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


Portugal A to Z – G to I 5

Posted on February 17, 2012 by Ben Algarve

G is for Golf

Everyone knows that the Algarve is home to a vast number of world-class golf courses.

While I am rather partial to a game, these courses are sadly off-limits to me right now as I am what I believe proper golfers call a “hacker,” and not in possession of a handicap certificate.

“I must sort out those golf lessons” is one of the statements that would make me rich if I were paid a Euro every time I uttered it, but I genuinely do intend to organise something soon. Great views, sunshine, and a hobby that gives me excuses to buy lots of gadgets and special equipment – what’s not to like?

Golf at Quinta da Ria

Golf at Quinta da Ria

So if you find yourself on an Algarve golf course in the coming months, and you spot an English guy searching for a ball in the undergrowth while real golfers tut and say things like “all the gear and no idea,” there’s a chance we may have crossed paths!

One other thing about golf: on our many flights to Faro, the golf bags always seem to be the first luggage off the plane and onto the baggage belt. My wife is considering purchasing a large golf bag and using it instead of a suitcase to speed our progress through the airport. I think she’s joking, but I’m not completely sure…

H is for Home

I am pleased to say that Portugal is now definitely the place we see as “home.”     This has both positives and negatives. The positives generally relate to a feeling of belonging – having a specific stall we always go to at the market, bars where people know us, and knowledge of shortcuts around the summer traffic.

Algarve - Home

Algarve – Home

This local knowledge also has a part to play in the negatives. Understanding Portuguese means we can now get angry about local politics as well as those in England. The fact we pay tax here now, and know how much more we pay than we did in England gives us a legitimate axe to grind when things don’t work as they should.  Finally, we’ve now been here long enough to know that however hard we cross our fingers, there is still going to be a winter at some point.

I is for IVA and IMTT

IVA is the Portuguese equivalent of VAT. It’s 23%, and makes our utility bills gargantuan. IMTT is the Portuguese equivalent of the DVLA, dealing with things like driving licences and car registration. It’s the place my wife goes when she doesn’t have enough stress in her life.

On the bright side, I is also for my new iPhone, which makes me happy. It’s nothing to do with Portugal, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it.

iPhone 4s - My New Toy

iPhone 4s – My New Toy

At this time in 2010…..we were doing a lot of exploring of our new home, taking in beaches, woods and lakes. Read about it here.

Image credits: acrib, nigeljohnwade

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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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Red Tape in Portugal 11

Posted on May 25, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Portuguese “red tape” and paperwork is once again the thing consuming our time and energy at the moment.

When we first moved over here several months ago, it was right at the top of our priority list to get all the paperwork in order. I am not sure quite how it moved back down the list, but I think it is something to do with the fact that by the time we had managed to get the pretend fiscal number our bank made up for us changed into a real one (don’t even ask!) and fought for several months to have internet and phone connected (which was so difficult because of the aforementioned moody fiscal number,) we didn’t have the spirit or inclination to do any more at that point.

We found some sand, buried our heads firmly in it, and without mentioning it to each other, both independently agreed not to speak of it again until we got towards a deadline.

Red Tape in Portugal

Calculating Tax and Other Red Tape in Portugal

Now the time has come to once again start visiting a range of government buildings where people frown and shrug and shake their heads, and ask questions on expat forums where everyone gives a slightly different answer to every question because they have met with slightly different government officials who have dealt with things slightly differently.

Anyone moving to Portugal should not underestimate how time consuming and difficult it can be to plough through the red tape and legalities. We are determined that we want to stay here for good, and, as such, we intend to do everything completely legally. This makes it hard to get advice from other expats as a lot of people you meet haven’t bothered or “got around” to doing it properly, or have been given hugely conflicting advice from the experts.

Add in the complications of the fact that we both have a UK income, and the implications for tax and social security in both countries, you end up with a situation that makes even the most helpful of accountants start doing their own version of the “Portuguese shurug.”

If it weren’t for the fact we are honest people who want to do everything by the book, it would be easy for us to go and bury our heads back in that sand and forget about it for another few months, so we can see why so many of our fellow expats appear to do just that. The other day I ended up with internet browser tabs simultaneously open for the European Union, Portugal’s Financias, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK NHS – that is enough to spoil anyone’s day.

Still, after days of research, we have a clear plan and with the help of kind-hearted accountants and forum members, we are pretty sure we know what things have to be done and in what order. Now we just need to voluntarily have several stressful, crap days in order to do it all. Wish us luck!

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