Part Two – Figuring It Out Along The Way – Life In Portugal

Lagos, Portugal

Lagos, Portugal

At the end of our last post, Part One (read it here) we promised that we would continue our “Not the Same As” list comparing the differences between life in the States, no longer United, and our newly adopted country of Portugal.  Sure, we could paint word pictures about the picturesque cobbled streets, the single lane country roads that curve and beckon one to explore, the giant storks’ nests upon the chimneys and roofs and on and on. Storks, Lagos, Portugal. Photo by No Particular Place To Go

Those were the things that piqued our interest about this part of Europe and made us fall in love with the country but they don’t answer the questions we had when we first moved here.  Our questions were a lot more prosaic, dealing with life on a day-to-day basis but, seriously, we didn’t even know enough to ask them.  So, here’s another list to answer the question of, “What’s it really like to live in Portugal?”

Shopping.  Not to make light of the homeless situation in the US, but we’re from the land where grocery carts serve as portable storage trailers.  It’s not unusual to see someone walking along the edge of the road with a cart piled high with their belongings and what these runaway carts cost the store is another matter altogether. However, Portugal is the first country where we ran into “tethered grocery carts.”  (Evidently Canada has them but, as our Canadian friends remind us, they’re ahead of the US on a lot of things.)  Upon seeing these for the first time, we hung out for a bit (trying to figure this new wrinkle out) before watching someone insert a coin which released the chain holding the carts together.  In a “Duh” moment it took us a few trips before we found out we could get our money back at the end of our shopping by inserting the key at the end of the chain again whereupon our coin would pop out.  The store even gives away plastic coins so you can spend all your money right there!   Anyway, we think these are clever and we like to dazzle our American friends with our new parlor trick when they come to visit.Tethered grocery carts. Photo by No Particular Place To Go

Fruits, vegetables and bread.  We love them all and they seem to have so much more flavor than what we’re used to in the US. The upside (or downside depending what side of the argument you’re on) is that they spoil much faster because the fruits and vegetables are ripe when they’re picked and, as the commercials used to promise, at “the peak of their freshness.”  A loaf of still-warm bread is best the day of purchase because there are no preservatives.

We buy our eggs in a half carton, six at a time, off an aisle shelf; they have yolks so yellow they’re almost orange.  Likewise, our milk, which comes in a waxed cardboard carton, is found on a shelf on another aisle. Neither is refrigerated.  Since we were properly indoctrinated on the need to refrigerate dairy products, it took us a while to accept that it really was okay to ingest them.

And then there are the bright red ticket machines. Rather than lining up in front of the butcher or baker’s counter, people pull off a numbered piece of paper which marks their place and mill about.  The number comes up on a display or the baker/butcher yells it out.  The whole system seems to work fine.  A quirk however (and we’ve been ignored a few times) seems to be that you need to pull your number even if you’re the only one standing there.  Ticket machines are ubiquitous: at the post office, the doctor’s clinic, pharmacies, phone or cable stores and any government service where people might line up.

Obviously, the subject of shopping could take a whole post but we’ll stop after one, two, three more observations.  1) Bring your own tote bags or you’ll need to buy some. 2)  Remember to sign up for the store’s loyalty plan and have your card scanned at the beginning of your purchase.  It can save you a lot of money.  3) And, like most countries, it’s usually not a matter of one-stop shopping.  Pingo Doce is our favorite store and we buy our hamburger, plump chicken breasts and most of our produce from there.  Continente gets our business because it’s closer, we can buy plain Doritos corn chips, Knox spice mixes and (no kidding) sometimes hard-to-find celery as well as some household goods.  We shop at Aldi for the best priced walnuts, feta cheese, hard German salami and the adventure of seeing what goods (socks, plastic ware, toys, umbrellas, jackets, and once even sewing machines at €90) are in their center aisle bins each week.  This week we scored with an electric heating pad! In Lagos, we have our favorite, butcher, bakery and fruit and veggie stands.

