During our time living here we have seen first-hand that property in Portugal can be a tricky subject. The apartment block where we live has, like many developments across the Algarve, suffered from the economic crisis. Of the apartments on our road, only two or three are occupied fulltime. Others are owned as holiday rentals, but the majority of them have been empty and unsold since they were built. With this in mind, I took a more in depth look this week at the property market across the country…
Property in Portugal – time to own your own balcony?
The property market in Portugal has suffered in recent years, in line with the country’s economic hardships. Prices have fallen and the average property takes some 16 months to sell. In our part of the Algarve, there are countless developments where either the building has been finished but the flats are mainly unsold and empty, or where the building work has simply stopped halfway through, ready to be continued once Portugal’s financial situation improves.
However, it seems as though some positive news may finally be on the horizon for the Portuguese market. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Portuguese Housing Market Survey February 2013 has highlighted that although prices are continuing to fall, confidence in the market is on the up. Inquiries from buyers are at their highest rate since the monthly survey began back in 2010 and the national confidence index (based on a combination of prices and sales expectations) is at its highest level for over two years.
The survey observes that the lettings market is also showing signs of strong demand, although, as with the sales market, prices are continuing to fall. This is good news for anyone looking to move to Portugal and initially rent their accommodation.
Property in Portugal
So is it the right time to buy property in Portugal? Perhaps. Prices are low and the market is showing the first signs of recovery, so now could be the time to pick up a great bargain. Of course, it’s certainly possible that prices will fall even lower, so it might be that even better bargains could be had for those willing to wait a few more months.
With rents continuing to fall, those looking to move to Portugal would do well to consider renting initially, regardless of whether the plan is to buy somewhere eventually. Renting allows you to get to know an area and be sure it is right for you before committing to purchase property. After all, going somewhere on holiday and living somewhere are two very different things. Just because a particular town or village is the perfect holiday destination doesn’t mean it will be the ideal place in which to live fulltime. Renting also affords you the time to make contact with your local estate agents, to ensure that you have the chance to explore all of the suitable properties in your area before deciding which one to buy.
Buying property is often a difficult and stressful business, but whether you choose to buy immediately or rent first, try to enjoy the ups and downs of the process, safe in the knowledge that your dream property in Portugal is just around the corner!
Some months ago my mother asked if Ben and I would house-sit for her and take care of her pets while she spent ten days in England. We agreed without a moment’s thought, eager to sample Portuguese country living. We live in a modern apartment where we are very happy, but had always wondered what life must be like living in the countryside in the middle of nowhere. This week, we have had the chance to find out.
Country life in Portugal – abundant flowers
My mum’s house sits at the centre of an orange grove. Olives, apples, pears, plums, pomegranates, loquats, grapes and more all grow in amongst the orange trees in a sprawling and largely untamed orchard. Bay trees, which fetch such a high price in England, spring up everywhere the second you turn your back and it is a constant fight to chop them down and compost them before more appear. In the midst of the abundant vegetation, an old stone irrigation tank has been turned into a rustic swimming pool, making an idyllic setting for long summer evenings.
When we arrived with our suitcase last week, ready to begin ‘house sit 2013,’ the first thing I noticed was the intense, mingled scent of jasmine and orange blossom, so strong that the air feels like some kind of flowery, breathable soup. The next thing I registered was a hyperactive kitten leaping out of a clump of poppies to playfully attack an unsuspecting cat that was out for a stroll. And thus the animal antics began.
The kitten looking for her next victim to pounce on
Now, when we agreed to house-sit I obviously knew my mum had pets. I also knew that they were all a bit bonkers in their own way. The elderly, pint-sized dog (smaller than all the cats, including the kitten) is completely deaf and a bit incontinent. She is also fond of finding neighbouring dogs ten times her size and yapping ferociously at them. The kitten – the latest addition to the ‘family’ – bolts around the house at hyper-speed, attacking the other pets, the humans and pretty much anything else that takes its fancy. There is a giant cat that seems to be half cat and half panther, both in size and temperament. There are also another three cats, plus one semi-feral cat that gets fed but not let into the house.
