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

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Archive for the ‘Moving abroad’


Only in Portugal! 3

Posted on October 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Boring techie stuff ahead – be warned!

As I mentioned last week, we’ve just finished moving into our new home in Portugal—or at least we thought we had.

It turns out that the finishing touches are still not quite…finished.

Our biggest challenge at the moment is all the technology, which is quite embarrassing when one of my working hats is that of an IT consultant.

Our house is modern, and beautifully built with a really good finish. Where the builder did go wrong is in deciding how many mains outlets to scatter around. The living / dining room sports just four sockets, one in each corner.

I want one of these

I want one of these

In a world where most people have at least a router, TV, DVD player and TV box, this is insanity. Yes, you can buy adaptors. I know this because we now have loads of them. At last count, we have seven items to plug in on our TV corner, several of which have big clunky plugs that cover up the neighbouring socket.

We’ve finally, thanks to a rather expensive product called PowerCube, been able to plug everything in without having to crawl behind the unit daily. You can take a look at it below – it’s really simple, yet really clever.

allocacoc 240V 4 Way Power Strip PowerCube Duo USB Extended

However, while we’re on the subject of “first world problems,” we’ve also had a problem with our Meo TV package (the Portuguese equivalent to Comcast in the US, or Sky in the UK).

I should have been in IT consultant mode when the engineer came to install it instead of naïve consumer mode, because it was a real bodge job. Like many modern Portuguese homes, we have some data cabling in the walls, but the same builder who was inexplicably stingy with mains plugs only gave us one data port by the TV, which wasn’t sufficient to run the cable up to the bedroom for the second Meo box.

MEO - Portuguese TV and Internet

MEO – Portuguese TV and Internet

What the engineer did was either highly ingenious or really daft, I’ve not quite decided yet. Essentially he used just one split cable both to feed in the ADSL connection, AND send a network connection upstairs in the opposite direction. I think I’ll go for “daft” on the basis that it worked for just a few days. I should have guessed when he was so keen to get out the door on installation day.

Rather than call them back, I decided to do my own thing. We had already (in a separate problem) discovered that our Wi-Fi gets nowhere near the top floor, which, in a cruel twist of fate, is where we’d decided to put our office room. So, I had that problem to sort out too.

I decided to use a clever “home plug” system from Devolo, which feeds the home network over the household wiring, and adds extra wireless access points. Details here:

Devolo dLAN 500 Wi-Fi Starter Kit

I have to say I was very impressed with these units, especially as their equivalents were worse than crap when I used to do IT work full time some years ago. There was just one problem though: they either die or slow down to a crawl as soon as they’re plugged into a multi-plug adaptor. As you will know if you’ve been paying attention, we HAVE to use those, as the builders of this lovely modern property decided one plug is plenty for the corner of a living room. (Although, as if to tease us, they fitted FOUR in the tiny upstairs cloakroom for some unknown reason).

So, as things stand, we still can’t use all of our electronic devices all over the house without lots of plugging and unplugging. We now have, at last count, six spare multi-plug adaptors, and miraculously STILL need to buy another one next time we go to the shopping centre.

The Powercube

The Powercube

I WILL prevail with this eventually – but until then, please don’t ask why our Wi-Fi doesn’t work on the top floor (especially when I “work in IT”), or why I’m crawling around behind the TV again. Anyone doing so may experience a painful encounter with a four-gang socket ;-)

I should point out that the products I’ve mentioned above are both REALLY good, and come highly recommended!

IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

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Living in Portugal: Our New Home 1

Posted on October 20, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Ben) Just as we approach our five-year anniversary of living in Portugal, we have finally completed the move to our new home.

This weekend was hard work, and not helped by the fact that summer has decided to return to the Algarve.

Living in Portugal - Autumn Weather

Living in Portugal – Autumn Weather

Please don’t get me wrong, because I’m certainly not complaining about the weather shown in the image above! However, it certainly made moving the last five carloads of possessions an arduous and sweaty process, especially as most of the things left were those things you neither use nor want to throw away, so most of them had to be carried to the storage cupboards on the top floor of our house.

