ANNELIES WETHMAR Reugebrink, honorary Dutch consul to the Algarve and the Alentejo, spoke candidly to Algarve Resident ‘s ELOÏSE WALTON in an exclusive interview about her diplomatic role, her love of the region and her involvement in helping the wider expatriate community.
“I WAS most surprised when the Dutch ambassador telephoned me just over a year ago to ask if I would accept the role of honorary consul,” said Annelies.
“It was a great honour for me, because, unlike other consulates, where the post is applied for, I was nominated by members of the Portuguese community.”
Annelies first arrived in Portugal in 1979: “At the time, I wanted to move to a southern country to open a small hotel. “When I visited Portugal, I fell in love with it and it has become my home country.”
Annelies now has a chain of restaurants and a catering company, employing 65 people, based in Albufeira as well as fulfilling the voluntary and unpaid role of the consul, which she says, leaves little time to play golf.
“Our consulate used to be in an apartment block in Faro, which was unsuitable and had no parking facilities, so one year ago, we moved it to my office building in Albufeira,” she said.
“This is more central and allows me to do everything more easily.”
Quality of life
According to Annelies, what motivates people to move from Holland and other northern European countries to Portugal is the amazing quality of life and the warmth of the Portuguese people.
“There are currently around 20,000 Dutch residents in the Algarve and Alentejo regions, of which many are young families with children and also pensioners,” she said.
Since becoming honorary consul, the biggest difficulty Annelies has noticed for Dutch citizens in Portugal is the bureaucracy for building houses and acquiring licences.
“It is a very different system compared to Holland, but the consulate provides a lot of advice and support for its citizens and we can recommend multi-lingual lawyers,” she said.
As well as bureaucratic assistance and documentation services, the consulate is also keen to continue organising cultural events, to bring the Dutch and Portuguese communities closer.
“I see it as a huge challenge to make it possible for Portuguese and Dutch people to meet and be interactive,” said Annelies.
The consulate also works closely with the German and British consuls, who meet bi-monthly to discuss problems within the wider expatriate community. “The consular core are arranging to organise more cultural events for the resident communities in the region to meet and interact,” she said.
The Dutch consulate is located in Edifício Mercúrio on Rua do Lageado, Albufeira. For more information, please telephone 289 542 190.
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