Some cats are allowed out of the front door, others out of the back door and some have to remain inside. They all have different amounts of weighed-out food, while the dog is on six different kinds of medication for her ailments. A full three pages of the seven page instruction manual that had been prepared for us was devoted to what and when to feed the pets.
Despite all this preparation by my devoted mother, the first feeding time was a disaster. Before I had even opened the first packet of cat food, the kitten was up on the worktop trying to prise the packet out of my hand with her claws and I earned my first scratch. When I did get the packet open and tried to squeeze the food out into the bowl, she put her head into the packet and ate the cat food as it emerged. Meanwhile a swarm of hungry animals was weaving around my legs, each intent on getting its dinner as soon as possible.
Kitten charging around the worktop at feeding time
After distracting the kitten with some biscuits, I was able to get the cat food dished out and give the patient little dog her medicine. While I was doing this, the kitten took advantage of my inattention and ran from bowl to bowl, using her lightning-fast speed to wallop each cat over the head in turn and then grab a chunk of their food while they were distracted. Copious amounts of hissing and clawing ensued. When I tried to intervene and remove the kitten, the giant panther-cat bit my foot. Thankfully I was wearing trainers and survived the incident with all toes intact.
The panther-cat ended up eating the dog’s food. The dog ate the kitten’s food. The medium size cat chased the kitten around the room. Then the panther-cat was sick on the floor. Twice. It was chaos. I ended up going to bed at 2 am, exhausted and wondering if it would be acceptable to call my mother and beg her to come back early.
Divide and rule – panther-cat eating her own food!
A new ‘divide and rule’ approach the next day helped with feeding time and by the end of our week in the country it had become a precise, military-style operation, with each animal eating its own food out of its own bowl in a separate room of the house, with an airlock style system of closed doors in between them all.
We had planned to spend our days in the countryside relaxing, reading books, barbecuing and perhaps even having a dip in the pool, weather permitting. Sadly the weather not only didn’t permit going in the pool, it pretty much ruled out going outside. When the sun did occasionally peep out from behind the clouds, it was accompanied by winds strong enough to have me chasing the washing around the property from where it had blown off the line. Instead of our anticipated mini-holiday, we spent our days sitting indoors and working.
Country life in Portugal
The silence and solitude of the countryside were both peaceful and a lonely at the same time. During the day I enjoyed hearing nothing more than the bees humming as they pollinated the orange blossom in the orchard, but at night I missed the distant (and somehow reassuring) sound of traffic passing on the EN125. Being able to see the stars so clearly in the night sky was amazing, but having always been quite afraid of the dark (as you can’t see who/what may be creeping up behind you) I also found the outdoors a little spooky. It turns out that in the countryside, as in space, no one can hear you scream.
Having a fabulous array of fruit, vegetables and herbs at our disposal was something we had looked forward to. Unfortunately the rain meant that the ground in the orchard had turned into a bog, so other than grabbing a couple of oranges off the nearest tree we simply stared at the other produce across an ocean of mud before going to the local shop. Still, the herb garden was accessible and we very much enjoyed picking abundant quantities of fragrant goodies and cooking with them in the large, country-style kitchen.
I did enjoy the country kitchen
With the rain, the snails also came. Going anywhere outside after dusk was a horrible, crunchy walk of death. Even when we used torches somehow the poor snails still found their way under our trainers. After the third night we tended to only go out during daylight hours.
This all sounds rather negative and I certainly don’t mean to dismiss the idea of rural living – the space, scents and solitude were all wonderful at times. I think that it is just that, for me, moving from London to a sleepy seaside village is far enough – a move to the countryside would just be one step too far. Although I’ve always had a distant romantic notion of living in a farmhouse with a brood of children around me, eating my freshly baked cakes smothered in my freshly made jam, while my husband puts his feet up by the open fire, it turns out that actually, at heart, I’m a city girl through and through.