Our fast-growing “baby” boy wasn’t massively impressed with us. He didn’t find moving house very fun, even though he’s been given the biggest room in the new property all to himself! So now we’re done, it’s time to give him lots of cuddles and attention, something he’s unlikely to be short of this week when my mother and family arrive to meet him for the first time.

I have to confess that I’ve dragged a couple of this week’s tasks forward to next week. I’ve not seen my family for ages, and it seems very fortunate that their arrival coincides with such a beautiful week of weather. So I’ve decided to slack off a bit. I may not get sick pay, holiday pay, or any of the job security that comes with being an employed person, but every now and then being freelance is bloody great – just like living in Portugal :-)

Living in Portugal in the Sunshine

Living in Portugal in the Sunshine

Would you like weather like this in October? Check out out book! Moving to Portugal

Readers in the USA will find it here.

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Moving House in Portugal 4

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s a well-known theory that moving house is “one of the most stressful things you can do.”

I’m not convinced I buy into the theory, as I can think of plenty of other far more stressful things, but it’s certainly tiring, time-consuming and arduous. It’s what we’ve been doing for the past week and half, and the reason this blog has gone rather quiet lately.

Algarve sunset from our new home

Algarve sunset from our new home

We’ve not completed the move yet. I’d say we’re perhaps 70% of the way there, but thankfully we still have plenty of “cross over period” left, so we don’t have to rush too much with the final bits.

A simple post about the move would be rather dull, so I’ve decided to do a list post, talking about the good and bad bits of the move so far, which should paint an overall picture of how we’ve been getting on.

The Good Bits

  1. Taking in our beautiful new sea view from the roof terrace. I’ll be surprised if I ever get bored with this or take it for granted. One surprise has been the fact that it never occurred to us that the night view would be just as wonderful, when all the lights of the town twinkle below, and we can make out each of the departing fishing boats as night begins to fall.
  1. Buying lots of new things for our home, from electrical goods, via shelf units and bins, to treats for our infant son, including the pictured “jumperoo,” which is a great success, even though it’s twice as big as it looked on the box picture and could do with a room of its own!
New kids toys in the new house

New kids toys in the new house

  1. Feeling surprisingly fit and healthy, as a result of every single day being a non-stop mission of climbing stairs and lifting boxes—who needs the gym?!
  1. Cooking and eating our first meals in our new home, and enjoying the extra kitchen space—even though muscle memory is causing me to reach for everything in the wrong place and bumble about clumsily.
  1. Enjoying having south facing outside space, so that we can appreciate the evening sun. We did have a south facing terrace on our old apartment, but the one place where there was room for a lounger was directly below where the swallows nest each year, making sunbathing a treacherous and dirty experience…

The Bad Bits

  1. Breaking a few treasured items in the process of moving, including some serving dishes, and a much-loved steel saucepan that bit the dust in an “unfortunate” mini-inferno while I was foolishly trying to multi-task.
  1. Taking my holidaying father-in-law to hospital in Faro in the dead of night due to a stomach issue. (This is a “good bit” too, as he’s absolutely fine now, and was impressed with the care he received).
  1. Worrying that me treating said father-in-law to too much rich food and wine may have been the cause of the above!
Our first meal in our new house in Portugal

Our first meal in our new house in Portugal

  1. Being really proactive in changing all of our addresses only to find that we’d been given the incorrect postcode for our new home, requiring us to start all over again. This has resulted in a stern ticking off from one accountant, and silence ever since from another, who’s clearly unimpressed about having to do the work twice. It wasn’t my fault!
  1. Buying a five-gang socket to place behind the TV unit, then buying a six-gang socket as I realised I was one short, then realising today that the Internet people would need another one for the router. On the bright side, at least we will now have plenty of adaptors for Christmas lights later in the year.
  1. Realising, while I write this, that there’s still absolutely tons of stuff to move.
  1. Feeling sad watching all of the homeliness gradually being stripped away from our old apartment, where we’ve been very content for nearly five years. I feel oddly disloyal when I pop back there to grab something else. I’m a sentimental soul.

