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

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Archive for the ‘politics’


A Rather Grey Summer in Portugal 15

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Ben Algarve

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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Seasonally Affected in Portugal 8

Posted on February 19, 2014 by Ben Algarve

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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Moving to Portugal’s Survey Results! 2

Posted on June 20, 2013 by Ben Algarve

If you visit this blog regularly, you may have noticed that I recently conducted a survey of readers. You may even have participated in it, in which case, many thanks!

Today, I’m going to summarize some of the things I learned from the people who kindly took the time to answer. I will also talk about how Louise and I plan to adapt the blog slightly to make sure we continue to provide content that’s of interest to all visitors – ranging from those with an interest in Portugal, via the holiday-home owners, to those who, like us, have turned Portugal into a permanent home.

Moving to Portugal Reader Statistics

Moving to Portugal Reader Statistics

So, let’s start there: We learned from our survey that 26% of readers have a holiday home in Portugal, another 26% come here on holiday, and a further 26% are planning to move permanently. 16% live here full time, and 6% ticked the “other” box.

We were particularly delighted to find out that many of Moving to Portugal’s readers are “regulars,” with 88% of respondents saying they have visited the site “loads of times.” Thank you for returning!

In terms of content, readers enjoy practical information about Portugal the most (48%), followed by personal updates on our lives here (30%). It’s perhaps worth pointing out that I also write regular newsletters for the Overseas Guides Company, so those interested in hearing about day-to-day life here may wish to sign up for free updates there.

Only 2% of people said they enjoy “political rants and controversial content,” so I guess I’ll ease off on that for now!

No more politics

No more politics

Once we got into the freeform stuff, we were able to find out some of the topics that readers would like us to cover on the Moving to Portugal blog. The most popular of all was finding work in Portugal – and this came as no surprise as it’s the topic on which I receive the most personal emails too.

As well as discussing this more in future blog posts, I’ve decided to dedicate some time to producing an eBook on the subject. Job opportunities in Portugal are very thin on the ground, especially for non-Portuguese speakers. However, both my wife and I have built up a good level of remote work from clients outside the country and with the help of the Internet. In the eBook, I will explain exactly how we did it. Hopefully, this will help people who would love to move to Portugal but see employment as the major obstacle.

The new eBook will take some time to produce but I will keep you up to date. Please subscribe using the box on the right if you would like to receive email updates and don’t already.

Several respondents also said that they enjoy posts about cultural differences, so I have a new post on this in the works. Stay tuned, therefore, for “five things you probably don’t know about Portugal,” which will be published at some point next week.

Moving to Portugal - The Book

Moving to Portugal – The Book

Two final things: firstly, I promised a free copy of “Moving to Portugal – the book” to one respondent. I have picked a name at random and the winner will receive an email later today.

Finally, one respondent commented that repeated promotion of our book “gets tiring.” While I apologize for this, it’s not really something we can stop doing. There’s very little money in blogging for the hours we have to put into it. Every week, we deal with thousands of spam comments and constantly have to address various hacking attempts and WordPress updates – and that’s before producing any of the actual content! We also happily respond to hundreds of personal queries and emails. Sales of the book make us very little also, but do go some way to redressing the balance. So, if after reading that, you happen to feel in an altruistic mood, you’ll find a link to the book below – and Amazon are currently selling it at a discount – what’s not to like?!

Until next week :-)

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

Readers in the US and Canada will find the book here – and it should also be available from all other country-specific Amazon sites.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey

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Portugal’s 2013 Budget 17

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Ben Algarve

I love it in Portugal, and often say that moving abroad is the best thing we ever did. However, I’ve always been determined to ensure that my blog tells it like it is. On that basis, right now I’m pissed off, disillusioned and demotivated.

The reason? Portugal’s 2013 state budget.

Portuguese news doesn’t always make it beyond our shores, but the 2013 budget is so hardcore that high-profile news reports have appeared everywhere, from the New York Times to Al-Jazeera. Typical words used include “suffocating,” “harsh,” and “controversial.” The opposition socialists describe the budget as a “fiscal atomic bomb.”

