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Columnists > Piglet in Portugal

Piglet in Portugal
To discover more about life in Portugal visit Carole's blog Piglet in Portugal or follow her on Twitter where she tweets as @Portugalpiglet.

Piglet in Portugal

Austerity In Portugal - What Does It Mean To You?

Posted by: Carole on Monday April 23, 2012 (14:38:44)   (3977 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
Since Portugal accepted the bailout package from the EU harsh austerity measures have been implemented to reduce the national debt to pay off the loan. There have been drastic cuts to healthcare, education and some public sector workers even will lose their holiday pay and annual bonus. IVA Tax hikes were introduced on services and essential goods plus unemployment is now over 14% as businesses fail and more public sector workers are laid off.

The austerity measures and price hikes have also had a crippling effect on the budgets of many expats as their income from pensions and savings, already hit by poor exchange rates and low interest rates, fail to keep pace with inflation.

In pre-retirement days you calculated how much you “thought” you would need to live on, did your sums and set sail for a new life in the sun.    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Eavesdropping - Tourists And Tolls

Posted by: Carole on Tuesday February 28, 2012 (05:19:55)   (3754 Reads)
I know it’s impolite to eavesdrop on other people's conversations; however, on a recent flight to the UK I was prompted to tune in to a discussion between a couple of golfing tourists and local residents. The conversation turned from the intricacies of the “ifs” and “buts” of golf to the recent introduction of tolls on the A22 Motorway. For those unfamiliar with the Algarve the A22 Motorway can best be described as the main artery, linking the Algarve from the Spanish/Portuguese border in the east to the towns in the west.

The introduction of the tolls on the 8th December 2011 resulted in protest demonstrations, criminal damage to the cameras, and at one point twenty-four hour police surveillance was mounted at each gantry along the A22 to protect the cameras and equipment. Even a police officer was injured when a disgruntled protester took a pot-shot at one of the offending cameras. The motorway was paid for by the EU and has always been free to use.    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Could You Survive Abroad Without the Internet?

Posted by: Carole on Monday January 30, 2012 (17:51:17)   (4271 Reads)
As more people either work or retire abroad I often wonder how expats managed to survive in a pre-internet world. How did they communicate with family and friends back home, or research different aspects of life in their new country?

I can’t even begin to imagine life abroad without the internet. Can you imagine being totally reliant on the long drawn out process of sending letters by snail-mail when you can now send emails in seconds? Or the cost of using a standard telephone when you can use VoIP (Skype) or even better two-way interactive video calls for free?

How did expats research different countries, the culture and the lifestyle? How did they interact with other expats prior to their move? Just asking myself these couple of simple questions made me realize the massive impact the internet has had on our daily lives. I know it makes me feel less isolated.    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

What Does the Christmas Season Mean to You?

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (20:02:45)   (2262 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
For me Christmas means many things; the birth of Christ and Christmas carols, quality time with family and friends, Christmassy food & decorations and of course snow on Christmas day. But as I pause to review preparations for this year’s Christmas festivities and the joy of two baby grandchildren, memories are rekindled of Christmases past and I pause to remember the loved ones who are no longer with us.

Christmas can be a lonely time for many expats or indeed anyone rich or poor, who is, for whatever reason, separated from their loved ones during this festive season.

However, it may not only be family and friends you are missing but also traditional foods and even the weather. The weather says she? Yes, unfortunately I’ve noticed we Brits do have a tendency to dwell on the weather. For instance, does Christmas day on the beach sipping champagne and eating mince pies in the sunshine while paddling in the sea with Santa resonate “Christmas” in quite the same way as a “White” Christmas back home? Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder, and a “White” Christmas is actually only an illusion promoted on Christmas cards. In truth, the chance of a white Christmas is extremely slim. The reality is probably closer to heavy rain, fog, black ice, traffic chaos and severe weather warnings kindly issued by over-anxious TV or radio presenters. “Do not travel unless absolutely necessary”, they caution. Does this sound familiar?    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Lost in Translation!

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (20:01:00)   (1644 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
I have a memory like a sieve and the patience of a gnat so my attempts to learn the Portuguese language, as you can imagine, are an uphill struggle to say the least. If I’m brutally honest with myself I’d probably stand more chance of swimming the Atlantic than ever holding a meaningful conversation in Portuguese or indeed any foreign language.

However, I do believe it is really important to learn the language in the country where you live otherwise you can never really integrate with the local community - you remain an outsider looking in.

