Is Life Always Rosy?
What are the negatives...
I received an email from a reader shortly after the results of my most recent survey were published. She wrote:
Although I'm sure your experiences in PT thus far have been mostly positive, I would like to read/hear some of the negative aspects if there are any. Most bloggers gloss over the corrupt side of things. Friends living there have warned me that buying a car and/or home open up anyone…to a host of flagrant rip-offs. I am following you because your voice resonates as quite authentic. — Teri
First, I want to thank Teri for taking the time to write to me. I am always pleased when someone takes time out of their busy day to comment or offer a suggestion. I will get to the crux of her question…but first, permit me to respond to her comments about being ripped off.
There was one occasion with the beer…but otherwise, we have not ever felt taken advantage of in Portugal. We purchased a car and found it to be a very positive experience. We believe we paid a fair price and the salesman continues to take our calls and offer assistance. Two examples: first we couldn’t find the recommended tire pressure for our car. He looked it up while we waited on the phone. Second, we had not received the formal registration card after 2 months. Again, he immediately got on the phone with the proper party and called us back. Within about 7 days the registration was in our mail.
As it relates to our recent house purchase…so far, things have gone smoothly. Of course, this is not the US. As we explained in the post, Before You Buy, there are key differences here. It is prudent to pay an attorney to assist you in the process. We hope we will have a similar experience with the renovation. But only time will tell…
I guess there are things that perhaps I haven’t written about before. Yes, things are different here. So let me expound on them now.
The truth is I don’t follow Portuguese news. Of course, I followed the news as it related to Covid in Portugal. I still do. Jorge Branco provides a stellar weekly Substack newsletter which provides everything you need to know in a quick read. While the bulk of the editions I have read have been about Covid, there are other news shorts offered. I just stopped writing this post to look back and see when he started publishing and what he intended his newsletter to be. His first post says this:
If you’re a foreigner (estrangeiro) living in Portugal, it can be hard to keep up with the news. You don’t know who most of the people are and if you don’t speak Portuguese, you don’t know what they’re saying either. It can be tempting to tune out entirely.
I don’t mean to sound like your mum, but right now, it’s really important to know what’s going on around you. — Jorge Branco
And, of course, there are other English language digital papers that cover Portuguese news. I have used them for research from time to time…but honestly, I read the New York Times and Washington Post more than any Portuguese offerings. (And I read those less than I used to…)
Another reader asked about my thoughts on the snap elections that are scheduled for January. I really don’t know what to think. I wrote before about Life Without Noise. As Portugal is my new home, perhaps it is time for me to take my head out of the sand and try to stay current on the important happenings of this country rather than the US. At the same time, I know my newfound calm is because I don’t obsess over the news the way I used to.
Perhaps I should have told you this sooner…we really don’t have Portuguese friends. I want to be clear. We love our realtor, Elizabeth, and we have shared a meal several times. She was kind enough to even include her daughter in one of those dinners. There are two shopkeepers that we visit even when we are not shopping. They love Onix and we will spend half an hour talking about nothing with them. Every visit ends with “beijinhos” all around. They are lovely, sweet, kind people. But surprise, our closest friends since moving to Portugal are all expats. (We met many of them via “evil” Facebook groups. Others contacted us after reading this blog.)
The Portuguese people are reserved. If you say “bom dia” when you pass on the street, they will smile and respond. But for the most part, they don’t engage strangers. And of course, there is the language barrier. My failure to study has placed me at a distinct disadvantage.
Both Denise and I hope that that might change when we move to Vila Real de Santo Antonio. I think we are hoping the smaller community will create more intimacy. That through the building/renovation process, I will be forced to study Portuguese and we will meet people that become a more permanent part of our lives. Perhaps…
Keeping in Touch with America
This last one is a really hard one to write about. And I don’t want to offend any of our American friends…but I often feel like if we don’t initiate contact we would lose all contact with our American friends. We “Zoomed” or “Facetimed” quite regularly when we first arrived. We were totally locked down, and their movements were restricted as well. I am not sure if it is that we are no longer stuck in our homes or just the passage of time. But there are not that many friends in America that we keep in touch with regularly.
I have a friend in San Francisco that initiates calls as often as I do. There is one in Florida I can count on to call from time to time. I speak to my oldest (sorry, I should have said longest) friend in South Carolina about every other week. Denise speaks regularly with her sisters. But that’s it!
I often worry that it says something about me as a friend that more people don’t keep in touch with me. I spoke recently with another American. She and her husband were here scoping out Portugal. Her work required her to leave the States for six or more months at a time. She tried to reassure me that it did not reflect negatively on me. She told me, “Their life just gets in the way…”
Perhaps…but honestly, I was not comforted.