This is my 50th column for this newspaper, which represents over four years of me trying to keep track of the expat experience here along the southern coast of Portugal.
What I’ve done every year so far is, I like to present my annual New Year’s resolutions, where I not only make some decisions on how to improve my own life and how I conduct myself, but I’m also generous with my advice on how other people can help to make life easier and happier. Advice, I admit, that is not always taken to heart and implemented in the same spirit it is given.
The first thing I’ve done in the past is look forward, with a certain degree of optimism as I did last year, for example, hoping that 2022 had to be better than the year before, which was when we all lived with a deadly pandemic. How was I to know that that putz Putin was going to wage a dangerously deranged war against the Ukraine and cause the cost of living everywhere to skyrocket while killing thousands of innocent people.
Here’s the deal – for most residents of the Algarve and for most expats, who have moved here over the past few years, we feel lucky to be in a pleasant place, with friendly people, lovely weather, beautiful scenery and a relatively low cost of living.
Last year was pretty good even. Not so much for other parts of the world, with way too many mass shootings in the States; political turmoil in Great Britton (remember whatshername Truss?); and climate change accelerating at a catastrophic rate in the wrong direction. Not being a prophet, I have no idea how 2023 will turn out, but I’m legitimately concerned.
I’ve also looked back at some previous suggestions for resolutions that I’ve made in the past and realized that, to a certain extent, this has proven to be a theoretical endeavor, with very few encouraging results. For instance, I suggested that both Joe Biden and his predecessor should probably not run for office again, not because one turned out to be a corrupt conman, but because both of them are simply too old to do the job anymore. Heck, I remember Bill Clinton, who was the first guy who managed to get elected president, who was younger than me. So was Bush and Obama, as I got older still (77 and counting). Now we have two guys who remember black and white television, rotary phones and V8 automobiles.
After my wife and I attend a holiday party, we need to rest up a day or two before we venture out again. These guys go to G-7 conferences and then hold press conferences before a daily series of high-level meetings and the occasional riot at the Capitol.
Another instance where in the past I’ve helpfully suggested areas of improvement is in the realm of social media. For example, I hinted that it might be nice if we had fewer newbie luggage photos (you know – the ones with 14 suitcases, a double stroller with twins looking jet lagged and a Great Dane in a container the size of my first apartment); also there was hope for fewer food shots as well as fewer snarky comments.
Here is a subject where I have managed to keep my own resolution. I promised to stop pointing out grammar and spelling errors committed by posters who don’t proofread or simply don’t know what they’re doing.
Keeping my virtual red pen in my pocket has not been easy since there are still plenty of people who simply guess when choosing between there, their and they’re, or your and you’re and can’t resist placing an apostrophe in front of an “s” at the end of a word.
I was recently pushed to the edge when one individual posted in one of the expat sites on Facebook, in large boldface in front of a colorful panel, “Can anyone recommend descent (sic) low-cost travel insurance?” There were no replies including none from me, even though I so wanted to type “How low can you go?”
Then there was an ad for a self-published book that promised “tails” from paradise. Maybe it’s a book about geckos. There, I got that off my chest, but I’m still not accepting friend requests from facebookers who end their message with “Chow”, instead of with “Ciao”.
So, let’s take a look at my ever-hopeful list of …
New Year’s resolutions for 2023
- Pat, the expat – I resolve this year to get back into better shape (okay – I know this is the least original resolution of all time, but I even need a break after typing this). So many expat residents here in the Algarve do a great job of staying healthy by hiking the many beautiful trails along the beaches and cliffs, biking, even with all these hills, and swimming (a friend has just turned 80 and still swims in the ocean regularly year-round). I can at least start walking around the village again.
- Pat readers, for example, anyone still reading this – Help ol’Pat out and let him know what you’re thinking. I’m always open to story ideas and suggestions. Please feel free to get in touch at [email protected] and give me the benefit of your insights.
- British readers – try to keep up your morale. My lovely wife and I watch BBC news almost every night and one of our favorite reporters ends virtually every report with “…and things are likely to get worse before they get better”. Some times he even cautions “…much worse”.