So there you have it. Our new house is gradually taking shape, and I hope that a week from now, we’ll feel like we’ve at least nearly finished. “Visitor season” is now upon us; after my father in law leaves on Wednesday we have six more people visiting between now and the beginning of November. Even with a nearly new baby, I wonder if we’ll wonder what we did with our time once all this calms down!

If you’re considering a move to Portugal, please check out our book!

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

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A Rather Grey Summer in Portugal 15

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

MOANING, WHINING POST TO FOLLOW…YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

(Ben) Well, here I am with a beautiful new baby in the middle of the Portuguese summer. I should, by all accounts, be walking on air. And a lot of the time I am. However, over the last few days I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

Although I pride myself on giving a “warts and all” account of life in Portugal, I do try to keep my posts largely positive. As a result, I’ve spent much of the day glancing at my “to do” list, seeing “write Moving to Portugal post,” and switching back to doing something else because I don’t want to use this blog as a place to moan.

Unfortunately though, I’m also rather obsessive about ticking off all the things on my “to do” list—so if you’d rather not hear me have a cathartic brain-unload, you may wish to navigate away now and return another day when I’m back to talking about sardines and sunshine.

So, what’s landed me in this rather grey mood? Here are the main things:

  1. The state of the world 

Israel and Palestine; Russia and Ukraine; My own local bank being exposed for corruption on a grand scale; I (really) could go on…

Sometimes I wish I could temper my natural curiosity and need to research, because the current state of the world is truly depressing, and potentially on the precipice of some seriously horrible shit.

Head in the sand - like most of the Western World

Head in the sand – like most of the Western World

To add to this, I get frustrated that so few people seem to realise or care, and know far more about football and the Kar-bloody-dashians than they do about issues that will, one day soon, affect them and their families.

“Ah, but how can the world depress you when you’ve got such a beautiful new son?” I hear the optimists amongst you say. Because he’s got to grow up in this world too, and there’s only so much I can do to protect him from it—and that frequently keeps me awake at night.

  1. Portugal’s “Summer”

It’s not been that bad, but this Algarve summer has been far cooler and cloudier than usual. I moved here for the weather, and never expected to wake up to grey skies in late July.

  1. Job dissatisfaction

I should make very clear that I’m very lucky to have the wide range of regular work that I have. However, I’ve recently started to realise that I spend much of my working life prioritising earning money over doing work I enjoy.

Yes, yes, I know the same applies to half the working world, but I’d love to spend more time lavishing care on this site and on www.foodandwineportugal.com – I’d also love to write another book, but my new-found identity as “provider for a family” has turned me back into a wage-slave, which is exactly what I moved away from the UK to escape.

Losing sight of why we came here

Losing sight of why we came here

There are other things I could cite: niggling health symptoms, family crap, but those are the main reasons I’m having a bit of a down phase.

So, on that depressing note, what do I propose to do about it? Well, the one thing I am always glad of is that I’ve never been one to wallow in the doldrums for too long. Much of today has been devoted to working out how to redress the balance and flick the positivity switch back in the right direction.

On that note, here’s my plan:

  1. I’ve already enrolled on a Child Psychology course, and later today I’ll be making a start on the lectures. I recently found out I’d got a good mark in the Open University course I completed last year, but struggled to justify signing up for another module straight away thanks to ludicrous fee increases and the need to spend the money on nappies and formula. Even though I’ve not missed the stressful run-ups to assignment deadlines, I have missed the mental stimulation and the learning, so this is a good compromise, and I’ve managed to find a properly accredited course for far less than the punitive OU fees.
Time to start studying again

Time to start studying again

  1. I intend to continue to spend hours of each day playing with my baby son, who always does something exciting and new every single day.
  1. By the end of today, I want to kick off my next online project—perhaps some kind of “expat dad” blog, or a new eBook. To ensure I stick with it, I will (at least try to) refrain from being swayed by Euro signs when I’m offered writing work that I know will bore me to tears.

