Emigrating, Immigrating and Celebrating Our First Year in Portugal

Countryside in Central Algarve, Portugal

Countryside in Central Algarve, Portugal

We don’t usually think of ourselves as trend-setters.  We left the US in 2012 with the plan to travel slowly and see where the road took us.  We’d concluded the year before, in 2011, that the only way early retirement would be possible for us was to look at moving to another country where the cost of living was cheaper and the health care more affordable.  We weren’t making any political statements as we traveled slowly from Mexico to Central and then South America with a couple of island nations thrown in for good measure.  And how we ended up in Portugal wasn’t because we were disaffected with the US.   However, judging from the dramatic increase in Americans inquiring as to how to move to other countries like Canada, (so many that the immigration website repeatedly crashed the night of the election of Donald Trump as the future President) we may well be ahead of a rising number of US expatriates seeking new lives elsewhere.

Along the cliffs between Lagos and Luz.

Along the cliffs between Lagos and Luz.

Coincidentally, the increased interest in moving abroad has occurred on our first anniversary as Portuguese residents, living quite happily in the Algarve area of Portugal.  It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about our lives in the small city of Lagos, what we’ve learned as we’ve coped with the cultural differences and figured out how, where and when to get things done.

One of the most important things we did, after consulting our lawyer and giving our landlord the required 60-days’ notice, was to move.  Turns out there’s a H-U-U-U-G-E difference in living out of a suitcase for three years and viewing each home as temporary versus renting a place with the plan to stay for a year or longer.  Our small apartment at the Lagos Marina was iffy from the start and, over the five months we lived there, doable slowly changed to irritation, changed to the old movie line from Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Heaters were replaced and light fixtures repaired but we were still left with broken down, uncomfortable and stained furniture, the sound of late-night partygoers holding loud conversations outside our windows and the fact that we had about a foot of counterspace to prepare meals in our “efficiency” kitchen.  And once we rented and later bought a car, the walkable location and proximity to the grocery store, city center, bus and train stations became much less important.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Finding a rental in Portugal.  Unlike the US where rental companies and realtors share multi-listing services, it takes a little more effort and diligence to find a rental here.  It’s not that there aren’t property managers, rentals or sellers out there – it’s just that their listings are exclusive.  A renter or buyer goes from one representative to another and views different properties with different agents until they find what they want.  Another wrinkle in the Algarve and especially in Lagos, is finding a long-term rental versus a short-term rental (called a “holiday let” here) because this is a popular tourist area.  The rents double and triple in June, July and August and many owners have a good income as well as the option of using their property as a vacation home.  We’d made friends with one realtor during our time in Lagos and a new friend recommended another property manager so, in a classic case of the right time-right place circumstances and in the space of a week, we had two great places to choose between.  One was a 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bath townhouse/condo for €900 in the nearby town of Luz and the second choice was a very modern second floor apartment, 2-beds, 2-baths with a sea view on the outskirts of Lagos for €800.  Both were furnished nicely right down to pans, plates, sheets and towels, had gated access with parking for our car and lovely pools.  We opted for the second apartment with its granite countertops and dishwasher (only €50 more per month than our original rental) and, giddy with the feeling that we had a most excellent abode, forked over without any hesitation our first and last months’ rent.  We’d moved to Portugal with three medium-sized suitcases, two carry-ons and two small backpacks.  This time it took two car trips to schlepp our stuff, mostly kitchen items, a bulky printer-scanner, pillows and off-season clothing, Beverly Hillbillies style.

What we learned.  We should have rented a place month-to-month (Air BnB has some great choices) for the first one to three months while we looked for a good rental that better suited our taste and budget.  It takes a bit of work to wriggle out of a long term lease.

Other things to consider:

*If you’re thinking about the Algarve, start your search during the shoulder or off-seasons, September through May.  You’ll save money and there will be more choices available.  Keep in mind that living along the coast will be more expensive as is living in a popular tourist town like Lagos.

*Rent a car by the day, week or month (the rates go down during low season) even if your plan is to be auto-free and pedestrian once you settle in.  This will give you a chance, in your quest to find the right place, to explore the small villages scattered along the coast and inland which all have unique personalities and characteristics.

*Don’t buy a property right away if that’s what your long term plan is. There’s a lot to choose from and no reason to rush. And, if we haven’t made it clear by now, our plan is to keep renting for the foreseeable future. We’ve been there – done that as far as owning property and we much prefer to keep our options open.  In fact, we really can’t see too many reasons to buy property in a foreign country since the rents are so reasonable.

Coastline near our apartment

Coastline near our apartment

Changing your address.  Since we’d traveled for several years we’d gotten out of the habit of a having either a phone (when you’re new in town who are you going to call?) and mailbox.  The ease of doing everything online and staying in touch by email is a no-brainer.

*However, now we had a phone and internet/cable contract so we walked over to our service provider, MEO, to advise them that we were changing addresses and needed to have the cable moved to our new apartment. The new installation cost a whopping €100.

