Real Life Stories: Astrid Fernandes
Posted on: 5th Feb 20
Read our real life stories and experiences from foreigners now living in Portugal.
If you have your own story to share, feel free to contact us to get involved.
Where are you originally from?
What year did you move to Portugal?
Where do you currently live in Portugal?
Tell us about you and your journey so far…
Back in 2004, I travelled to Europe for the very first time visiting France, Spain and Portugal. It was in Portugal that a holiday romance blossomed with a Portuguese guy who then moved and lived with me in Australia. That guy is now my husband of 14 years and father to our two girls.
We moved from Australia to Portugal in 2012 keen to have a greater connection with his family here and I always had the dream to live in Europe one day. When we arrived, we bought a small farm (Quinta) in the Alto Alentejo and spent the first 5 years living the “rural” lifestyle. But since then because of my husband’s work, we now call Sintra our home.
I was working in the advertising industry in Australia and desperately needed a change. I started an online kidswear business from home called www.lilalakids.com. But this site www.expatsportugal.com is now taking up most of my time. I also do a bit of catering and design websites.
Why did you choose Portugal? Did you consider other countries?
Portugal was our only consideration as it is the home country of my husband.
What were the major challenges you faced in relocating to Portugal and how did you overcome these?
In the first months, I was very nervous about driving on the “wrong” side of the road but with time it became natural. Also, the Portuguese people work a lot slower than in Australia and realising it may take days or weeks for a response for any type of enquiry was a huge adjustment. I think I am lucky as my husband is Portuguese who dealt with most of the bureaucracy, but there are companies out there who you can reach out to for help.
What are the pros and cons of living in Portugal, from your perspective?
Pros: friendly people; relaxed lifestyle; shops open late; really good cheap food.
Cons: in the cities, cars parked everywhere any everywhere; property prices increasing rapidly; old houses being neglected.
What do you like to do in your leisure time while living in Portugal?
Our girls take up a lot of my time and like most kids in Australia, have sporting practice and games they need to be chauffeured around to and from. Most weekends there is a birthday party on the or sleepover nights with friends.
My husband and I love to entertain so we have people in our home a lot. I am a keen cook and love exploring international supermarkets to find unusual ingredients to cook with. You will find African, Chinese, Indian and Brazilian shops scatter around Lisbon.
We also like to spend time at our country house in Alto Alentejo. I dream of living there permanently one day.
How are your Portuguese skills?
When I first arrived in Portugal I enrolled in an intensive course which was probably the best learning so far. Since then I have learned mostly from my kids, reading subtitles and listing to DVDs.
My Portuguese is still pretty bad considering I have been in the country for nearly 8 years. I can get by at the supermarket or post office etc, but almost everyone – if they can speak English – they will want to practice their English with you.
The television has English shows and not dubbed and the radio has popular music in English. So even though you could get by without knowing much of the language, I do miss our social occasions with my husband’s friends and families with all conversations in Portuguese.
Describe how easy or difficult it has been to make friends in Portugal.
In my opinion, making friends is really easy when you are living in a foreign country.
Portuguese friends are easy as they are such friendly people. Meeting expats it is also easy as they are likely in the same situation as you are so immediately you have something in common. I have networked quite a bit in groups and forums, also attending some meet-ups which have all been positive experiences.
What do you miss the most from your home country?
What I miss most about Australia is the amazing food and huge variety you can find. The cuisine there is very modern and find that Portugal lags behind a bit.
Of course, I also miss my friends and family.
What 3 pieces of advice would you give someone who is thinking about moving to Portugal?
Explore the Portuguese school system for your kids if you want them to really integrate into the Portuguese life. If you are happy to pay fees, the private Portuguese system is a lot cheaper than the International Schools and will expose your kids to the true Portugal.
Don’t be afraid of moving to Portugal not knowing anyone. If you look in the right places, you will find a lot of people willing and happy to help you and potentially become friends.
I often tell friends that I believe the culture in Portugal is very similar to Australia, we are just living this culture in a country that looks very different.