Introducing myself


My name is Valerie and I am from South Africa.  My partner and I live in the Azores.  I moved to the island of Pico in 2012, Jeremy had been staying there since 2011.  We bought an old house, the roof collapsed and the house in a bad state after it had been standing empty for many years.  The house has an interesting history.... It used to be a fish factory, then a restaurant and now our home.  We have a little holiday let on the property which we have been renting out over the summer season.  Pico is also known as the black island because of the black volcanic stone everywhere on the island.  The group of islands (9 in all) is the youngest islands on earth, and Pico is the youngest island in the group.  The island of Faial, which is 6 nautical miles from Pico is a well known stopover for yachts.   

However, we are very isolated and lonely on the islands, as there are very few English speaking people on Pico.  We are planning to move to mainland Portugal soon and currently looking at a reasonably priced home fixer upper in Alcochete, Moita, Seixal, Grandola or Alcacer do Sol.

We would love to make friends with other English speaking expats in Portugal.

Hey there

Thank you for your wonderful post the islands do sound beautiful.  My family and I are moving back to the North of Portugal in the next few weeks, Viana do Castelo. 

We lived there for 2 1/2 years then moved back to the UK for financial reasons.  My son who is now 11 did not settle in the UK at all and now we are going back again.

Although we lived in a beautiful, friendly village and the Portuguese were very welcoming I did experience the 'isolation' you talked about too.

I would love to meet more English speaking expats in and around the North of Portugal and would be very interested in meeting up with you if you are going to be in the Northern region.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Dear Wanda

That would be great.  I am currently in South Africa on a short holiday to visit my daughters and will fly back to the Azores on Tuesday.  I am very interested in your experiences in Portugal, because we are actually at the stage whether we must decide to press on and go and live on the mainland of Portugal or pack up and go back to South Africa.  Fortunately Jeremy and my children are both grown up and settled so they are not really a concern, but we miss them of course.  I am very eager to learn Portuguese as I believe that is the secret to integrate into the community.  Life as an expat is definitely not easy!  I can send you my email address and I can send you some pictures of the islands, and you can send me some pictures of Viana do Castelo, but not sure whether we are allowed to post our emails on this blog.  I am going to google Viana do Castelo now, it sounds like a great place.


Hi Valerie

So glad you connected and would be great if we could keep talking.

Interesting that you seem to be in a similar place to ourselves too.  Re-adjusting to the UK has definitely been a tricky one for my son.  However, I personally felt a sense of relief coming back to the UK quite simply because of the language.

Life as an expat is difficult and many people in the UK were astounded at our decision to come back. 

After a while though the initial 'shine' of being back amongst the British began to dim again as all the reasons we left in the first place rose to the surface.

I have to say the Portuguese people are very special and we all have missed the sense of 'community' we experienced there, particularly my son who had completely integrated and now feels 'different' in the UK.

I would say to consider very carefully the reasons why you might go back home and if it is because of the isolation and you have an opportunity to live on the mainland then I would really think carefully before letting go of your Portuguese dream.

Nowhere on this planet is perfect.  I have found UK life challenging in different ways and would describe our home coming experience as; expensive, cold, wet, competitive, creative and again expensive.  We found Portuguese life challenging mainly because of the language and would describe our experience as; cheap, sunny, wet (Northern Portugal gets lots of rain in the winter but summers peak at around 35 right up to end of September), co-operative, challenging, simple, slow, beautiful, expansive, fun, adventurous. 

Yes the language is a challenge and they say to work at it consistently for 5 years - my 11 year old is pretty fluent it was very easy for him.

Please check out Viana do Castelo - very beautiful, historical, tranquil and safe.  Endless beaches, very small expat community.  I know 3 English speaking couples but there are more around.

I am going back with a different mindset.  Imperative to keep chatting to people like yourself, say yes when invited by the Portuguese to social events, drive to Porto more often (its only 40 minutes away) where there are lots more English speaking expats and visit friends down in Coimbra and Cascais. 

There are bigger expat communities around Coimbra and scattered inland all the way down to Tomar near Lisbon.  We have friends down there but it would not suit us as its too far away from the coast.  Where we are we have Porto (40 mins) and airport, Viana do Castleo (15 mins)beaches (15 mins) and Spain (40 mins). 

Anything else you need to know please ask.

Just think carefully before considering going home - there is something magical about Portugal that gets in your bones and its quite impossible to shake it off :}

Enjoy your holidays and keep in touch.

Best wishes