Quality of life? Christmas Day at Ponte Piedade
Quality of life? Christmas Day at Ponte Piedade

Six scary things for Americans moving to Portugal

Portugal is all the rage in America right now. When I first started wintering in the Algarve five years ago, an American sighting was like seeing a Yeti in your living room.

Now, our friends back home have endless questions. The magazine International Living just named Portugal number one on its annual index of the best places in the world to retire.

We titled our first vlog episode of The Glenn and Glenda Show ‘Five Scary Things About Moving to Portugal’. After two months, that episode has over 110,000 views [and no, we haven’t made a cent (shilling?), so that rumor about YouTubers getting rich doesn’t seem to apply to us].

But we have gotten some really interesting comments and questions from viewers. One thing we didn’t address, and lots of people are asking about, is healthcare. Hence, the title of this column became ‘Six Scary Things for Americans Moving to Portugal’.

  1. Healthcare

Americans think our healthcare system is the best in the world. We have these world-famous hospitals, and our health insurance is insanely expensive, so the care must be stellar. And sometimes it is. But more and more often lately, I’m hearing about long waits for any type of healthcare treatment.

I spoke with a dear friend in the States this week. Her doctor told her she might have one of two things, and one is life-threatening. He scheduled a test to find out which it is. In May! She has to spend five months worrying. What?!

The quality of our healthcare here in the Algarve has been wonderful. Big shout out for Dr Jo at Luzdoc. Yes, she’s crazy busy. But when I was in pain, they fit me in the same day. In America, you have to go to the hospital emergency room to be seen the same day, and even that means you’re often waiting in a hallway for hours.

Here, we’ve had x-rays, blood tests, stress tests, ultrasounds (we’re not decrepit, really!). Every clinic and hospital we have visited here has been professional and thorough. I have to say, we both rate the quality of healthcare here better than in the USA.

And health insurance costs in America are out of control. In 2021, I was paying $552 (about €570) per month for health insurance. And my co-pays for doctor visits and medications were more than double what they are here.

Healthcare in Portugal? Not scary.

Quality of life? Driving to work in Michigan
Quality of life? Driving to work in Michigan
  1. Stuff

Everyone loves their “stuff”, but we Americans seem to collect an awful lot of it. It hurt a bit to get rid of my Waterford crystal, my art glass, my vinyl albums, my Ninja blender … But I don’t miss any of it, and if you really miss “stuff”, there are wonderful things to buy right here. Glenn was thrilled the day he discovered that Amazon Spain ships to Portugal. Stuff? Not a problem.

  1. Boredom

 A lot of Americans are workaholics. When it’s time to retire, they worry they won’t have anything to do. I know people who retired and went back to work because they were bored.

Here in the Algarve, the possibilities are endless. Golf, tennis, music, and so much more. We buy the Portugal Resident and go to lots of fun events – from sausage festivals to pet fundraisers where we’ve met wonderful new friends. There are clubs and walking groups and something for everyone.

Boredom? Come to the Algarve and buy a newspaper, or walk out your door into the beauty of nature.

  1. Quality of life

So, why do some Americans think a move to Portugal is sacrificing the fine things in life? What are the fine things in life? Clear skies, fresh air, healthy food with no preservatives? Making new friends from all over the planet? Dining at restaurants that rival anything in the world for deliciousness? Catching your breath as you stand on a cliff overlooking an azure blue sea? Missing my garbage disposal seems a little petty in the scheme of things.

Quality of life? Are you kidding me? It’s so much better here!

  1. Speaking Portuguese

Most Americans really don’t grow up speaking another language. The little you learn at school, you rarely practice. So, Americans are intimidated to think about learning a new language. We all know that in the Algarve, when you try a few words of Portuguese with your waiter, he responds in English.

Glenn and I believe that we should learn Portuguese living here, and he is working hard at it. I am a laggard, but I will get there. But do you have to speak Portuguese? Not in the Algarve.

The only really scary thing – missing your friends back home
The only really scary thing – missing your friends back home
  1. Missing family and friends

One through five – not so scary. But this one? I think it’s hard for the many other flavors of expats who live here to comprehend just how hard it is for Americans to be so very far away from family and friends. The flights are long and wicked expensive.

I am close to my son, and I have a group of friends in America that mean the world to me. Some of my friends came to see us here this year. And I go back every August, but it’s really not enough. Thank goodness we have Zoom and What’sApp.

My son came to visit this November and when he left, it was really hard for me. Number 6 is the one scary thing that we just can’t refute.

If I can convince everyone I love back home to move out here, maybe that’s the answer. As you can tell, I’m working on it. Many years ago, I was a cheerleader for the Detroit Pistons basketball team. I feel like I cheer more for the Algarve than I ever did for basketball. I just need some pom poms and a much bigger outfit.

Glenda Cole is a retired American executive loving her storybook life in the Algarve with her boyfriend, Glenn Ellison. Check out their vlog on You Tube:  The Glenn and Glenda Show. 

By Glenda Cole
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Glenda Cole retired as the Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships for an international luxury mall developer. She and Glenn have created a popular vlog on You Tube called The Glenn and Glenda Show about their move to Portugal. Glenda is working with the CASA Social Club committee and invites everyone to come out to one of their upcoming events (www.casasocial.club)