Life in Portugal can be tricky enough when you’re trying to negotiate the endless paperwork or identify strange looking cuts of meat in the butcher’s, let alone when you try and work out how to speak Portuguese.
How to speak Portuguese – be prepared to study hard
The difficulty with learning Portuguese is that what you say and hear doesn’t seem to correspond much with the written language, especially when you live in the Algarve where people have a heavy accent. With accents peppering the words and changing both the sound and the emphasis, Portuguese is a hard language to master. We have been here for nearly 3.5 years now and are still nowhere near fluent, although I do feel that we are learning more every day. In our case it doesn’t help that we both work from home, rather than having jobs where we spend all day with people speaking Portuguese.
If you are moving to Portugal soon or even just holidaying here, here are my top ten (tongue-in-cheek) Portuguese language cheats that will hopefully help you out.
When you are uncertain of what you are saying in another language, it is natural to speak slowly and try to say each word perfectly. If you do this in Portugal, you may well be met with a blank look. Instead, speak as fast as you can, pretending that you are speaking flawless Portuguese. You will have a much better chance of being understood.
A beer please!
‘Uma imperial se faz favour.’
This means ‘a small beer please.’ In most bars you will get a lovely, small glass of beer. Given how hot the Portuguese summer is, ordering a succession of small beers means you don’t end up drinking the too-warm second half of a pint. In some touristy areas, even if you ask for an imperial you will be given a pint (‘uma caneca’) anyway, so that the bar can charge you more.
This phrase is often usefully followed by ‘mais uma, se faz favor’ – ‘one more please!’
To say ‘thank you’ in Portuguese, men say ‘obrigado’ and women say ‘obrigada.’ The gender of the person to whom you are speaking does not matter. This is FACT, even though some Portuguese people will try to tell you that’s not how it works.
Can to be this
‘Pode ser isto’ – the literal translation is ‘can to be this,’ but this rather awkward phrase is actually used to mean ‘can I have this,’ so you can use it in shops, cafés, restaurants and anywhere else where you are able to point to the item that you desire.
Pode ser isto – useful for buying all kinds of things
If in doubt, smile and nod
When we first moved here, even basic interactions could be a struggle, despite six months of me obsessively playing Portuguese language CDs in the car anytime I drove anywhere before we left England.
There were many times when neighbours, shop assistants and others that I interacted with tried to make pleasant conversation about the weather, football or other random subjects. At first I would freeze in such situations, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights while my fellow conversationalist painstakingly repeated the sentence in a futile attempt to make me understand. The result was usually an awkward silence while I blushed and felt stupid.
These early struggles allowed me to develop the smile and nod policy. Now when someone speaks to me and I don’t understand them, I don’t panic, I just smile and nod. Astonishingly, 90% of the time this is accepted as an appropriate and satisfactory response on my part. Although I still have no idea what has been said to me, instead of just feeling tongue-tied and stupid, I use my nodding time to replay the sentence in my mind and try to catch the key words that will make it all become clear.
Of course, this policy is far from fail-safe and it is absolutely not to be used when dealing with government officials, lawyers or anyone else where you could be agreeing to something serious without realising it!
Instantly get rid of excess waiters!
Warding off additional waiters
‘Já pedi’ – this means ‘already asked,’ and is a handy phrase for using in bars or cafés where you have already ordered but you spy a second waiter approaching with a notepad and an eager look in his eye.
Write it down
If you need to deal with officials in Portugal who don’t speak English, it’s often helpful to write down your request and take it with you on a piece of paper. That way if you bungle the pronunciation and they look confused, you can just hand over your pre-written request and – provided your handwriting is neat – be understood.
This approach was essential when we were trying to obtain our atestado document to prove that we lived in our village and had to ask two local residents to sign our form (apparently in the village council’s eyes the rental agreement for our apartment was not sufficient proof that we lived there).
I’ve also successfully used this method the first time I ordered a large takeaway and the first time we had to exchange our empty gas bottle – knowing that my grasp of Portuguese was at the time insufficient for these (now mundane) conversations, I took along my trusty piece of paper, which on both occasions saved the day.