- England’s national men’s football team – Win in regulation. As every football fan in England will tell you, they don’t want to get to the penalty shootout stage.
- Newcomers to Portugal – stop worrying, it will all get done. And stop complaining about how difficult it is to make the transition to life in Portugal. No country makes it particularly convenient to immigrate. Some places are much more demanding and corrupt. For example, no government official here will stick you on a bus in the middle of the night and drop you off at the Vice President’s house in your shirt sleeves and bare feet on a freezing December night.
- Ye aka Kanye West – You have to shorten your name. It’s still way too long. I suggest going with simply “Y”. Then when we say your name, it’s also a good question.
- Megan Markle – Get over it. You haven’t met my in-laws. They don’t live in Portugal and probably won’t read this, but …
- Elon Musk – Oh, I don’t know, there’s so much. Let’s go with simply “Stop!”
- Trump – Post your true golf handicap. It’s not much, but it’s a start.
- Cristiano Ronaldo – Call Tom Brady on the phone and ask him for retirement advice.
- Portuguese drivers – besides the ongoing request to pretty please stop tailgating, how about when you pass on the A-2 or 22, please don’t pull back into the right lane so soon that the person you’ve just passed has to slow down.
- People driving their cars around roundabouts – Have fun. There are no rules.
Here are some more Facebook resolutions. I know that a bunch of you aren’t on META’s site anymore and the following might be a couple of reasons why not:
- Prolific photographer – stop posting every shot you took on your trip. Since we’ve all become so blasted computer literate, few of us have the patience much less the interest to go through all 83 shots. Editing is always a good idea, particularly those candid pics that are out-of-focus or too dark. Have you ever considered cropping your photos to get rid of those six inches of sky?
- Party posters – Wow! That looks like it was fun. I wonder why I wasn’t invited. Even smiling shots of friends at a nice lunch might be problematic if you have other “friends” on Facebook who you’ve been putting off for months.
- Potential immigrants who plan to visit Portugal on a scouting trip and want suggestions on where to go – visit Panama. That Central American isthmus always fills a top spot on places-to-retire lists and I have a very nice apartment there that’s for sale (people from around the world, who have already moved here, tell all your friends and relatives about how much it rained this past December).
Back to many more extremely helpful and potentially much-appreciated suggested resolutions…
- Elon Musk (again) – Stop being such a twit (get it?). I mean literally stop.
- Tom Brady – play as long as you want.
- Coin tossers – stop throwing coins into every public body of water you find in parks, zoos, public spaces and tourist attractions.
- Expats at meet-ups – Move around. Lots of people get a seat at a table and then never move and thus make it very difficult to “meet up” with others. I suggest musical chairs every half hour.
- Yahoo readers – Don’t expect journalism. When I taught journalism in college and/or edited a weekly newspaper, we had something called a lead that featured the Five Ws. This meant that some readers got all the information they need from the headline and the opening paragraph. Yahoo and some other “news” sites on the internet bury any essential or useful info deep in their articles because they want to force you to keep reading so that you’re exposed to as much advertising as possible. You’re not going to see the picture of JayLo in a thong until the end (get it?), if then.
- Russian oligarchs – Stay away from windows and, whatever you do, don’t go out on the balcony.
- People who want to be informed – subscribe to the Portugal Resident. That way you’ll never miss ‘Pat, the expat’.
- Snarky readers – Don’t bother sending in angry letters to the editor demanding that I be fired because you love Elon Musk or can’t resist throwing a penny into a fountain. Most editors simply take any letter, loving or hateful, as proof that at least somebody has read the column. Instead send your “love” letters directly to [email protected] and let me know how you feel personally and share any ideas you have about what resolutions you think I should be making to ensure that 2023 is a year of improvement, happiness, health and prosperity for all.
By Pat the Expat
|| [email protected]
For the previous 10 years, Pat lived in Panama which used to be rated above Portugal as a top retirement destination (but not any more), where he wrote a column for a tourist publication.