Consider: In a foreign country, we always try to do things face-to-face to make sure we understand and are understood!

Consider: If you’re going to rent short term, find a place that has wi-fi and cable TV (almost every apartment but the one we rented!) to avoid a package contract.  Our new apartment had public Wi-Fi and cable so now our services are duplicated. On the upside, our total bill is only €54/month and our internet is private.  Still, if you only have a phone contract, it’s much easier to update the address and pay the bill as an auto deduction from your bank.

*We took photos of the water, electricity and gas meters of our old apartment on the day we moved out to give to our former landlord to change the utilities back to his name.  The whole process of changing the utilities took a lot of patience and ended up with us feeling frustrated as well as feeling like we’d (most probably) been ripped off.

Lesson Learned.  Our new property managers gave us the option to keep the utilities in the owner’s name and we pay the bills online as we receive them which is much easier and more straightforward.

ruins near Porto de Mos, Lagos

ruins near Porto de Mos, Lagos

As foreign residents, the most important people to tell about an address change is the SEF, Service de Estrangeiros e Frontiers aka the Foreigners and Borders Service –  in short, the immigration authorities.   We stopped by the nearest SEF office in the city of Portimao where we showed them our new lease and address, forked over €40 each and had new photos (hurray, the new photos make us look less like fugitives but one of us is lacking a chin!) and fingerprints taken since SEF would issue a new resident card with our updated information.

Another lesson learned.  Make sure your address is complete.  While our address was correct the original information we’d been given lacked our apartment number which meant the postman couldn’t deliver it.  We waited and waited for our new resident cards to come, checked at the post office where they shrugged their shoulders in a polite but unhelpful way and finally went back to the SEF office to find out the cards had been returned.  We picked them up and, next time, will make sure our new cards have the apartment number on them when we renew our resident visas.

Car Taxes and Road Inspections.  We’d bought our spiffy little car, a used, low-mileage, 2012 Skoda, from a reputable dealer for €7500.  In Portugal, the license plates come with the car and a road tax is paid annually at the Finanças office.  Our cost was about €120.  Once a car reaches the grand old age of four, it also needs to be inspected either annually or biannually depending on its age. Using a hand-drawn map, we headed out of Lagos toward the town of Sagres for a few kilometers, past the campground, around a few roundabouts until we saw a furniture store and, next to it, our target, the Inspecção Automóvel.  We paid the inspection fee of €33 and watched as our baby was poked and prodded, the brakes stomped on repeatedly until we thought we’d have to buy new tires and then shaken, over and over which had us thinking, “This can’t be good.” And it wasn’t … We were given a temporary pass, told to have our shocks replaced and headlights adjusted (€300) and instructed by the unsmiling technician to return within the 30-day grace period. A final re-inspection fee of €8 (and a smile at last) confirmed our car’s continued road worthiness for another two years.car inspection

Portuguese Driver’s License. We haven’t quite figured out what to do here. As residents, we’re supposed to have a Portuguese driver’s license but we understand that we have to exchange our US licenses.  In the US, a license is necessary for many day-to-day transactions. Since we travel to the US and also drive, we don’t want to surrender our licenses.  We’ve talked to several Brits who have lived here for years and have yet to find anyone who has exchanged their licenses.  So, for now, this issue is unresolved.

Lastly, and thanks to our lawyer, we recently received our registration as Non-Habitual Residents (NHR) which exempts our foreign income (like social security) from being taxed twice, once by the US and again by Portugal, for ten years.  We’ve included a link here which will explain this difficult concept much better than us since our understanding is, “WTH?” at best!  Taxes for Non-Habitual Residents

Looking back at this lengthy tome we’ve written has us thinking “We should have done this months ago” in more manageable posts!  For those of you with questions about becoming a resident in Portugal, hopefully this provides more information and didn’t induce too many yawns.  For those of you happy where you are, we hope we’ve impressed you with our dogged determination to master our lives in a foreign country.  Every day we’re reminded in many small ways that, “We ain’t in Kansas anymore.” Things are done differently here in Portugal but the extra effort is definitely worth it.

A cairn along the cliff path near Lagos

A cairn along the cliff path near Lagos

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

Next Post:  Continuing with the “We ain’t in Kansas anymore” theme, we’ll talk about some of the things, for better or not, that are different here in Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

79 comments

  • Your blog is remarkable and such a resource for those thinking about going expat. Am close to retirement age and my research led me to Portugal. We visited the Lisbon area twice last year with 10 days in August Cascais and Baxia. Loved all of it, weather. food, the people (so gentle and kind) and so many spoke excellent English. Went back just before Christmas. Oh, the lights gave Lisbon and Principe Real such a glow. Great gifts to bring home.

    Found your blog after that trip. Came up fast when searching expat and Portugal. Have been consuming every word. You are such a gift. Hope you’d be willing to share about US / Portugal income taxes? Google scans just lead to more confusion.