Write it down
‘A conta, se faz favor.’
In Portugal you are welcome to sit and relax once you have finished your meal in a restaurant. You can enjoy the company of your friends or family and engage in after-dinner conversation, without the staff desperately trying to get you out of the door so that they can turn the table. This is part of what makes dining in Portugal such a pleasant experience. However, for those ready to pay and leave, it can be a little frustrating. If that’s you, use this phrase, which means ‘the bill, please.’ Of course you could also use the internationally recognised mime of writing on your hand!
Have a glass of wine
It’s astonishing how much more confident a glass of wine can make your attempts to speak Portuguese. After three glasses I’m unfailingly convinced that I’m fluent, much to the dismay of my Portuguese friends.
Confidence in a glass!
And if all else fails…
‘Desculpe, não entendo.’
If all else fails, you can resort to this phrase, which means ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand.’
Our efforts to speak Portuguese have been overwhelmingly well received. Even when we get in a muddle and mispronounce things or say something silly, the fact that we have tried always goes down well. Even if you have no plans to work out the full intricacies of how to speak Portuguese, a few choice phrases will ensure you stand out and earn you service with a smile wherever you go.
If you want to hear more about our adventures with the Portuguese language, why not check out our book: Moving to Portugal
It’s been quite a weekend for us here in Portugal.
It started on Friday with a visit to our accountant. This is an annual meeting, which reveals the provisional figure for our tax bill.
Suffice to say the news wasn’t good. We have a gargantuan bill to pay in the summer and sadly, due to the fall of sterling, something of a shortfall to make up between times.
Portugal Blog – Saving up for the tax bill
If you’d have told me late last year that it would have made better sense to keep our tax savings in the safety and security of a Portuguese bank, I probably would have laughed. We left it in a UK bank. However, a run of bad news out of the UK this year has hammered the pound. On a Portuguese tax return, your UK-based earnings are converted at the exchange rate on the last day of the tax year. For 2012, that was about 1.23. We ended up moving the money at 1.15. Well, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that that’s a pretty crappy turn of events does it?
Now, the events in Cyprus have seen the Euro struggle a bit, so we may make back some of our losses in the coming months. But this does go to prove that living in one country and continuing to earn money from one with a different currency can put you in some precarious situations. You win some, you lose some.
“Still, at least we have the sunshine,” my wife said. This proved rather ironic when at 9am on Sunday morning we were woken up by an apocalyptic hail storm, featuring stones the size of marbles.
This weekend, we’ve also spent a lot of time on the phone with various friends and family members planning their holidays in Portugal. Strangely, we don’t get an awful lot of visitors in the winter(!) but we have a flurry due in the next month or two. Hopefully, summer will make an appearance soon for us as well as them, as right now you can’t predict what’s going to happen from one day to the next.
Portugal Blog – More days like this soon please
So, for now, it’s time to get our heads down and make up the tax bill money as quickly as possible, which means switching to frugal mode. The irony here is that we actually rather enjoy the lean times – being economical yet inventive in the kitchen, and being forced to enjoy free (and healthy) outdoor activities. We just need it to warm up a bit. The beach costs nothing – but it’s not much fun in a hailstorm.
PS. We’ve had some great (and enlightening) responses to our Portugal Blog Survey, posted last week. Soon we will publish some details of the responses, and start to tailor some posts based on requests readers have made.
Life in Portugal doesn’t always involve sitting on the beach and drinking cocktails, although of course I do try to do that as often as possible (it’s Lou here today, by the way). This week, with high winds and torrential rain, we have hibernated indoors with the heating on full blast.
The miserable weather has given me a chance to spend some time furthering my studies of the Portuguese language, to watch a few movies and to spend some time in the kitchen, the results of which can be seen on our sister blog, Food and Wine Portugal. It has been a chance to regroup and relax in our lovely home.
So much rain, even the plants are suffering
However, a full week of this weather has led me to reflect on a fact often overlooked by holidaymakers and those considering moving to Portugal – there is really very little to do here when the weather is bad.
