British Expat Living in Portugal - Interview With Julie Fox

Published: 9 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Portugal
Julie was bitten by the travel bug in 1997 when she set off on a round-the-world backpacking trip. When she got back to the UK, she realised that she needed to live somewhere sunnier and set about becoming an English teacher so she could work abroad. She moved to Barcelona, Spain, in 2002 to do her teacher training and stayed for two years before landing a teaching job in Tanzania. After two years in Dar es Salaam, she moved to Caracas in Venezuela where she spent a year before returning to Europe. She now lives in central Portugal with her husband and dog and blogs about her experiences of Portugal at Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal. She still teaches part time but also works as a freelance writer. Julie's expat blog is called Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal (see listing here)

Meet Julie - British expat in Portugal
Meet Julie - British expat in Portugal

Here's the interview with Julie...

Where are you originally from?
The United Kingdom.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in the middle of nowhere in Portugal. The closest city is Coimbra, about 35 km away.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved to Portugal in 2007 and have no intention of moving any time soon.

Exploring Valença in northern Portugal
Exploring Valença in northern Portugal
Why did you move and what do you do?
For the past 10 years, I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language in different countries. Before I came to Portugal, I was living in Caracas in Venezuela. I spent a year there and found it tough as I was quite isolated and didn’t feel safe there. I decided to return to Europe so that I could be closer to both ailing and healthy relatives and friends.

Did you bring family with you?
No. I was single at the time.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Moving to Portugal was relatively easy compared to Tanzania and Venezuela. I felt an immediate sense of freedom when I arrived as it was suddenly safe to walk around again. I’d tried learning a bit of Portuguese before coming but for the first few months, I found myself relying on Spanish and English to communicate.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I came here through work and as an English teacher, I’m surrounded by fellow expats, which is handy for socialising and getting information but it does mean that I haven’t made much effort to find Portuguese friends.

The view from my balcony in Moura Morta, Portugal
The view from my balcony in Moura Morta, Portugal
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Central Portugal is beautiful and diverse so there really is something for everyone here, whether you enjoy beaches, countryside, mountains, rivers, cities or villages. For more ideas about what to do, why not visit my blog (see link below)?

What do you enjoy most about living here?
It really does boil down to the weather most of the time. The fact that the days are longer and warmer than the UK and the sky is usually blue in Portugal goes a long way towards making me happy. As does not having to set an alarm clock because my working hours are later in the day.
The pace of life is slower here and at the moment, I can afford to eat at local restaurants on a fairly regular basis.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The gap is definitely closing with the current austerity measures. Utilities, food and petrol have all shot up over the last few years, wages have been frozen or even cut and taxes are astronomical. Having said that, it’s still possible to manage on less here than in the UK, especially when it comes to housing costs.

The River Alva, 10 minutes walk from my house in Portugal
The River Alva, 10 minutes walk from my house in Portugal
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
For us, it’s still the distance from family. My stepchildren live with their mother in the UK, which is hard for everyone and means that holiday periods are taken up with visits.
On a more general note, the language barrier and different cultural expectations can make it frustrating trying to communicate effectively and to get work done by other people.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn Portuguese! It is possible to ‘get by’ in many situations without it and many expats do but I find it helps enormously to have at least some Portuguese, especially when dealing with delivery people and doctors’ receptionists over the phone. I speak Portuguese fairly well but I get stuck with complicated situations and can’t deal with poor customer service effectively.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The most stressful expat experiences I’ve had have been related to shipping. I’ve shipped my belongings between countries three times, using three different companies and each time it’s been a nightmare. I’m in no hurry to do that again and would seriously consider selling almost everything rather than shipping if I couldn’t transport my own things next time I move.
I also find Christmas an expensive and logistical nightmare in that I feel obliged to visit family and friends in the UK when I’d rather spend the time and money relaxing or travelling.

Polvo à lagareira, my favourite Portuguese dish.
Polvo à lagareira, my favourite Portuguese dish.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Getting a job before you move means that your company will be able to help enormously with visas and bureaucracy.
  2. If you haven’t got work or an income lined up, do your homework first to make sure you’ll be able to support yourself financially. It’s no fun trying to live the dream if you’re skint.
  3. Research the requirements for importing your goods well before you move, especially if you’re planning to import your car from another EU country. You may be able to bring it over tax free but only if you comply with certain regulations. Cars are ridiculously expensive here so it’s worth checking.
  4. Rent before you buy, especially in Portugal where the property market is stagnant at best. It really can take years to shift a property so don’t rush into anything.
  5. Bring bucket loads of patience. Things move incredibly slowly here and the level of customer service is extremely variable.

Me and Daisy in my garden in central Portugal
Me and Daisy in my garden in central Portugal
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is for anyone who’s interested in finding out more about living and travelling in Portugal from an expat’s point of view. I share photographs and anecdotes of the highlights, frustrations and oddities of my life here, as well as useful tips for other people who live in, or are thinking about moving to Portugal.
I’m a traveller at heart and am thoroughly enjoying exploring my adopted country so there’s a heavy emphasis on travelling in Portugal, especially to off-the-beaten-track places. As well as travel tips and stories, I enjoy writing about unusual events and aspects of Portuguese culture that strike me as interesting or worth mentioning.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact me via my blog or message me on Facebook or Twitter

Julie blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Julie, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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Comments » There is 1 comment

Eduardo De Andrade wrote 10 years ago:

Dear Mrs.Julie Dawn Fox, health and well! I\'d like to talk to you just a comment on Évora. If you loved and continue to love the city of Évora, Upper Alentejo, Portugal, then, I must say you that it was my home for seven years in the 80\'s. I think that it is one of the most important and spectacular historic towns in the world. Really, Évora is pure and wonderful poetry! It was a privilege to live in this amazing and magic town! A strong hug, Eduardo de Andrade. My address is: Rua das Amendoeiras, 211, Condomínio Residencial Rocha Costa, Bairro Cabrais, Oliveira, Minas Gerais(MG)35540-000, Brazil. Eduardo Andrade

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