Sunday, August 22, 2010
Come on in ...... !
(MB) trusting I am not betraying the third-party asker of the following question, recently posed on an information exchange forum, I herewith publish both the query and my reply, in the hope of wider interest and value:-
“I am planning a move to Portugal soon and need to find a home. I will make a reconnaissance trip in a few weeks, to see what’s on offer. I am most interested to know what the mood of the country is like at the moment. I have visited Portugal many times over the past 20 years, but am wondering how the country has changed and is continuing to change. How is the recession being felt by ordinary people? In particular, what opportunities exist for self-sufficiency? Can you still buy good yet cheap produce in village markets? Are new homes energy efficient? Another major consideration is to find a location where I can stay in touch with like-minded Brits who possess a natural survival instinct. Of course, I will try to learn Portuguese as best I can to make contact with local people too. I am warned that prices on the Algarve are hugely inflated these days. I want to live as close to the warmth as possible, yet exist as economically as I can. To grow some vegetables and maybe own a few chickens. There must be a location which provides the ideal compromise. Would it be somewhere in the Leira or Santarem regions? Anyone care to comment?”
Comment? Certainly! Firstly, my wife and I have lived here since 2003 (we were essentially `medical evacuees`; Gawd Bless that heart attack!). In addition to many other countries and locations, we also looked at the Algarve, where we had previously holidayed (but beyond our finances even at that time, a happenchance subsequently considered fortunate) Each to their own, of course, but WE decided to emigrate, as opposed to setting up shop in some insular British enclave akin to the Costas.
We lived for five years in our originally selected -and pretty well idyllic- abode before moving a full 20 miles to effect `trade in` of our 2-storey rural property for a slightly more urban bungalow better suited to our advancing years. We remain within 30 miles of Leiria (whence, incidentally, Chelsea had snatched a certain less-than-fully-formed `special one` prior to our arrival!); my comments are therefore the result of personal experience and observation, and are reasonably parochial, albeit that the traditional Portuguese `localisation` is itself being rapidly snaffled up by commercially driven `globalisation`.
In fact, the speed of latter-day advances has been truly astounding. From there being ONE recognisable Mall (“Coimbra Shopping”, apart from anything else servicing most of the Brit community then largely centred 15 miles away, at Lousa, and from where -on a good day- you just might have been able to buy one of those new-fangled sliced loaf things!), there are now new-build shopping centres galore (including not one, but two state-of-the-art examples in Coimbra <“Queenborough”> itself; the ancient capital, University and Medical centre of Portugal), and nearly every area has it’s own `local` selection of supermarkets ranging from sizable Iberian chains to (proper) Lidl`s and Spar-type supermercados to augment the long-standing Ronnie Barker open-all-hours variety. Pretty well all selling sliced bread too, I should say, though not necessarily always quite as we would know it!
Yes, recession IS a factor, but here (the Silver Coast district of Central Portugal), the locals’ can -& do- ride it well. For we “emigrantes” (Portuguese for `non-local people`, applying equally to US here and to THEM anywhere else)- the bigger factor is likely to be exchange rates; but, yes, indigenous residents are largely self-sufficient, of subsistence stock, and who’ve never really depended on `outside` produce anyway. Mostly without cars, other than the odd motorbike or tractor, and with a dearth of public transport, they certainly use the local markets; though -however regrettably- us lot would by-and-large get better variety and value in the shops. The markets are frequent, produce is fresh, pretty well organic, certainly not irradiated and possessing natural tastes that we sometimes have to re-call from our memories.
As for energy-efficiency…… Each of our houses was constructed towards the end of the 20th Century; and each is sound. Each, however, is single-brick wall construction (adequate, possibly even preferable, especially in the summer heat -can’t remember the last day we weren’t in the high thirty 0`s C- and in the North, often/traditionally compensated for by having living area walls additionally `clad` with ceramic tiles on the outside; but now not possible - present building rags require, amongst other `green` credentials, new builds to be double-shelled and to incorporate a layer of polystyrene filler). Depending on your age, incidentally, the true extent of your pioneering spirit, and your pluck; you may wish to -and without doubt in the country, you’ll be able to- go in for a bit of the `good life`
but again, you won’t be doing that for financial reasons; there’s hardly a need – the two of us probably live, absolutely `all in`, on no more than £15000 a year.
Both when we moved here, and two years ago when we re-located, we were given to understand that our respective `new` homes would not be “within ten miles of other English speakers”. In neither case was that strictly true, although the principle was sound. After about two years, we discovered ONE other (Norwegian <! > man, subsequently naturalised Irish, married to a Dublin girl) close to the village where we first lived (Casais de San Jorge); and here, in Lourical, our closest British neighbours now -following the departure of a family who had been renting in the town- are about five miles away - although we have recently been told that a growing number of Brits are based in and around a little village called Bijouca, a few miles down the Leiria road.
At no time here have we EVER felt on our own, let alone isolated. Local people are by nature friendly and helpful -without being pushy- and they have survived by dint of their friends and neighbours. Crime barely exists.
On the language thing (do remember that in all probability a local, say above the age of about 50, probably never went to secondary school – dictator Salazar’s regime didn’t end until the 1980`s; and that while to-days school-leavers will have been taught English in school, a lot of them don’t take it all that seriously, and in any event, tend to `move away` as early as possible); where there’s a will -and hand signals! - there’s a way; and there is and there is!
Last two words. DO IT.
Posted by eMBee at 5:27 PM