Once you have exhausted the shopping centres and worked your way through the cinema listings, the Algarve quickly runs out of bad-weather attractions. Strolling around pretty little towns, lazing on the beach and sitting outside a café for a coffee are all activities that quickly lose their appeal when it’s pouring with rain. The result has been – in our village at least – that locals have either stayed indoors or flocked to the village’s bars, seemingly content to simply sit and drink until the sun comes out.
Winter life in Portugal – the beach isn’t so inviting in the rain
Thankfully we both work fulltime, so the bad weather hasn’t had the chance to lead to too much boredom. Once you add in the usual domestic chores, which sadly don’t go away when you move to another country, the day fills up pretty quickly. So for the moment it’s a case of battening down the hatches, working hard and saving up for the dreaded annual Portuguese tax bill. Still, it will all be worth it once the sun finally comes out again and we can begin to enjoy all the wonderful activities that summer life in Portugal has to offer.
The last couple of winters have been dry and fairly warm. In fact, during Christmas 2010, the weather in Portugal was such that I sunburned my nose on Boxing Day! But clear, warm days make for sharp, cold nights.
Sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this
Last year, the time between November and February was so dry that people started to mention the word “drought.” Then April, a month that often sees us beginning to visit the beach regularly, brought weeks of wind and rain.
I’m not going to go all technical and start talking about climate change. These observations are aimed at those who are considering a move to Portugal. Sometimes, those who haven’t lived here through a few winters are blinded by marketing literature that boasts of “over 300 days of annual sunshine.” And while this information is perfectly true, it doesn’t give the full picture. Not at all.
There are some key points to consider here. Firstly, many properties are poorly insulated and built so they stay cool in summer, rather than warm in winter. Secondly, central heating is absent in all but the most luxurious of properties, and anyone who tells you that reverse cycle air-conditioning is a realistic substitute is talking nonsense.
So, when you look online at the winter weather in Faro from a centrally heated property in a “colder” country and see lots of days that say “16C, Sunny,” you can put the envy on hold. While, admittedly, we are feeling the occasional bit of sun on our faces, we are, in fact, spending most of the time running up extortionate electricity bills trying to stay warm indoors.
But sometimes the weather in Portugal is like this
Even tourists get a false impression of the weather here at this time of year, with many enjoying drinks and snacks outside during the warmest part of the day on pleasant suntrap terraces. If you live here and have to work, you don’t often get the chance to do this.
Now, all of this probably sounds like a big moan, and I guess, to a point, it is – because no one back in the UK ever seems to believe that people who live in the Algarve find themselves willing on the start of summer just as much as they did before they moved. The point of this post is to provide a strong warning that winter can be just as cold, crappy and disheartening in Portugal as it is anywhere else.
On the bright side however, it is sunny rather a lot, and once summer arrives, you can guarantee it will stay put. I would never want to return to those UK years where you get to September and have to accept that you’re simply not getting a summer this year. You can avoid that by moving to the Algarve, but you can’t avoid feeling cold in the winter. Unless, perhaps, you move to Madeira…
PS. The above details our experiences of weather in the Algarve. Far more varied and extreme weather can be found elsewhere in the country – just pointing that out before anyone else feels compelled to!
This week, I had an opportunity to speak to a representative from Which Offshore, a specialist team of expat experts, about the implications of moving to Portugal during your retirement years. I hope the following interview is of interest to those in that situation.
Who are you and what do you do?
We are Which Offshore, a community of expats living all around the world. We help to educate, explain and inform expatriates on all aspects of offshore personal finance and help them make the most of the unique opportunities available to people living abroad.
What is the first thing I should do on arriving in Portugal to plan for my retirement?
Expats moving to Portugal from their home countries will have access to opportunities not available to the peers they left behind. For example if they have a pension that they have been paying into back in the UK they may be able to transfer this offshore.
Sort out the intricacies of your pension provision to free up time and money to enjoy your new life
I’ve heard about a QROPS. What is it and could it help someone like me?