Driving. Stop signs and traffic lights are the exception in Europe.  Here, roundabouts rule. We first ran into roundabouts in the island country of Curacao and were confounded, not in small part because the signs were in Dutch.  Our GPS directs us to, “Go around the rotary” and “Take the second exit” in a proper British accent but it took us a while to get the hang of roundabout etiquette.  We thanked the gods above more than once last winter that we could practice during the low-season while the streets and roads were mostly empty. (Here’s a big tip: We take turns driving so that we can change-up who’s yelling at who.)  Here’s a handy diagram that might help.

Source

Roundabout Etiquette  (Source)

And, speaking of tips, after one exits a roundabout in urban settings, there’s usually a white-striped crosswalk.  Pedestrians have the right-of-way of course, but it’s easy to tell who’s local because the Portuguese assume we’ll stop while tourists look both ways first before setting a foot on the road.  Once we’d “mastered” some of these driving proficiencies, we were still puzzled about the occasional honk we’d get when we signaled to make a left-hand turn.  Finally, we realized that we hadn’t seen many people making them … Another “Duh” moment because the roundabouts also serve as a way to change directions and avoid most situations requiring a left-hand turn.

(Not-so) Common Courtesies. There are of course the usually handicapped parking spaces but there are also signs for preferred parking spaces for pregnant women and parents with children.  And, after some internal fuming about the old women who sashay their way ahead of us in line at the grocery, we learned there’s a common practice of allowing the elderly to go ahead in line. Kind of nice, right?

Preferred seating and priority service

Preferred parking for pregnant women and parents with childrenAt the doctor’s and dentist’s offices, the appointments are on time or only a little late.  And, we kid-you-not, the staff apologizes if they’re running late. We usual get a text message reminder a few days before scheduled appointments and we’ve received calls saying that the staff is running behind and asking us if we could come in later.

At the Movies.  One of our small pleasures, now that we belong to the leisure class, is going to the movies.  Lagos has a small movie theater, right above one of the Chinese stores (that’s a post for another time) with two “salas” or rooms with screens.  A new movie comes to town each week on Thursday and usually there’s one or two for adults, including first-run movies in English with Portuguese subtitles and something good for the kiddies.  The tickets cost about €4 each and a large bag of popcorn is under €2.  We’ve heard they make American-style popcorn occasionally but so far, we’ve just had the typical Portuguese popcorn, a caramelized, slightly sweet treat that’s grown on us.  At this price, we check the offerings weekly and usually go to the matinees where, most times, the “crowd” is less than ten people so we get preferred seating too. This week the offerings are Office Christmas Party, Sing! and the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Because Christmas is right around the corner and the holidays have begun, we may have to give up our preferred seating and rub elbows with the crowd to see Rogue One.

We’ll close this two-part rambling post on basic life skills for expats in Portugal with a note on Time.  Continental Portugal is in the Western European Time (WET) Zone, usually abbreviated as UTC + 00:00.  (Note for you trivia fans like us: UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated and is the same as GMT or Greenwich Mean Time.)  A reminder to our son in Denver, Colorado: This means we’re seven hours ahead.   Portugal observes daylight saving time and uses the 24-hour clock so appointment times are written as 09:00 or 14:30 rather than 9 AM or 2:30 PM.  The date is written in a DAY-MONTH-YEAR format so today’s date is written 17/12/16 rather than 12/17/16.

So, on this day, a gorgeous, mostly sunny, Saturday afternoon with the temperature high of 17 °C on 17 December 2016 in Lagos, Portugal, we say “tchau!”

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

Pedestrian only entrance to historical city of Lagos, Portugal

Pedestrian only entrance to historical city of Lagos, Portugal

 

 

 

55 comments

  • Good to know about the lack of one stop shopping. I can see using that as one of the criteria about where to live in a chosen town or neighborhood.

    After taking up residence in SE Asia, I was concerned about the health hazards of selling room temperature eggs. Turns out refrigeration is necessary only if they’re cleaned to the degree seen in the US. Less thorough cleaning doesn’t remove the protective layer that allows the chick to develop before the egg spoils.

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  • I’m enjoying reading your posts, thank you. I am a Portuguese expat in Munich. I miss everything, especially the food, the sun and the kindness of people. I know the language is hard but it will be easy to adjust because everyone accepts it and tries to help. Good luck 🙂

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    • Thank you, Susana for stopping by our blog and taking the time to make a comment. We’re so glad that you’re enjoying our posts. We love, love, love Portugal for many reasons (the food, sun and people are right at the top of our list!) and are very happy with our decision to make it our home. As for the language … all we can do is try!

