Tracey: The Hand Family in Portugal
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Portugal, etc.
We’re a family of 4, married 18 years with 2 young children, now aged 8 and 12. We come from a small town in Lincolnshire, in the UK, and moved to Lagos, in the Algarve in July 2010, when the boys were 7 (just, his birthday was the day before we moved!) and 10.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Well, our move to Portugal was prompted by a 4 week trip we made to Australia over Christmas 2009. We kept a daily blog, during that period, so that family and friends back in the UK could keep track of what we were doing on our trip of a lifetime. (That blog can be seen at http://somanyhands.wordpress.com )
When that came to an end, on our return in early January 2010, we had itchy feet and instantly started looking into moving abroad. I was missing being able to share via a blog so I started a new blog, detailing our plans to move. This just grew into a great way to keep family and friends up to date with what has been going on in our new life here in Portugal.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I am loving doing the A to Z series and it’s certainly inspired me to blog about subjects I probably wouldn’t have ordinarily blogged about! I feel passionately about all the subjects I have chosen so far but my personal favorites are probably the personal glimpses into our lives such as E is for Emigration (I notice that Wordpress has ditched some of my images, for some reason, in this post and will endeavor to fix!) F is for Friends and Family and L is for Lifestyle.
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?
Oh, it is different in every single way possible! Aside from the day-to-day language challenges, face particularly by our boys, the seemingly endless red tape is something that takes an immense amount of planning, patience and persistence in equal measures. Any culture difference is positive though. Everything is more laid back. School days are very different (and often erratic!), socializing is a whole culture of its own. People say “Bom Dia” (and mean it) and there’s just something about the sunshine that lifts spirits all round.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Portugal? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
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!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
If that’s the case, we must lead a very boring life because I don’t think we have any funny experiences to tell! I leave the funny stories for others to share.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Portugal?
- If you have children, check out local schools before you decide where to live because the school you are closest to will be the one you are expected to send them too! You don’t want to move to the “ideal home” and find the local school is not all you hoped.
- Do LOTS of research before deciding where to live too. There are many places that we considered or looked at, when we were deciding where to put down roots, that I now, 2 years on, look at and thank goodness that we don’t live there now!
- Decide whether you are going to do everything “above board” or not! I’m not advocating being a stealth expat (although there are LOTS of them!). It seems too much like hard work. We are completely registered with bit of paper for every department in Portugal, it feels like! Departments in Portugal aren’t completely synched but they are getting there. It won’t be long before they’ll notice your fiscal number is active even though you are supposedly not in the country. And be warned that as soon as ANY UK tax department gets an inkling that you’ve left the country, they’ll ALL know! The sooner you tell them you’re leaving (and do this before you leave too!), the easier that process will be to sort out.
How is the expat community in Portugal? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I don’t honestly know much about the expat community beyond online forums! As parents working from home, with children in Portuguese schools, we don’t have much chance to mingle with the “expats”. Having said that, I’m very choosy about who I give my “real life” time too anyway so that suits me. We have a small selection of friends who we enjoy spending time with and I’m happy at that. Not being retired, or golfers, or boat owners, we don’t fit in with many of the “local expats” anyway!
How would you summarize your expat life in Portugal in a single, catchy sentence?
Do it, don’t regret it and enjoy the sun!