    My questions are around how income taxes work if you have US social security income and also a pension from US company. I ‘think’ good ol’ Uncle Sam get 1st dibs on taxing all US sourced income. And, as a resident of Portugal, you nalsowill need to file an income tax form with Portugal on any worldwide income source. That looks like double taxation but there is a treaty between US/Portugal to prevent double taxation – but the language is confusing. The tax rates look pretty high in Portugal too – up to 48% (?), which is a concern.

    Then there is that 10 year Non Habitual Resident (NHR) tax option, where your taxes are lower but was unclear what portugal income tax rate would be on Social Security and pension, if you took the NHR option. If USA get 1st dibs anyway, is there an advantage for taking the 10year NHR option. And if you do, what’s the plan if you stay more than 10 years? Lastly, is there any Portugal regional income taxes, like USA state taxes that you need to know about.

    Am sure I am asking way to much information. I promise to bring you a dozen pasteis de nata’s, when we’re in Lagos. Am pushing the family to go in 2018, based on your reports.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ted for your lovely compliment – in fact, I think we’re blushing! Congratulations on your soon to be state-of-retirement and it sounds like you are busy anticipating and planning your next chapter in life. We say this often but traveling and expating are the best decisions we’ve ever made!
      I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said something along the line of “…death and taxes being the only sure things” and you can be sure that Uncle Sam wants every cent due him from his citizens (at least some of them 🙂 !) We’ve filed our taxes faithfully since we left the US in 2012 and this was our first year of filing a statement with Portugal (due each May) using our NHR exemption with the help of our lawyer. (Good news, there are also services similar to H & R Block in Portugal too!) Basically, we provided proof that we have indeed paid our taxes for 2016 in the US (a copy of our 1040) and documentation of income received over the last fiscal year – copies of the documentation we provided to the IRS. We need to file a statement yearly in Portugal but we’ll pay no taxes for the next 10 years using the NHR exemption. And then … we’re not quite sure where we go from there! In short, you want the NHR exemption to avoid paying double taxes. And we’re not aware of any regional taxes that need to be paid (like state income taxes.)
      Hope this answers your question and good luck with your own expating arrangements and plans to set roots down in Portugal. We love it here! Hope our paths cross when you make the leap across the Atlantic!

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  • Great post! Greetings from Romania 😀
    https://travelonabudget.travel.blog/

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  • Thank you for your wonderful blog and loads of information. My husband and I have been searching for information on US citizens moving to Portugal for quite a while and it was sketchy at best. Your descriptions and instructions are clear and easy to follow. We have one more wrinkle, a little 3-year old Havanese that we would never leave behind. So, we will need to add her to our list of relocating information. FYI – We live/retired in the PNW on the Olympic Peninsula. Beautiful place and weather is mild (less rain than Seattle and no snow), but we are looking for a little adventure!

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    • Thank you Terry, for stopping by our blog and for your comment. We’re so glad that you found our information to be helpful and can assure you that there are many reasons to love Portugal, no matter what part of the country you live in. We’re extremely happy with our decision to live here as well as the ability to travel freely to so many other fascinating countries. Please let us know when you come to the Algarve as we’d love to meet you and good luck as you embark on your retirement adventure!

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  • Hola Anita, My first thought as I was reading your blog was, “Wow, has it really been a year already!” I’m sure I’ll feel the same when it’s our turn to celebrate that milestone. For me, our move was based on health needs for year round moderate temperatures. Though I do find it so disheartening that I am far safer in a third world country than in the super power we left behind.
    I absolutely love your ocean pictures and am excited for you two to have found a place of such great beauty to share and nest in together by the sea. Aren’t the colors of the sea breathtaking, and so temperamental. One day hazy greens, the next brilliant azule, the changing dawn and dusk lighting casts shadows inlanders never knew existed. And the smell of the salt. Quite simply the sea gets in your bones, I hope you never have to leave it behind. Thank you for taking me on your journey, I never tire of your muse. Shalom, Mariah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our thoughts exactly, Mariah, as we realized our 1-year anniversary in Portugal was fast approaching. Lagos has proven to be everything we’d hoped for and looking back, it’s fun to realize how much we’ve learned. (We’ll have to start language lessons at some point but for now it’s easier to procrastinate and focus on other things.:) ) We’ve had a love affair with the sea for years and the Atlantic here is amazing with it’s Mediterranean hues and clarity. If, for some reason we end up moving on, we hope never to be too far from the sea. Boquete seems to be weaving its own spell of enchantment on you but if you want to explore this side of the world, come on over!

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  • I really enjoyed reading this post, as being expats (in Nicaragua, then Viet Nam and now Sri Lanka,) it is very interesting to read about other experiences ~ but in different countries with different issues. You did a very thorough job and I will share it woth some friends thinking of moving to Portugal.