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  • Your posts and insights are fascinating, thank you. We’re at the start of planning our return to Europe, moving to Spain, after 25 years in the US and my goal with WordPress is to move away from photos supported by limited observations into more detailed descriptions of surroundings and events. You’ve given me inspiration and for that I thank you 🙂 I do have one question, how did you untangle your financial ties to the US? At first glance they appear to be rather daunting! Looking forward to reading more of your life in Portugal. Thanks!

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    • Thank you for your kind words and congratulations on your next chapter in life. We love Spain and its proximity only adds to the allure of Portugal for us. We’re so glad to have provided some inspiration too for you and luckily blogging, like everything else is always an evolving pastime. Our topics change from post to post and reflect whatever catches our interest which makes it fun for us (and hopefully our readers also!) We’re continually grateful too, that the blogging has introduced us to a thriving online community of people who enjoy history and travel as well as those thinking about changing their lifestyle to include more travel and expating.
      As for untangling our financial ties to the US … We haven’t really. We keep all of our bank accounts in the US and use my sister’s home address as our official residence. We pay all our bills online but having a US address does come in handy. We file US tax returns every year and use a debit card (get one that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee) that draws on one of our accounts for our day to day needs as well as rent, food, utilities etc. This may sound awkward but when we bought our car in the winter of 2016, we even took out the money from our ATM for several days and deposited it in our Portuguese bank account. On our last visit back to the US, we finally set up a way to transfer larger amounts of money if we ever need it but really don’t foresee that happening.
      Thanks for your comment and let us know when you get to Spain. Maybe our paths will cross or we can arrange a way to make it happen! 🙂

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  • I am so excited to have found your blog. In fact, I’m a zombie today at work as I stayed up way too late reading it. My hubby and I have the same feelings about Europe…the more we see, the more we want to see. We became hooked on our first trip in May of 2015 and have since been to Paris and Amsterdam twice, and to Bruges and Reykjavik once. Rick retires next year and we’re researching retiring to Portugal. Alvor seems to check all our boxes and we’ll be visiting there in late May. Have you spent any time there? The area between Lagos and Portimao looks to be a good fit for us. We’d love to pick your brains about living in Portugal in general and about the cost of living in particular. I already know what our rent and health insurance costs will be but I haven’t found much data on things like car insurance, utilities, cable, phone, groceries, etc. I’m sure you already know about AFPOP…they offer discounts on all kinds of things. Anyway thanks for your great blog and keep travelling! Terri

    P.S. We first ran across the locked shopping carts in Amsterdam. What a great idea!

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    • Hello Terri and thanks for your enthusiastic comment! We too share both your excitement for travel and for Europe and are so glad that you found our information to be useful. We love Portugal (if we haven’t made that clear!) and would definitely recommend that you check it out as a place to retire to. Alvor is an especially pretty village (about a 35 minute drive from Lagos on the two-lane road) which we visit often as Richard sees a physical therapist at the hospital there. There are some great restaurants and it’s close to plenty of shopping for whatever you might need.
      Your questions have me thinking we’ll have to devote a future blog to address cost of living questions. To answer a couple of your questions:
      Our February electricity bill was €140. The water bill was €12.
      Our cable TV/internet, a home landline and 1 cell phone (no data plan) are bundled together for a cost of €56.
      Our grocery bill averages €375/month. This excludes cleaning and paper products. We eat out about once a week and buys quality cuts of meat, fish and fresh vegetables.
      Our annual car insurance for full coverage runs €335.
      Hope this helps and thanks too for your information on AFPOP which was new to us! And please let us know when you visit Portugal as we’d love to meet you!