And let’s not forget that even before this budget, Portugal had already, over the past two years, been hit with the second-largest overall tax rises of any country in the world. (For those interested, the only country with larger increases was Argentina).

Portugal -Money's too tight to mention

Portugal -Money's too tight to mention

So, what does it mean to us?

Well, for a start, we’re still smarting from the additional 3.5% extraordinary tax that we paid a couple of months ago on our income from 2011. When this was imposed, it was supposed to be a one-off. Well, that’s not how it turned out, because we now have to pay an extra 4% on everything we earn next year as well.

They’ve also increased the overall income tax rates and reduced the number of bandings in such a way as to push us into a higher bracket. Now, I’m not nearly clever enough to do the sums without a simulation from my accountant, but from a quick glace it looks like the rate we pay on most of our income could be going up by about 7.5%.

Add that on to the extra 4%, and we could be handing the government up to an additional 11.5% of what we earn in 2013.

Just imagine that for a moment. Think about what you earn and imagine getting a bill for 11.5% of it, ON TOP of the tax you already pay.

If you really want to wind me up you can tell me that “things are tough in the UK too.” But they’re not really are they? Without the UK’s generous tax-free allowance on the first £7000 of each person’s earnings, we were already paying more income tax in Portugal before any of these austerity measures.

Let’s put our personal situation in perspective. I can’t deny we are fortunate enough to be relatively high earners by Portuguese standards. It’s tasteless to go into detail, but suffice to say that between the two of us we bring in the same as several people on the Portuguese average wage. However, and this is the important bit, no more than a couple of thousand Euros annually comes from Portugal. My wife is paid by a UK based company, and I have clients everywhere from the US to Australia. But, as fiscal residents, we pay all of our tax to the Portuguese government.

They keep on taking our money!

They keep on taking our money!

If I (or indeed anyone), thought that the tax increases were going to make a blind bit of difference to the economic situation in Portugal (or the world), then I would adopt a more stoical attitude. But these increases are only estimated to bring in €3 billion.

Last year, Portugal borrowed €78 billion from the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank at an interest rate of around 5%. Well, I’m no economist but the €3 billion that comes at the cost of crippling the middle classes (and stopping them spending) isn’t really going to be much help.

Meanwhile, anyone who lives in Portugal is constantly aware of the country’s black economy, estimated to equate to 24.8% of GDP in figures going back as far as 2010. All of this “how much for cash?” business adds up to rather a lot, and in Portugal this culture is endemic.

That all seems rather unfair to a couple like my wife and I who have always felt civically and morally bound to declare and pay. Sadly, when the government has to pick a demographic of people to screw money from, those they know are honest enough to already pay tax are the easiest target. I see the government equally culpable for not doing anything about this as those who haven’t completed an honest tax return in years.

Last night, protesters surrounded parliament in Lisbon. Although the demonstration calmed before they managed to storm the building, the atmosphere was tenser than in previous austerity protests.

Protests are becoming less friendly

Protests are becoming less friendly

Protesting’s not in my nature. I see little point unless you have a better idea of what the government should do. Sadly, the lack of such an idea is what makes this situation so very depressing.

I do have a strategy, however, which alone acts as proof that the government’s plans are misguided. For a start, I’ve stopped spending, as everyone does once a siege mentality kicks in.

Once the new tax bandings are formalized, I will be asking my accountant to do some simulations – comparing our tax liability in Portugal with what it would be in other countries, and also looking at whether it would actually be worth us earning a little less to push us down the tax bandings. Given that there is social security to pay as well, we arrive at a point where we are left with so little of every extra €100 we earn, we’d be better off not doing the work and spending the time picking fruit and making jam and chutney.

I’m not the only “well off,” taxpaying expat considering this strategy either.

So, hats off to Portugal’s finance minister for creating a budget that will either cause us to deliberately earn less and adjust our standard of living, or frighten us off to another country, taking all of our tax revenue with us. Well done, indeed.

After moaning so much, it’s probably not the best time to draw your attention to my book about moving abroad to Portugal, but it’s worth a try – the royalties might help us pay our next tax bill – see below!