    Peta

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  • You should be writing an e-book for Americans Moving to Portugal. It’s hard for anyone to imagine all the complexities that pop up! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe we will write an e-book someday, Irene! The paper trail for Americans moving to Portugal is altogether different than what’s necessary for Europeans moving within the EU and of, course, there are the various types of visas available too. It really is hard to imagine all the different wrinkles that need to be smoothed out in the expating process but the effort of expating has been well-worth it for us!

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  • Isn’t it amazing how the lessons learned and tips and recommendations for others keep developing and mutating as we go along! Nothing is forever, including our Big Decisions.

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    • We’re learning as we go, Kristin which is a big part of the fun (and sometimes frustration!) of both travel and expating. One of our life-lessons has been that the Big Decisions (the career, the dream house, etc.) aren’t necessarily forever because as we evolve and change, those decisions need to be tweaked too in the ongoing quest for happiness… And isn’t it fascinating to find out all the different ways that things can be done!

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  • An amazing adventure. It obviously hasn’t been plain sailing all the way but it seems to have been worth the effort!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well worth the effort Karen! And, no matter where we choose to live Karen, some frustration is going to crop up here and there. The trick is to (try anyway!) take it in stride and eventually the bumps will smooth out. Life is very good here and, one of our main reasons for choosing to set up a base, we still have all of Europe to explore at our leisure! 🙂

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  • I read every word to the end. Fascinating. And kudos to you guys for overcoming all the hurdles. I bet it took some patience! Your new home sounds ideal. We’ll most likely be in Portugal next spring/summer and would love to meet you.
    Alison

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    • I think both of us are more persistent than patient Alison 🙂 and it helps that, even though things are different and confusing at times, it’s no more bureaucratic than the US. People have been extraordinarily helpful and the Brits have been here for decades so English is widely spoken too. Canadians and Americans are still kind of a novelty but we’re having fun meeting people from all over Europe which makes our pool of friends and acquaintances even more interesting. We’ve landed with our feet on the ground! We’ll look forward to meeting you and, as you start getting your travel plans together, we’ll make some more concrete plans. For now, enjoy the gorgeous beaches in Playa del Carmen!

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  • Congratulation to your move and 1-year-jubilee. It’s a brave move and worth it, it seems. We are still traveling after four years. After two weeks average we get itchy feet and want to see more. So – no permanent home yet. Who knows – maybe it’s because we haven’t visited Portugal yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the greatest things about traveling is that there are lots of variations on how to do it and it can evolve into whatever works for each traveler! I think it’s amazing what you have seen and done, Marcelle and you’ve found ways to make the nomadic lifestyle uniquely yours. We traveled quite a bit slower, usually stopping here and there for a week to 3 months, making a base and then taking day trips from there. In the back of our minds though, we knew we were compiling a list of places that would fit our lifestyle and, equally important, discarding places where we couldn’t picture ourselves living for a lengthy period of time. I’m going to wish you many more happy years of traveling and, when you’re ready to slow down, you’ll probably have a whole list of possibles to call home! Remember to drop us a note when Portugal shows up on your itinerary! 🙂

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  • Well, I finally got around to reading your very informative post, Anita. I think the thing I love most about Portugal is that it is a very civilized country. After living in Nicaragua for 6 years, we are ready to spread our wings and fly again…at least for 6 months out of the year.
    Presently we are in New Zealand…an incredibly beautiful country, but too earthquake prone for us. In fact, sitting in our little apartment watching the news about last week’s 6.8 earthquake, we experienced a 5.7 earthquake in Christchurch. Yikes!
    We hope to find a country earthquake free and mosquito free for our next adventure. A return to Portugal may happen next year. We sure hope so! Meanwhile, we send you lovely thoughts for a Happy Thanksgiving in Portugal. It is hard to believe that it has already been a year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Deborah for your Thanksgiving wishes and we hope the same for you and Ron. Your photos of New Zealand have been beautiful and, up until the earthquake, everything sounded idyllic! Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and mosquitoes carrying chikugunya and zika, OH MY! It reminds me of my mother worrying about us living on a barrier island off the Texas coast and then having to deal with Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey in 2012. Even Portugal has its famous earthquake, tsunami and fire of 1755 to remember so I guess there’s no safe place … However, Portugal has it’s numerous charms and we definitely appreciate living in a “civilized” country although our memories of Nicaragua are warm (maybe too warm sometimes!) Haha! Please let us know when you head to Portugal and we’ll be happy to help make your return visit special. Looking forward to the time when our paths cross but until then, enjoy your time in New Zealand.

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  • Another great post, Anita. Tom and I have lived in Europe for a number of years, but moved to Portugal just a few months ago. Our experience is a little different to yours, but there are many similarities. I especially like your reference to ‘shallow roots’, which I think pretty well describes what most happy expats are comfortable with. We too find Portugal to be a great place to nourish them!