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      • Thanks for the great info Anita! It’s difficult to figure a budget for a place you’ve never been. We’re driving down from Lisbon on May 26th and we fly out of Faro on May 30th. I wish we had more time but Portugal was added on after we had already booked the outbound/inbound flights. This will be our first time driving abroad…should be interesting! Have you been to the movie theater in Portimao? I’m a huge movie buff so having a theater close by was a “must have” for me. I’ve heard electricity there is pricey but ouch! It’s probably even more in the summer with ac going. We also eat very healthy (my hubby loves to cook) so I’m glad to hear that food costs are reasonable. Based on what you and other folks have told me, it sounds like 2 people could live there pretty well on $3500 a month. Does that sound about right to you? Hope to see you in May! Best, Terri

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        • Hi Terri! Your budget estimate sounds reasonable and, especially with the strong US dollar, you can definitely get a lot of bang for your buck. We also love cooking and often rave about the fresh and flavorful fruits and vegetables we find here in Portugal.
          As for the movies, we love our little Lagos theater and have yet to venture to the bigger ones (there are 2) in Portimao. However, they’re so close by that we definitely need to make an effort. 🙂
          As for driving in Portugal (or anywhere for that matter!) I’d suggest bringing along a GPS loaded with a map of Portugal, renting one with your car or using an app on your phone. That will definitely save you some headaches!
          We’ll look forward to meeting you in May!

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  • You are making me want to pack our bags. We were just talking about where we should plan our next international trip. It’s is always interesting and a bit sad to me that the US is supposed to be such a super power in the world but we seem to lag behind in so many areas. I’m building a case for moving overseas again, it seems. 🙂

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    • What’s so amazing to us about Europe, LuAnn, is how diverse each city and country seems to be and the pride that people take in their heritage. We’re feeling like kids in a candy store with a wealth of unique countries only a few hours away by car, bus, train or plain. What strikes us, with each visit back to the US, is how the cities seem to blend together – the same outer shopping strips, the same big box stores and chain restaurants. (This is just our opinion) but it seems that if the mindset continues to celebrate white, rich, males and an idealized vision of the way things used to be, then the things that make American culture innovative and unique will continue to slip away…

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      • I have got to meet you someday Anita. You and I are on the same wavelength. When I heard that Trump was promising to put all the coal miners back to work and reopen the mines, my original thought was that, although I have great empathy for those without jobs back in coal country, I don’t believe we should turn back the hands of time. The way things used to be is not always the best way. We need to continue to be innovative and look to other countries for best ideas instead of trying to create the same old wheel over and over again.

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  • I grew up in Massachusetts, where we had rotaries instead of roundabouts. Maneuvering them gracefully is definitely an acquired skill – one that I have lost over the years. Love your strategy of taking turns driving and yelling 🙂

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    • Sometimes keeping our sense of humor is the best way to muddle through the challenges, Susanna. 🙂 We came up with the strategy of trading the behind-the-wheel-time a couple of years ago as a great way to share the blame and remind ourselves that neither of us is perfect! And I bet driving around a rotary or roundabout is kind of like riding a bicycle – a skill you never lose!

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  • Yes, We’ve learned to get used to the chain between grocery carts (nope, never saw them in Montreal), the unrefrigerated eggs and milk (Lissette thought the same as you) and the roundabouts (I had a crash course actually in South Africa, also on the “wrong” side of the road WTF). Having spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe we’ve also made a lot of mistakes, especially at the grocery store where instead of buying milk we’ve bought yugurt or buttermilk. Also, they like making you weight and ticket your own veggies and fruits in Europe, something that used to be done by the teller in Montreal. Keeps it interesting!

    Frank (bbqboy)

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    • Combining roundabouts with driving on the left side of the road would have had us really in a panic. I’m glad we haven’t had to see if we’re up to the challenge … yet! We first ran into the unrefrigerated eggs and milk in Mexico several years ago but also noticed that one of the “western” stores kept some in a refrigerator case at a fairly high markup. For a while we were dumb enough to buy the higher priced ones at what we called the gringo rate until we noticed the brands were exactly the same. I think there’s a P.T. Barnum quote about a “sucker in every crowd.” Like you said, it keeps life interesting!

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  • Your observations are all pretty much the same here in the Netherlands, except they don’t give elderly people preference in lines. I love the shopping carts that lock together because it forces people to put them back. In the US I used to fume about people who left them randomly around the parking lot, blocking off whole parking spaces.And I recognized your initial frustration with the roundabouts! The rule is that anyone who is already in the roundabout has the right of way over anyone entering. So you wait for a space and go for it! Then you don’t signal (always signalling right, unless you’re in the UK, in which case it’s always left) until just before your “exit.” Once I got the hang of it, I quite liked them. They keep traffic moving, unlike stop lights, which will often have you sitting and waiting when there’s no one on the cross street. Or stop signs, which often mean you have to stop for nothing.

