One rather bitter lesson we learned from living abroad is that the universe doesn’t really seem to reward honesty and doing the right thing.
I’m one of those people (many would call me a mug), who likes to do things by the rules. This sometimes attracts incredulity – from clients who can’t believe I want to give them a proper invoice for a small piece of work, or from accountants who can’t understand why anyone would want to move to Portugal and do things right, rather than staying “under the radar.”
As part of our quest to do things right, one early issue for us (going back many years now), related to driving licences.
The laws around UK licences in Portugal will have expats arguing themselves in circles until they’re dizzy, but the basic facts are quite simple: If you have a UK photo card licence, and you no longer live at the address printed on it, the licence is technically invalid. This is partially due to a British law around not producing UK licences with foreign addresses on them.
The simple way around this is to visit your local IMTT in Portugal, who provide you with a supplementary piece of paper to go with your licence that makes it valid in Portugal. This is actually one bit of Portuguese bureaucracy that’s usually very easy to sort out.
A bigger problem occurs if your UK photocard expires, as happened to my wife. At this point, assuming you still live in Portugal, you have to go through the process of exchanging your licence for a Portuguese one.
The exchange took over a year for us, during which time we had to return to the IMTT three times to have a temporary form stamped (that’s a whole other story). But eventually Louise received a shiny Portuguese licence.
At that point we didn’t know we were going to move back to the UK. Nor did we know how much hassle this long-awaited licence would cause us.
Back in Britain, we purchased a cheap car from a friend, while we wait for someone to make a sensible offer for our car in Portugal. We thought sorting the insurance out would be a doddle. Not so.
The trouble is that car insurance decisions are pretty much all made by a computer, and that computer asks certain questions. If you don’t tick the right boxes, everything gets confusing.
“How long have you been resident in the UK?”
“Do you hold a full UK driving licence?”
Shit, no, it’s a Portuguese one.
The computer then assumes you’re a brand new Portuguese arrival who has never before driven on English roads, and goes on to quote you more for a year’s insurance than you paid for the car itself!
After sending one big firm packing, who thought the difference between a UK and Portuguese licence warranted a loading of £1400 on our policy, we finally found an acceptable deal, albeit one at nearly three times the price we were paying for insurance on a far more valuable car before we left for Portugal.
The lesson learned is a depressing one. None of the “under the radar” types who ignore all the rules would have had this hassle, or had to pay as much as us. Things like this seem to happen a lot.
We’ll never turn into different people. The fact we play by the rules is part of who we are. But it turns out there’s a hell of a price premium on doing things properly to sleep soundly at night. And that doesn’t seem at all fair somehow.