That just leaves me with the general state of the world to sort out—something I’ll probably struggle to manage single-handedly! Still, I’ve plotted a bit of a life plan for the next few months, which is quite enough for one day.

If you’ve reached this point in the post—well, I really should thank you for listening! If you’re bored of hearing me moan, I did warn you!

I’ll conclude by suggesting that prospective Portugal expats take this post as a lesson that real life follows you everywhere you go, and that moving abroad is not a cure-all. On the other hand, I just know I’d feel way more down in the dumps if I had to commute home from central London this evening instead of sitting on the balcony studying my for my new course ;-)

There ends my catharsis. I feel better already.

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

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Portugal vs. England! 6

Posted on July 10, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Ben) As you undoubtedly know if you’ve followed the blog for a while, it’s been a rather long time since I posted an update from Portugal.

I won’t apologise, as adjusting to having a new baby at home leaves us with little time, and I now plan to type quite a long update to make up for it.

Last week, I took a little trip to London. My mother had a major operation earlier in the year and I’d wanted to visit sooner, but the NHS decided to schedule the operation to coincide with Louise’s due date.

Going back to the UK always provides me with plenty of inspiration for the blog, because after so long in the Algarve I cannot help but make contrasts between my old life (and home) and my new one.

A taste of my old life

A taste of my old life

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s best not to take to the keyboard and rant on the day of my arrival in London for fear of offending those who still live in the big city. However, it’s proof that I’m living in the right place that I usually spend my first 24 hours in the UK feeling unsettled, stressed and annoyed.

It always begins with the simple things: Why do I always have to wait nearly an hour for my luggage at Gatwick despite already having waited in an immigration queue for ages? HOW MUCH is my train ticket into London? Why are there SO MANY people here? Why don’t they TALK to one another instead of gazing at their iPhones? You probably get the picture.

This trip back was particularly gruelling as I arrived in London during the evening rush hour on the hottest day of the year. I got to my London-bound train just as the doors were closing, and was surprised that I managed to squeeze my suitcase into the vestibule. I was even more surprised when at least eight other people squeezed on behind me into the same vestibule, complete with eight more suitcases and a bike. As I gasped for air and tried to contort my arms enough to remove the antibacterial hand gel from my bag, I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth I managed to put up with London commuting for over a decade.

By the time I arrived at my destination I was hot and bothered and experiencing what could only be described as sensory overload. I stood outside the train station feeling truly overwhelmed by the number of people, and genuinely surprised that I felt like such a fish out of water in a place I’d lived for so long.

Clapham Junction - A Blast from the Past

Clapham Junction – A Blast from the Past

After a quick and easy hotel check-in, I popped in the bar for a bottle of beer, which I drained in minutes due to the heat. I then found myself wondering how much longer it would be until someone came and asked if I wanted another one. Then I remembered that it doesn’t work that way in England, and that I’d have to go and get it myself. I then calculated that (based on current exchange rates) two beers in the hotel bar would cost as much as 10.2 bottles of Sagres in my local at home, and decided to give the second one a miss.

The next morning, I truly was a visitor in my old life, as I had to set off first thing to do a job on a client site. By now I was beginning to enjoy the change of scenery rather more, but still couldn’t help but notice things, such as how miserable everybody looked despite the sunshine, and the fact that there must have been around £4000 worth of smartphones and tablets contained within every three metres of train space.

With my work complete, I went off to meet my mum, and it was at that point that I began to enjoy London life. We went to the theatre in the evening, something always certain to give me a reason to miss the easy access to culture that I used to benefit from. People spotting in Soho was lots of fun too, but most of all it was wonderful to see my mum after so long, and to see her looking so much better than she did last time I saw her. Indulging in various foods I’ve missed for months was pretty damn good too.

Gourmet burgers in London

Gourmet burgers in London

Thanks to the wonders of free hotel Wi-Fi and FaceTime, I was able to maintain regular contact with home, and I checked in with Louise and our baby at least a few times each day. I have a lovely screenshot of him smiling at me on the camera, although I think the fact that daddy had turned into an iPad may have spun his little head a bit.

