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

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Some More Random “Moving Home” Observations 3

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Ben Algarve

We’ve been back in the UK a couple of months now, but everything still seems rather alien!

In my last post I was perhaps a little negative about the Portugal we’d left behind, so I’m going for some more balance this week.

Life in the UK has been good, but with an undulating backdrop of homesickness. It doesn’t help that I still do a lot of writing work about Portugal, and having to write about beaches I am no longer just down the road from isn’t the most fun way to begin a working week!  Suffice to say I really don’t think it will be that long until we pop back to the Algarve for a visit.

That visit would probably feel more urgent if it weren’t for the glorious weather we’ve had in England, and that’s where I’ll begin my list of random observations:

1. The weather here isn’t that bad at all.

I know we’ve been lucky with a dry April, but we’ve just spent a long weekend visiting family and we’ve been happily outside for rather a lot of it. Yesterday we had a pub lunch in a beer garden and I woke up today with a tanned face. That was NOT something I was expecting!

Delightful weather in England

Delightful weather in England

The other pleasant surprise is that even when the headline temperature looks low, it’s actually perfectly warm in sheltered spots. Of course I miss the Algarve weather, but what we’ve had since we’ve been back is more than acceptable, and actually far more practical for our baby son.

2. The UK mobile network is APPALLING!

I said that these would be random observations, so now we go from weather to phone signals!

Last weekend on our big family trip, there wasn’t a single house we arrived at where we could get decent data reception. This includes an area covering Kent, Outer London, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. 3G reception on motorways was rubbish too.

I don’t know if it’s just that the UK’s network struggles with the number of people, but by comparison Portugal’s mobile infrastructure is fantastic.

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

Lots of Traffic and no Phone Signal

3. We still have Portuguese “muscle-memory”

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we are both still often convinced we are going the wrong way around roundabouts, and occasionally find it hard to remember the English word for something (my wife struggles particularly with “coentros,” which is coriander).

Worst of all, we’ve yet to shrug off the continental “hug and kiss on both cheeks” greeting, which in the UK results in either a near-head-butt or the recipient thinking you’re going in for a snog, neither of which comes across as particularly dignified…

4. England is expensive

This is a complicated point, but overall it’s a very good job there are more earning opportunities in the UK, because it’s far harder to live on a budget.

It’s not that all day-to-day things are more expensive. Groceries, for example, are probably cheaper than in Portugal, and as I’ve said before there is far more variety. Our utility bills are less too, but that’s completely cancelled out by a council tax bill of nearly £200 per month.

Where the budgeting unravels is in entertainment. Back in the Algarve, ten Euros could mean a good long trip to the bar and a bite to eat to take home. Here, that ten Euros won’t come close to buying the first round.

At the moment we’re spending every weekend catching up with friends and family, so our spending pattern isn’t typical, but suffice to say we keep having to top up our entertainment budget, and the credit cards are coming out far more than they did in Portugal!

Seafood - Available in the UK as well as Portugal - for a price

Seafood – Available in the UK as well as Portugal – for a price

In addition, working longer days and commuting means being more tired, and that’s when the lure of the takeaway menus becomes strong.

Finally, there’s just so much in the UK that you CAN do! After years of missing the theatre, and the easy access to gigs and festivals, we feel like we want to do it ALL. To do so we must work hard to earn it – and on that basis it’s easy to identify the start of that slippery slope back to the rat race. We must proceed with caution!

5. We’ll probably visit Portugal sooner than we thought

One thing that did come up during our manic weekend was the rather sad realisation that once we’d done everything we had to do, we’d be going “home” to elsewhere in England, rather than “home” to Portugal.

This was actually quite a good thing to realise, because it reminded us that we still have plenty waiting for us in Portugal: somewhere to stay; all of our friends, and all the places and things we miss. I even still have my two most beloved Portugal purchases – my moped and my Weber barbecue! There’s absolutely nothing stopping us going and working from there for a few weeks whenever the “homesickness” gets too strong.

Well, there is one thing stopping us, which is that while we continue to socialise “UK style” every weekend, we’ll never have the time nor the money. So, on that note, I shall sign off and get some more work done :-)

Please take a look at our book!

