Why Leave the US of A?
The Portugal News started popping up on my phone while we were there, and I’ve continued to read it some since coming back. Today I saw the photo and headline above when I first accessed it. Note, it’s an Opinion piece, not “news”. https://www.theportugalnews.com/news/2022-10-11/why-are-americans-moving-to-portugal/71039
I kinda feel like Enough Said. At least as far as why leave? I'll also talk more about Why Portugal.
The day before the above was published, the Washington Post published: https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2022/10/10/country-after-second-trump-term/ I’d suggest not reading this unless 1. You’re thinking of not voting, or 2, you also have an escape plan.
This is an influence on my and Scott's plans, but not the sole reason for moving out of the US and to Portugal.
I’ve joined 3 FB groups that are devoted to different aspects of Portugal. I told you in a previous post about “Women over 50 Moving to Portugal Friend Group”. I also joined “Americans Living in the Algarve” (the southern region) and “Americans & Friends in Portugal”. The latter seems to be THE best source of information about how to get the required D7 visa and Residency Certificate to be able to stay in Portugal for 2 yrs at a time as opposed to 90 days. The D7visa is geared to retirees who aren’t able or don’t want to get the Golden Visa. The Golden Visa involves making a large monetary investment in Portugal. It’s all a bit of a process that involves a good bit of paperwork. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. You can Google these if you want to learn more right now.
A guy named Rob Vajko posted a really great post today. He detailed a LOT of information about LIVING in Portugal that is very helpful. When you just go somewhere for a vacation or other short time, you seldom get any of the nitty gritty about having your LIFE there. I was just going to copy/paste some excerpts but have decided to include the whole thing. Over 300 people have chimed in to either thank Rob for the info, or add to his list. Here goes.
Things that seem strange in Portugal that you soon learn to love
When you first move to another country, many things, as you would expect, are different. A different language, different holidays, different cultures, different foods and different ways of doing things. Some you will have a hard time adapting to and may, often times miss some of the “old things” that you are used to.
Others you might expect and welcome.
That has certainly been the case for us when we moved to Portugal almost 15 months ago now. We moved where we did, knowing that we would be walking a lot. We wanted somewhere flat and, in Portugal, that’s more difficult to come by as most major towns and cities include a lot of up and down walking. We hardly use our car as we can easily walk everywhere we need to. We purchased one for long trips where public transportation is hard to come by or where it would take a lot longer to get there via public transportation but otherwise, it pretty much sits in the garage. That’s good news because the latest research shows that as you age, walking is one of the absolute best things that you can do for your body. What with taking our dog for a walk two or three times a day, walking to the grocery store, the bakery, the fruit and vegetal market, the meat market and friends’ homes, it isn’t that difficult to reach the recommended daily number of steps (the latest research tells us that 7,000 to 8,000 steps are what is needed, not the arbitrary number of 10,000 steps. No one actually knows where that number came from). That, however, is not unexpected. We moved where we did, knowing that we would be walking a lot.
What is unexpected is the number of things that we at first found strange but have, since actually learned to appreciate and love.
Here are a few examples:
No trash day or recycle bin
In most cities in Portugal, there is no trash service as we are used to it in the US. Instead, there are dumpsters scattered around on street corners as well as recycle centers for 1. paper and cardboard 2. glass 3. plastic and metal You just take you trash to the dumpster which is regularly emptied by the city as well as your recycle to the recycle bins. No more waking up at six in the morning to the sound of the garbage truck out on the street and rushing in you PJs to try to get your trash bin to the street because you suddenly realized you’d forgotten to leave it out on the street the night before. When your trash is full, just take it out to the dumpster, whenever you wish!
Additionally, the Portuguese people have a system where they put anything that they believe someone else might need or want, next to the dumpster instead of in it. If you see a bag next to the dumpster it isn’t because the dumpster was too full or because someone was too lazy to lift the lid and put their garbage inside; open the bag and see what it was that someone left there, it might be something you might actually need or like.
There is nothing that can make Americans look more stubborn and unwilling to adapt than the European, ever-present bidet. I have heard expats talk about how they just use it to put their clothes on, how they remove it when they purchase and house and a whole lot of other nonsense. I say “nonsense” because the bidet is one of the inventions that the Americans never seemed to buy into (it was invented in the USA in the 1960s) but that quickly became an essential part of hygiene in Europe and beyond.
If you were changing your child’s diaper and got poop on your arm, you would never simply grab some toilet paper and wipe it several times and call it good. You would use soap and water to make sure that every bit of poop was gone. Somehow however, Americans seem to be okay without soap and water when it comes to wiping after a good BM. How unhygienic!
Once you understand and get used to using a bidet, you’ll never want to be without one. As a recent expat, who had learned to embrace the bidet said on a Facebook post: “I love it! My a** is now so clean you could eat off it!” While I wouldn’t recommend doing that, I do appreciate the sentiment.