The rest of my few days flew by, and before I knew it I was back in Faro, complete with lots of little presents for the family and a selection of bargains from the 99p shop, all of which will save us many Euros over the coming weeks.

So, all in all it was a good trip, but one that only went to reinforce the fact that Portugal is now my true home—something emphasised by the fact that it took me 48 hours to stop speaking Portuguese in shops by mistake.

Back to paradise

Back to paradise

Hopefully I’ve managed to be as balanced as possible in my account of my trip, and stopped short of offending my London associates. However, I must have a few little mini-rants before I step away from the keyboard:

  1. How does anyone cope with the dreadful mobile data network in the London area without smashing their smartphone in frustration? Perhaps it’s the sheer number of people, but I’ve not had such problems with connectivity anywhere else in the world.
  1. How is it that the UK media blame the EU for excessive rules and regulations when there are seemingly more of them IN the UK then anywhere else in Europe? “No glass bottles outside!” “No smoking on this section of pavement!” “No flip-flops in the bar!” “No cash payments on the bus!” Come on! Just let people live their lives.
  1. £4.80 for a 330ml bottle of beer? Seriously?!

Fancy a change from UK life? Read about how you can do it in our book: Moving to Portugal

Readers in the USA will find it here.

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Easter Break in Portugal 3

Posted on April 22, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

As I type today, I’m looking back on a very enjoyable four day weekend in Portugal. When I started work this morning, I paged back through my calendar out of curiosity, and confirmed it’s the first time we’ve had such a long break since Christmas.

An Easter BBQ in Portugal

An Easter BBQ in Portugal

Now I’m pretty sure that when we moved to Portugal we did so in the hope of an improved work / life balance, but it seems we’ve not quite managed it…I think the problem is that now we’re both self employed, we must take a financial hit for every day we take off work. However, the past weekend has shown us that we should perhaps make more effort to step away from our laptops. Who’d have thought that in our “more simple, more laid back” life, we’d have to wait for a bank holiday to get around to changing lightbulbs?!

With this in mind, our whole routine is about to be shattered beyond recognition anyway, because our baby is now due in just two weeks. Needless to say we are both going through distinct phases of excitement, anticipation and blind panic…

Back in the UK, my mother is due to have an operation this week. She’s been on a waiting list and I had really hoped to be able to fly out to be there with her. Unfortunately, the dates have just lined up at the worst possible time. We’ve lived in Portugal for nearly five years, but nothing until now has made me feel the distance between us and some of our loved ones quite so strongly. I hate the thought of my mum being in hospital in one country while we’re having a baby in a hospital in another country – but there’s nothing we can do about it at this late stage.

All being well, however, I fully intend to get myself over to the UK once mother and baby are settled.

That’s all I really have time for today, by way of a quick update, and I should probably say now that my presence here is likely to be somewhat sporadic over the coming weeks for obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, if you want to read more about life in Portugal, why not buy our book? We can put the royalities towards Junior’s college fund ;-)

Have a good week.

Our book:

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

US Readers will find it here.

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Portugal Cost of Living – An Insight 6

Posted on March 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

When it comes to the cost of living in Portugal, I must confess that I have often been “that guy” on the expat forums, telling prospective immigrants to Portugal that they shouldn’t be under any illusions that Portugal is a cheap place to live.

In many ways, it’s not. Petrol costs more than it does in the UK (seriously), and the price of cars is truly shocking. Utility bills are often higher too—we have to keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer.

HOWEVER: The other night I thought of all of this in another way.

Portugal Cost of Living

Portugal Cost of Living

So far this year, my wife and I have done OK.  My wife, especially, has carved out a very successful freelance career since her redundancy just over a year ago. We feel “comfortable,” but when I actually do the sums, we’re not even approaching the income we had in London back in 2009.

But then I thought about it another way. In London, our rent was £1250 per month. Where we live now costs €450 (£375)…and this place is enormous by comparison.