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    • Greeting to another Portugal newbie! It sounds like you are thriving in Oporto and we keep saying that we need to make our way north to see what all the fuss is about! It sounds like a marvelous area with a rich history, distinctive foods and wines and a whole different culture from what we have in the Algarve. We’re still as happy to be in Portugal as when we first arrived and just keep falling more in love with the country. Each city and village seems to have something unique to set it apart and there’s no end to the new things to discover! One of these days (soon I hope) our paths are sure to cross!

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  • This is such a great post and there’s so much useful information. For anyone moving to Portugal you’ve nailed it – giving them so much helpful advice from your experience. We’ve ex-pated for many years, and I totally empathise with many of your frustrations. It will be great to look back on all your old blog posts one day when you’re well and truly settled 🙂

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    • Thanks Jo for your kind words. As someone who’s expated you’ll definitely know that slowing down helps ease the frustration of going through the hoops, one step at a time and we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to find people all along the way who have helped us figure out the next thing to do or place to go. It’s also helpful here in the Algarve that English is spoken widely – otherwise we’d be using Google translate and playing charades! It’s an interesting process and, even though we’ve made bumbled along occasionally, it really hasn’t been a big frustration. We moved here because we appreciated the charm of the area, the people and the culture and we feel enormously lucky that we’ve been welcomed!

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  • SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE FIGURING THINGS OUT! MISS YOU GUYS WAS SO GOOD SEEING YOU!!!!!

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  • Those are some good looking new digs you’ve got yourself! 🙂 Super glad to read that you’ve found a new place to call home and can hopefully, settle in comfortably. As upset as I was on the night of the election, I found it somewhat funny that so many we’re checking out Canada. Didn’t they see it coming?! I suppose not, and quite likely many of those searching the Canadian website were the same people who didn’t bother to vote in the election. I’m not sure who I’m more angry at, those who actually voted for “him” or those who didn’t bother to vote at all. But, I digress, it will be interesting to see if there is an upswing in the # of people – especially retired boomers – who pack up and head elsewhere. There is definitely a lot to consider because from where I sit, the see a very unstable 4 years on the horizon. Thanks so sharing this informative post. Looking forward to learning more.

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    • A moot point now but it really is hard not to get upset with those who gave the responsibility of voting a pass. We were totally blindsided too, Patti 😦 but the Canadian immigration website crashing the night of the election gave us a good, ironic laugh! I agree that it’s going to be interesting to see if the numbers of emigrants increase dramatically over the next few months. Closing down one’s life, selling possessions and relocating to a new country is a lot of work however, and I imagine that there will be a lot more talk than action. One trend we’ve been following in the years since we decided to travel full-time and then expatriate, has been the upsurge in baby-boomers and retirees leaving the country for many reasons including economic factors as well as a yearning for more adventure and new experiences. And, even though you have a permanent address, I can see that you too, love the challenge of exploring new places. At least there are a few bright spots in the midst of all the political angst … Anita

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  • I remember reading your post about a year ago when you were first settling in and loved this post with all the details about what you went thru. I give you SO MUCH CREDIT! I would have become so frustrated with all the red tape. This is an excellent post for anyone thinking about moving. Congratulations on your move!

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    • The list only seems long when you write it all down and try to describe it, Jan! HaHa! Really though, coming from a bureaucratic country like the US (and I don’t imagine Canada is too much different) it’s just a matter of proceeding step-by-step. Actually, shutting down our old life before we started our travels was a lot more complicated and a good lesson in patience! For our residency visa, one of the hardest things was trying to find out what we really needed to do as we waded through all sorts of online info that was inaccurate or made things seem more complicated than they actually were. At times we felt frustrated and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been writing about the process. It really is manageable when you break it down (it helps that we’re both detail people!), remember your patience and keep the goal firmly in mind!

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  • Hi Anita and Richard,
    You’ve done what many of us only dream — to live full time in a foreign country. Good on ya! Very inspiring. You mentioned in one of your comments about Portugal just feeling right. This is a theme that comes up again and again for Conrad and me. Each new country we visit has us asking if we could live there or not. It’s quite amazing to me how the “feeling right” happens immediately and is affected by many factors, some unconscious. It’s yet another reason why house sitting makes sense. You can get a feel for a region/state/country before making a commitment to move there.
    Wishing you a happy-ever-after.
    ~Josie

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    • Thanks Josie – We love Portugal and, while Lagos may not be our “forever home,” it definitely feels right for now! I have to agree that the instinctive, gut feeling of finding a place you can call home really is amazing. Like you, we also used both our longterm travels and housesits as a way to try out living as a local in many countries, asking ourselves often if we could stay there. I think it’s just as important to find out what you DON’T like as well as what place makes you feel comfortable. We also love the lesson we learned as full-time travelers – home doesn’t necessarily have to be one specific place. We feel a lot richer knowing that we can have as many as we want!

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  • Enjoy your new home! It looks like you found it:) As for the driving license.. are you using the international license for now?