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

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

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

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A Few Reasons why we Left Portugal 14

Posted on April 14, 2015 by Ben Algarve

Just a quick post today, but one that I’ve really agonised about writing.

Last time I posted, I was discussing our mixed feelings about being back in the UK, and alluded to a certain sense of homesickness for Portugal.

I’m pleased to say that (for now at least) the homesickness has abated. Right now I don’t think I could possibly be more certain that we’ve done the right thing.

Of course, the fact the weather in the UK is glorious today (and significantly warmer than the Algarve!) has a part to play.

Weather in the UK

Weather in the UK

However, it’s actually more been related to a succession of recent reminders as to why we decided to leave.

I’ve yet to go into that much detail about all the reasons and motivations behind our decision, but one of them was definitely that the slow pace of life we’d moved to Portugal specifically for came to be one of our major bugbears. We just weren’t ready to slow down that much, and the fact we came from London, rather than a small town, made the difference even more pronounced.

Examples of this have come through thick and fast this week: Our Portuguese accountant said we’d have our tax estimate “in the first week of April.” It was therefore annoying to politely ask when to expect it at the end of the second week, only to receive a curt response saying it wasn’t done yet – with no commitment whatsoever to another date when we could reasonably expect it.

Deadlines - Often Missed in Portugal

Deadlines – Often Missed in Portugal

Then, following on from having our Portuguese car cleaned and valeted, we relisted it for sale, with the price clearly marked. This hasn’t stopped at least three people asking for the price. One wonders how they are ever going to complete a vehicle transaction if they can’t read three paragraphs of text.

Then there are the expat chancers who think a “sensible” offer for a car is nearly half your asking price.

My wife’s fun and games have involved our Portuguese bank, where getting them to answer the phone, let alone send a simple, promised email, seems completely beyond their capabilities.

Then there’s the clear contrast between doing business in the two countries. I’ve just increased my hourly consultancy rate by the equivalent of €14, with the full approval of every UK client I’ve asked. In Portugal I’ve had people object to paying that for a morning’s work.

Portugal - we still miss this beautiful place

Portugal – we still miss this beautiful place

Let’s get something clear. I love Portugal. I adore it, and miss it every day. But I don’t miss any of this nonsense. There’s just too much short-termism, too much vagueness, and too many people who think that working for cash instead of doing things properly is subversive and clever, rather than something that just goes to ensure they will never have a stable economy they can truly thrive in.

Shortly after I moved to Portugal, someone told me something. They said that if a Portuguese business has a target of taking €100 per day, but somehow takes €200 on the Monday, they won’t see it as smashing their target; Instead they’ll close on the Tuesday and take it easy.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. But it’s not us. It’s never been us, and I can’t imagine that it ever will be.

I’m prepared for flack for writing this, having seen how defensive people were when I dared to suggest there was more choice in UK supermarkets than those in Portugal! However, I’ve always set out to give an honest account of my experiences.

There are loads of comebacks to what I’ve said here. I should be more patient, perhaps, or try harder to understand the culture of the country I moved to? Both are fair comments, to a point, but I’m trying to paint an honest picture for people thinking about moving to Portugal.

If you’re prepared to slow right down, put up with people continually missing deadlines without getting irritated by it, and are content to quibble about sums of money that wouldn’t buy you a weekly London TravelCard, then you’ll be perfectly happy. We weren’t as prepared for this as we thought we were, and life got frustrating. I hope at least some readers appreciate me pointing this out.

One final point: You obviously cannot write a post like this without some generalisation. There are clearly thousands of highly dynamic Portuguese people who meet their deadlines and reply to emails when promised. There are probably even some expats who do everything by the book, rather than cherry-pick the rules that suit them. I’m only sharing our experiences, not seeking to tar everyone with the same brush. So please bear that in mind before attacking me in the comments :-)

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Blowing Hot and Cold 3

Posted on April 09, 2015 by Ben Algarve

It’s far too early to say whether or not our decision to move from Portugal back to the UK was the right one, but we’re being asked the question an awful lot already!

