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(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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
US readers can find it here: Moving to Portugal – the book.