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    • Thanks Christie. We’re loving “living the good life” in Portugal and feel amazingly fortunate to have landed here. To answer your question – Yes, we both have international driving licenses for now as well as current US licenses which still have a few years left before we have to renew them. We’re still trying to figure out our long term solution to avoid exchanging our US licenses but, for now, if we’re ever stopped we’ll show our US license and passports and keep our residency visas in our wallets. Hopefully, we won’t have to find out what happens!

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  • What a fabulous post, Anita! I learned a lot from it, and as you and others have said, much of the information is transferrable to relocating in any location. I shall bookmark this page!

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    • Thanks Doreen. It kind of gives us a warm glow to look back at what we’ve learned this last year and the fun (mostly) of making Portugal our base, but also our home. Probably the biggest thing for us to keep in mind is to approach things one at a time and bring our patience and a smile along with us. The names of the documents and locations may vary, but I imagine that, like you said, a lot of the requirements are similar from country to country. And it’s definitely worth the effort! 😀

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  • I really second what Rachel Heller has said. Moving to another country makes us privileged, and we must never forget we’re privileged. Things WILL be different and one has to learn to roll with the punches and accept it – especially not adopt an attitude of ‘well, back home it would have been done differently.’
    I have heard this comment so often in Greece and often say to people ‘OK then, maybe you should go back home.’
    And impoliteness from people of another culture is often mis-understood too. It’s purely cultural differences.

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    • I have to agree Rebecca that we also have a very difficult time with whiners and complainers! Things aren’t better or worse – they’re just different and that’s one of the charms of travel or living abroad. We try to remember to thank the gratitude gods often and for many things that go along with the expating experience. We feel extremely privileged that we’ve had the chance to travel to many countries and look forward to many more. We also realize that we have a unique advantage in being able to move freely between countries and are fortunate that members of our country are welcomed (almost) everywhere. Traveling and living in different countries is really an amazing and enriching experience!

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  • Great post. Interesting to compare requirements in different countries. In Panama we had to have our US drivers licenses certified at the US Embassy then the certification had to be verified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would be hard pressed to exchange my US license. Glad to hear you found a great place. We keep talking about a trip to visit. One of these days!! Good luck in your new place.
    Suzi

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    • Thanks Suzi and we’re looking forward to you crossing the Atlantic someday so that we can show you “our” adopted country. I’m sure you noticed some similarities and many differences between the long-term visa process for Panama and Portugal but one thing we have in common – we’re both happy where we’ve landed!

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  • I think that immigrating to any country, even as a privileged expatriate, involves lots of frustration because in every country things are done differently and you have to learn patience. When I moved here to the Netherlands, I assumed it wouldn’t be too big of an adjustment. After all, their lifestyle is much like in the US, and they speak such good English. I was wrong! It took me years to really feel at home, and I had it easy because my husband is Dutch. That meant he could take care of all the things like paying rent (and later a mortgage), arranging for cable, getting insurance, etc. I hate to think what it would have been like if I’d had to arrange all those things myself!

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    • Perhaps traveling and living in Latin America for a few years before deciding to establish residency in a foreign country was a good warm-up because we learned how to slow down, (mostly) take things in stride and adjust to details hanging half-done as well as a mañana culture. I think we were prepared for different and actually expected it to be even more of challenge than it has been. And when we hear people complain that Portugal is a bureaucratic country, we can’t help but compare it to the US which has to be a prime example of a bureaucracy. We’re okay with a step at a time – things don’t have to get done all at once. One thing you mentioned Rachel is that it took years to really feel at home. I’m thinking that we’ve also have had an easier transition because we’ve made many moves over the years and we’re comfortable with shallow roots. While it can be frustrating occasionally to jump through an unexpected hoop, it’s also interesting to compare how things are done elsewhere. And since this is Thanksgiving week in the US we should say how extremely privileged we feel for the chance to enjoy a new and beautiful country. 🙂

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  • Welcome to our beautiful country!

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  • This is a wonderful post about all the details of moving abroad. I’ve been looking for something just like this and it gives me hope about doing something similar in the future. You spoke of using a lawyer and I was wondering why. Is it recommended for all expats or is it a NECESSITY? Thanks for putting yourself out there!