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

Image credits: Geograph, Photopedia

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How are Things in Portugal? 2

Posted on March 29, 2012 by Ben Algarve

“What’s the situation in Portugal?” is a question everyone asks us, often with the kind of awkward concern usually reserved for the unwell.

It’s a difficult question to answer. A country doesn’t immediately turn into a different place due to a bailout. Portugal has some serious problems. Many, such as high youth unemployment, political sleaze and tax evasion, are pretty similar to problems present elsewhere in Europe – including the UK.

Cascais Political Graffiti

Cascais Political Graffiti

Some people are struggling, some are doing very nicely, thank you. In that respect, things in the circles we move in are little different to how they have always been.

That said, it’s easy to live in a bubble. After all, we are in our 30s with established careers. We are not amongst the thousands of Portuguese youths who have worked hard and gained degrees, only to be advised by their government to leave the country to find work elsewhere.

Some of the More Creative Lisbon Graffiti

Some of the More Creative Lisbon Graffiti

This past weekend, I have been in Lisbon. There has always been plenty of graffiti in the city, as indeed there seems to be all over Portugal. I try not to have a major objection to it – I would rather live in a society where young people express themselves with a spray can than by joining a gang, as seems to be the trend in other places I could mention.

On this visit, we couldn’t help but notice the huge increase in political graffiti, which provided us with more of an insight into “what is the situation in Portugal” than we perhaps gather from our sheltered little lives in the Algarve.

Lisbon Political Graffiti

Lisbon Political Graffiti

Also, during our hours in the car to and from Portugal’s capital, we heard a catchy little tune on the radio a few times. The song is called “Sexta Feira” by Boss AC. I looked it up on YouTube on my return home, and managed to find it with an English translation. Light-hearted and catchy though the tune is, the message behind it is one of despair from a generation singing “alguem me arranje emprego” (basically, “get me a job!”)

I see no easy answers to the situation. My own lost generation is already one where many of our circle are approaching their 40s without a home of their own due to daft prices and deposit requirements. I fear for this next generation where many are staring their mid-twenties in the face with no sign of any job. And this is far from unique to Portugal where a youth unemployment figure of around 30% isn’t that much higher than the figure in the UK, and way below the figures in Spain and Greece.

The subtitle-free version of “sexta feira” has been watched by over 2.5 million people now. The question of “how are things in Portugal?” is perhaps best answered by that fact alone.

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Portugal and the Euro Crisis 6

Posted on November 23, 2011 by Ben Algarve

I’m always in two minds as to whether to post on Moving to Portugal when I’m in a bad mood, but it’s good to drive home the point that life “in the sun” isn’t always perfect. So, here follows a cathartic, self-indulgent, and possibly slightly controversial rant.

First off, I’m going to talk a bit about austerity. The media has been very quiet about Portugal recently. The main reason for this is that the country has, so far, met all its agreed bail-out conditions and targets.

Portugal has done so by implementing some serious spending cuts and tax increases. Largely, the population has accepted this quietly and stoically, as is the Portuguese way.

How has the austerity affected us? Well, being told half way through the year that you are going to have to pay an extra 3.5% tax on nearly all of your income, while utility bills have in some cases nearly doubled, stings quite badly. After all, our tax liability was already significantly more than it was in the UK, as was our petrol bill.

We’ve accepted it quietly though, in the same way as every Portuguese employee has had to accept their Christmas pay packet being taxed at a rate of 50%.

With this in mind, I am finding it very hard to reconcile my status as both a British citizen and a Portuguese resident, when a media-driven trend seems to be leading some members of the UK population towards casual xenophobia and Europe-bashing.

Since when did it become acceptable for moderated forums to allow comments about “work-shy southern Europeans,” and “lazy salt cod munchers?”

How many people in Britain really have the first idea of what life in these countries is like for normal people? Not for the political elite, the business leaders, the civil servants with good salaries and retirement packages – the normal people. Perhaps, to coin a phrase, “the 99%” (or more realistically in some countries, the 90%!) The fact is, the knowledge people have of these places, in the main, comes from one place: the media. Is the media known to work with honesty, integrity and no political bias?

People whose entire opinion is formed by what they have read in one country’s media will be ill-informed at best. From my position here in Portugal, I can see plenty of non work-shy people grafting very hard for very little money, in a country with no way to print cash, devalue currency, and pull themselves out of trouble.