All I can therefore do is tell you how we’re feeling about it right now – and to put into context how much things have changed, I’m currently typing this on a commuter train home from London!

That side of things isn’t bad at all, surprisingly. Especially as I type this, because the Easter holidays meant the London commute (thankfully something I only have to do once per week or so) was hassle-free. The fact it’s been gloriously sunny today in South East England has helped too.

Zooming to work and back

Zooming to work and back

I should also add that after several years away, I again feel that shiver of excitement as I pull into the big city, whack up the volume on my iPhone, and join the throng heading for the tube. When I left I’d truly had enough of it, and if I had to do it daily I soon would again, but being part of the beating heart of the city is something you come to miss, assuming of course that it appeals to you in the first place.

In other respects it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. We’ve just finished the long Easter weekend, which flew past heartbreakingly quickly, especially as it was the longest work-free break we’d had since Christmas (and that does include the time we were moving countries!)

In the run up to the break we were loving every minute of being in England – and not in a “rose tinted” way. We’ve really settled in our new house, and love our local town and all it has to offer.

Then Good Friday came around, and we were reminded of what a cruel mistress the British climate can be. We stoically set off for our planned drive around the coast anyway – a coast that turned out to be so foggy and dull we couldn’t see the sea despite driving within metres of it. Meanwhile, Algarve weather reports taunted us from afar.

A grim UK day

A grim UK day

After a relaxed Saturday, we had friends around for a dinner party on Sunday. It was lovely to chat about careers and politics instead of expat life and village gossip. Once again everything felt right.

Unfortunately a boozy dinner party now takes me twice as long to recover from as a three-day festival would have “back in the day,” so I felt distinctly jaded as the long weekend came to an end, and with that came my second real burst of homesickness for Portugal.

Homesickness is a strange thing, because it really is like a kind of sickness, and one you have to wait to run its course. We experienced it several times for England throughout our early days in Portugal, and I’m sure it’s not the last time we’ll have an attack of it this way around.

The strange thing is that if I were to revisit the “pros and cons” list right now, it would still fall 80/20 in favour of being in the UK – but that’s talking about head before heart, and I’m pretty sure homesickness comes from the latter.

Anyway, let’s zoom back to now (or at least the time I typed this post).

Well, the sun’s still shining; the crowd on the train has thinned out, and I’m left sitting very comfortably with a table to myself. Soon I will hit the part of my train journey with lovely coastal views.

Meanwhile, I’m digesting a delicious burger and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack in Covent Garden – something I would have obsessed about for days in the Algarve, but which today I was simply able to grab on my way home from work.

Burger from Shake Shack

Burger from Shake Shack

The simple fact is that both places have their pros and cons. If you took the opportunities of South East England and dumped them in the warm and picturesque paradise of the East Algarve, then the whole world would want to live there. In many ways (and on certain days) I still want to live there anyway…

BUT…that’s why we went through the pros and cons for such an agonising length of time. Deep down we know we made the right decision, but I’m sure I’ll always feel a sense of longing when I see the many photos of us enjoying our Portuguese dream, photos that now adorn the walls of our lovely new UK home.

Flipping it the other way, however, it took me ten minutes to type that last paragraph because I was transfixed by the beautiful view out of the train window. I think I can only conclude that your physical location is just a small part of a far bigger and more complicated picture…

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

Please check out our book!

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

Or find it here on Amazon.COM, for US readers:

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

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The End of an Era 7

Posted on March 10, 2015 by Ben Algarve

It’s three months since I posted on this blog, so regular readers have perhaps been wondering what’s going on.

Well, the time has come to finally bring you up to speed.

At the beginning of the year, my wife and I came to the difficult decision to relocate back to England with our now nine-month-old son.

I guess at this point the big question is “why?” and it’s certainly one I’ve spent a lot of time answering amongst family and friends over recent weeks.

The fact is that there simply isn’t one easy answer to the question. It’s more like twenty different factors, each contributing to five-percent of the decision.

