Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in Portugal:
I researched everything to death before I left, but certain things you have to live to properly experience. We knew red tape and paperwork would be “a nightmare,” but that nightmare was an abstract concept until we were actually here having sleepless nights over things not getting done. If I could change one thing, I would have put more effort into learning the language before getting here. Although we are way ahead of many expats who don’t make any effort to speak Portuguese, we are still playing catch-up years on.
We were lucky in that we had bought our house about five years before we actually made the move – so it already felt like home! My advice to others would be visit your planned new home lots of times first - at different times of the year, not just during the 'holiday times' - i.e. see what it's like in winter! Ask lots of people lots of questions, and maybe plan to rent first, if you can, to see if you like it enough to want to live there.
I think we were fairly well prepared. I’d googled and researched from pretty much every angle possible and nothing much came as a huge shock except perhaps the sheer magnitude of the “red tape”! We knew to expect some. Nothing prepares you for how much! As for changes, I’m not sure what we could have changed. Other than perhaps doing it years ago!
Stock up on patience. Things take longer than you might expect and you probably won’t receive the level of customer service you may be used to. You will need to chase people for information, such as quotes and deliveries. It’s the thing I find most frustrating even after years of living here.
Expats will find such a passion for fresh food cooked simply here, which is delightful: grilled fish (with the head, bones, and skin); spicy chicken piri piri, roasted to perfection on a rotisserie; steak with a wobbly egg on top, surrounded by a mound of fries and rice. Seasonings are limited to olive oil, onions, and garlic in most cases.
Back home, life was faster-paced and people were more pragmatic. In contrast, the pace of life here is more relaxed and people are more laid back. The Portuguese are really warm, friendly and helpful!
We’re fairly adaptable, but I confess that Portuguese “elastic” time management will always be a tad difficult for us, just like the reluctance to commit, finish a task and take responsibility. On the other, far more positive hand, the friendliness, sense of humour and self-deprecation of the Portuguese people are priceless.
The Portuguese language is probably the biggest difference in my new life, because I’m a ‘uniglot’ — I only speak English fluently. But there’s exposure to the Portuguese culture already, due to the large Portuguese communities in Canada, especially in Toronto where I lived previously. It helps to have Latin roots, which makes Portuguese culture oddly more familiar than Canadian life in many respects.
Language has been the main issue for us. My folks knew the basics from their holidays to Portugal in the past but they are far from being fluent. There is a lady in our village who has been giving us lessons and last year I stayed with a Portuguese family for a couple of months so I have learnt a bit.