This week, I’ve decided to write a lighthearted yet serious post – a step-by-step, back to basics guide to moving to Portugal.
The steps in this guide are really rather obvious, but will hopefully help some people turn their dreams of life in the sun into reality. It is surprising how many people we come across who think they can miss out some of the steps, or do them in the wrong order, and still expect good results.
Life here is still real life – and while sunglasses are essential in this part of the world, those with rose-tinted lenses are best avoided. Here are the steps:
1. Fall in Love with Portugal – I said these steps would be obvious, and none could be more obvious than this. Remarkably, though, I have encountered people on expat forums beginning to make plans to move here having never visited the country, or having only ever holidayed in Albufeira!
If you’re going to move your life to a new place, you need to have a genuine passion for it – not simply be swayed by good weather or cheap property. These two things exist in many other places too.
2. Research – First off, you need to decide where you want to live. The Algarve is the destination of choice for many expats, but it is just one area in a country with much more to offer.
Next, you need to find out about healthcare, residency, taxation, schools, the cost of living in Portugal and all the other dull, real life things that you have to have sorted out if you are ever to manage to relax on the beach.
3. Do the Sums – If you are retired with a generous pension, this may be easy. For everyone else, it will (sadly) be money that dictates whether life in Portugal can be an achievable reality. Finding work in Portugal is incredibly difficult – and us expats who bang on about it on the forums are doing so to prevent people making a huge mistake, not to be grumpy killjoys.
4. Work out how to Earn a Living – This doesn’t mean getting on the plane with a few hundred Euros and “looking for bar work.” Portuguese people, many of whom are university graduates, are leaving the country in droves, advised by their own government to look for opportunities elsewhere.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to earn a living if you think outside the box. People do run successful businesses here, and more and more people manage to do so by working freelance or remotely via the Internet. But, if you have an idea and the people on the expat forums shoot it down in flames, listen to them – they are trying to help.
5. Visit Portugal Several Times (at different times of year) – Portugal is NOT a permanently hot country. Furthermore, if you’ve only visited the Algarve in summer, you will have no perception of how different the place is in November or February. Don’t guess or make assumptions – you have to see for yourself and accept that it may change your mind about a few things.
6. Make Plans – If you get through the first five steps, are still committed to moving here and have enough money in the bank to get started, then things can begin to get exciting. Decide where to live and start looking at property (ideally rental to start with, so as to be sure of your chosen area).
7. Learn Portuguese – Fluency can take years, so it’s never too early to start – most established expats will tell you they wish they knew more when they got here. Officialdom is a lot easier to get to grips with when you understand some of it, and the locals will be much nicer to you if you’re trying hard.
8. Set a Move Date – Once everything is in place, find a European removals company, book your shipping, and start to get excited. Now is a good time to have a clear out and get rid of some clutter via eBay and car boot sales. It all helps to boost the moving fund.
9. Get Ready for a Hectic Six Months – They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can ever do. Moving countries is worse – so don’t expect much sleep. Try to enjoy it, though – it’s a very exciting time.
10. Relax – Try to arrange to be “off” for a few weeks to enjoy your new home, and get to know your neighbours, bartenders and local restaurateurs! You may now be in Portugal, but you probably still need to sort out an accountant, a lawyer, residency, insurance, a car, a library card, a TV package, a phone and Internet access. By the time you’re half way through that list, your first guests will arrive, and they’ll expect a barbecue.