Moving to Portugal – A Year On

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It is now just over a year since we waved goodbye to Old London Town, and got on the plane to Portugal, leaving our old life behind.

Needless to say, the year has been one of the most eventful of our lives, and I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to work out how to summarise our first year in a blog post.

When you move abroad, especially to somewhere you have fallen in love with on holidays, it is surprising when, after a few months, you realise that you haven’t at any point felt that

Boats at Olhao - Moving to Portugal
Boats at Olhao - Moving to Portugal

undiluted happy holiday feeling.

If holidaying somewhere you adore could be likened to the electric, lustful feelings of the start of a relationship, going to live there is rather more akin to the deep rooted contentment gained through a happy marriage.

This is no bad thing, and there have been plenty of wonderful moments along the way that have lived up our initial hopes.

One day a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were both frantically busy with work and within seconds of closing our laptops were both leaning over the kitchen sink – I was shelling prawns while she scaled sardines, ready for some guests coming over for a midweek dinner. We were both stressed. It wasn’t until I remembered we were preparing cheap and fresh seafood within seconds of finishing work, rather than fighting through the crowds on the way to a tube station, that it occurred to me that we were in fact living the dream we waited for.

This does go some way to illustrating my point. When you go to live somewhere, real life moves there with you. When you are on holiday, real life is put into a state of suspended animation until you get home and pick up the big pile of bills on the doormat. We ARE living our dream, but those bills still arrive on a daily basis, and wherever you live you can have weeks that suck and leave you thinking you need a HOLIDAY – even if the beach is ten minutes away.

Our one year Portugal anniversary has caused us to look back at the last year, and we do feel we have made substantial progress in integrating here, even if sometimes this progress happens so slowly you don’t notice it at the time.

Speaking Portuguese is an example of this. Now when we go into shops, restaurants, garages, we speak Portuguese without it occurring to us that we ARE speaking Portuguese. We didn’t actually realise this until some relatives pointed it out after observing us in a supermarket, and it was a very rewarding feeling. Even more pleasing was when I picked up a Portuguese cooking magazine the other day and realised that there were entire paragraphs I could understand. Compared to my wife I thought I had been decidedly slack when it came to learning the language, so I am encouraged by how much does seem to go in without you noticing.

Sunset over the Algarve near Barrill Beach
Sunset over the Algarve near Barrill Beach

Another pleasing change which started to occur after about six months was that we stopped having those wobbly days or weeks when we questioned our decision to move. These are now few and far between and affirm our decision.

I figured the best way to look retrospectively over our first year would be to list five of the year’s high points, and five corresponding lows…stay tuned for my review of the first year, coming on Friday.

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  1. It must have felt very rewarding when you realised you were starting to integrate, as well a relief! Learning the language is probably one of the most important things to get over. In a way you feel it is a great obstacle between you and feeling at home in your new country.

  2. Hi and thanks for reading – absolutely – the language helps no end, even though we still have a long was to go, a smile and a “desculpe, fala so um poco de Portuges,” get you out of a lot of trouble!


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