So, we save £875 per month, just in rent. That’s £10,500 per year.

We also lived in the London borough with the second highest council tax. That was another £200 per month. Yep, that’s another £2,400 per year. We don’t pay any here.

As we lived in “outer London,” we also had to pay for an annual travelcard to get to work. This one really will blow your mind: £2288 each–£4,576. Let’s face it, that’s basically five grand. Here, we work from home.

Sadly not everyone can work from home in Portugal

Sadly not everyone can work from home in Portugal

So what do we save every year on these things alone? £17,476. And we needed all that money AFTER tax. With tax taken into account, we’re talking about the equivalent of just a little below an entire UK average wage.

That’s quite impressive already, as an annual saving. Obviously the balance is redressed somewhat by the fact that our income tax is a little higher BUT, consider this:

-       A beer after work? That used to cost me £3.50 (€4.20). Now it costs a Euro.

-       Cigarettes that cost £8.50 (€10!) in the UK cost €4 here.

-       You can get a good meal out for €8.

-       Nobody in Portugal would have the audacity to charge you to park in a shopping centre car park.

Beer IS cheap in Portugal

Beer IS cheap in Portugal

I’m not going to add up the totals from above. If I did, I’d have to be honest about my personal consumption of beer and cigarettes – with you, and with myself! However, it’s clear that in many ways, life in Portugal is, indeed, cheaper.

Now of course this doesn’t mean life here is easy. Building up our freelance incomes has been a seriously hard slog, and we have both done plenty of assignments at rates that wouldn’t even come close to a UK minimum wage. However, now we’ve paid our dues and proved ourselves, we do OK.

Before I finish this post, I must state some caveats, however. If I didn’t, I’d be painting an irresponsibly positive picture of how expat life can be. Consider the following:

1. Not everyone can start a freelance career from nothing. My wife and I are both fortunate that we have skills and experience that translate well to home working. If you don’t have these skills, you should disregard everything I’ve written here and pay attention to the fact that many people in Portugal earn little more than €500 per month before tax if they speak Portuguese and manage to find a job.

2. The comparisons I make are with London life and Algarve life. Few places are as expensive as London, so the net saving for many people will actually be substantially lower than ours.

Even so, working out these figures has given us a huge reason to be cheerful. Even if the numbers on our spreadsheets still look rather pitiful compared to the numbers we had when we lived in the UK, the one thing that’s for sure is that we feel we get far more LIFE for our money. And surely that’s what our move to Portugal was supposed to be all about?

If you want to find out more about the cost of living in Portugal, check out this article.

For even more about the practicalities of life in the sun, please consider buying a copy of our book:

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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Butterflies, buds and bellies – Portugal in spring 7

Posted on March 03, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(Lou) Last week was definitely an interesting one. Both Ben and I have work stacked up in front of us, which is great as we save up for the (ever closer) impending arrival of our little bundle of joy later this year.

Portugal in spring - buds and flowers are everywhere

Portugal in spring – buds and flowers are everywhere

The alternately cloudy, sunny and blustery weather has suited our indoor lifestyle, which has consisted of working all hours and spending time in the kitchen making the most of fresh produce such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and flavourful young carrots.

For me, the routine was broken by my regular monthly check up at our local Centro de Saúde (health centre). The day didn’t start too well, when I got in the car and turned the key, only to hear a click and then silence. However, the resulting taxi that I had to get to the Centro de Saúde meant an opportunity to practice my Portuguese, which is something that always pleases me. (The new car battery that we had to purchase later that day wasn’t quite so pleasing.)

On the way to the health centre, I chatted to the taxi driver about the weather, about the traffic and about the health centre’s services for pregnant women. After a few minutes of conversation, he asked me,

“You’re not Portuguese, are you?”

Portugal in spring - pink sky at night

Portugal in spring – pink sky at night

A simple enough question, but nonetheless a landmark in terms of our settling here. He hadn’t asked if I was English, but instead was uncertain as to whether or not I was Portuguese. It might seem the tiniest of distinctions when under scrutiny, but if felt as though I had taken another step towards true integration into Portugal – something which has become increasingly important to me now that we are expecting our first child here.