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    • The roundabouts are slowly growing on us Rachel and we have to agree – now that we’re getting used to them we can appreciate that the traffic flow is much more efficient. So often stop lights aren’t timed right which means a constant stop and go traffic flow and stop signs have their own drawback also. As for the UK roundabouts … that’s a hard one to wrap our heads around but we’ll have to give it a try one of these days!

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  • Anita,
    Thanks very much for the comment on transferring USD into euros. As you mentioned, it does matter with ATM fees and a 3% conversion fee.

    If you go to Nazare be sure to do a day trip to Obidos. It’s a walled city and very interesting.-touristy but worth the trip. We rented a 2 bedroom apt in Nazare in October for 3 nights for a total cost of 100 euros. It was very nice with granite counter tops, etc and about 1 block from city center. There was a grey-haired lady at the bus stop with a sign for rentals. She spoke enough English that it was easy to communicate with her.

    After Nazare we took a bus to Coimbra. I didn’t think it was worth the cost and effort to visit. We wished we had spent the time in Porto. Porto in many ways was better than Lisboa.

    I know you have a car but you might consider taking the bus. The bus was a great value and easy to use. We took a bus from Lisboa all the way up the coast and back. Gas seems expensive and with a bus there are no problems with parking the car in places like Porto. We had traveled to Portugal from France where I’d received 2 speeding tickets-almost 3- and decided to let someone else drive. BTW- NONE of the bus drivers spoke English! It seems to be a requirement. Just about everybody else did speak English though.

    Great website. It’s of value that you talk about the glamour of Portugal and the warts! There’s plenty of warts in this country too.
    David

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    • Thanks David for your great recommendations and we’ll definitely keep them in mind when we head to Central and Northern Portugal, an area we’re looking very much forward to exploring. And your tip about driving is really an important one since we learned early last year that driving in the historic cities (in this case Seville and Granada, Spain) brings about their own very particular problems, especially parking costs! For the Algarve and the rural areas it’s great to have our own car but anytime we head to Lisbon, we hop on a bus. The ease of leaving the driving to someone else as well as the low prices of the bus, train and metro systems make this a great way to travel!

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  • LOL – I had to giggle about the “life in the States, no longer United”.
    Chained shopping trolleys, which you can release by inserting a coin, are common throughout Europe – for decades already! We even have them in Australia. But they can be a pain if you don’t have the right coin on you…
    Interestingly in the USA I came across a system with magnetic ‘locks’ in the pavement around a shop’s parking lot. As soon as you wheeled too close to the edge the trolley would perform a violent turn, veering away from the edge of the parking lot. We had a real fight with a trolley on a shared shopping center car park, where we had bought some bulky goods in hardware store, and our large RV was parked away from the shop because we couldn’t find a suitable park nearer to the shop…
    Regarding ALDI: a friend of ours says about their weekly specials: “ALDI sells all the gadgets you never knew you needed.”

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    • Hi Juergen, We found your comment languishing in the spam folder so have to apologize for our late reply! This is first time we’ve heard about magnetic locks around a parking lot to keep the shopping carts from going astray but it makes sense to keep the carts on the property. I did have a grin picturing them veering away from the perimeter though. It would have been a great Candid Camera episode! As for the Aldi stores – we’d never been to one before moving to Lagos although I hear there are some in the Chicago area of the US. For us though, like you said, it’s fun to dig through the bins and see what you “never knew you needed!”

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  • The Stork nest was there when I first visited Lagos some 30 years ago. Fond memories.

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    • The storks’ nests are all around the Algarve region (plus we’ve seen them in Spain and Morocco too) and they’re completely magical to us! The nests are protected so the stork nest you remember in Lagos could well be the same one. One of our favorite drives is a few kilometers outside of Lagos in a field where the storks have built their nests along the fence posts, about 6-7 feet off the grounds. Last spring we looked forward to driving past the many nests complete with one to two chicks. Definitely put a big smile on our faces!

