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


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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What do you miss? (or don’t we miss!) 11

Posted on December 10, 2009 by Ben Algarve

A reader of my blog asked me the what I missed about the UK since I moved. I have been meaning for some time to post a “negatives” list to balance out all of the sunshine and new experiences, so here it is! People back at home in the cold and rain could be forgiven for thinking we have just embarked on an eternal holiday when they see the photos and blog posts, but the fact is that you do still have to deal with all the day-to-day crap that comes up (well most of it!)

We don't miss the M25!

We don't miss the M25!

SO: Here is what we miss so far:

1. UNDERSTANDING: When the people at the town hall refuse to give you a fiscal number, or your mobile internet stops working, or you miss a delivery from the postman and get a card through the door, you take in for granted in your home country that you understand what do about it, and know how to complain if necessary. This is not possible when you only understand a smattering of the language. We wish we had had more time to get ahead with the language before we came. You start out reasonably intelligent, get on a 2 hour flight and when you get to the other end you become rather stupid. Quite a strange feeling.

2. CENTRAL HEATING: Friends in England don’t seem to believe us but in the Algarve it gets cold at night – and when you are in a house with tiled floors, designed to keep the heat OUT, it can get really bloody cold. Air conditioning heats individual rooms very well, it doesn’t ever make a house feel cosy and toasty when you walk in. This one surprised us.

3. FOODS: Taramasalata and poor quality sausage rolls from Greggs – that’s it so far.

4. FRIENDS: I was starting to tire of Facebook, Twitter etc. in the time running up to our move, but these things become a real lifeline when you are thousands of miles away. There are still times though, once a week or so, when you really miss human contact with the people who have known you for years. I don’t this this will ever change.

At this point in typing the post I have had to call my wife to ask for ideas. The fact is for me that is it. After ten minutes of intense thought, all she has come up with is: “the potential for snow at Christmas,” “stepping onto a carpet when getting out of bed in the morning,” and “electrical sockets that don’t spark when you unplug something.” We both agree that we are scraping the barrel for ideas and that it is a lot easier to come up with things we don’t miss!

So: here is a quick list of the things we DON’T miss!

Just another December day :)

Just another December day 🙂

1. Traffic – and just the general amount of time it can take to do what should be simple things in London.

2. Celebrity Culture.

3. Greedy, money focussed London city types.

4. Overpriced, poor quality food (apart from Greggs sausage rolls!)

5. Extortionate Council tax.

6. Wine that costs more the 3 euros.

7. Darkness, rain, wind, sleet, hail etc.

7. Being in a perpetual rush.

8. Routine rudeness from strangers and people working in “customer service” roles.

9. Paying for parking.

10. Overpriced public transport.

11. Our old neighbours awful piano playing.

We have hardly had to think to come up with those eleven and we could go on! But I think you probably get the picture, we love it here so far, feel almost constantly lucky and thankful, and, so far at least, we wouldn’t change a thing 🙂


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X Factor? Get me out of here….. 7

Posted on October 26, 2009 by movingtoportugal

It’s been a while since I moaned about London life and seeing as we leave in 9 days (typing that just pushed my heart rate up!) I imagine this will be my last little political rant….

As a TV show, I can’t say I actually have any issue with the concept of “The X Factor,” but the reason it is right up at the top of the list of “things I hate” right now is how it highlights the vacuous way of life everyone seems to be being encouraged to adopt.

Several times per day I am becoming tempted to deactivate my Facebook account as yet another of my friends posts some inane comment about “The  X-Factor.” Visiting the offices of my clients all I am hearing is chatter about “Miss Frank” or “The Twatty Twins.”  As if this wasn’t enough, the tabloid front-pages scream out more “X-Factor” exclusives everywhere you go.

All of this is producing within me emotions from mild depression to actual FURY! As well as religiously watching this drivel, people are voting on it, talking about it, twittering about it, reading about it and texting about it. Some of these people are my friends, and are, at least in some cases, quite level headed, interesting people. Are the government in some way complicit in allowing this nonsense to slowly rot away our collective intelligence?!

Some really significant stuff goes on in the world. The country is at war in a couple of places, the politicians and the bankers are all stealing our money, and the British National Party are on “Question Time,” yet nobody talks about any of that. People prefer to be anaesthetised for weeks at a time by the antics of wannabe fast-track celebrities, while Cheryl Cole and some others decide which one of the contenders gets to record a shit ballad for Christmas number one, thus financing Simon Cowell’s next party, and next teeth.

When people seem to be putting more thought into who to vote for in The X Factor than who to vote for to run the country, something has surely gone horribly wrong? I am really struggling with the fact that this isn’t glaringly obvious to more people around me.  The UK seem to have adopted apathy as the key lifestyle choice and “not my problem” as the collective mantra. Unless people begin to wake up and take more interest in the society around them than the sad little lives of Jordan and Kerry Katona, I really to fear for the future of our culture.

Moving back to the key topic of moving to Portugal, I am sad to say that, yes, they do have X Factor in Portugal (in fact across most of Europe and even “XSeer Al Najah” throughout the Arab world, according to Wikipedia.) The silver-lining in that particular cloud though, is that I won’t understand a word when people are talking about it. The same will go for politics – I am going to go out of my way to not know about it – that way I may not feel so cross all the time!

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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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