I listen wistfully to some of the local Portuguese women chatting at our local café, their Algarvian accent strong and difficult to understand. I decipher the odd word here and there, but they could be chatting about the next solar eclipse and I would be none the wiser! As I eavesdrop on their conversation I listen to how they pronounce the various words I do recognize and then practice them quietly in my mind in an attempt to improve my pronunciation skills. I’d like to ask the women for help; they look kind and jolly, but unfortunately I am shy and lack the courage for fear of rejection.    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Holidays and House Guests

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (19:59:20)   (3256 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
I was recently asked by a friend living in the UK: "Do expats still take holidays and if so where?" What a strange question and one I’d never considered!

So what's the deal with expats and holidays? Do you return to your homeland to visit family and friends, explore your new country or are you still tempted to travel to foreign shores?

Some expats, having fulfilled their dream of moving abroad, may prefer to "holiday at home" - a perfect opportunity to explore their new country. For instance, Portugal has so many places to explore, from its outstanding beaches and cruises along the Douro River to city breaks in Lisbon and Porto. Not forgetting the numerous historic towns and villages such as Tavira, Obidos, Tomar and Evora, just waiting to be explored. That's before you take into consideration the multitude of other styles of holiday on offer, like wine tours and activity holidays such as surfing, kite-surfing, horse riding and bird watching, to name but a few. Phew! I ask you, why be tempted to holiday elsewhere?"    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Driving in Portugal - My Top 5 Tips

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (19:57:48)   (4937 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
Observing the standard of driving in Portugal as a passenger was stressful enough, but once behind the steering wheel the word stress took on a whole new meaning.

My first driving experience was almost my last as I gripped the steering wheel in sheer terror. Cars drove at me from all directions, and as I tried desperately to take evasive action I wondered why they were using me as target practice. Mental Note: “Did I have a bulls-eye painted on my car which I had previously failed to notice?”. If they were not driving directly at me they were sat just inches from my rear bumper. Were drivers here short-sighted or did they just want to hitch a lift in my rear passenger seat?    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

The French Healthcare System – Is It Really That Great?

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (19:56:01)   (4128 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
Our daughter, who lives in France, recently gave birth to her first child and our first grandchild.

On the morning she went into labour we hurriedly threw some clothes into a suitcase along with some useless sundry items (as you do); watered the plants; left a key with a friend; jumped in the car and we were off to France! When we finally arrived at the hospital, the following evening, we were extremely concerned to find our daughter in a great deal of pain and barely able to walk.

In fact, I was horrified as I watched her hobble to the bathroom; her face contorted in pain. I managed to conceal my horror as I noticed her feet were turning in and her hips appeared to be out of alignment - was this normal? However, when she described the birth, the way the baby was delivered, and the fact that she had since learned her coccyx had been fractured/broken in the process - words failed me. Why, when they could see she was in so much distress, had they not given her a C-section? My children may have been born in the dark-ages, so to speak, but I am sure we would not have been left to suffer as she had.    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Moved Abroad, What Next? When The Sun Sets on Your Dreams

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (19:54:12)   (2884 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
I cried when yet another of my close friends, who had taken early retirement, announced she was selling up and returning to the UK. The reason for her change of heart and even direction was due to disillusionment and boredom. She confided there were only so many coffees you could drink, social events to attend, weeds to pull, vegetables to grow, books to read etc etc. Life here was simply no longer challenging as one day just drifted seamlessly into the next.

I wondered if expats who move abroad on a fixed term work contract felt the same. Maybe because they know they are only going to be in xx country for xx number of years they are already physiologically adjusted to the transient nature of friendships. However, when you retire there seems to be a greater sense of permanence. You are almost mentally saying to yourself “the only way I am leaving here is in a box!”    more ...

Piglet in Portugal

Missing Food From Back Home - Is It Just Me?

Posted by: Jamie on Wednesday January 04, 2012 (19:52:05)   (4922 Reads)
Piglet in Portugal
Is it just the British who yearn for their favorite foods and familiar products or do other nationalities suffer from similar cravings? Before you leap from your chair in denial I realize this may be a generalization and food-from-home cravings do not apply to everyone. However, there are now so many shops specializing in British foods there must be a market in order for them all to survive.

A quick search of the Internet, plus local knowledge, revealed there are shops in countries such as Spain, Bulgaria, Portugal and even France. In the UK it is not uncommon to see Indian and Chinese specialty food shops and I am sure if I looked further I would find many more.    more ...

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