QROPS stands for Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme and is one way to gain access to a paid up UK pension. It is the set of rules put in place by the HMRC that govern such transfers and is suitable for UK citizens who are no longer resident in the UK.
If your circumstances qualify for a QROPS it is possible to transfer one of more UK pensions to a jurisdiction with an ideal tax environment allowing an even more comfortable income in retirement.
I became an expat to enjoy my life in the sun! Why should I care about offshore pensions?
It is easy to become comfortable with your pension provision when living in the UK with often generous company pension contributions and a state pension to fall back on. However, expats living in Portugal need to think carefully about their impending retirement years with a different situation in their new home.
With expat pension plans there’s normally no minimum age to begin draw down and offshore pensions are considered an asset in their own right, meaning that you can pass them on to beneficiaries. You basically have a greater level of flexibility in terms of what you can do with it. Retirees can sometimes even take control of the entire asset, in cash, when they retire, with pensions for expats offering far more choice than with traditional UK plans.
Ok that all makes sense. How can Which Offshore help me?
Here at Which Offshore we know that making the right pension decision isn’t always easy, and that’s why we’re committed to offering as much support as we can to simplify the process.
If you’re in need of more personal attention we can put you in touch with trained financial advisors who will be able to offer expat pension advice on a one-to-one basis, taking you through the various pensions for expats to decide which one would be right for you, ultimately helping to ensure you can make the most of your retirement. For more information, please visit http://www.whichoffshore.com/
I have something a little different for you today – a musical post.
For a while now, I’ve been intending to put together a list of the songs we’ve come to associate with our move to Portugal.
Most of the time, our home runs on music. Sometimes many days can pass without the TV being switched on, but the iPod dock is in constant use.
Some of this music isn’t necessarily to our normal taste, but certain songs have become intrinsically linked with our move to Portugal – to leave them out would mean failing to tell the whole story – so don’t judge us on all of them!
Emma Bunton – “Free Me” (Album)
Yeah, yeah, let’s get all the “Ben loves the Spice Girls” giggling out the way. As my closest friends will know, I’ve always had a soft spot for a little girl power.
All joking aside, if I had to choose one album that makes me think of our early weeks in Portugal, it would be this. It may seem odd that someone who knows about all kinds of obscure house, soul and hip-hop places this in his top ten albums of all time, but it’s true.
It’s a beautiful chunk of Motown-tinged pop that never gets dull. It reminds me of sunny afternoons driving around the Algarve, and long days of cooking in our first house in Tavira, where over a decade of London tension first began to thaw away.
Marvin Gaye – “I wanna be where you are”
OK, I’d better find something a little more highbrow and credible for my next choice, so here we have Marvin Gaye.
This is from a quite obscure B-sides album, and is a simple groove as much as a song – but what a groove it is, with strings and brass that I could, quite literally listen to all day long.
This is my “work done, wine poured, time to peel the prawns” tune. My wife, who doesn’t really do soul music, merely tolerates it.
Odyssey – “Native New Yorker”
My life would be incomplete without this track. I associate it with having visitors staying in Portugal with us and have been surprised by how many friends were already familiar with it.
I also (girly moment) remember shedding a tear upon hearing the line “where did all those yesterdays go” in the hours after my mum had left to return to England after her first Christmas visit to Portugal. Hearing it now, I’m reminded that this time next week I will actually be on my way to New York!
Mambana – “Libre”
I could easily write a separate post listing all the Latin house tunes that I associate with our life in Portugal, but that would bore everyone to death, so I consulted my wife as to which to include.
To me this song is all about driving down the Algarve’s N125 road on the way to a beach, often with a couple of mates in the back of the car. Hearing it now is enough to give me goose bumps in advance of this summer.
Thick Dick – “Insatiable”
This is a house tune that I remember from my clubbing days. A couple of years ago this Balearic-tinged version appeared, complete with its laid-back Spanish guitar sounds.