I shall ignore the fact that two days later the proprietor of a local seafood shop at the market was utterly incapable of understanding my (I thought) perfectly enunciated request for a dressed crab, lest it detract from the above victory.

After the check up with the doctor (all is well) I took advantage of the combination of carless-ness and sunshine to walk home rather than paying for another taxi. As I waddled my way chubbily along, I was treated to the site of buds and catkins on the trees, while butterflies danced through the warm air. Clearly nature has noticed that spring is on the way.

Portugal in spring - pretty white flowers

Portugal in spring – pretty white flowers

Another incident occurred when I popped to our local shop a day or so later. After chatting with the shop owner and another customer for a couple of minutes – they were kindly sharing Portuguese tips for how to deal with labour and giving birth – I realised that I was holding up an English tourist and her daughter, who were queuing behind me while we nattered. I paid for my goods and took my leave.

It was only when I got home that I realised the significance of the occurrence – I used to stand behind the Portuguese ladies chatting in the shop, not understanding their conversation and tapping my foot impatiently, waiting to be served while they talked and laughed. Yet suddenly, I had become one of that group of women happily chatting away in Portuguese and caring nothing for things like speed of service – a far cry from the London-fuelled impatience and lack of linguistic understanding that I used to exhibit when we first lived here.

While these may seem like minor incidents, I am left with the feeling that I have, almost without realising it, become more of a local of late. It’s something that has crept up on me unawares. I’m under no illusions that I still have a long way to go in terms of truly becoming Portuguese. My grammar is poor, I find unnecessary bureaucracy maddening and I haven’t yet dared to buy clams from the man with the bucket who sells them in the car park outside the supermarket. Still, it seems that I’m getting a little bit closer with each day that passes.

Portugal in spring - river path

Portugal in spring – river path

If you would like to know more about our early days in Portugal and how we got to where we are now, please feel free to 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
US Readers will find it here.

Posts you might like:

Seasonally Affected in Portugal 8

Posted on February 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted on Moving to Portugal. I shall be honest and say it’s because I’ve not really found an awful lot to write about.

Until this week, the weather has been decidedly dull, and the simple fact of the matter is that there really isn’t that much to do in the Algarve when the weather is poor. We don’t have cosy country pubs with log fires, or Cafe Neros with big sofas (although we do have far better coffee).

Algarve Weather - nothing to write home about

Algarve Weather – nothing to write home about

With a heavily pregnant wife, choices are restricted further. The popular expat option of steadily drinking until the weather improves is certainly off the table!

Thankfully, the sun has returned this week, and just in the nick of time as I was beginning to feel decidedly down in the dumps. Despite plenty of work AND keeping up to date with my degree course, I was still saying “I’m BORED” like a sulky teenager at least a couple of times each week.

As soon as the sun came out, my mood was transformed. It’s not as if it’s suddenly spring, as the temperatures are struggling to rise much higher than about 15 degrees, but it’s still been enough to encourage me to get out and walk again. On Sunday, I even managed to sit outside and read in a T-shirt – in the suntrap of my balcony it actually felt warm.

Last night, Louise gently reminded me that it’s just 11 weeks until our baby is due. I’ve never known time to both drag and fly in such a contradictory way, but having spoken to other recent parents it seems it’s actually quite normal. Apparently in about 6 months time we will give anything to feel “bored” again.

On the subject of boredom, it’s actually a rather common state of mind amongst expats right now. A couple of weeks ago, there were some satellite changes, resulting in the loss of BBC and ITV channels. Currently, thousands of expats are scrabbling around trying to find ways to get Eastenders back.

