Sarah in Algarve: "People are extremely welcoming and friendly"

  • Sarah in Algarve
Published 5 months ago
British expat, Sarah moved to Algarve in February 2015 with her partner. Autism specialist, freelance writer and blogger, she now enjoys a slower pace of life than back home.


Hello, I am Sarah. I am from England but live in the Algarve, Portugal with my partner. I am a freelance writer and author of 6 books. I work remotely in Portugal and also in the UK as an autism specialist and trainer. We like to spend our lives ...

Where are you from, Sarah, and what are you doing nowadays?

I am a freelance writer, book author, autism specialist and expat blogger. I also advise others considering the expat life to help them to make the right choices. I come from the South East of England. I still do all of these things in Portugal, some remotely and some on return trips to the UK.

Why did you choose to expatriate to Portugal?

Who wouldn't? My partner and I explored many countries and regions looking for somewhere to relocate to before deciding on Portugal. It has frequent access to the UK with a short travel time, great climate, low cost of living, low property prices, wonderful food and lovely people.

What has attracted you to Algarve?

Mainly the transport links to the UK. We live within an hour of Faro Airport with a 2.20 hour flight time to Gatwick. It makes sense for work and family visits. During summer, there are more than 30 flights to the UK from Faro, so it's an easy place to be.

As an English national, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?

We are permitted to be here for 3 months at a time as non-residents. The process of becoming a resident is fairly bureaucratic, but not complicated. You are required to register with the local council for a Registration Certificate, which can be transferred to full residency after 5 years. In reality, there are many expats living in Portugal with no residency status.

How long have you been in the country?

Since February 2015.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

Just how unstressed I feel when I'm here. The whole way of life is warmer and slower, which can be frustrating for some, but for me has been extremely good for my health and well-being, given that I have a stressful job with lots of traveling when in the UK.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?

It is easy to find accommodation. There are summer and winter lets, long term renting and plenty of properties of all types to buy. We wanted to live a rural life and so have bought a tiny cottage in the hills where we can grow vegetables, ride our bikes and wake up to the sound of woodpeckers.

How do you find the Portuguese lifestyle?

It is very quiet and easy-going. People are extremely welcoming and friendly. It is a slow and laid-back way of living which suits us fine. Family and food are important to the Portuguese, as is dancing. There is usually a dance going on somewhere in any rural bar!

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

I am learning to speak Portuguese, which is helping me to feel more part of this country. I feel very comfortable here and am now familiar with how things work and get done. Reading Barry Hutton's book, The Portuguese has helped me to get a sense of the people and their history, which is enlightening and useful. It would be arrogant to suggest that I am part of this country after such a short period, but I am doing my best to live alongside with respect.

What does your every day life look like in Algarve?

I get up early, take a swim and get on with some work, taking my partner, Keith, a cup of tea a couple of hours later! We have breakfast on the terrace and then do some more work together. We may take a bike ride down to the coast for lunch or coffee and cake or do some work in the garden. If it's mid-summer, then I use that time to write books indoors and sleep under an umbrella by the pool in the afternoons because it's too hot to do anything else. Winters are busy preparing the garden for growing food. There is no frost here and so you can plant and harvest all year round. I cook a lot and make my own bread, jam, ice cream, yogurt as well as preserving olives and lemons from our trees, so we eat very well. Evenings involve eating on the terrace and maybe some work on my blog before bed.

Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?

There are so many, most of which I share on my blog. My most recent tale is of being given up on by a local gentleman who asked me to dance. I was so terrible, he abandoned me!

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Algarve? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

Food is considerably cheaper than the UK, more so if you shop in local markets. Eating out and coffee is wonderfully affordable. Cars are several times more expensive and electricity is not particularly cheap. Overall, we spend around half what we did in the UK, but part of that is about changing our lives to a more outdoor and simple lifestyle.

How do you spend your leisure time?

If we go out, it is to the local bar for a meal or to the cinema. English language films are subtitled in Portuguese and voiced in English, so we get a Portuguese lesson alongside entertainment! There are few cultural activities in the Algarve, so leisure pursuits are local and simple. During summer, there are many evening festas in the towns and villages with markets and entertainment. We like to go to those.

What do you like the most about the country?

The whole relaxed way of life and the weather. Eating breakfast in the sunshine in January is a great joy for a Brit used to months of sogginess.

Your favorite local dishes?

Pastel de Nata, of course - little custard tarts which are everywhere in the UK these days. I also love fresh broad beans which everyone in the country (including us) grow. They are so amazing when picked fresh. Algarve restaurants mostly just serve fish/meat with chips, rice and salad. The quality is great, but the variety is a bit limited.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

There are certain ingredients that are difficult to find in Portugal, but other than that, nothing. I know I am supposed to say "family" but given that they are only 2 and half hours away on a plane, then I don't need to miss them.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Portugal?

Learn the language. It's the most important part of truly living here. There are plenty of expats in the Algarve should you wish to make friends with English speakers. Also, slow down - or the pace of life will drive you mad!

5 months ago

It was so lively and detailed your narration of staying in Portugal. I have so far travelled India - Bangalore and Saudi Arabia - Riyadh. After getting lost in your descriptive interview on Portugal and its life-style, I felt like giving it a try to visit Portugal. Is it different from Spain? According to my school history lesson which I had way back in 1965 when I was 10 years old, Madrid is the capital of Spain. But Sri Lankans too had some time governed by Portugese which resulted us in having names such as "de Silva", "Perera", "Soysa", "Almeida", "de Alvis", "Gomes", etc. which now could be found among residents along the Sri Lankan coastal belt. I'm 60 now, single, a Buddhist and veggie. Have worked as a Secretary in a School in Saudi Arabia. Currently work as a teacher - offering tuition in English to non-English speaking community children and adults. Any possibility of my survival with that kind of an earning in Portugal.

5 months ago

Hi, I would say that the people seem more reserved than the Spanish - not so noisy! It's not a good place for vegetarians if you want to eat out - better in cities bit little choice in the Algarve. As for work, I think that there may be adult TEFL opps in Lisbon and Porto - less in the Algarve, but children and young people are mostly fluent in English so don't know how much. Wages are low compared with rest of Europe as cost of living is low. Might be worth looking at teaching via Skype so you could teach people from other countries and maybe charge their rates?

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