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    • We’re so glad you stopped by our blog Stacy, and are happy that we were able to fill in a few details about the oft-times, confusing process of moving to another country. On the US side, a lawyer isn’t necessary as it’s mostly gathering documents and moving through the application process but we felt that we wanted someone familiar with the laws and language to help us with our settling in once we arrived in Portugal. A lawyer isn’t required but having one has smoothed a lot of the bumps along the way and answered our many questions plus helped us anticipate possible problems (like taxes and a foreign driver’s license). From here on out, we’ll be able to handle the Visa renewals on our own since English is widely spoken in our area but it’s good to have someone we trust in the wings. We have a friend who has done it on her own (using ours and other expat’s experiences as a guide), friends who have used a lawyer for certain steps and people like us who felt more comfortable with a legal representative. 🙂

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  • You may not have wanted to be trendsetters, but trendsetters you are. We knew right from the start that we wanted to settle in a place, have that be the base. With dogs, we couldn’t be doing the schlep with them. Malta worked out well for a year and a half before island fever set in. Spain has been a good base too (more so for me than Fede since he is the one who has to deal with the authorities etc.. 😉 ). We do a cost of living series on the blog because l get emails. Now, with people really seriously looking for alternatives just in case, posts like this that are chock full of information is sure to help a lot of people. I am still reeling post election. Like l am in a foggy nightmare that l can’t wake up from.

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    • When we first started thinking about living “outside the box” in 2011 and traveling with the idea of settling down eventually in a foreign country, there really weren’t that many expat blogs out there. Most seemed to be singles traveling or “International Living” type online magazines and excerpts which downplayed the negatives and underestimated the costs. In the last few years though, there’s a big wave of older emigrants looking for (love? adventure? simplicity? nirvana?) whatever and it’s fascinating to read, compare and learn from so many amazing experiences. And you’re right, Kemi, now, more than ever, people are thinking about alternatives and the just-in-case scenario hit November 8th… (OMG I can’t wait til we get together again to talk about that!) I always love your “tell it like it is” approach and honesty about the costs, financial and emotional, good times and fails. Some people are dreaming about new lives but I think a lot more more people are seriously considering making a move and sharing honest info and day-to-day experiences is not only fun but may help someone to make a decision to stay or go.

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  • Interesting post. While we won’t be retiring in Portugal, much of this applies to us as well as we’re thinking of setting up a base (after almost 3 years of full time travel) in 2017. That place will most likely be in Split (Croatia), a place we’ve been a few times now. We’ll be back in early January and will see how we like it in off-season.

    Did you guys have stuff sent from the US? We’ve got things in storage we’re going to have to have shipped over and it’s one of the things we’re looking at right now. As you know, we went to a lawyer last year and we can get visa extensions in Croatia as long as we arrange for a notarized lease…unfortunately no possibility of citizenship unless we buy property (which we don’t want to do).

    We’ll start looking in January at neighborhoods (and maybe even specific apartments) with a real estate agent. Looking forward to it. I think it’s an evolution as a traveller: eventually having a base to dump your stuff and unpack a suitcase. And furnishing it with your own stuff…it won’t change our travels, we still want to travel half the year. But we look forward to investing in a place.

    What was your short list before settling on Portugal? I’m curious. We’ve considered a few places: Budapest, Prague and Spain (we really like Southern Spain as we both speak Spanish it was maybe the most “logical” spot). But despite some impracticalities, Split is the place that we’ve fallen for. For now.

    Frank (bbqboy)

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    • Ah – the short list. 🙂 Back when we first set off, we’d really pictured ourselves settling in Mexico or Central America and Merida, Mexico and Granada, Nicaragua were both on our lists as places we loved. However, after living on an island for 10 years, we really wanted to live on the coast and once we’d hit the road again, we could see downsides in every place we visited. It wasn’t until we arrived in Spain though, that we both thought we were getting close and, somehow, Portugal just seemed to have everything we had on our list. But most importantly, it was a gut feeling, that it would be an easy place to call “home.” Like you and Croatia!

      We took a year to sell and donate everything we had (so liberating!) and my sister, who lives in Corpus Christi, TX, has agreed to be our guardian angel so-to-speak: we use her address as our residence, keep our official documents there and she keeps us apprised as to mail we might get. So, the answer about shipping our things is moot. One friend of ours had a large box mailed here and we’ve heard about people gulping and paying the extra airfare for goods to be delivered.

      Congratulation on your decision. I could tell when you wrote about it a few months ago that it had a place in your hearts and I’m so glad you’re going to go for it! It will be interesting to compare the expat and resident visa experiences between Croatia and Portugal. And, don’t be surprised it we show up at your doorstep! Croatia is on the list for next year and we’ve been talking with some Canadian friends about splitting a rental with them for a few weeks. I know our paths will cross eventually!

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  • Good post. I hope you will be forever happy in Portugal.

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  • Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post Anita. We spent a year living in Mexico some years ago and living abroad is not out of the question for us again. In fact, I would love to spend a year living abroad and traveling through several countries. Portugal and Spain are two countries we would be very interested in. Given the political upheaval right now, we could very well be considering this sooner than we had thought. I look forward to reading future posts on the subject.

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    • Our pleasure LuAnn! It’s kind of fun to go back and take a look at the challenges that are part of living in a different country. Many times the biggest problem for us is figuring out the “where” versus the “how” as we’re lucky to live in an area where most of the locals speak English and the Brits have paved the way for us. And I can well understand that you’d be dreaming about Europe still after reading about your experiences in Italy. I have no doubt that you would fall in love with both Portugal and Spain. I’m not sure that the repercussions of the US election will slow down any time soon (the world really is global despite what the GOP think) but I think that you’d probably find life here to be much more civil and simpler. It’s good to be somewhat removed from the political upheaval although we’re still reeling too…

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      • We may be coming your way before too long. Nice to know that civil is a word that can be used to describe life where you now live.