Let’s not forget that the ability to do this is the main reason that Britain isn’t on the same list as Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain. In fact, if you look at the raw figures, Britain is actually a good deal more screwed than some of the aforementioned. Right now, the media and markets are concentrating on (and profiting from) Southern Europe—but no one should be naïve enough to think they won’t head north once they are done with their current feeding frenzy.

The popular arguments about why the “PIIGS” countries need bailing out only wash to a certain point. If it is due to a select few creaming off the bulk of the money for themselves, along with an over privileged public sector….well that’s the same in Britain too isn’t it? Ah, no, it’s because big swathes of people don’t pay the tax they should in these southern European countries. Ah, OK, just like big corporations shirk most of their tax in the UK.

The “Euro crisis” term has provided Britain with a wonderful scapegoat. Unfortunately the media perpetuation of this is leading the less intelligent to think that Britain is going through hard times and that it is entirely Europe’s fault. This then leads to the xenophobic and slightly tragic little-Englander mentality all over the forums. It is easy to throw stones around a glass house with a good minimum wage, generous tax allowances and a benefit system that will always keep the most work-shy of all in beer, fags and fried chicken.

As an example from today, the Daily Mail speaks of “Plans to funnel British taxpayers’ cash to Italy’s stricken economy.” This really refers to a global IMF fund to which Britain is only being asked to contribute 4.5% This is the same IMF that Britain itself was bailed out by in 1976, and may well need to borrow from again in the near future.

I’m no rabid Europhile, but, the way I see it, a broad sense of unity between countries is always better than the alternative. Stirring up hatred and discontentment sells newspapers, and too many people are being taken in by the UK media’s current brand of bullshit.

The simple fact is that all the countries have spent beyond their means for many years, and the bankers and politicians have watched it happen whilst building up a sizeable rainy-day fund for themselves. As a result, we are all screwed. It is surely more grown-up and sensible to accept this and pull together than to fall out amongst ourselves. Pride comes before a fall, and I fear it is only a matter of time before fate conspires to make this xenophobic breed of little-Englanders realise just how little they really are.

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How to Get Residency in Portugal 26

Posted on June 23, 2011 by Ben Algarve

It’s been a while since I posted. Long enough that people may have wondered if I had done a disappearing act and left Portugal, never to return.

Well, strangely enough, it came pretty close. We had so much difficulty renewing our Portuguese residency that, for a time, we thought we may have to leave to return to the UK, or have another go at life in the sun over the border in Spain.

Well, I’m pleased to report that all is good again now, but I can’t overstate how tricky the past few weeks have been.

Portuguese EU Residency Document

Portuguese EU Residency Document

We knew before we moved that the bureaucracy here in Portugal was going to be difficult. Nothing, however, prepares you for just how difficult, frustrating, illogical and inconsistent it really is.

As an EU citizen, you have freedom to live and work wherever you like in the EU. “Getting residency” is really only a simple question of registering in the country where you have settled – it is in fact called a “Certificado de registo de cidadao da uniao Europeia.” According to both the EU’s own website and the SEF (Portuguese immigration authority) websites, all you should need to do is take your passport to the SEF office and be prepared to sign to say that you either have a job, are studying, or have funds to support yourself. You should then be given a five year document which can be exchanged for permanent residency after that time.

Sounds like a five minute job doesn’t it? This is what we had to do:

1. Visited the SEF within 3 months of settling here as instructed. Were told that the camara (town hall) now handles residency.

2. Went to the camara with necessary documents, they also insisted on our rental contract and fiscal numbers (neither was a problem). However, they also required us to go to our village hall and get an “atestado” to prove we lived where we said we did (even though we had a tenancy agreement).

3. Went to the junta (village hall) to get the atestado. Told we need two local residents registered as voters in our local village to sign to vouch for us–an interesting challenge when you have just moved somewhere and don’t know anyone.

4. Awkwardly asked a local bar owner and the lady in the corner shop to vouch for us on our atestado.

5. After a wait of a few days managed to get a signed atestado from the junta.

6. Went back to the camara who now seemed like they were willing to give us a residency. Paid 15€ and were told to return in a couple of days.

