if you are having really bad withdrawal symptoms. Before we bought our place in Tavira we used to go and visit my dad on his boat there and found the Thai relatively authentic, although possibly on the expensive side. But it is Vilamoura after all!

    We are just waiting for a Thai restaurant to open in Tavira . . . might have a long wait.

    Glad you are both enjoying your life in Portugal.

    saz

  3. admin says:

    Thank you for that Saz – we will have to take a trip over there at some point soon. We have also been told there is a particular Chinese restaurant in Vilamoura which is apparently very good indeed (would have to check the name with my friend.)

    Best wishes, B

  4. admin says:

    Hi there,

    Yep, the mosquitoes are on a mission round these parts at the moment. I don’t tend to have so much of a problem because, unlike a certain wife I could mention, I don’t scratch them and make them so much worse 😉

    Best wishes, B

  5. sophie says:

    Wonderful post! I particularly liked “Each day brings some kind of small triumph” i never really thought of it like that (or didn’t put it into those words) but it’s so true, even after 7 years of being in Portugal!

  6. Juliete A. Cook says:

    I moved to the Uk from Portugal when I was 12 in 1974, the year of our revolution and freedom from Salazar and his fascist regime. I loved coming to the UK and back those days, schools didnt know what to do with kids like me, so i spent a good portion of my day just sitting in a classroom absolutely bored to death and scared too, as I didn’t understand what was going on and vice versa…Anyway, britain is my home now, and I doubt I could ever live back in Portugal again..even though I miss the weather and the climate very much and there are times that i do dream of going back there again and being part of a nation which is totally lovable and wakky and very intelligent. I know the Portuguese people are loved all over the world and im happy to have brought that into a corner of the UK, and im sure you will too moving to Portugal…you will bring much to the people over there and vice versa. What is amazing is that we have had the opportunity to have experienced life from a different culture at least once in your life. I wish you all the best and you guys will do well im sure !~

  7. The Wife says:

    Thank you Sophie and Juliete for reading the blog and for your kind comments.

    It’s good to know that even after 7 years here I will still be having those feelings of small triumphs, particularly as my language skills progress. As Juliete says, it can be scary when you don’t understand what everyone around you is saying! We are feeling more settled all the time though and I feel so lucky to be a part of the culture of this wonderful country.

    Best wishes.

  8. Phil Austin says:

    Hi there.

    Loved the post. Loved the sentiment. Loved the enjotment that oozes from it.

    My partner Sarah, and I, are hoping to be making the move to Portugal later in the year. We are both winding up our affairs here in the UK and viewing various sites for property. We havent decided where we will finally settle yet but Im favouring the centre of the Country near Tomar/Coimbra/Silver Coast area provided that the climate is good and no snow is present … ever! whilst Sarah favours the Monichique hills of the Algarve.

    Good luck to you both

    Regards

    Phil & Sarah

  9. Jane says:

    I suffer the same reaction with Mossie bites. A pharmacist told me to take anti-histamine tablets for them and that has always worked for me since. Worth a try next time you get savaged!

  10. The Wife says:

    Hi Phil and Sarah,
    I hope your move goes well – I remember what those days of planning were like! Particularly as the move date got closer, we found ourselves going from excitement to panic and back to excitement again many times each day. Good luck with choosing where you will live – the area around Coimbra has some stunning scenery, but personally I love being so near the sea here in the Algarve.

    Hi Jane,
    Thanks for reading and for the suggestion. Currently I’m taking anti-histamine tablets and using an anti-histamine cream that also contains calomine, but the bites are still flaring up. A friend recently suggested that if you eat Marmite daily then mosquitos won’t bite you as your blood tastes bad – so I’m trying that at the moment too!

    Best wishes to you all.

  11. CcoR says:

    War on mosquitos…

    1. Put mosquito nets on your windows.

    2. Use one of those electrical devices that carry a small tablet with some chemical against mosquitoes. switch it on with teh windows closed and go for a walk, later on switch the device off, open the windows….and enjoy a good night sleep without being attacked.

  12. admin says:

    Thank you for your suggestions, we need to do something as we are still both being eaten alive!

  13. Alice says:

    how lovely to have a guest post from your wife :-) (not that I don’t enjoy your posts just as much!!! but still) … I think it sounds like you have it sussed. At the end of the day, happiness should always win over money in my book; and to find that happiness with some sunshine – well, you can’t really go wrong, can you?!

  14. The Wife says:

    Thanks Alice,
    I’ve always thought it a little strange that money is so often prioritised over happiness. It’s nice to know there are kindred spirits out there!
    Best wishes.

  15. IsabelPS says:

    As someone prone to huge swellings from mosquito bites (or from flies, that seemed to be quite common in my childhood in Lisbon!), I’ll let you know a very efficient way of getting rid of them: fill your bathtub with hot water, pour half a bottle of vinegar in it and soak for a while. All gone!

    I must say that I only use this recipe from my childhood when the swelling doesn’t seem to disappear on its own, like once in Macao, because a vinegar bath is not the most sweet smelling of things. But I tried just putting vinegar on the afflicted spot and it doesn’t work (although I never tried soaking a pad of cotton in hot water and vinegar, that might do the trick…)

  16. admin says:

    Hi there,

    My wife has read your comment and is keen to try it next time she is attacked – they seem to have left her alone the last couple of weeks (touching wood!)

    Best wishes

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  17. Jenn says:

    Thank you for your bit about mosquitoes! I’ve just left Portugal and am amazed at the potency of the bites. They left my husband alone but ravaged me…glad to see I’m not alone. :)

  18. admin says:

    Hi Jenn,

    They seem to affect some people far more than others – sorry you’re one of the unlucky ones!

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  19. Ro says:

    Eating bananas can make you more susceptible to mosquitoes. I’d also suggest closing the windows/doors at dawn and dusk, but you may have worked this one out by now!

    Thanks for all your posts, my partner and I are considering moving to Portugal, and they have been very helpful.

  20. Ro says:

    I forgot to add, some people confuse mosquito bites with sand-fly bites. Sand-fly bites tend to be large swellings, super itchy, and develop feral scabs because you cannot stop scratching them. I don’t know if you have these in Portugal, I think they may also be called midges. If this is what they are, the best way to deal with these (apart from the things you are already doing) is to spray your mosquito screens with surface spray (they can get through the mesh), and keep the ceiling fans running as they don’t like breezes.

    Good luck!

  21. The Wife says:

    Hi Ro,

    Bananas are one of my favourite fruits, so I do tend to eat a lot of them. I think this summer I will need to change my diet! We do indeed close windows and doors at dusk and, at my mum’s suggestion, often spray the frames with repellent as well, to discourage the mosquitoes from coming in when they are open.

    It’s definitely the mosquitoes that are biting me rather than sand flies – I’ve had a sand fly bite before and it took forever to heal as I simply couldn’t stop scratching it!

    Many thanks for your advice and I’m glad you have found the blog helpful in considering your move to Portugal. Good luck in making your decision :-)

    Best wishes,

    Lou



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