Christmas Already?

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“Christmas already?” goes the well-used cliché. Many years ago, I worked in a supermarket, and I’d hear it at least a hundred times on the day we began to load the seasonal stock onto the shelves.

For many expats, Christmas has to start early. For starters, getting hold of many of the things that make up our non-negotiable traditions takes time and effort, especially if we are to get them at sensible prices. I’m talking about things like mincemeat, marzipan and Christmas crackers.

Christmas is coming
Christmas is coming

Then there are the presents. When you have to send gifts a couple of thousand miles, you can’t be doing all the Christmas shopping in a fun but frantic rush on Christmas eve.

Luckily (and as you will know if you’ve read the blog for a while), my wife and I love Christmas. In fact, we’ve already watched a few Christmas films this year and my wife’s “Christmas music embargo” was lifted a few days ago. We’ve even already made the chutney.

In a couple of weeks, we set off to London for our annual mad dash around family and friends. It’s fun, tiring and slightly thankless all at once, as there never seems to be enough time to go round. It’s perhaps a little known fact of expat life that you end up using most of your holiday time visiting people and having people visit you – it’s hard to end up with any real time off for yourself.

Snow and traffic on our last Christmas trip back to the UK
Snow and traffic on our last Christmas trip back to the UK

This December visit will be even more hectic than usual, as I have a couple of big work projects in progress. It’s quite depressing to know that we’ll be in England with insufficient time to get around to all of the people we’d like to see.

Anyway, I’m only having a little moan; working is part and parcel of a trip to London for us. There’s always next year, and if people want to visit us instead, they know where we are.

Speaking of which, people have already booked to come out and see us next year, and next week we have a friend coming over for a repeat visit. We’re looking forward to showing her the winter version of the Algarve. Tavira, our local town, is really rather enchanting at Christmas. I hope the town hall budget permits similar decorations to these this year:

Tavira Christmas Lights 2010
Tavira Christmas Lights 2010

So, I’ll end today’s post with an apology that my updates may be a little sporadic over the coming weeks, as we attempt to spread some seasonal cheer in the UK and earn enough to pay for the festive season. I’m already looking forward to a glass of pink fizz on Christmas morning. In this age of austerity, it will be Portuguese sparkling wine, not the posh stuff! Until next time.

Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? It would be awfully seasonal of you to buy someone 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.


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  1. Hi Ben
    We are now back home in the northwest of England after a productive month in Cabanas searching for a long term rent to live in when we return early next year to live and work there.
    We made a visit to east algarve rentals in Tavira,and though we never rented through them we found them very helpful and obliging,we mentioned your name and they was puzzled how we knew so much about you both,until we told them about your book which they were unaware of so she went straight on amazon and promptly ordered a copy!
    We are contacting the accountants you recommend in your book as we will be earning money in both countries so need to take advice from them.
    We will be expanding our website to offer a high quality rental and management company at affordable prices based mainly in cabanas,we are really looking forward to following in your footsteps and moving to Portugal,although we hope to have a smoother transition as we already have fiscal numbers and bank accounts,and of course we have your wonderful book to guide us through the many pitfalls of a move to Portugal.

    Regards Jeff

  2. la la la! I have my fingers in my ears … not listening to you (yet!!!!!!) it’s too early for us to think festive thoughts yet … but I did notice that Iceland were selling packs of Christmas cards for 1.50 Euros … if you are short?!?!
    I’m hoping the lights at this end of the Algarve are good too – fingers crossed!
    wishing you both a peaceful, heart warming and joyful Christmas (oh heck – did I really just type that?!?! – on the 1st December?! what’s happening to me?!) … does that count as a Christmas card?!

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