7. Returned a couple of days later and were told to come back again after the weekend.

8. Returned to the camara after the weekend and joyfully collected our residency. Strangely though, it was only for one year and not the stated five years. Decide to worry about it again in a year.

Residency Celebration Feast

Residency Celebration Feast

9. Visited our bank to get our accounts changed to residents accounts. Big fail. It turns out the camara have put the wrong addresses on our precious new one year residency documents.

10. Go back to the camara, told to return in two days to collect our new residency papers.

11. A year on, our one year residency is near to expiry, so we need to renew it. Confident, as we now feel like very legitimate Portuguese residents, having done a full and honest tax return involving us contributing a significant sum of money to the faltering Portuguese economy, we return to the camara with our heads held high.

12. The camara insist on copies of our work contracts. This proves difficult as my wife works for a UK company and they won’t accept her contract, saying it must be translated into Portuguese. I am self-employed and don’t have one. The tax return document we proudly proffer is shuffled back towards us with a sneer. They also want a “declaracao da segranca social com os descontos efectuados,” which is proof we don’t owe any social security here. This is also tricky, as there is no mechanism for my wife to pay it here–my wife is not employed by a Portuguese company or self-employed here. I have recently become self-employed here, but I am not liable for any for the first 13 months. We return home downhearted.

13. Turn to the expat forums for advice – a lot of which amounts to people saying it is near impossible to do everything legally the way Portugal works and that we should have “stayed under the radar.” A lot of people did offer helpful suggestions and offers of assistance, for which I am very grateful.

14. We contact our accountant for help but she refers us to a document agency in Almancil. We’re not up for this as we tried one of them last year and they wanted more paperwork from us than the town hall did. Exasperated, we decide to involve a lawyer.

15. We visit the lawyer. He suggests that as our family members applied in Olhao and were given their residency in 5 minutes that we should pretend we have moved there instead. Not the kind of legal advice we expect from a lawyer! He then suggests we bypass the town hall and go to the SEF instead.

16. We go to the SEF. We show them a print out from their own website stating the residency requirements. The printout is dated May 2011. They tell us the law changed–in 2007. They send us away empty handed, and with a bit of a smirk.

17. We go back to the lawyer. He says we should come back in a few days and that he will come with us back to the town hall to try again.

18. We go to the lawyers office. He has passed our case onto a new trainee. She knows none of the details. We spend an hour taking her through what we have done so far. We decide to first visit the social security office to see if they can give us the document the camara want. We arrange to meet her at the social security office later that week.

19. Arrive at the the social security office. Trainee lawyer is 30 minutes late. Needless to say social security office cannot provide the document. They do at least confirm that we are correct that there is no mechanism in place for my wife to pay social security in Portugal and that she should continue to pay National Insurance in the UK under the EU reciprocal agreement.

20. We sign a form so the lawyer can go back to the camara and discuss the case on our behalf. The lawyer contacts us to say that they have dropped the requirement for the social security declaration and instead want three months of bank statements and a translated work contract. This sounds a bit better. Unfortunately they also say we can’t renew it until the day after our old 1 year document expires. This means we are in a position where we have to wait, and not know if our staying in the country is authorised until we are already “technically” illegal.

21. We go back to the camara on the appointed day. The lady there this time is not remotely interested in our newly translated (at a cost) work contract. They do, however, have a good look at our bank statements. They then request photographs and proof of our private medical insurance. Given that this is the first mention of this, it is a happy coincidence that we happen to have it, and carry the cards around with us at all times.

22. The lady in the camara goes and photocopies everything. We start to get excited. Have we done it?

23. Camara lady returns and tells us to return in a week for the answer. Yes, another week. We are now onto week 4 of sleepless nights. They stamp our form so we are legal in the country while we await the paperwork.

24. One working day before we are due to return, which happens to be my birthday, my wife secretly arranges for the lawyer to go back and ask about our documents. We now, finally, have residency for another four years, to add to the one year we were originally granted.

