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

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Moving Back from Portugal – Some Early Observations

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Moving back to the UK after a long time in Portugal has been just as much of a shock to the system as when we did things the other way around. We’d become completely used to the Portuguese way of doing things, so it’s been a surprisingly interesting adventure.

In this post, I’m going to recount some of our initial observations and comparisons. It’s a terrible shame you can’t take the best of both countries and merge it all together somewhere in the hot sun!

Food, Glorious Food

The food in Portugal was one of the reasons we looked forward to moving there, and we still love it (enough to maintain Food and Wine Portugal!)

But….we have to be honest and say we started to get bored with a lack of variety, especially in the winter months, when we found ourselves in a bit of a rut of eating the same thing week in, week out.

Food in England - serious variety

Food in England – serious variety

Quite sensibly, Algarve restaurants often close for some of the winter or run with restricted menus, and there’s not so much of a takeaway culture. This is healthier, no doubt, but we had started to crave choice, and often found ourselves really uninspired by our options.

Well, now we have that choice. In the time since we left, food options in the UK seem to have multiplied far beyond what we remember, and all the shops seem to have all the products, all the time. Every trip to the supermarket or high street is both overwhelming and tremendously fun.

And now we DO have takeaway options: Chinese, Thai, Indian, Fish and Chips, Pizza, Kebabs – all to our door in thirty minutes. Not a habit we wish to get heavily into, but really exciting, not to mention useful when you are working, unpacking and baby-entertaining all at once.

I could go on for far longer about food, but for now England gets a big tick from us, even though we do already miss a few Portuguese dishes. However, what it really comes down to is that bacalhau aside (which would require a trip to London), there’s nothing we could get in Portugal that we couldn’t get here. There’s a LOT we can get here that we couldn’t easily get in Portugal. Oh, and all the supermarkets here deliver – very handy when you have a baby!

Booze, Glorious Booze

Now for the flip-side of the coin: beer and wine is expensive back in the UK. Really expensive.

In addition, when it comes to wine, it’s not actually that good here either. The entry cost for a bottle of wine seems to be about £6 in England now, and I’ve yet to be remotely impressed by anything at that price.

In fact, I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that I could go into a Portuguese supermarket and choose ten reds at €3 and under that would all be better than any “budget” bottle in Britain.

Unfortunately, at £6-10 a pop, wine’s not something to waste, so my research will be slow! If the friend I spoke to last night on the subject is correct, the best option is to drink wine less frequently and splash out on pricier bottles. Either that or we will plan a trip to France soon!

Our last remaining bottle of Portuguese wine

Our last remaining bottle of Portuguese wine

On the other hand, beer and cider here is a delight, just in terms of variety, even though it’s obviously far more expensive than in Portugal. A serious craft-beer culture has sprung up in our absence too, making every (rare with a baby) trip to the pub a rather exciting experience.

Media

I have to say I’m loving having full access to English newspapers again, complete with all the magazines and supplements at the weekend. Although I could read a Portuguese newspaper, it would take me days, and with such basic comprehension I think a lot of nuance went over my head.

Yes, you can get English newspapers in Portugal, but the choice is usually The Sun or The Daily Mail, without any supplements included. I always found it quite entertaining that the only papers available to the expat immigrants to Portugal were the right wing, anti immigration options!

Then there’s TV: In Portugal we had a full Meo package and it was….OK. However, much of the “premium” output was American trash and we never found much to watch.

Now we have a full Sky package with “catch-up” and more box sets than we could ever get through. And we have a Netflix subscription too. We’ve barely had the time to play with any of it, but I can’t imagine us finding a time when we feel there’s nothing to watch.  Best of all, it all works without fudged VPN solutions and hassle, and it’s quick, thanks to an Internet connection that’s about five times faster than we could get in Portugal.

Weather

Well, there’s no contest here is there? Portugal wins all the way, and a week spent seeing 27-degree temperatures, along with Facebook barbecue pictures from friends, resulted in our first real attack of homesickness for Portugal.

It’s not all bad, however. It may not be anything like Portugal back in South East England, but it has been dry and largely sunny since our return. A brisk walk in the sunshine to warm up and it’s actually quite pleasant out there…or so I continue to convince myself!

The sun does shine in England sometimes

The sun does shine in England sometimes

However, what I am struggling with is the reality of the fact that it could conceivably be months until we have a day that resembles summer, and that’s hard to get used to. We didn’t realise how much we’d come to take the weather for granted until we were back.

Culture

After Portugal’s solid climate victory, the UK’s lost some ground, so let’s move onto “culture.”

Here the UK is winning…big time. It’s almost as if every show and performance we’ve ever wanted to see has all been arranged for our return – or perhaps there was always this much going on and we’d just forgotten.

It seems as if every week we hear of something else we want to go to. So far we’ve got tickets to see our favourite DJ (Dimitri from Paris) play on an outdoor terrace on May bank holiday; Tickets for a one-day-only concert performance of our favourite musical (Follies) at The Royal Albert Hall, and tickets for Chic, Grace Jones and Kylie at Hyde Park in the summer!

And that’s really just the start. We’re only just beginning to see festival line-ups; remembering about Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre…the list goes on. I don’t think we ever realised how much we missed all this stuff.

So, all in all we have a rather mixed bag of first impressions, but putting the weather aside, we’re finding much to inspire us back in the UK. Now if someone could just recommend a serviceable red wine for less than six quid, our lives will be complete!

