Green Acres
Are You a City Dweller? Country Gentry?

How to pick your Portuguese Paradise

I just finished speaking about my life in Portugal at International Living’s Ultimate Go Overseas Bootcamp in Denver, Colorado. Over 800 people from all over the United States attended, their biggest turnout ever.  Hmmmm, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce why so many people are looking to escape the caustic mix of uncertainly, anger and politics brewing in the U.S. right now.

People ask, once they’ve wisely narrowed their search to Portugal, how to decide where in Portugal they should settle. Sadly, many people think they can take a two-week vacation in Portugal and see the whole country. Wow. I hope I talked them out of it. Brief hotel stays can’t give you any sense of how you would actually be living in a country. I was lucky enough to rent for 90 days at a time for three winters before I settled on my Portugal Paradise. I plan to do a deep dive episode of our Glenn and Glenda Show on YouTube about scouting Portugal. My quick advice to the Bootcamp attendees was to first give some real consideration to their dream lifestyle.

In my presentation, I asked the audience if they were a city dweller, or a country type, or a beach bunny.  It was about an equal split between the city dwellers and the beach bunnies, with just a smattering of country types. I told the city dwellers that they could get by without a car in cities like Lisbon, Setúbal, Estoril and Porto. I showed the crowd some pictures of a one-bedroom apartment for rent in Porto for $1,090 USD per month. And I found a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment in Setúbal for $1,230 USD per month rent.

For the beach types, I showed two drastically different beach lifestyles. I found a one-bedroom apartment right on the water in Nazaré for $1,024 per month rent. Surfer heaven, just walk out the door with your board. And then I described my life in the Algarve, five minutes from the beach. I showed them a listing for a villa in my neighborhood to buy for $840,000 USD.

I showed the country lovers a small quinta with land in the Alentejo. For a mortgage payment of about $1,020 a month, you could buy a home with fig trees, fruit trees, olive trees and your own grape vines. I assume you could buy a few goats and chickens to roam around your orchards and potentially eat all your crops. Providing quite the contrast, I unearthed a listing to live like “country gentry”. Not too far from Évora, this large ranch-style home came with stables for your herd of horses and a kennel for your dog-breeding aspirations. For a meagre €575,000, you could become country nobility.

I had attended one of these bootcamps myself before I moved to Portugal. I tried to remember what my greatest worries were from their side of the podium. It boiled down to a handful of questions.

Barbie Dreamhouse
My dream house in the Algarve. Well….sort of.

Would I have to speak the language? 

I explained to my riveted audience (I am imagining this, because I couldn’t see very well in the spotlights, they might have been asleep) that the answer for speaking Portuguese was no to the city dwellers and no to the beach bunnies, but a loud yes to the country folks. By the way, I also encouraged everyone to try and learn some Portuguese. Even if the waiter responds to my “Boa Tarde” with “Hey, how’s it going?”, I like to think he appreciated my attempt.

What’s the healthcare like?

I don’t understand why most Americans assume the healthcare at home is the best in the world because it’s the most expensive in the world. My doctor here speaks better English than I do, has diagnosed a rare eye thing that two ophthalmologists in the U.S. missed, and doesn’t rush me out the door like she has better things to do with her precious doctor time. There was a gasp from the audience when I said that I paid $125 USD a month for health insurance.  I heard a woman in the front row say that she paid over $1,000 a month in California.

Will I make friends and have something to do?

It’s hard to leave a lifetime of friends across an ocean. I mentioned the various social clubs and sporting clubs. I talked about the wonderful friends we have made through my boyfriend Glenn’s tennis clubs. I got a few chuckles (snores?) over my hula lessons at the CASA Hawaiian Luau. As far as things to do, I shared the website for the Portugal Resident and told the crowd how, before I wrote this column, I poured over the events section every week and circled the many choices of fun things to do every week in the Algarve.

What’s the weather like?

Ok, you know how I answered this one.

Are you safe there?

Another no brainer.  Portugal = 6th safest country in the world.  USA = 129th.

Can I afford to live there?

I get this a lot. I spent a lot of time on the Kroger app in the United States comparing item prices on things like Swiffer Dusters and Mission Wraps. I totaled up 15 grocery items that cost $101.97 in the U.S.  After I converted the euros, the same items cost $67.97 in Portugal.  And these are for the expensive imported items! Why are they more in the U.S.? I flashed some prices at the butcher and the fish market and the place was buzzing.

Guy on Phone
The S.E.F. must have hung up on him again.

What’s the downside?

We all know electricity is more expensive here than in the U.S. And gasoline. And I tried to explain that getting a root canal is a lot less painful than trying to call the S.E.F.  But really, that’s it.

I asked the audience how many people had seen the Barbie movie. The truth is, that’s my perfect princess life (before she screws it all up by having some existential crisis about the meaning of life). I wake up every day to a beautiful, sunny day in the Algarve in my Barbie Dream House. I think about what fun I would like to have today. The beach? A cliff walk? The market? Dance around the kitchen? Take a lap in my sparkling pool? I think my boyfriend Glenn has a new name:  KenGlenn.

By Glenda Cole
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Glenda Cole is a retired American executive living her story book life in the Algarve. She and her boyfriend Glenn have a YouTube channel about moving to Portugal called The Glenn and Glenda Show. Glenda also writes for International Living Magazine as well as doing online seminars and videos for them. She recently did her first podcast for International Living and she will be a speaker at their upcoming annual Go Overseas Bootcamp in Denver, Colorado in September.