Come on over - the Algarve's fab
Even if your knowledge of Portugal is limited to Cristiano Ronaldo and pastel de natas, mmmm pastel de natas .... don’t dismiss looking into this fabulous country - and in particular the Algarve - as a possible relocation destination. Many expats, us included, will tell you that it only takes one visit before you find yourself falling in love and packing up your life and relocating to this beautiful country.
Expats have been moving here for years thanks to the sunny weather, friendly people, relatively cheap living, great food and to escape the rat race and daily grind of living in their home country. The number of expats in Portugal rose 6% in 2017 to 416,682, comprised mostly of Brits, Americans, South Africans, Brazilians and Canadians. This trend continued into 2018 and with the threat of Brexit looming overhead many more Brits have now registered with the immigration services - SEF - and obtained their residências.
Many expats choose the Algarve as their location of choice when they move to Portugal. Home to more than 100,000 non Portuguese the Mediterranean climate, picturesque beaches, first class seafood and slower pace of life make it an obvious choice for those looking to live in the sun. Its mix of traditional and modern, cosmopolitan towns and typical Portuguese villages gives the Algarve an allure that few can resist once they have experienced it.
In 2018 Portugal was announced as the Top European Destination for Expats and sixth in the world.
However, if you imagine that your Algarve life will run the same way as back home, be prepared for some degree of a culture shock, this may not be the case.
The 14 years that I have lived in the Algarve have been amazing and I truly call Portugal my home. I love the people, the climate, the food and the beaches - but don’t get me started on the red tape, paperwork and bureaucracy! When you initially move over here there does seem to be a common rite of passage for expats - a community largely tied together by our mutual confusion when trying to work out the order in which we need to go to the finançes and câmera to get paperwork, in order to then move onto the next hurdle of understanding which documents out of the ones we have been given we actually need to bring to our SEF appointments as well as navigating through the obstacles of general Portuguese bureaucracy - thankfully not a day to day occurrence.
Overcoming these hurdles and running the gauntlet of the finançes can be flipped on its head and seen as one of the reasons living in Portugal makes you feel fab. Spending hours in stuffy, only slightly air conditioned offices is a real headache but the feeling of elation when you understand what the guy behind the counter has said to you, or when you have organised everything you need for your SEF appointment or you have learned enough of the lingo so you can do more than just nod and smile at your neighbours are truly liberating experiences! When you put that little bit of work in you end up with a bond that you just don’t get back home.
If you are still worried about taking the plunge and starting your journey to move abroad then take heart, 14 years ago that was me. I didn’t want to leave the UK, my family was there, my friends, my life was all wrapped up in the United Kingdom. Neither my husband or I spoke Portuguese - which was evident when we stopped at the first service station. The lady behind the counter said Olá and I said “yes, two please” thinking that was the word for ice cream, what followed was quite an awkward exchange of us just saying Olá to each other for about five minutes before I grabbed a chocolate bar from the stand, paid and left! Can you see my confusion?
To be honest neither myself or my husband are that much better at speaking Portuguese now, but when you realise that giving it a go with a smile and being able to laugh at yourself while doing so things all of a sudden don’t seem quite as daunting. The defining quality of most expats here is the unspoken agreement we’ve made to respect, understand and engage with the local Portuguese culture and people.
I still miss my family and friends of course, but Skype is a real help, plus we all keep up to date with each other via WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram so I don’t miss out on all the important things. Plus, they all get super cheap holidays to the Algarve every year and the time we spend together on those 10 days or two weeks is spent laughing in the sun, by the pool, on the beach or at the water park - you couldn’t get away with that for two weeks in sunny Britain now could you?