Comings and Goings

I was browsing around a few blogs recently and came across a blog that I had first come across a year ago. Written by an English couple who had lived in the Algarve for 5 years and had now gone back to the UK.

While I was reading the comments posted against the article on why they went back it made me think about my own experience 13 years ago.

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Will you satay or go ?

Comings and Goings

The comments of our British friends really stuck in my mind when my wife and talked about coming over to Portugal to live. We were young immigrants for this area, mid-forties and many friend said the immortal words “what happens if it all goes wrong what will you do”

Once we left the UK and came to Portugal we had a little more time to reflect. It’s true we were as green as grass, had no language skills and chose a place to live near Coimbra after visiting only three times.

All of the money making ideas that we had went out the window as we were just not equipped to compete with the locals on their home turf.

The one thing that did happen which we were not expecting was that we felt that we had broken the metaphorical chains. Indeed “if it all goes wrong what will you do” we most likely won’t go back to the UK. We both love Portugal and the people.

Over the last 13 years I have regularly heard of a few people “going back” and if I look at all the Comings and Goings then this is what I believe are the most commonly cited reasons.

Want to spend more time with the grand kids.

Can’t make any money/afford to live here.

A partner dies.

Children’s schooling

Can’t make friends

Have legal proceedings pending against them by the Portuguese court.

Don’t like living here/ too quiet/too noisy.

Many of these are undoubtedly euphemism’s for something else and the fact that many couples don’t communicate very clearly about their individual wishes and opinions before coming out to Portugal makes settling in and adapting as a couple that much harder.


I tried to work out a percentage of people who stay here Vs go back within a year or two. I think its around 25% for the Coimbra area. However I did talk to a British long time (26 years) resident of the Algarve who still doesn’t speak Portuguese (you know who you are) He told me that in the Algarve the return rate is around 50%.

Coming back to the English couple who have returned to the UK at the start of this blog. One of the things that they said they missed was the variety of food that you get in the UK and the availability of take away food. Not something that would draw me back to the UK. However we have discovered that you can buy locally the identical ingredients that you would need for truly authentic Italian food so if you are fed up with “Bacalhau” try searching online for an Italian recipe when you next go the fresh produce market.

One final thing and it is the only recommendation that I would give anyoneLEARN PORTUGUESE

It will help you make lots of local friends, enjoy your time here more and stop you getting entrapped in the English only speaking expat cliques which often lead to fall outs and stress.