My Politically Motivated Move to Portugal
Views from my terrace or spots not far from home
I have no doubt some of the other immigrants in my circle of friends and acquaintances, will read this blog and disagree with some of my thoughts and observations. Please keep in mind that this is my experience, not yours.
The Best of Relocation
The weather — I could not have asked for better weather than what I have experienced in the Algarve. We have four seasons, but they are mild compared to what I experienced in the States. Fall is cool, with some (not a lot) of rain and a bit of humidity; winter is a bit colder, however, never below 45◦ (F) after sunset and often above 60 degrees during the day — some rain, but never enough for me; spring is glorious, with an abundance of sunshine, a cool breeze and great sleeping weather; and lastly, summer is dry and hot, with temperatures often above 90◦. I don’t like July and early August; extreme temperatures make me uncomfortable. I also miss thunderstorms, we have very few of those here.
The Southern Portugal way of life — there are certain things that Europeans do that make a lot of sense. The pace of living is slower and less motivated by packing as much into a 24 hour period as possible. Life is more leisurely and less stressful. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and more time is spent eating it. The abundance of sunshine sends people outdoors. The Portuguese are pleasant, but private. Children are free to play in yards and parks; their laughter fills the air (I live a block away from a large nursery school).
Food — the freshness of most foods is one of the first things about Portugal I noticed and embraced. Portuguese people practiced the “buy local” concept long before it became trendy in the States. The seafood is amazing, and although there is some farm raised fish, most of it is done in natural waters and well regulated for sustainability.
Healthcare — Aging is not pretty, therefore, I’ve needed several specialists over the last five years. I have not been disappointed. My visa comes with a private healthcare mandate and I happily comply. I’m paying 1400 euros a year — a co-pay of 35 euros for a visit to a specialist, whom I can usually see anywhere from the same day to two weeks. I’m impressed that surgery has not been the go-to answer to any issue. If I did end up needing surgery, the out-of-pocket expense would be reasonable. Actually, I did need some skin cancer surgery which cost me 80 euros. Medicines are inexpensive and most are over-the-counter. The only pill I currently have to take is a prostate pill and it’s over-the-counter for 4 euros and change a month.
Dental care is also excellent. I needed an implant a couple of years ago; all-in 1100 euros. I had an implant done in the U.S. for $4,000.
Open Space — Simply put, most of southern Portugal is spread out and well planned. There is a bit of traffic during the summer months, but it is light in comparison with most of the U.S.
English Speakers — Although I am struggling to learn Portuguese (it gets better everyday), I am grateful that so many people here speak English. I was at an auto body shop on Thursday and I typed my question into Google translator, showed it to the receptionist who then replied, “Would you like to speak in English?” We both laughed.
I love my gym and for 250 euros a year I can visit the gym up to six days a week from 6:30 a.m. to whenever they close — I have no idea when they close because I always go early.
Smoking and Men’s Cologne — These two things make me crazy. There are way too many smokers here, often making outdoor dining unpleasant. Young men bathed in cheap cologne is a sad realty I will never understand. I want to yell and scream, but I learned that my opinion is not the popular opinion and so I suffer in silence. My friends who spoke would never light-up during a meal.
The Roundabouts — I have two minds about roundabouts. I know that they make driving easier; however, many people have no idea how to drive in them, making them dangerous and scary. I have some thoughts on who the worst drivers are in Portugal, but I’m going to keep this bit to myself.
Taxes — I received a take break for my first ten years in Portugal; an incentive by the Portuguese government for relocation. This being a social democracy with a very different tax structure, I do not know what my tax liability will be after 10 years. I know that I will not be taxed on the taxes I have already paid; however, some taxes are higher and I will be taxed on income the U.S. will not tax me on. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. To be honest, I’m happy to contribute to a system that takes care of its own citizens. I do not see people living on the streets in Faro and there are very few beggars.
Little Humidity Most of the Year — I’ve been forcing myself to drink water my entire life. Summers here are hot and dry and unfortunately, I have allowed myself to become dehydrated several times. This will become more dangerous as I get older. I’m going to have to start setting a calendar reminder in order to hydrate. I’d rather be where humidity is low.
What I Might Have Done Differently
Rent first — I love my apartment, but only after a bit of anxiety and trial by fire. It would have been smarter for me to rent for a year and view many different properties. I recommend that you review your buildings financials prior to purchasing.
Language — I started a Portuguese language course as soon as I knew that I was moving overseas, but I knew very little Portuguese when I moved here. Take a language course just as soon as you know you are moving to a non-English speaking country. Memrise is inexpensive and easy to follow.
Transportation — I went without a car for five years in order to do my part in saving the planet. After experiencing numerous train strikes and unreliable bus schedules, I purchased a car. Life is easier with a car, even when you live in the center of a city. Travel outside of your city requires you to have a vehicle.
Dollars to euros — if you don’t mind checking the value of the dollar frequently, there are times you can get a decent exchange rate. I haven’t been very good at making transfers when the dollar was stronger than it is right now (it’s still better than when I purchased my condo six years ago). Last year there were a couple of days when the dollar was actually stronger than the euro.
- I will continue to travel for as long as I can. Travel has been one of the best things about retirement. I am much closer to many of my favorite places and there are several competing budget airlines that help make it affordable.
- I am struggling not to overplan and to allow life to be more organic. An almost impossible goal for me.
- Trying not to pay too much attention to U.S. news. I’m finding the media’s portrayal of life in the States to be difficult to take in at times. I think I might have a healthier state of mind if I detach a bit more.
- I am developing a “go with how you feel, when you feel it” attitude. If I’m itching for some travel, I book a trip. I believe that if I’m suddenly motivated to move to another country, I will just do it. Once you’ve done it successfully, you know in your heart that you can do it again.
- Spending more time at home with Paco has been my best plan of action over the past few years. There is a 10 acre park across the street from my apartment that was just recently beautifully renovated. I’m enjoying spending time there with Paco and I know he’s enjoying it as well.
- The friends I have made here make living in Portugal one of the greatest experiences of my life.
This overview is not all inclusive. There are the feelings of others to be saved, challenges I have not met, and issues that are more my problem than anyone else’s.
I’m spending a few days in Ayamonte, Spain this week. It’s only an hour from Faro by car and has a lot to offer. After that a return Nantes and Pornic, France, then Belgium; on to Marseilles, then Oban, Scotland, and finally a 2023 long awaited trip to Dubai and Asia.
Will I stay put in Faro or will I relocate once again?
I AM NOT GOING ANYWHERE . . . for now.
Here I am celebrating my birthday in Liverpool last week. This is a Swedish drag queen who was on season one of RuPaul’s Swedish Drag Race. I’d share her name if I knew it. I could go to a drag show in Liverpool at 2:00 p.m.; if I wanted to go to a drag show in Faro, I’d have to be awake at 1:00 a.m. and that’s not happening.
Once again, please forgive spelling and grammatical errors.