Nothing frustrates Americans more, when they first get here, than the roundabouts in Portugal. They are everywhere and while they do throw you side to side a little, once you understand how to navigate them (if you’re taking the first exit, stay in the outside lane; if you’re taking the second exit move to the next lane in and if you’re going all the way around or almost all the way around, move completely to the inside lane and move out just prior to your exit) you will learn to love them. The Portuguese understand the rules and respect them which means no more red lights and no four-way stops. Everyone gets to where they are going a whole lot faster and safer.
Studies have shown the safety advantages of roundabouts vs. 4-way stops and lights. Accidents, when they happen tend to be fender benders rather than serious T-bone car crushers that take lives and send people to the hospital. Yes, you’ve got to slow down a bit but in the long run you get where you’re going a whole lot faster.
Tickets instead of cues (sic)***
What does the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, the post office, the meat department, the bakery department, the IMT (Portugal’s equivalent to the DMV) and the returns department at any major store have in common? Tickets.
You do not have a place in line unless you have a ticket. Every one of the above-mentioned places has a little ticket dispenser (sometimes a simple “pull-to-take-a-piece-of-paper-with-a-number-on-it” machine or in other instances a menu selection that dispenses a number based on a different number of factors). If you don’t have a number, you don’t have a place in line.
I was recently in a pharmacy. There were three people in front of me and when it came turn for the man directly in front of me to be served, the pharmacists asked for his ticket. He’d forgotten to take one so he was told to go back to the entrance, take one and wait for his number to be called. Everyone knew that he’d been standing in line before me but it didn’t matter. He didn’t have a number and if you don’t have a number, it can’t be called. The next number that was called was mine.
This might sound frustrating and annoying but it is, in fact, extremely efficient. You don’t have to literally stand in line. You can go play solitaire on your phone, chat outside with a friend or pick your nose. As long as you are there when your number flashes on the overhead display, it’s your turn. Simple, easy and convenient, especially if it’s a long queue and you need to sit down instead of standing squished up against the person in front of you and the person in back of you.
When I first told my wife that, in Portugal, most people don’t own a dryer; that they hang their clothes out to dry instead, her reaction was something akin to “Oh heck no!”
That’s the reaction of most expats. Funnily, however, most of us no only adapt but actually enjoy using the energy of the sun instead of a dryer. We did purchase a condensation dryer but we rarely use it. My wife has actually said that she now loves the ritual of hanging the laundry out on the drying rack on our balcony. It’s a washing “zen” thing.
Everyone here does it and you see laundry hanging everywhere. With so many days of sunshine, however, it’s an energy efficient and simple way to dry your clothes. Your towels might not be as soft but your laundry always smells fresh. Trust me, you’ll not only get used to it but you’ll actually enjoy it.
Individual Shops instead of the one-stop shop
In America, we like efficiency. We don’t really like to have to go to multiple places to get what we need. It’s one of the main reasons why malls were invented.
There are malls in Portugal and there are large stores that sell everything from clothing, to kitchenware to electronics as well as a very large selection of food. Near us in Aveiro the mall is Glicinias and Auchan is the superstore. We do shop there occasionally principally because they have a great selection of food that we can’t find elsewhere (I would go there just for their selection of cheese, not to mention the fact that they have Yakisoba!).
Mainly, however, we like to shop at the local, small stores in the neighborhood where we live. We are on a first name basis with the butcher and he knows what cuts of meat we like and how we like it cut up. Right around the corner is a fruit and vegetable store that has the best and freshest produce available in Portugal. Again, they know us and we know them. For bread and cakes and pastries, we shop at our local Pastalaria, which is the equivalent of a coffee shop with incredible pastries and bread that is baked fresh daily. Claudia, who runs the place, automatically brings us our coffee when we arrive unless we ask for something different. The locals all gather there and we all greet each other. She’s probably not supposed to allow it for health reasons but she allows us to bring our Miniature Schnauzer in with us and fusses over him each time.
It took a while but we have slowly learned where to find all the things that we used to go to a superstore for in the US. In the process we have gotten to know the shopkeepers and store owners (Here’s a hint: Keep a note on your phone of the names of the people you deal with so that you can check it next time you go there. There is no better way to make people feel special than to remember their name.)
The point here is that “the way we’ve always done it” isn’t necessarily the only or even the best way to do something. Sometimes, a different culture and country can teach us another way if we are open to learning from them.
What else would you add to this list?
Topics #dailyliving #livingabroad
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*** I’m pretty sure he meant queues.
Here’s another reason to leave. As of the Raleigh mass shooting, in 2022, the US has had FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY TWO (532) mass shootings. WTF?
Have a good weekend