If you’d like to read more about our five years in Portugal, please 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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    Portuguese Wine in the UK | movingtoportugal

14 to “Moving Back from Portugal – Some Early Observations”

  1. Emma says:

    Where have you moved back to? I’ve just moved back to South East – Folkestone (although just for a year)….and am very homesick for PT!!! Not quite finding my inspiration here yet…. 😉

  2. Ben Algarve says:

    Hi Emma – we’re on the Kent coast too!

  3. Lisa Lloyd says:

    Hi Ben,
    I was really shocked when I read your earlier post to say you were all moving back to UK.

    This post has made me smile for its pure honesty. I agree with you, both places have their goods points and it would be lovely to merge them both. What a bittersweet time it must be, for you.

    So I see you have moved back to the Kent Coast. Far enough not to be bothered with the pollution, hustle and bustle and manic pace of London , but near enough to experience and socialise in all the wonderful places culture, wine bars, restaurants etc.

    If you’re not already there take a ride to Whitstable, not a sandy beach like Cabanas but it has some lovely independent shops, restaurants and they have a seafood festival and fish market so you and Louise could close your eyes and imagine!!!

    Hopefully Dean and I will see you all again walking along the boardwalk, or you never know, being in Kent ourselves (although not on the coast) we may bump into you along the Kent coastline.

    Wishing you, Louise and Freddy, the best of luck and happy days, for your new adventure.
    Welcome Home!
    Dean and Lisa

  4. Emma says:

    aha! well enjoy….i have been beachwalking and getting swept away by the cold winds!! (enjoying the sea air though) :-)

  5. Tracey Hand says:

    Funny, our internet here is shockingly slow compared to our PT internet!
    We had 135mb download with Zon.
    We have 12mb at best here with BT
    That’s what comes of living rural, I suppose.
    *sigh*

    And then there’s the weather…

  6. Ben Algarve says:

    135mb Tracey? Wow, we had a sketchy 7mb with Meo. Here we have about 30mb with Sky, which feels like a huge step forward!

  7. Ben Algarve says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for your message, we’ll certainly be back often for visits. For now we feel like we’ve made the right call though, which is a relief!

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  8. Becky says:

    Would you arise moving to portugal with a family for a new beginning?

  9. Tungas says:

    Well… your descriptions about Portugal are “weird”…. are you talking about the same Portugal I know? 7 mb of bandwith? It’s normal to have 100… No takeway? Where? Sure, you are talking about a small village in the middle of Algarve, right? Small variety of food products? Have you ever shopped in a big supermarket with thousands of products? No cultural life? LOL …In resume… after 5 years in Portugal … you don’t know really much about the country. You lived in a small village in Algarve and then you are comparing it with London…. try to compare a small village in the middle of England with Lisbon and you will have the same conclusions. Boa viagem.

  10. Ben Algarve says:

    Thank you for your comments Tungas.

    In terms of broadband, it depends where you are. Our relatives (who live in a far smaller place in the Algarve) have a far faster connection than we did. If you are outside an area that’s been provisioned for Fibra, your DSL connection speed is dependent on your distance to the telephone exchange. It’s the luck of the draw.

    And yes, I’ve spent plenty of time in Lisbon and shopped in plenty of big supermarkets (LOL). Even the largest Lisbon supermarkets don’t compare with those in the UK in terms of choice, with the possible exception of El Corte Ingles, where anything imported costs a small fortune.

    And I didn’t say there were “no takeaways.” I said “there’s not so much of a takeaway culture.” The two things have very different meanings.

    You seem to have taken an impartial post awfully personally. There’s no need be quite so confrontational!

    Oh, and we’re not living in London. We’re living in a small coastal town with practically the same population as Tavira where we lived – so I AM comparing like for like far more than you seem to realise.

    I adore Lisbon, but would still reach similar comparisons. London has 16 times the population of Lisbon, and only a couple of million fewer than the whole of Portugal. That inevitably means more culture, more choice, more multiculturalism and, yes, more takeaways!

    Perhaps you just don’t know that much about the UK!

  11. Ben Algarve says:

    Becky – that’s a huge question! Hopefully you’ll find plenty on the blog to help you decide, but one thing I’ll say is that unless you have independent means or a guaranteed way of earning a living there (which is harder than you could imagine!) then be careful of making snap decisions!

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  12. Tuga says:

    Hi Ben!

    Tungas was a bit harsh but does have a point. I don’t know the UK having only been to London a couple of times. And I get that you’re happy to be back home and compensate the bad weather with other things. But you should talk of the Algarve (that I know from friends from Faro to be pretty backward, they get amazed every time they come to the north and see how my town has developed) not Portugal. In spite of the crisis there is plenty of culture in Lisbon and Porto like world tour shows and even my small town has deliveries from Continente and small supermarkets. The Algarve is geared towards tourists not locals so you maybe would had been better in the Greater Lisbon or the Greater Porto areas that have more to offer. Not as much as London but that is not a fair comparison anyway.

  13. Marianne Ostrom says:

    I don’t care about broadband, but I don’t understand you talk about the food. You get fresh food everywhere in Portugal! Vegetables, fish and meat in every shop – big or small. I never have to buy tinned food or plastic packed cakes. Portugal is a wonderful food country.

  14. emma brunton says:

    Hi Ben, wow… you too… I know, the technology, TV, food and for me, the weather! I’m quaking with the expense of the real world though… $20 for a bottle of good wine here…
    Best wishes
    Emma B



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