Blue Skies in Portugal - Red Tape Trade-off

Blue Skies in Portugal - Red Tape Trade-off

So there you have it. The 24 step process required for an EU citizen to be permitted to live in the EU. We are legal, legit taxpayers, and once again we can go in the pool or to the beach without worrying that it will be the last time we have the chance. Normal posts about beaches, sardines and wine can now resume.

As this post proves, if you plan to move to Portugal, it’s impossible to do TOO much research. I highly recommend this book:

Buying Property in Portugal (second edition) – insider tips for buying, selling and renting

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Economy of Portugal & the General Strike 3

Posted on November 24, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Whenever I speak to friends and relatives in the UK at the moment, I am asked about the Portugal economy. Usually what is said is something along the lines of “oooh, isn’t Portugal in trouble at the moment?”

Given that Portugal is staging a nationwide general strike today, I thought it appropriate to add a quick post about the economy of Portugal.

Portugal Economy - A General Strike is Taking Place

Portugal Economy - A General Strike is Taking Place

Workers all over the country are striking in protest about spending cuts. As I have spent the whole day working indoors, I can’t tell you first-hand about the ground-level impact, but I have noticed that the bells on the nearby level crossing haven’t been ringing very much, with I guess means the trains aren’t running, and a quick check of the website for Faro airport indicates that most flights have been cancelled.

I only take a passing interest in politics, but from what I understand, the strikes seem rather futile, as the cuts and budget the ruling socialist government is proposing is not going to be blocked by the opposition anyway, when the vote takes place this Friday.

In terms of how Portugal feels on a day to day basis, the impact of the recession, as far as I can see, hasn’t been felt quite as hard as it had when we lived in the UK. The simple fact is there has never been a vast amount of money around in the Portugal economy at the best of times, and masses of citizens were already migrating to other countries in order to find work.

Where you can see the direct impact of the recession is in the vast quantities of unsold apartments and unfinished developments. My (admittedly uneducated) view is that something has to give in this respect, and all that can happen is that prices will eventually have to be lowered to more realistic levels. There is only so long developers can sit on unsold properties whilst struggling to pay electricity bills for common areas and lifts in apartment blocks—something that you hear about all the time.

So for us, all of this drama has a (thankfully) limited impact, aside from the fact that the constantly fluctuating exchange rate means it’s hard to predict what our English income is going to be worth each month.

Will Portugal end up going cap-in-hand for a bail-out? I don’t understand nearly enough about the economy in Portugal to even guess. The media here seem to view it as less likely that the English press, but then only weeks ago people were convinced it wouldn’t happen to Ireland. We just have to wait and see.

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Portugal Red Tape Rant 13

Posted on May 27, 2010 by Ben Algarve

I had very much hoped to call this next post “Chilling Like a Resident.” Unfortunately, despite a tour of four different government offices yesterday, it was not to be – we still don’t have our residency.

The two major problems here, as I see them, are firstly that European law changes all the time and therefore the rules change, and secondly that Portuguese officials appear to all be individually free to interpret the law however they see fit.

Computer Says "No."

Computer Says "No."

Yesterday was truly soul destroying and included the “Loja De Cidade” (citizen shop,) the city council, the SEF (basically the borders and foreigners police,) and our local village hall, who really put the nail in the coffin of the day when they said we had to find two Portuguese voters from our own tiny village to sign one of our forms.

We don’t even know two Portuguese people in the village yet – we know plenty in Tavira, but, no, that won’t do. The best plan we came up with yesterday was to ask the nice ladies in the laundrette to vouch for us!

The really annoying thing though, is that I have extensively researched the process for residency on all the relevant sites, including that of the European Union itself, and the fact is that as EU citizens we have right of residency anyway. The problems are caused by the fact that officials here all seem to have their own way of doing things. For example the residency application form for EU citizens they have online wasn’t even the same as the one given to me by the city council!

Adding to the frustration, research on the expat forums shows that many people have managed to get their residency at different town halls with no problems at all and in very quick time – there is just no consistency.

When we were doing our initial research about our move to Portugal, everyone highlighted the red tape as one of the big negatives. Until you are in the situation, and negotiating it with highly questionable Portuguese language skills, it is hard to describe how stressed and helpless it makes you feel.

