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The Funny (and not so funny) Side of Living in Portugal

My turn to write the monthly article for our website but the eternal question – what to write about? I am staying at my cottage in Portugal at the moment so thought I would recount some of the more interesting aspects of living here.

The first lesson my husband and I learned on arriving here was – be patient!  Nothing and no-one moves in a hurry here, unlike in the UK where everyone seems to be rushing around all the time. In some ways it is refreshing, in other ways it is immensely frustrating. My husband, Cliff, found this the most difficult thing to get used to but eventually was forced to relax and go with the flow.

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Take, for example, queues in the supermarket. The checkout ladies know everyone, so take the time to ask about the family, their health, their activities, which is lovely – if you are not in a hurry.  And we soon learnt, never be in a hurry in the supermarket! We also learned that the couple of baskets by the checkout with just one loaf of bread in them are saving a place in the queue for the elderly ladies that left them there while they trot backwards and forwards collecting the rest of their groceries!

Then there is the trauma of dealing with the bureaucracy. If your car is over a certain age you no longer have to pay tax. However, you DO have to go to the Finance Office for THEM to tell YOU officially that you no longer have to pay tax.

So, friends of ours have a car for which they need not pay tax and they trotted off to the Finance Office to be notified.  On arriving they were told – “You should have been here two days ago – you now have to pay a fine for being late”. Excuse me? You are going to fine us for not coming to not pay the tax we didn’t owe anyway?? “Er, yes – the computer says you are two days late, so we have to fine you”. Fortunately, the office manager witnessed this conversation and decided it was ridiculous to fine our friends for being late in not paying tax they didn’t owe and they were allowed to leave without paying the fine!

Another friend wanted to sign his Portuguese house over to his son living in the UK so that, if anything happened to our friend, his son would have no problems with inheritance. Good idea and that was all OK. Except that during the process it was discovered that the deeds to his property included parts of two neighbouring properties! This had to be sorted out. Our friend had to mark out what he thought was his boundary – with physical markers in the ground, placed at regular intervals. No mean task as it is a very large area.  But now he still cannot make the changes to the deeds because the property no longer belongs to him but to his son! What now?? His son must go to a UK solicitor to give our friend Power Of Attorney so he can make the necessary changes on the deeds of the house he is still living in! Ho hum - in the words of the song – it all makes work for the working man to do!

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Fortunately, not all transactions are so traumatic, buying our house for example. We were introduced to our vendors by a friend, we agreed a price, paid the money and went to the notary to make it official, along with our solicitor who was translating and acting for both sides. We were asked “have you agreed a price?” – “yes”, “have you paid the money?” – “yes”. Our vendors were asked “have you received the money?” – “yes”. And that was it – the house was ours! If only the process in the UK was that simple.

We may have lots of things that frustrate us living here but that is all outweighed by the kindness of the local people. My husband had a World War II Jeep which kept slipping out of first gear. He took it to the local garage where it stayed for three weeks while the garage owner stripped it down and rebuilt it. When we went to pay, expecting a huge bill for the amount of work involved, we were told “we found no fault so there is nothing to pay”.

Similarly, when we had a disaster with our water pipe, when digging over a patch of earth we managed to chop through it. Water everywhere! The local plumber came almost straight away (a miracle in itself), found the problem, returned home to get the part he needed, came back and repaired the pipe and when asked how much said “You had an emergency, I fixed it, nothing to pay”. Naturally we gave both of these kind people a large tip for their trouble.

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Finally for this article – there was the elderly lady in the supermarket (yes the supermarket again!) who wanted to buy a bag of potatoes but didn’t want the one in the bottom that was mouldy. The shop assistant patiently explained that she would have to buy the whole bag, she couldn’t just take out the mouldy one. Whereupon the lady opened the bag and, while the queue grew behind her, she carefully and slowly examined each of the potatoes, one by one, eventually deciding, ok she would buy the bag but left the mouldy one on the counter. That was our entertainment for that day!

One of our favourite pastimes when meeting with friends is to recount the many funny and not so funny experiences we have had while living here, so I hope you have enjoyed this little taste of life in rural Portugal.

Contributed by Chris

(Published 22nd Nov 2022)

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