For those of you who follow us, or perhaps more appropriately, those who recently started to follow us upon our announcement of the beginning of our sabbatical (or micro-retirement, or whatever you want to call it), we’re back.
Since leaving the USA a few weeks ago, we’ve been getting settled into our apartment in Portugal which has taken up and consumed nearly all of our time. But… we’re ready to restart our blogging careers in the coming weeks.
That said, we’ve been asked lots of questions about the process we’ve gone through to get here and thought it might be interesting to those of you who have wanted to move to a foreign country or Europe or Portugal specifically to share some of the things we’ve learned over the past several weeks.
1. Its good to have friends (in high places). I’m not sure how we would have done this without our trio of supporters: our lawyer, our banker and our realtor. All three have gone above and beyond for us. Our lawyer has helped arrange a swap of our water heater (the investors who flipped our apartment installed the wrong kind, incompatible with the gas line in the building) and subsequent inspection by the gas company, assisted with getting cable and internet installed, ensured the utilities were hooked up and that all bills were set to auto-pay from our bank account, etc. (in addition to the work for which we hired her which was helping us with the purchase of the apartment and the completing the visa application submission). Our banker also has provided us with health insurance and homeowner’s insurance (for which we are eligible by holding a bank account), taught us how to use the bank’s web portal and app (not as intuitive to pay someone as you might think if you’re used to the “bill pay” concept of online banking in the US) and has been a huge help overall with all things financial. Our realtor not only provided great guidance in apartment selection but has assisted us with locating local contractors we needed for various work we needed done. God bless this trio of helpers and all of their wise counsel and their friendship.
2. Learn to speak the language. Yup, this is an obvious one. It goes without saying that people want you to speak their language. Portugal is a relatively easy country to visit as a tourist if you don’t speak Portuguese because nearly all of the hospitality industry speaks extremely good English. That said, many “normal people” don’t speak English at all. Also, its just good practice, its considerate, respectful and polite. A good, well pronounced Obrigado/a (thank you) and Bom Dia/Boa Tarda (good morning/day / good afternoon/evening) can get you by with a smile but we now are turning our efforts towards actually learning. My Spanish and Latin (thanks Mom) in high school and college and our year learning Catalan (in preparation for maybe buying an apartment in Barcelona) has helped a bit, but its time to dive in, invest the time and really learn.
3. No rest for the wicked. What do I mean by this? Well, a bed can be hard to come by. We ordered a pull out couch online before we left the US with delivery slated for our first Friday here. The delivery was delayed which left us in our hotel (about which we will blog in another post as it was amazing) for an extra week. When it arrived, the delivery company refused to actually uncrate the delivery and bring it up to the apartment claiming we never told them we didn’t live on the ground floor (we like the coffee shop down there, but don’t want to live there). I learned, from a helpful Facebook friend in France, that this is not uncommon in Europe and that it costs extra to have furniture delivered to a floor higher than floor 0 (the ground floor). Live and learn I guess. What we expected to be a day of receiving a delivery for an hour or so turned into a full day of uncrating, unpalleting and unboxing and assembling our stuff with incomplete supplies (i.e. no screws provided for the cabinet) and missing pages in the instructions (it took about 30 minutes to figure out where the wooden slat actually went inside the couch due to missing and undocumented steps). That said, its all assembled and the bed we bought comes in a few weeks and we’ve confirmed that they will actually deliver it to our apartment (vs. the sidewalk) and assemble it (take that, Bolia.com). PS: we didn’t find a place you can walk into and buy a bed on site anywhere. They may exist, but all require an order for a future delivery, so plan ahead amigos.
4. Shopping can be mais dificil. Hint: find the mall. That’s where you’ll find the brands you’ll recognize. However, there isn’t a Target or a big box store to be found (blessedly). Bricomarche is the hardware store here, Intermarche is the closest things we’ve found to a Super Target (but more like a K-Mart) and between the two and the mall we’ve been able to get equipped. We also found a lovely little grocery store/gas station two blocks from our place which, combined with the twice weekly farmers’ market, should keep us well supplied with foodstuffs and quaffable beverages.
Editor’s note: since this post, we have found two grocery stores, closer to home even, which put the Intermarche we visited to shame: Continente and Auchan. We also discovered the magical world of Worten for appliances large and small.
5. Getting your Visa is time consuming. As those of you who know us personally or those who have been following this blog for a while, we are planners. We’ve been planning this for more than half a decade. Melissa’s countless hours of internet research has paid off. That, combined with the dumb luck of stumbling into our realtor’s office who introduced us to our lawyer, who introduced us to our banker has made all of the difference. We suspect you could do this process without them, but it would be so so so much harder. There are so many documents and rules to follow: proof of purchase of property from a Portuguese bank account, FBI background check, proof of marriage (certified within a recent timeframe, meaning we needed to call the city where we were married and get a new one issued and then get it “apostilled” which took some research on how to do that), proof of Portuguese health insurance (queue the banker), affidavit that we won’t collect social security here, birth certificates, passports, and countless forms, etc. That said, last week, we had our appointment with the SEF (immigration) to get our forms filed, fingerprints recorded and pictures taken. Now we wait. We expect it to be about six more months and then we will have proof of residency.
Note: This was important because as a US citizen traveling in the Schengen region (which is most of Europe, but not all, read more here), you can’t just show up and stay here as long as you want. You have to leave for three months after being here for three months. We were naïve and didn’t know this and know that others we’ve spoken with don’t know about it either. Its a process and a long one and you need to be well planned out and well aided. Fingers crossed, but we’re optimistic.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not comment on the welcoming nature of the Portuguese people. This is a lovely country with lovely people, amazing food, scenery, things to do and culture. When we tell people we’ve moved here they are nothing but welcoming. Obrigado para o povo de Portugal!