I deliberately waited over night before I typed this post as I didn’t want to get all ranty, but re-living the situation does make me angry again. The billions of pounds that have been poured into the EU seem to have not resulted in there being a coherent approach to people moving between countries – there are as many hurdles and hoops as there would be if we were trying to move somewhere outside the European “Union.” It already feels galling to need an accountant in both countries as the paperwork is too complicated for one mere mortal to get their head around.

Anyway, we have made a decision. Someone on a forum has recommended a document agency to us. We are basically going to pay someone to sort it all out for us. Days and nights of research have got us nowhere, so rather than relying on the “what you know,” we are going to try the “who you know.” It seems to be the way things work around here.

Some people may be interested to read my forum thread on this – it shows the wide range of theories and experiences people have!

Residency – Aaaargh! Link to Expats Portugal

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Broken Britain? 7

Posted on July 12, 2009 by movingtoportugal
Welcome to Britain

Welcome to Britain

I got “started on” today! I don’t think I have even used that expression since school some 17 years ago. It was all very unexciting really – I was cycling into the park to meet my wife in what would generally be classed as a “pretty posh” area of London and a group of 3 “youths” blocked my path in order to cause some sweary low-level trouble. It passed without event and in the grand scheme of things it was nothing major at all, but it was still enough to make me not particularly want to stay in the park, or even go there again really.

I am so pleased I am moving to Portugal in under four months. I have always been pretty patriotic, but it’s time to speak from the heart. This place sucks nowadays. The Friday before last, I had to snatch my wifes bag back from a bag-snatcher outside our very friendly London local – and living in London has made me so desensitized to this kind of low-level crap that I only just remembered about it and hadn’t thought to mention it to my family.

So as not to risk turning this post into an unfocussed political rant. Here are five things that are shit about London and the UK.

1. If you break a traffic or parking regulation in London you will be pounced on and fined immediately, be it by a well-paid, target-driven council worker or an expensive, tax-payer funded CCTV computer system. If however, you prefer higher level crime, you can go for shop-lifiting or burglary with complete impunity because there isn’t enough money to get cops to investigate that.

2. If you don’t fancy working and you prefer to drink or smoke weed all day and have fun by causing trouble in public parks – don’t worry YOU CAN. We have a welfare system that needs completely overhauling so that people cannot make a career out of laziness and stupidity. The Kaiser Chiefs should never have been allowed to release that song that says “It’s cool to know nothing.” For many I fear the irony was lost and it was adopted as a mantra!

3. Still on the subject of public parks. If you get some rare English sunshine and you fancy buying one of those disposable BBQs and having a couple of burgers in the park – YOU CAN’T. There is nowhere within the M25 where it is allowed. “Feral Youths – roam all you want! – Eco-friendly middle classes who fancy a quiet organic burger before clearing away and recycling all your litter – you are not welcome here!” Bloody ridiculous. Did everyone start out stupid or are they reacting to being treated AS IF they are stupid?

4. APATHY. Hold on, weren’t the majority of our politicians caught COMPLETELY RIPPING US ALL OFF a little while ago? Why did no-one DO anything? Well a few people texted a few jokes about it to each other, maybe a spot of light whinging around the watercooler. But then the Champions League final came along….now there’s some common ground we can ALL talk about! Pathetic. Everyone seems to have been so numbed by sport and celebrity culture that they don’t care what is important. Every person in this country who starts reading the paper from the back should be ashamed of themselves.

5. VANITY. A culture where physical beauty and/or sporting prowess are more revered and rewarded than genuine good is rotten to the core. Perhaps this culture is affecting the whole western world, but Britain is doing it’s best to lead the charge of the superficial. I thought all the Susan Boyle business may have been a turning point but it appears to have just been a temporary blip in the collective conscience, and the tabloids soon manged to put a stop to that. “SuBo” anyone? It makes me want to break stuff.

Sod it, it was a political rant, but I feel a lot better now. I just think it’s a damn shame that somewhere I have tried so much to love has been so spoiled. I am also pretty sure that it is going to get a lot worse and that we won’t be the last skilled, hard-working couple to get away and prevent our children having to grow up amongst the scumbags.

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