Samantha Milner lives in sunny southern Portugal with her husband Dominic and son Kyle. They live the dream life as expats in the sun and blog about their experiences so that others that want to move abroad have the chance. She talks to us about her life in the Algarve.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I am originally from Manchester, otherwise known as the rainy part of England and I have lived there until the summer of 2008 when me and my family relocated to southern Portugal.
And what did you do there, then?
We worked as full time internet marketers concentrating on our full time online businesses. We worked while our son was at school so that we could enjoy a lovely work and family balance.
How did you end up in the Algarve?
We were planning on moving abroad for several years but it was always a case of “when we move we will do this…” rather than “if we move”. Something else would come up and we would forget about and then sometime later we would go back about dreaming of a move abroad.
We watched a film at the cinema called “what happens in Vegas” and it mentioned the importance that life is short, you shouldn’t plan life and enjoy every moment of it. This was what gave us the kick we needed to move abroad.
We then moved to Spain six weeks later but found that it really wasn’t right for us and then decided to cross the border and live in Portugal. Since doing so we have loved every moment.
Have you lived abroad before?
No we have never lived abroad before, though we are well travelled so knew to a certain element what to expect.
So, what’s so good about the Algarve?
The Algarve is extremely beautiful with beaches that are voted among the best in Europe each year by the international magazine network.
It is also like stepping back into the 1980’s in the sense that crime is somewhat lower, children are still safe to play in the street, everything is good value for money and the things that aren’t you can have them shipped from the UK at ease.
The people are extremely friendly which is one of my favourite benefits of living in Portugal. It is like you are going back many decades when people said good morning to you and there is a very friendly neighbourly attitude which makes you feel so good. Especially in the morning when you have not fully woke up.
The warm weather is a major benefit too with the temperate above the 70F level for more than nine months of the year.
And what don’t you like?
The country is extremely badly organised but those in local government in the Algarve believe that everything is perfect so I expect it to carry on like this for sometime.
This has then caused a severe obsession with paperwork that we are not used to. For example when you open a bank account you will need double the information that you would usually expect in England.
This can mean that performing a simple task like changing your address can end up taking two full days.
Another example is that my son started the new school year this week and on the first day back all parents had to attend with their children were they spent 3 hours explaining what pens you needed to bring to school with you. When in England you would have just been given the list. After the lecture on the different materials we felt like we needed a holiday to recover.
As the expats often say when they live in the Algarve everything is fantastic until something goes wrong.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
I feel like an insider within the local community and feel very wanted. However with my son’s school (which is mainly Portuguese people) we feel like an outsider and will often struggle to communicate.
How do you support yourself?
We have the same employment as we did in England. We have our own internet marketing business so to work all we need is an internet connection. We have also expanded the business while we have lived in the Algarve because when you live in another country you feel less secure.
Any advice for wannabe Algarve Expats?
I would say to them that you have to expect to change to a certain degree and that things wont always be rosy and you should take off your rose tinted spectacles before you move abroad.
If you are planning on working in the Algarve if you are working for yourself plan your new employment. However if you are working for a mainstream employer expect to have to learn Portuguese before you leave as this is very important. Without Portuguese your employment opportunities will be very limited.
It is equally important that you go and visit different parts of the Algarve before you move as there are lots of places that are totally different. Otherwise you could end up in an area you don’t like and regret moving where you did.
We did this by arriving in a Caravan and exploring the area first. Then decide on the part of the Algarve that we wanted to live. There are also lots of expat areas if you want to focus more on new friends from your culture.
Another point to make clear is that if you are of working age to be careful before taking advice. The majority of people that live in the Algarve are of retired age and because they keep all their financial business in England they have very limited knowledge so they end up just filling your head with the wrong information and you will then end up in trouble.
Is the move permanent?
Absolutely, we love it here, though we do have many family members that assume we will return a couple of years down the line. However we love travelling so plan to use the Algarve as our base a few years down the line but will still class it as home.
Finally, tell us about something typically Portuguese
The Portuguese way of life is very pre 1990’s so if you liked your childhood you will love the Algarve. People still eat dinner at the table as a family and the mums love to dabble in home cooking.
The locals are not big drinkers like the culture in England and would much rather share a bottle of wine while having dinner in a nice restaurant. The food is beautiful and you will be spoilt for choice – the local favourite is Sardines and they are very good value for money.
Samantha Milner writes about swapping rainy Manchester for the dream life as an expat in the sun at Living in the Algarve
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