It’s a track that’s equally as perfect through the headphones by the pool as it is blasting in the car on the way to a night out. It featured heavily in our summer last year. It’s basically summer distilled into five minutes – which is a good thing.
The Milk – “B Roads”
Right, time to man up with something a little more guitar-based. The Milk’s album, “Tales from a Thames Delta” was one of my highlights of last year and our car soundtrack for several months.
It’s a track that tends to come out when we’ve got too much to do and feel a bit up against it: “you gotta live on the run, or you’ll die young” is quite an inspirational message!
Jay-Z and Kayne West – “Clique”
This tune makes me think of my young mates in our local town, and of a few mad nights out. Lou (my wife) loves it too, earning it a place on this list.
Over-the-top swag hip-hop, complete with lots of sweary lyrics. Parental discretion is advised.
Oddisee – “Hustle Off”
Oddisee is a hip-hop artist I discovered last year. His album “People Hear What They See,” was the iTunes hip-hop album of the year for 2012.
This track isn’t actually on the album, it’s more of an obscurity, but the “sometimes you just gotta turn your hustle off” message is very resonant for those of us who’ve decided to slow down our pace of life.
The Nextmen – “Whisper Up”
A list of songs related to our move to Portugal wouldn’t be complete without some poolside reggae. “Whisper Up” is a quirky little number that I doubt many people are familiar with – but it’s instantly appealing and often causes people to ask “what’s this?”
Fierce Collective – “Baker Street”
This is Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” turned into shameless handbag-house. I was never a massive fan of the original (other than always whistling it whilst walking through Baker Street tube station).
This version, however, I discovered during a particularly crappy week of work in London, and it came on my iPod while I was on the Gatwick Express en route back home to Portugal. I’d never previously realised the lyrics were all about swapping city life for something rather more like ours. By the time I pulled into Gatwick train station and reached the “you’re going home” line, I was nearly crying for joy with the certainty that we’d done the right thing by moving to Portugal.
Michel Telo – “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”
You may know this one. It’s a Portuguese (Brazillian) song that has reached number one in 16 European countries. However, it’s not so well known in the UK, where, as recent events prove, they don’t really like joining in with everyone else.
This song reminds me of summer days and nights out, and it always delights me when I hear English expats sing it…in Portuguese.
The Quiet Boys – “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”
I had to include this song. The dilemma was which version, as I seem to uncover a different one every couple of months. Any one of them is perfect for playing quietly in the background whilst floating in the swimming pool (made from a converted irrigation tank) at our family’s place nearby.
I’ve gone for this acid jazz flavoured version, but I apologize to Roy Ayers for not choosing his. I have, however put the Roy Ayers version here as my choice is the one item on this list too obscure to find on YouTube.
Compiling this list of twelve songs has been a really enjoyable (and at times emotional) experience. I have no doubt that over the coming days I’ll think of countless other tunes I should have included. But I still feel that this list provides a good representation of the soundtrack of our life in Portugal. I hope you enjoy it.
Moving abroad is something that everyone does for their own personal reasons. For us, quality of life and better weather were two key reasons behind our decision to move to Portugal (it’s Lou here, by the way).
While sunshine and high temperatures aren’t guaranteed in Portugal in the winter, it’s fair to say that overall the weather here is a vast improvement on that in England. We’ve had a wonderful December, full of bright, sunny days, albeit turning cold the moment the sun goes down. January has been more of a mixed bag, with rain showers and cloudy days reminding us that it is still winter after all. This weekend, high winds have deterred us from venturing too far, so we’ve made the most of relaxing and appreciating the quiet life of the Algarve.
Moving abroad – where will your journey lead you?
After a wonderful meal of fresh fish at Vela 2 in Santa Margarida on Friday night, we battened down the hatches and spent the weekend indoors, hiding from the wind. Although some chores did intrude on our relaxation (our oven is now sparklingly clean!) I was able to indulge in some Portuguese cooking, finish knitting two scarves that I started before Christmas and bake banana bread with a chocolate spread centre.