Our new beach - not in Portugal but in the UK

Our new beach – not in Portugal but in the UK

We spent some wonderful years in Portugal. Some of our time there came close to how we dreamed it would be; some things were easier than we expected; some things were far more difficult.

We learned a lot about ourselves in the process too. We learned what we need for a truly happy existence; we learned that you can be content in the cold and rain, and thoroughly miserable with the sun blazing through the window. Ironically, we also learned to build careers that allow us both to work from home, meaning that we now have more flexibility as to where we live in the UK than we did before we left!

Perhaps this is all a bit cryptic, and I guess that’s intentional, as I intend to refocus some energy on the blog in the near future and discuss all the things that contributed to our decision, as well as reporting on the ups and downs of our final months in the country.

For now, I will reassure you that our decision, although heart-wrenching in many ways, was the one that we unanimously made, and one we are extremely happy with. When we left for Portugal we were far more young and carefree; Now we’re a young family, with a different set of wants, needs and priorities. We feel the UK ticks more of our boxes for this next phase of our lives.

Meanwhile though, Portugal retains the part of our hearts it captured forever, and will surely call us back soon, if only for a holiday. Who knows what that priority list will look like in another five years?

 

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Moving House in Portugal 4

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Ben Algarve

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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Moving to Portugal Book Sale: One Week! 4

Posted on September 08, 2014 by Ben Algarve

So, it’s September, the kids are back at school and the summer is drawing to a close.

Back to school

Back to school

It can be a rather depressing time of year for many, although it’s fair to say it’s not bad at all in the Algarve, where warm weather is all but guaranteed for another couple of months ;-)

If you’ve holidayed in Portugal this summer and are eager to come back, or if you’re already planning to move to Portugal, I have a little something to cheer you up on this Monday morning:

For one week only, I have initiated a “Kindle Countdown deal” on our Moving to Portugal book.

From now until next Monday, you can download the book to your Kindle for just £1.99 in the UK store or $3.25 in the US store—representing more than 50% off!

You’ll just need to jump in there quick, as the offer will end in one week’s time.

We hope you enjoy the book. It contains almost entirely unique content that hasn’t been on the blog before. If you do enjoy it, we’d be very grateful if you could leave a kind review on Amazon for us :-)

We hope this offer helps you relieve the post-summer blues. Have a good week.

UK Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

US Readers will find the book here:

Moving to Portugal

IMAGE CREDIT: Flikr

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Our little bundle of joy 21

Posted on May 28, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Lou) Living in Portugal was our dream for several years before we moved here. We fell in love with the country the first time we visited it and it was on that holiday that as we lazed on the beach, idly watching a man build sand castles with his little daughter, we decided that we didn’t want to bring our children up in London.

The decision was a significant one – we were still years from getting married and having a family, but it signalled the beginning of the end of our love affair with London. From that point forward, the idea of raising our children within walking distance of a sun-kissed seashore was planted firmly in both our minds.

Living in Portugal - sun-kissed sands

Living in Portugal – sun-kissed sands

After several years of planning, saving and working towards our dream, we finally moved to Portugal. The move was over four years ago now and, though at times living here has been stressful (mainly when completing paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy), we have no regrets about leaving the UK far behind.

We have embraced the Portuguese way of life and it has changed us both since we have lived here, though perhaps not in the ways we would have expected before we left England. One constant since our move has been our certainty that Portugal is the place where we want to raise a family. Children are cherished here – a toddler ambling around a restaurant will receive pats on the head from the waiters and smiles from the diners, rather than the annoyed looks that the same scenario would produce in a London eatery.

Living in Portugal - a new arrival

Living in Portugal – a new arrival

We thought for a while that our dream of having a family in Portugal was one that wasn’t going to come true for us. I was actually booked in for an appointment to find out why we were struggling to conceive when we found out that we were expecting. Since then, our life has been a whirlwind of preparation, from spending endless hours waiting for doctors’ appointments, to creating the perfect nursery, to knitting countless tiny jumpers in preparation for the cold winter months.