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        • We still have the habit of following the news closely, LuAnn, subscribing to several online news sites and magazines. It is appalling to see the hate fest that seems to be spewing across the US: the talk of appointing racists and fascists to some of the most powerful positions in the government and those who purport to be protecting democracy standing on the sidelines allowing it to happen. I can well understand why you might have a longing for a place that is civil … 😦 Anita

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          • I had asked Terry very early on in the Presidential campaign where we were going to live if Trump won the election. He kept telling me that that wouldn’t solve all our issues as he is on Medicare and is getting Social Security, plus our retirement accounts are still here in the states. I think he is now keeping an open mind, depending upon what develops.

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  • While the details may vary, such is much the same living in Ecuador. Indeed, expating in any foreign nation is guaranteed to be fraught with both large and small differences – and the initial frustrations that inevitably accompany them. You two seem to (wisely) take all such in stride.

    I’m sure you will agree – the differences: not better nor worse than in our native lands, just dif.fer.ent. And after all – arguably “different” is why we choose to travel and expat in the first place, yes? 🙂

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    • You’re right Dianne – things are just dif.fer.ent which is exactly what makes travelin’ and expatin’ the undeniably rich experience that it is. And just as slow travel is quite a bit different from the whirlwind trip you just took, building in downtime and relaxing is even better now that we’re planting some shallow roots and don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. Our travel experiences also seem to be more fun because it’s nice to have a familiar place to return too and chill out. Very worth the time and effort and usually, in this expating business, we can find something to laugh about or, at the more difficult times, share a good story! 🙂

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  • Good to hear that all is well and that you have landed in acceptable digs. We really enjoy your posts, living vicariously through you the good life. We bailed out of Underwood for a few days and are staying in Moab Utah at a friends house who is out of town. Winter weather has enveloped the NWest, so we figured that we would catch a bit of sunshine here before ski season got going.
    We are all nervous how trump inc. will change the face of this country. Not really sure what happened to get him in office, but as far as I can tell the American people are sick and tired of the Washington DC status quo. Well I guess it will be different now!!! Be careful what you wish for!

    Enjoy the holidays

    Keith and Corky

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    • So great to hear that you guys are doing well too, Keith and Corky. You also have a pretty nice set-up on the Hood River even with the cold but Moab, Utah sounds like a pretty nice alternative. 🙂 As for the state of the Union … you can be proud to be on the “Left Coast” which, if we ever returned, might be where we’d have to head to also. It’s easy to see that people wanted change but, OMG, it’s like watching a slow motion train wreck with a fascist at the wheel … A letter is on its way to you from Dick but hope you’ll keep in mind our invite to come on over for a visit!

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  • Yes, expats are definitely not in Kansas anymore but as far as I’m concerned that is really all right with me. Sounds like it is all right with you, too, even considering the hassles.

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  • You covered a lot of items that cross my mind when I daydream about living abroad for a few years. Thanks for making it sound manageable!

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    • It’s worth the effort Jeanie and it’s important to keep in mind that there’s usually no rush to get things done. In fact, we recently advised some new friends who just moved here to try to tackle only one thing a day at the beginning, which is what we try to do. As former “Type-A” super-achievers, we used to focus on crossing everything off the list as fast as we could which can lead to extreme frustration and a feeling of being totally overwhelmed. Been-there, done that! So many times, just like in the US, a task can involve more than one step and be spread out over a few days. Feeling like we’re in control rather than the other way around is part of making the expat living work!

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  • Wow, great info, as usual you two. You’re right about not being in Kansas anymore. Several times we’ve wondered if we could click our heels together and go back, but we always find a reason not to. (The latest happened on November 8th, but don’t get us started). Here in Panama we’ve settled in, discovered many of the same cultural anomalies you have and learned to accept them. We still have our driver’s permits from Ohio, and we wondered if you could obtain a duplicate and hand in the copy to authorities there? Oh well, you’ll figure a workaround, I’m sure. It sounds like you’re getting good at them.
    Thanks for the content; very useful, and keep it coming!

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    • Expating is all about creative problem solving, patience and flexibility, isn’t it? And, as we were writing this post, sharing our experiences and mistakes! (It’s rather fun and comforting to read about major and minor fails in a post from others.🙂 ) At some point, we’ll figure out the driver’s license requirement and we have some friends who are going to be the “guinea pigs” and try the duplicate license route. If you do it, please let us know. Our worry is, in our global world and the computer age, handing in a duplicate might lead to the license being canceled online in the US. Of course that would probably require some super efficient official so why are we worrying?😀

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