One of the things that I love about the Algarve in winter – and the reason I can relax so thoroughly when the weather is bad – is that there simply isn’t that much to do here when it’s not sunny. In our local area, poor weather means that our choices are limited to the cinema or shopping. Although there are occasions when we do yearn for a little more, it generally means that we can spend the winter months hibernating and relaxing, saving up our energy for the frenetic life of Portuguese summertime.
Moving abroad – a new dawn
Of course winter doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work. Come rain or shine, my working day begins at 8.30 am. On days like today, when I have a huge ‘to do’ list, the day began even earlier. I got up and opened the shutters to see what the day was like, only to realise that it was still dark. It came as quite a surprise – my lack of a commute to work means that those weeks on end of getting up while it’s still dark (and getting home while it’s dark) during the English winter are a thing of the past. It’s something that I have almost, after more than three years in Portugal, come to take for granted.
This morning served as a wonderful reminder of how much our quality of life has improved, in subtle ways as well as obvious ones. We still have to deal with the pressures of work and the endless chores and trips to the supermarket, but we’re more relaxed while we’re doing it now. Instead of a hellish commute to work through London traffic in the dark, I drank my tea this morning while typing and watching the sun come up over our balcony. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer start to the week – it reminded me all over again how lucky we are to be living in Portugal and how much our life has improved since moving abroad.
A quick guest post for you today, with some back to basics advice on moving to Portugal that all makes good sense!
Moving abroad and becoming an expat in a foreign country is a choice made by thousands of individuals, couples and families every year. Some of those decide to make the leap to Portugal, where the sun (almost) always shines! We have produced these top ten tips for someone looking to move to Portugal from abroad.
Moving to Portugal is stressful but worth it!
1. Attending school is compulsory in Portugal from the ages of six to fifteen. This is known as Ensino Básico (basic education). Education can either be state or private. Despite education being free in the state system, you will be expected to purchase books and other equipment.
2. Before the age of six, your child can attend a pre-school (kindergarten) if you so wish. There are a variety of types of pre-school, including state, private, charitable and cooperatives. Registration occurs during June and July. Requirements are typically a medical check, birth certificate, health card showing vaccinations and an inscription form.
3. There are also private schools teaching the Portuguese national curriculum and others that teach an international curriculum in various foreign languages. However, only some of these schools will go up to the secondary level. The schools should be registered with the Portuguese Ministry of Education. Note that an international curriculum is not automatically accepted by the Portuguese education system and so this should be considered when you are selecting a school and curriculum.
4. Once you have your health card, you are usually assigned a Médico de Família (family doctor/GP) at your local health centre. You should take your health card or the Número Utente (patient number) when registering at a health centre for the first time and also when seeing a doctor other than the one you have been assigned. Although health care is funded via taxation, you will still need to pay a small fee at each visit.
5. Farmácias (chemists) are open in every town during normal shopping hours, which are typically 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. and 3 P.M. to 7 P.M. Outside of these hours there is a Farmácia de Serviço (duty chemist) available. Every chemist should have a list of the duty chemists in the area on its door. A chemist can also usually offer advice when you are unable to get to your health centre or family doctor.
6. If you need emergency treatment, you should dial 112 (free). This number also covers fire and police.
7. Check that all utility bills are paid in full before buying or renting a property or you could become liable for any debts. Take readings from the meters so that you can check any bills you later receive.
8. Many motorways in Portugal have tolls. Some have tollbooths, but others only have an electronic system for paying, which is operated by Via Verde Portugal. Toll machines can be hired or bought in special Via Verde shops or at Portuguese post offices. If you end up on a Via Verde without a toll machine, you will need to pay the toll charge within five days or you will earn a fine on top of the toll fee. However, you have to wait 48 hours after driving on the road before you can pay, in order for your journey to be registered on the system.
9. Relocating on a permanent basis to another country, especially one which has a different language and culture, needs thorough planning. If you have children and need to work, this is even more crucial.
10. As with all big decisions in life, research is the key and one must always remember that living somewhere is completely different to holidaying there.