Two and a half weeks ago, by which time I was the size of a whale, we had lunch with friends at the beautiful and relatively secluded beach of Lota in the eastern Algarve. We visited relatives in the afternoon and then headed home via the supermarket. It turned out to be our last day doing things as a couple, as shortly after we arrived home my body suddenly announced that it was time to head to the hospital.

Living in Portugal - tiny toes

Living in Portugal – tiny toes

Some twelve hours later, our tiny bundle of joy arrived via an emergency Caesarean section, filling us both with a happiness so intense we never knew it was possible.

The last two and a half weeks have been the most wonderful and emotional or our lives. We have been truly touched by the kindness of all those around us, from family and friends to the hospital staff and our next door neighbours. We have been overwhelmed by the amount of new things there are to learn (it turns out that winding a new-born baby who likes to wriggle a lot is harder than it looks in a book). Most of all, we have been amazed that we have managed to produce such a beautiful and perfect little boy, who has filled our hearts with love and our lives with joy.

Welcome to the world Frederico :-)

Living in Portugal - welcome to the world

Living in Portugal – welcome to the world

If you would like to know more about our adventures while living in Portugal, 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.

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Life in Portugal – Spring is in the Air 2

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Ben Algarve

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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Moving to Portugal now on Facebook! 0

Posted on January 24, 2014 by Ben Algarve

Hello everyone.

I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken so long to join Moving to Portugal to Facebook, but I’m pleased to say we’ve finally done it.

Moving to Portugal on Facebook

Louise and I would be ever so grateful if you could visit and “like” the page, where we will notify you of new posts, both from here and from our other site, Food and Wine Portugal, and also provide occasional offers, competitions and quick photo updates.

Thank you for your support! You will find our Facebook page here – or you can use the link to the right!

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New Year, New Horizons – Portugal 2014 4

Posted on January 12, 2014 by Ben Algarve

(Lou) Having lived in Portugal for over four years now, it’s fair to say that some aspects of daily life in our new country have become routine. Certain interactions that would have invoked serious anxiety (mixed with excitement, of course) when we first arrived are now carried out without a moment’s thought.

A new era begins

A new era begins

2014, though, is going to be a year that is in many ways as nerve-wracking as our first months in Portugal – if not more so! It will be a year of firsts for us, as we navigate the unknown seas of having our first child and of yet more Portuguese bureaucracy as we go through the process of sorting out all of his paperwork.

With the news a few months ago that we were expecting a baby, we began our journey through the Portuguese state healthcare system. After a very bumpy start (numerous fruitless trips to the local Centro do Saude and being reduced to sobbing in frustration in the car park), I finally got to see my GP. From that point onward, things began looking up in terms of my experience of the medical profession.

Though the administration side of seeing the doctor still fills me with dread as each appointment approaches, the care that the bump and I have received from the medical staff has been truly excellent. Waiting times can be lengthy, but this is understandable once you get as far as the doctor. At each appointment so far, I have spent time with both the nurse and the doctor, with my face to face time with them ranging from 15 to 30 minutes.

New footsteps in the sand are eagerly/nervously awaited

New footsteps in the sand are eagerly/nervously awaited

It is a far cry from the five minute turnaround time I was used to in the UK. I’m still in two minds as to which system is better – one where you have fast access to the doctor but where your time with her is limited (as in the UK) or one where access is slow but you have as long as you need with the doctor, to ask as many questions as you feel you need to (as in Portugal).

Seeing the nurse has been an excellent experience for me personally, as she doesn’t speak any English. This forced me to learn a great many medical/birth-related Portuguese terms very quickly in order to communicate fully with her, which was excellent practice for when the big day arrives, as I have no reason to think that the midwife who eventually deals with me will happen to be fluent in English.

Portuguese language learning - all sorts of new words are now needed

Portuguese language learning – all sorts of new words are now needed

We still have four months to go, during which time we will no doubt experience many Portuguese ‘firsts,’ just as we did when we originally moved here. Many of those moments will be daunting, others will bring a sense of triumph, while yet more will no doubt result in a few more tears of frustration. I, for one, can’t wait.

If you would like to know more about our experiences of moving to Portugal, 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 can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.

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    This blog documents our move from rainy London to sunny Portugal.

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