Top Tips to settle in to Portuguese life
Spending a lot of time in a new country or moving there for good is an exciting but unnerving experience. Portugal Property Guide’s expert expats offer their top tips to help you settle in properly.
You may already be familiar with Portugal as a regular holiday destination – somewhere where you can get away from it all and relax. We all know that the reality of living in a country, rather than enjoying holiday time there, is quite different, but if you are prepared in advance and do your research, you will find that you soon settle in to a new way of life. The Portugal Property Guide team has put together their ten top tips to help you on your way.
The Portugal Property Guide team has put together their ten top tips to help you on your way.
1. Allow enough time to get used to it all
When planning your move or first visit to your new property, make sure you allow some time just to relax and get to grips with your new surroundings. Take a break and relax, as you normally would on a holiday. Allow time to take everything in and absorb the changes. It will also help give you energy to face any challenges that lie ahead in getting everything set up.
2. Try to learn the language
Don’t underestimate how useful it will be to learn some Portuguese before you buy your Portuguese property. Try to ramp up your efforts to learn the language in these early days, now that you have access to neighbours, local shopkeepers, restaurant and bar owners to practice with. It’s normal to feel nervous about speaking a new language with native speakers, but you will find that the Portuguese always appreciate any efforts to speak the language, and will be patient with you while you try. If you are trying out your Portuguese in a local tavern, a little “Dutch courage” may be helpful!
3. Be prepared for bureaucracy
Legal and official matters do not work in the same way or at the same pace in Portugal as they for in the UK or USA, for example. It’s important to accept this from the outset and get used to the fact that these processes are likely to be slow and at times, painful. But life in Portugal is worth it!
4. Get connected
One of the first things you need to do is to get a mobile phone and Internet services connected. Do some research online before you go, so you know what deals are on offer and where you can buy them. Getting a 3G or 4G hotspot set up in advance for when you first get to Portugal can be incredibly helpful and stop you from feeling adrift in those critical early days in the country.
5. Get to know the local shops – and do some shopping!
In the time you have allowed yourself to acclimatise, wander at a relaxed pace around your local shops and markets and try out some of the merchandise. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the locals and even try out your Portuguese language skills. It’s also worth remembering that Aldi and Lidl are mainstream supermarket options in Portugal, so not only can you bag a bargain or two, but you can also get your hands on some home comforts.
One of the many reasons people buy a home in Portugal is to enjoy the local food and drink.
6. Meet the expats
You may prefer to surround yourself with local people rather than spending all your time with other expats, but the expats who are already living in Portugal can provide a valuable support network and source of useful information on everything to do with the local area and what it’s really like to live there as a non-Portuguese national. You can find expats in local bars, at the supermarket or market, and even online before you go, on Facebook, Twitter, expat web forums, and so on.
7. Plan your paperwork – carefully
After you have allowed sufficient time to get to grips with your new home and local area, and enjoyed a bit of downtime, you will need to get down to business: practical matters, such as registering at a local medical centre, organising residency status, or buying a car. Draw up a plan of all these important matters that you need to address, in order of priority, then start working your way through the list systematically. These matters always take longer than you may expect, so keep going and don’t give up hope, however long your “to do list” may be!
8. Find a good takeaway
One of the many reasons people buy a home in Portugal is to enjoy the local food and drink. If you’ve been busy setting up your utilities, or queuing at a government office to submit forms, however, the prospect of venturing out may lose its appeal. Unless you’re in the city, you are unlikely to be able to get this delivered, so you will at least need to take yourself around the corner to the local pizza place or Chinese Takeaway.
9. Make sure everything is sorted “back home”
You will also need a list to tick off for all the practical tasks that need to be completed back home, like setting up a postal redirection service, cancelling any non-Portuguese mobile phone contracts. It’s also important to ensure any online accounts are in order, all the correct address and contact details are listed for you in your new home, and most importantly, that you have notified the tax [link to tax before you go] authorities in your home country that you are moving to or living in Portugal for a significant proportion of the year, as it affects your tax [tax after you move] status.
10. Keep track of your budget
Don’t get carried away as soon as you get to Portugal and treat the move like a holiday. Many people move to Portugal for quality of life and look forward to enjoying its cost effective reputation, but you should still keep a firm hold on your budget and overall finances [finances after you move] and work out what is realistic now that you are living in a new country.
The Portugal Buying Guide is designed to support you through each stage of buying property in Portugal, providing relevant, up-to-date information and tips from Portugal property experts and expats who have been through the process themselves. The guide helps you to: