From Italy to Portugal to volunteer

Expat interviews
  • Viseu
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Published on 2021-09-17 at 12:46 by Francesca
Biagio is originally from Turin, Italy. In 2020, when he retired, he chose to relocate to Portugal. He currently lives in Viseu, a particularly clean and well-maintained city that he appreciates a lot. He tells us how he made new friends and, a few months ago, started volunteering at a local vaccination centre.

Can you briefly introduce yourself?

I used to live in Turin. After having a job that allowed me to visit many countries, I decided to move to Portugal last year in March. During my last years of work, I got the opportunity to stay in Brazil, where I learned a bit of "Brazilian" Portuguese.

What brought you to Portugal?

In the beginning, it was mainly because of all these beautiful photos I've seen on the internet - I love the beaches and coasts of Portugal - then gradually I started to see beautiful cities, castles, museums and parks. I wanted to get to know this country a little better by going on vacation there. But then I decided to move permanently to Portugal after reading many experiences and doubts of other users on Expat.com. Besides, income tax on pensions is lower.

What city do you live in, and what brought you there?

I had planned to live in a city along the coast, but after reading the experiences of other users on Expat.com, I decided to look for an agency to have all the necessary information on the documents required during the move.

Last year in January, I called the agency to enquire whether they could assist me with the necessary documentation for my settlement. However, they did not have any information regarding this town. So they suggested Viseu instead.

I initially stayed here for a week, accompanied by one of the agents who took care of the documentation. That week, I didn't see much of the city except offices and various documents. I only returned with my suitcases in March. The days were better, so I was able to see more of this beautiful city. I also had the chance of meeting an Italian couple with whom I visited parks and museums. Today, they are good friends with whom I get to spend a lot of time.

How do you rate the services provided by your host city?

Covid-19-related restrictions were introduced last year. However, I did not have any particular issues since the people here are kind and helpful.

I recently changed apartment, and I turned to the usual agency for the paperwork. The local administration is nice and straightforward. Regarding healthcare, I have insurance, so my private medical consultations are cheaper. In general, the city's many parks and gardens are very clean. Even the police are kind when you ask them for information.

Did you find it hard to adapt to your new life in Portugal?

Not really. As in other countries where I have lived and worked, I keep in mind that I am the alien here. So I have to understand, learn, know and respect the country's rules and norms.

What does your everyday life in Portugal look like?

I like to walk around the city, visit museums and parks, and get to know more about the local cuisine by trying the different restaurants. With the pandemic, I haven't been able to visit much but I love whatever I've seen so far. The beaches are amazing. When the situation improves, I would like to visit a few resorts and towns.

Tell us about your volunteering experience?

I volunteer at the "Liga de Amici e Voluntariado Centro Hospitalar Tondela - Viseu". I had seen on the internet that they were operating at the local hospital, then one day, an Italian friend who lives here asked me if I could accompany her for the vaccine.

I could see the volunteers overwhelmed at the vaccination centre, and I didn't think twice before asking whether I could be of some help. I have been volunteering for a few months at the vaccination centre; I check the masks, provide hand sanitiser, sanitise the chairs, accompany people who cannot walk and need help, etc. Sometimes I try to get a smile or a small laugh from those who look scared. Among the volunteers, I also met some very nice people. Yes, I am happy to be a volunteer.

Was it difficult to make new friends there?

I have a few friends with whom I have regular exchanges. Whenever possible, we plan a dinner or just a coffee to spend a few hours together.

Speaking of Portugal, are there any aspects of life in this country that you have only discovered while living there?

On the plus side, I must say that the maintenance of the parks and gardens is amazing.

On the minus side, the lack of family doctors is stressful. I was used to having a good family doctor in Italy, and I really miss having that here.

Is there any advice you would like to give to people who are about to move or who have just arrived in Portugal for a better experience?

I do not know much about the big Portuguese cities, but as anywhere else, expats have to adapt and be respectful of the norms and regulations, even if different from those of our home country. Besides, learning the language naturally helps a lot.

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