Laura: My Home in Portugal
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Portugal, etc.
Hi, I'm Laura, a twenty-something university postgraduate from Kent, England. I write ‘My Home in Portugal’ for my parents, Rob and Sue, who retired to Portugal in 2013. They now spend the better half of the year in Central Portugal and the other in Kent. Most of the time, I write about their life over there and occasionally hijack it with details of my own adventures.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started the blog in May 2013, not long ago, to document the progress they were making on the Portugal house. My folks aren’t too internet savvy and their friends and family were interested to know what they were getting up to in sunny Portugal, so it just made sense!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
There are a few entries that have turned out to be the most popular amongst visitors, such as The Tour of the House and the Repairing of the Swimming Pool. One of my own adventures in Coimbra turned out to be a popular one, though!
I’ve also written a few guides, too:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Portugal differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My parents are the most industrious people I know and because of this the move over to Portugal went very smoothly. They had been visiting Portugal for their holidays for the past few years so they knew what the country was like but not necessarily the shear amount of bureaucracy and ‘red tape’ that ensued from just buying a house. At first my folks found the slower pace of life a bit frustrating because it would take twice, sometimes three times, as long for anything to get done. For instance, I think it took nearly 3 months for us to get a quote for putting the guttering up around the house. But they are getting used to having to wait for things to happen around them and, where possible, learning how to get things done by themselves. Now that our fight with Portuguese bureaucracy is over my parents are really enjoying their lives. They’ve completely reinvented themselves over there and absolutely love it and think of Portugal as their ‘home’ now. The one thing that continually makes them enjoy their lives there is the Portuguese people, they are genuinely kind-hearted and selfless. Our Portuguese neighbors want to get to know us and share things with us, whether it is food from their veggie patch or the latest village gossip. One thing that really struck me as different was the amount of traffic on the roads. Outside of the main cities the traffic is sparse and in the countryside you can go for a miles without seeing another car, so when we returned back to the UK for Christmas and hit the motorway with three lanes of chock-a-block traffic I was wishing that we were back in Portugal and wondering why we had come back.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Portugal? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
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. Ideally they want to take proper lessons but for now they are using a blackboard in the kitchen to learn their ‘words of the week’.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One summer afternoon we all drank a little too much wine with lunch and decided to paint a picture to put on display in the kitchen. I put on some music from the ages and we each took a tube of paint each. It started off looking great but then one of us started throwing the paint at the canvas, which transformed the canvas into a mess of colours and somehow we accidently painted our clothes, the dogs and the garden too. One of our neighbours took that as an opportune moment to knock on the door. She didn’t join in on the fun but we’ve definitely got the label of being the ‘crazy English’ now. You can read about it here: What happens after you retire?
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Portugal?
I have ten, so take your pick! Top 10 Tips for Mingling with the Locals in Portugal
How is the expat community in Portugal? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
We bought our home in 2011 through an English mediator and we’re now very good friends with them and see them quite regularly. They’ve introduced us to a lot of their English speaking friends over here and one of the most successful ways that we have made friends is through walking our dogs! To be honest, we’ve been quite happily trying to integrate with the local Portuguese community and haven’t really felt the desire to branch out to other English expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Portugal in a single, catchy sentence?
Two expats who have retired to a life of walking their two dogs in the foothills of Central Portugal. Sun, mountains and perhaps a little too much wine.