UK TV Gone in Portugal

UK TV Gone in Portugal

To be frank, I find it all a bit depressing. When you see how mobilised a group of people can become about a topic, you can’t help but wonder how much GOOD such collective motivation could do if it were pointed at a worthy cause. Sadly, however, that’s not the world we live in. The government raise taxes to pay for their own mistakes? Nobody really minds that much. Huge scandals are uncovered? Nobody makes more than a passing comment…

But take Jeremy Kyle away…well SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! What strange priorities we have.

I do feel for elderly people out here. UK TV was a lifeline for them, and few of the alternative solutions are as easy to use as a Sky box. However, UK TV is not a right for anyone living in Portugal, and was never being offered as a legitimate service anyway. Portugal has TV too, and if a few more people watch it they might start to learn the language of the country they’ve chosen to live in.

I did write an article some time ago about an easy way to get UK TV in Portugal. Here is a link to it.

Having read all that back, I am conscious that it sounds a bit ranty, so I obviously haven’t had quite enough sunshine yet. I will do my best to get more cheerful before I post again!

Whenever you're ready summer

Whenever you’re ready summer

Just before I go, I’ve noticed that this in the 200th post on Moving to Portugal. Working on an average length of 750 words, that means we’ve now written 150,000 words – a good few books worth! If you’ve yet to read Moving to Portugal: The Book, which contains plenty of unique content, please check it out below. If you’re one of the people missing UK TV, it will keep you busy for a few hours ;-)

Moving to Portugal: How a young couple started a new life in the sun – and how you could do the same
US Readers will find it here.

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Life in Portugal – Spring is in the Air 2

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

Lou here with a quick update. It seems strange that spring has arrived so fast this year. Christmas and New Year have barely passed and yet this weekend we’ve been enjoying days with temperatures of 20C plus. We’ve fished the sunglasses out from the back of the drawer, braved the outside world while in short sleeves and admired the blossom that has burst into life on the almond trees – one of the sweetest sights and scents that the Algarve has to offer.

Life in Portugal - not long until it's beach time again

Life in Portugal – not long until it’s beach time again

Having grown up in England, it seems strange that winter can have passed so quickly. Even after several years in Portugal it is not something that I am used to. My brain is still full of winter baking recipes to try out in the kitchen and we’ve only just made this year’s batch of chutney, so the sun drawing us inexorably to the beach has presented quite a mix of contradictory feelings.

On the one hand, it’s delightful to be cleaning down the barbecue ready for another long season of lazy weekends spent feasting on local produce. On the other, I’ve got all sorts of winter tasks still to be completed before we switch to our vastly different summer schedule. I can’t really believe I’m admitting it, but another couple of weeks of rain wouldn’t go amiss!

Thankfully, as this is our fifth winter in Portugal, I’m well aware that the first warm weekend of the year doesn’t signal the full on start of spring, but it’s been lovely to have a taster of it nonetheless.

Life in Portugal - spring is well on the way

Life in Portugal – spring is well on the way

Our daily lives in Portugal have settled into a well-balanced schedule over the winter months. Weekdays are spent working, with the odd diversion (after all, what’s the point of being freelance, if you don’t occasionally get to take time off between 9 and 5?); evenings are spent knitting baby clothes (me), trying out new recipes (Ben) and watching films; and weekends are for quiet, local activities.

It’s a routine that suits us for a couple of months each year, while we recover from the hectic pace of summer, but usually by February we are ready for the tourists to begin arriving again and livening up the calm, quiet town that we live in over the winter months.

For those considering starting a new life in Portugal, I would strongly recommend visiting it during all seasons. There can be precious little to do during the winter months in some areas, while others become so packed during the summer that they are unbearably crowded.

Life in Portugal - a winter sunset

Life in Portugal – a winter sunset

It’s one of Portugal’s many contrasts and one that we are still becoming accustomed to. By the end of the summer, we can’t wait for the tourists to go home and give us back the wonderful peace of the winter months. By the end of the winter, we are desperate for the tourists to return and crank up the pace of town life once again.

For the moment, I’ll have to find a way to juggle my brain’s incomplete list of winter tasks with my body’s desire to bask in the sun. I can think of worse dilemmas to have.

If you like the blog, why not try the book?

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

US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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