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  • This post was so chock full of information for expats and travelers. I loved reading about all the practical knowledge you acquired.

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    • So glad you liked this, Irene. When we were traveling full time, we came up with a list of places that we might want to live someday. We wanted to read about practical ways to figure out shopping, getting a visa, banking, and answers to other day-to-day questions. There are a lot of amazing places to visit but, if you’re talking about living in a place for any amount of time it all comes down to “Can we live there?” Plus it’s kind of fun to compare the differences. Happy holidays Irene!

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  • Yep! This all sounds familiar..both in Spain and Malta for the most part. The only thing that annoys me is that the one place where l would really like the ticket machine does not have it. The Banks! It’s still a sort of honor system thing. You come in, ask who the last person was and then you just have to remember who you’re after as people just scatter all over the place. Would it kill them to put the machine there? It is kind of nice having everyone say hello to you at the doctor’s office..and the old people insist on talking to me in full Spanish even knowing that l don’t really understand..haha! Good post.

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    • Thanks Kemi and I had a laugh picturing you with a quizzical smile on your face when the people at the doctor’s office were trying to hold a conversation with you. Next year, Spanish lessons for you and Portuguese lessons for us! Now that you mention it, we had to think back and realize that our bank doesn’t have a ticket machine either. Usually the people just form a queue but once in a while we have to work a little to remember where we were in line. For the most part it works pretty well and we really appreciate how polite people are.

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  • Loved this post. First, being a Canadian, I chuckled at your description of the tethered carts. At first I had no idea what you were talking about until I saw the picture. We just take it for granted here in Canada! The cost of movies is a steal and I too, would love that carmelized popcorn. So good that the North American movies are in English! So much easier to watch/listen to. I WILL get to Portugal one day. I hate to admit but I’ve cancelled or changed plans about going to Portugal FOUR times already.

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    • Going to the movies has been a real treat and, since the cost is so reasonable, we’re a lot more willing to take a chance instead of waiting for it to come out on I-Tunes or Netflix. It would be better for us to watch them in Portuguese but we do learn a bit by recognizing many of the Portuguese words in the subtitles. There was a bit of a wrinkle though when we went to the new Brad Pitt movie last week. I was reassuring friends that yes, the movies were in English with Portuguese subtitles when the script added in a 3rd language, French. The subtitles continued on in Portuguese but we were forced to wonder about the dialogue for a few minutes until the characters reverted to English! Never assume, right?

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  • Grocery shopping is one of those things that is a chore at home but fun when you’re in a different country! It always seems to be slightly different wherever you go.

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    • You’re right about the grocery shopping being an adventure in a new country. Here, we take off for our favorite store and then make a stop at 1 or 2 more to get all the items on our list. Occasionally we go to the enormous Jumbo store at the mall about a half hour away which has even more choices and new things to try and there’s a posh French grocery store fairly close by with (what we hear, prices to match) that we have yet to check out. Richard is always stopping by the spices and sausages and my favorite thing to look for are some of the different mustards. Compared to Central and South America where we never quite knew what we were going to get, we’re overwhelmed with a lot of choices!

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  • Great post, it has made me realise that there are so many similarities with life in the UK, we also need a coin to get a supermarket trolley. Roundabouts are common here and I am glad since they do make a lot of sense…when you get how it works. We use the reminder message system in the hospital where I work and patients are sent a message previous to their appointment to not forget their medical appointment. People missing appointments cost a fortune to the NHS. It looks like you have settled well into your new life in Lagos😄

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    • It didn’t take us long to feel like we’d found a home but you’re right Gilda, we are feeling very settled and even have several friends which makes us feel a part of the community. And, now that we’re getting used to the roundabouts, we’re starting to appreciate them since they keep the traffic moving smoothly. As for the medical appointments – sometimes it was so difficult to get an appointment with our doctors it never occurred to me to miss one and in the US, it’s common for the office to charge for missed appointments! It used to really frustrate us that we would arrive on time and still end up waiting 1-2 hours to be seen. 😦 After working at a hospital myself for 10 years I could go on a rant about what’s wrong from both sides of the medical system. It would be fun to get together sometime and compare notes!

