Read our real-life stories and experiences from foreigners now living in Portugal as an expat. If you have your own story to share, feel free to contact us to get involved.
Where are you originally from?
Well, back in England I spent my working life as an HGV driver and my wife had taken her exams to be a Transport Manager later in life.
About a year before my retirement we had a good chat about what we were going to do post-retirement as I am a lot older than Mary. We were told that our marriage wouldn’t last owing to the age gap, but 45-years later we are still together and still happily trundling along life’s highway.
But back to our decision to move abroad… over the years I have had a few bad accidents and suffered from many back problems. I had relied on pain killers, physio, and heat treatment which was doing me a lot of good, but the treatment only lasted for a few days or hours when I was really bad.
With this in mind, we started to look at the map of Europe and a warmer climate to help manage my back pain.
France? No, it didn’t appeal to me.
Cyprus? No, it’s too close to the Middle East.
Italy? No, can’t remember why now but maybe because I don’t like pasta.
Spain? No, don’t agree with bullfighting.
Portugal? Didn’t know anything about the country, so off we went to WH Smiths to look for magazines about Portugal but did not find any (but plenty of magazines on the other countries we had turned down).
Now what? We decided to go over for a holiday and find out.
After a few weeks on the internet and I had flights and a little cottage in the mountains just below the northern Spanish/Portugal border booked. The location of the little cottage was not ideal as we had decided we wanted to explore and see properties in Central Portugal. It was only a 4½ hour drive south but with me being accustomed to 18 to 20-hour drives each way with my job, I didn’t consider this a problem.
But the big problem still faced us.
For me, the only time I had been in an aircraft was a long time ago and it was a ww2 bomber and it only got halfway down the airfield when one of the engines blew up so I was a bundle of nerves when we took off from England.
After arriving in Portugal, it only took two days looking at properties when we decided to buy a stone “casa” in a small village near Alvaiazere and we haven’t regretted our decision since. We would recommend anyone to do the same.
Now Mary is a diabetic and we weren’t too sure how we would manage being in a foreign country. But we didn’t need to worry as we both feel the health system in Portugal is very good. Stick with it and you won’t be let down and don’t worry about the language barrier; in the 15-years of living here, we have found that wherever you are, someone will speak English.
Driving? In my opinion, the standard of driving is a lot lower than England so keep this in mind and you shouldn’t have a problem. In Portugal, it is not the driver who is insured but the vehicle so provided you are over 30-years old and have permission, you can drive anyone’s car. Also in winter, they don’t salt the roads in frosty weather so when driving in the countryside and on local roads keep this in mind. It is only in the last few years they have started throwing shovels of grit on the bends but not on the straight stretches.
As for mixing with expats, we don’t bother too much as we are both happy with our own company (we have a few very good friends and are happy with that) but if you like mixing with people there are a lot of English about the area and places to meet up.
When we moved over in 2005 there were only a few English families around but over the past few years, they have been flooding in. From our personal experience, some have brought the worst of the English attitude with them. Unlike with the Portuguese, the type of job you have or car you own isn’t a problem. You can be dressed up to the nines and go into a restaurant and someone on the next table could be in working clothes but no one will bat an eyelid. That is the laid back attitude we have come to like and expect in this new land we now call home.
In the Rua (lane) we live in we are the only ones who own a car and don’t mind stopping to give the others a lift if we pass them by. It goes a long way over here and if you have a problem they are more than happy to come and help, a sense of community that seems to be missing in England.
Three things to keep in mind if you are considering moving to Portugal:
Out in the rural areas, boys and girls can walk from village to village without fear of being molested. If a car does stop, it will be to give them a lift home (whereas in England, anything can happen nowadays).
If a piece of land is not fenced in, you are allowed to walk over it. Some foreigners that move here don’t seem to understand and get annoyed when the locals seem to “trespass”.
If your Portuguese neighbour offers you any produce they have made or grown, don’t refuse it. They do get very upset. They may not have much but will share anything they have with you. Bake a cake or make something to give back to them and you’ll have friends for life.
If you would like to share your story of living in Portugal as an expat, please contact us today.