Who are you?
I’m Yayeri van Baarsen, a 33-year-old journalist from Holland. Currently I live in the Algarve, together with my boyfriend and our dog, where we make Enjoy the Algarve, a free online magazine about the south of Portugal.Actually, Kyle and I make the magazine, Gustave the dog isn’t such a big help when it comes to writing or photography, although he’s often in the pictures.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
Before moving to Portugal we worked (also in digital media) and lived in the UK, but it rained a lot there. With over 300 days of sun a year, the Algarve seemed a nicer option to set up our own online magazine. Also, my parents already lived there, which made the decision to move way easier. So in May 2015, we loaded our stuff into our van and drove south.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Trying to fit all our stuff into our VW van was a bit of a challenge.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We first lived at my parents’ place. After about a year, we found our current home, which is in the countryside near Salir, via Facebook.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are loads of other expats in the Algarve, but most of them tend to stay a bit closer to the coast. In the countryside, there aren’t that many. Most of the people living here are Portuguese; we often see them riding around on old tractors, ploughing their fields or cutting their olive trees. That said, one of our neighbours is from the UK and the other one’s from France…
What is your relationship like with the locals?
We get along fine, especially as we learn more and more Portuguese. It really helps when you speak the language – not only because you can communicate better, but also because it shows you’re making an effort. We now follow lessons twice a week and it really improves. Then again, just recently I went to the hairdressers and, in my best Portuguese, asked them to ‘cut my fur, please’…
What do you like about life where you are?
What’s not to like about the Algarve? It’s got great weather, amazing beaches and nice people. That’s of course the standard answer, but what I actually like is the diversity of this region; there’s everything from mountains to beaches, from fresh water springs to the ocean, and from small rural villages to bigger towns. The landscape on the western coast (rugged, wild, waves) is completely different from that on the centre south (golden rock formations and picture perfect beaches) and also from the southeast coast (long sandy beaches, wetland and lagoon). Head inland and the scenery changes again, to orange orchards, eucalyptus forests and cork trees.
I also love the fact that because of making Enjoy the Algarve, we get to know this region so well. We spend a lot of time visiting nice places, speaking to interesting people and doing cool stuff. If we wouldn’t make a new issue each month, I don’t think we’d have seen so much of the south of Portugal.
What I like about living in the countryside is that it’s so quiet here. Within five minutes of walking your dog, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere; there’s usually a goat herder with his herd walking somewhere in the hills, but for the rest you can walk for hours without encountering another person.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Seeing chained dogs and tethered horses. It’s not bad everywhere, but some people here seem to view animals as property, rather than as living beings.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Arriving late for a meeting isn’t really frowned upon here, whereas in Holland, this is more ‘not done’. That’s because of the slower pace of life; there’s no stress here, or so it seems. In Holland, you walk around with your take-away coffee in a paper cup, whereas in Portugal, you sit down in a café in order to drink your galão or bica.
Another difference is all the bureaucracy. The Portuguese seem to really love filling out bits of paper for literally everything. Just recently I donated some books to the local library and was asked to fill in a form with my full name, address and signature. Uh, I just wanted to give you guys some books, why do you need all that info? ‘Because it’s the rule.’
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I love it! I love the pasteis de nata, although they should be forbidden as they’re A) very addictive and B) about 2735 calories apiece. I love vinho verde, which is slightly sparkling white wine. And I love fish; grilled robalo (sea bass) or dourada (bream), or some atum muxama (dried tuna), yum! They’ve got great markets here, with people selling all kinds of fruit and vegetables from their local garden.
Dislikes? Well, I’m no meat-eater so I won’t even try famous Portuguese dishes such as leitão (suckling pig) or cozido à Portuguesa, a stew made of literally any part of a pig (yes, this could very well include ears and trotters), some beef or chicken, smoked sausages, vegetables and potatoes.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
For any expat moving to any country: go on holiday to the country they want to move to, but in the off season. When there are monsoon rains or freezing snowstorms and when all these nice restaurants or amazing ski slopes have closed. If you still like it then, it might be a good idea to start learning the language. Of course I forgot to take my own advice when moving to Portugal, so I was completely surprised by the fact there can be torrential rains in November and it actually can get cold and damp in winter, also inside your house. Still, I try to see it as one big adventure.
Things will go wrong, they won’t show your favourite TV programme, the supermarket won’t sell your favourite brand of soup and you’ll have to go back three times because you don’t have the necessary forms to apply for a fiscal number (and one time extra because you forgot to check the opening times and everywhere is closed for lunch here).
It’s easy to get annoyed if this happens, so instead try to see it as an adventure, laugh and drink a glass of vinho verde instead of screaming ‘Why the … can’t they just do things like they do in my home country?!!!’ when things go pear-shaped.
Oh, and when moving to the Algarvian countryside: leave those nice high heels at home. Seriously, they won’t look good covered in mud and you’ll break your ankles walking around on calçada (the Portuguese pavement in many city centres which consists of small stones).
What are your plans for the future?
To make Enjoy the Algarve magazine even bigger and better. So if you’re reading this and want to know more about the south of Portugal, do have a look, it’s really cool.
Another goal for this year is to enjoy life a bit more. I seem to spend too many days behind the computer screen, writing, curtains closed so the sunshine doesn’t reflect on the screen. It’s a bit of a shame to spend so much time inside, when outside the weather is amazing and nature’s waiting, with an ocean to jump in, beaches to sunbathe on, and countryside to explore!
You can keep up to date with Yayeri's adventures via Enjoy The Algarve, a free monthly online magazine with fascinating articles and gorgeous pictures, made by Yayeri van Baarsen and Kyle Rodriguez. You can also find Yayeri and Kyle on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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