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  • I grew up, and learned to drive in Canberra, the Queen of roundabout cities, and Don’s driven there a few times too, but Turkish roundabouts really floored us! They have traffic lights in the middle!
    We’re in Merida now and for the first time in Mexico have found grocery shopping to be a real challenge. There doesn’t seem to be any little local grocery stores near us. The huge supermarket that we went to on our first afternoon here is way across town, and it took us over half an hour to flag down a taxi to get back home. Still we’re not starving. Yet 🙂
    Of course I’m very familiar with the tethered shopping carts. I hadn’t realized they don’t exist in the US.
    That opening shot is lovely.
    Alison

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    • Oh no – more roundabout etiquette with traffic lights! I imagine our vocabularies would get a real workout with that new wrinkle and can only say I’d never really thought about driving in Turkey nor am I sure we’d have the heart to try it! 🙂
      We spent a month in Merida, January of 2013, and loved it. The zocolo in the historic area is so pretty and we loved walking along the Paseo de Montejo with its beautiful tree-lined avenue and lovely mansions. I remember, though, having the same problem with the grocery (WalMart, right?) being a good 25 minute walk one way. We’d be drenched with sweat by the time we got back to our bed and breakfast and I know we ate out more often than we would have if a store had been closer by. We stopped by the English library a few times each week and made a few friends as well as went on a couple of the house tours of the colonial homes. I remember at one point, even though we’d just spent a year selling everything, that we were quite tempted to buy a colonial fixer upper and go for it. They are beautiful!
      And thanks so much for your compliment about our first picture. I’m a great admirer of your photography so I have a warm glow from your kind words! Happy Holidays to you and Don!

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  • Great post! We’ve found that our readers are most interested in the little day-to-day things that make life as an expat different from life back home. Amazing how many things you’ve described that are very similar in Panama – with a few differences too. For instance – here, you’re supposed to make a doctor’s appointment but you can usually count on sitting for quite a while before getting called. It’s still first-come, first-served, appointment or not! One thing we love is that new people entering a waiting room say buenos dias to everyone sitting there, and they all say it back 🙂

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    • When we were in Mexico and Central America we loved the friendliness of the people and exchanging a smile and greeting with strangers. It really put a glow in our day and made us feel welcome. It’s great to read about things to do and places to go but the day-to-day things are key to anyone planning on traveling or expating in a new country. These are the questions we always ask, John and Susan and it was fun to look back and make a list of things we’ve learned and different approaches to day-to-day living. It’s not all sunshine, by any means and we run into some frustrations from time to time but it’s definitely worth the effort!

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  • Such an interesting blog post. I love how you compare what life is like in Portugal. You are lucky 🙂

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  • Another interesting post on your Portuguese life. I’m enjoying reading about it. I love going to grocery stores in other countries, but learning to shop and deal with differences can be a challenge. It seemed odd not to refrigerate eggs when we were in Panama. In Barcelona, I would never have thought to weigh and mark my produce before going to the check out unless my sister hadn’t experienced similar situations in other parts of Europe. And I was surprised to discover differences when we wintered in Arizona. I’d expected the Canadian and U.S. experience to be pretty much the same. (The difference was mostly in products and packaging.) By the way, not all Canadian grocery stores have tethered carts, although the one my husband shops at does.

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    • When we lived in the US, grocery shopping was always such a chore that we took turns running that errand. (And now when we visit, we’re oftentimes overwhelmed by the choices.) We definitely have to agree with you that shopping in foreign countries is a whole different thing and endlessly interesting, especially when we find new things to try or look for some particular item on our list. Like you discovered from your sister Donna, many times it’s a matter of passing travel tips along or just hanging back and watching when you run into a question. Who would have thought that grocery shopping could be such an adventure?

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  • You have given such ‘delicious’ detail, I feel that I have been there with you. It all seems so civilized and reasonable. Doesn’t anyone protest about anything? Yes, we are not so united in the US anymore. I feel devastated and hurt about the division. How we will all get together again?

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    • Loved seeing your photo paired with your comment, Maida! We’re so glad you liked this post because we tried to answer the kinds of questions we ask when we’re traveling through an area – the “What’s it really like to live there?” questions. So far we’ve put more time and effort into keeping up with the politics in the US and, except for how history plays into the Portuguese politics, we haven’t learned too much about the political scene here. As for the US, I have to agree – looks like no bridges are going to be built anytime soon across the divide. A very gloomy ending to the year … 😦

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  • We saw so many of the storks nests while walking the Camino in 2015. Every now and then our path would take us close enough that we’d get a good close look and they were huge! They just fit so nicely into the landscape. I am enjoying your posts of day-to-day living in Portugal. Roundabouts are tricky, we experienced them in New Zealand which was even more tricky because we were driving on the “wrong” side of the road. But we have them here in our area and we’ve gotten used to them, but you do have to pay attention to so many lanes coming in all directions! Two nights ago when I went to bed at 11:00 p.m. it was 14 degrees outside. At 8:00 a.m. the next morning it was 19 degrees. Not much improvement. Last night we had our first dusting of snow. We discovered a heated mattress pad, warms the entire bed so we don’t have to deal with ice cold sheets. What a find!

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    • The massive storks’ nests and enormous birds flying around them have come to symbolize the Algarve Region for us although we noticed them all over southern Spain and Morocco as well. They are amazing and it sounds like you enjoyed them too. We found the roundabout diagram that we included in this post to be helpful in making a little more sense of this new driving challenge although driving on the “wrong” side of the road seems to up the degree of difficulty even more! 🙂 I know you’re talking Fahrenheit temps now so 14 and 19 degrees outside makes me feel very cold! Sounds like the winter weather is upon you and even snow for the holidays. Hope you enjoy the seasons festivities with your family, Patti and Abi!

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  • Not “rambling” at all, my dear. As usual, chock full of interesting tidbits. I’m afraid I may have passed the timeline for detailing the (likewise many, often though not all, similar) differences here in Ecuador. After nearly 3 years here in Cuenca I’ve pretty much adapted to the differences and no longer notice them.

    Then again, I still can’t help but smile when… a 5 year old Ecuadorian child standing in the checkout line with her mother at the Black Friday sale (yes, the signs say “Viernes Negro”) at the grocery/department-ish store here in El Centro – is loudly and enthusiastically singing “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” – in SPANISH! 😉

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    • I had an easy time picturing the little girl singing with your description, Dyanne! We enjoy the holidays so much more OUT of the US as the advertising is subtle, the decorations are much fewer and the festivities seem to be more centered around families versus things. We were definitely taken aback this year to see Black Friday signs in English and Portuguese at our nearby mall in Portimao but we can’t help but enjoy the familiar Christmas carols sung in English in all the grocery stores. I think even us grinches are getting a bit of Christmas cheer!

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  • My first chuckle was your reference to the states, divided. You hit the nail on the head with that one. My second chuckle was the description of the shopping carts and dazzling your visitors with a parlor trick. And my final chuckle was driving on the roundabouts. You should try that in New Zealand. That is a real trick. Thanks, Anita for the great post. Oh, to have a need for an electric heating pad. I am jealous. Haha

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    • So glad we could make you laugh, Deborah. You had us trying to picture the roundabouts in New Zealand and debating if we’d be brave enough to try our hand at driving. I still have a hard time thinking about driving in the left lane! I remember Nicaragua’s heat at this time of the year and I’m sure that needing an electric heating pad occasionally might be hard to even imagine! So far, Portugal seems to have the right balance of days between hot, cold and just right! Happy holidays!

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  • Great stuff, as usual, it makes us wanna visit! Lots of similarities with Boquete, and Panama in general. The ‘take a ticket’ deal is funny here, since they won’t wait on you in the mercado without one, even if you’re the only person in the store! We’re hoping the roundabout movement gains traction here, because they make a lot of sense, and traffic in big Panamanian cities is rather Darwinian to say the least.
    Thanks again, and keep ’em coming!

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    • Laughing at your “take a ticket” description in Bouquete and wondering how long it took you to realize that you needed one after you arrived! We visited very small Mercados during our stay in Panama as well as the modern El Rey and just remember some of the “grab your chest” prices for some of the coveted “gringo” foods! Panama City traffic stands out in our memories because it had been month’s since we’d been in a modern city with skyscrappers and the honking horns and traffic maze – we literally were in culture shock.🙂 And thanks Mariah and By, for your very kind words!

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