British Expat Living in Portugal - Interview with Kev

Published: 28 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Portugal
A 36-year-old English language teacher and writer from the UK, Kev has been living in Lisbon for two years, after stints in Turkey and Poland. He came to teaching and living abroad late, aged 31, after a decade working as a financial data analyst but has no doubt it was the right move and is not looking back. Kev's expat blog is called An Englishman in Lisbon (see listing here)

The 25th April Bridge, stretching across the Tagus river
The 25th April Bridge, stretching across the Tagus river

Here's the interview with Kev...

Where are you originally from?
I was brought up on the edge of London, in a tiny town called Woking. It was ok, as London was on the doorstep and that held a whole world of possibilites in terms of concerts, exhibitions, etc.

In which country and city are you living now?
Lisbon, Portugal

How long have you lived in Portugal and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been here since September 2014, so I've just had my two year anniversary. My plan is to stay here permanently.

The Tower of Belém, part of the UNESCO site of Belém.
The Tower of Belém, part of the UNESCO site of Belém.
Why did you move to Portugal and what do you do?
I'm an English language teacher and I'd been working in Poland for three years. I had great times living there, but knew that there would have to be a move someday, as the currency there and the low earnings for teachers make it impossible to stay there in the long term.

Did you bring family with you?
I came alone.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was the third foreign country I'd lived in, after Poland and Turkey, but each country has its own unique challenges. That's part of what the blog is about, as well as celebrating the great pluses to being here, of course.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Being an EFL teacher, we're used to having a social circle "out of the box" so to speak, when you arrive in a new place. Your colleagues are mostly from the same sorts of backgrounds, so it's a good security blanket when you first arrive. I've since made a fair few local friends though and spend increasing amounts of time with them.

The view from the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte, in Graca
The view from the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte, in Graca
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Lisbon and the surrounding area has so much to offer. Probably the best thing to do here is, strangely enough, to get lost. It's a very safe place and the city has so many hidden gems of architecture and more that it's best just to wander - find it organically.

What do you enjoy most about living in Portugal?
One of my favourite things about being in Portugal is that it's a country with so much to see. There are castles everywhere you go, people are extremely friendly without exception and it's easy to get around, thanks to a decent and cheap infrastructure. I try to explore a new place with my girlfriend every few weeks.

How does the cost of living in Portugal compare to home?
It's so much cheaper than the UK, it's pretty much incomparable. The biggest difference is the cost of eating and drinking. The pleasure of going out for a great meal doesn't need to be a special occasion here and, as a foodie, I love that.

Me and my girlfriend on the night Portugal won the European Championships of football, at Marques de Pombal
Me and my girlfriend on the night Portugal won the European Championships of football, at Marques de Pombal
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Portugal?
Bureaucracy is a bit of a nightmare. When you have to do anything involving the government, it'll probably involve taking a ticket and then giving up a whole day to wait around, fill out a billion forms and speak to 4 or 5 people, even for the simplest of tasks.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Portugal, what would it be?
Try to learn some of the language. In the city centre, everyone speaks English, really well and, while that's also true to some extent nationwide, once you're out of the heart of the city, being able to communicate, even in a rudimentary way, makes a huge difference to how you're received.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Learning the language, strangely enough! I'm not a terrible linguist, but there aren't many schools teaching Portuguese and most of the web resources are Brazilian, which is a different language entirely.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I simply won't go home. I spent a few weeks there this summer and that helped me decide that it's visits only, going forward!

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be patient. Things take time here, people are late most of the time. It's not disrespectful, just a cultural difference.
  2. Taste everything. Food and drink in Portugal is plentiful, cheap and terrific. It's a crime to come here and not get involved with the cuisine.
  3. Get out of the city. You can travel the length of the country for very little money here and the diversity of scenery, culture and - you guessed it - food is huge. You'll miss so much if you just stay put in the capital, glorious though it is.
  4. Prepare for the winter. When you arrive here and see that the temperature rarely gets down to freezing, it's easy to think that you won't feel the cold here. But, with the humidity from being on the Atlantic coast and the banks of the Tagus river, that's certainly not the case. Find an apartment with double glazing and don't forget blankets and knitwear!
  5. Bring sensible shoes. Lisbon has hills like you will not believe. An average 2km walk in the city centre will probably involve at least half that distance again in elevation, one way or another!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
The blog is a mixture of things, really. It features the things I find difficult, or frustrating, highlights restaurants and cafés that I think are worth visiting and also looks at the huge positives to living in what I think is one of the world's great cities.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I use couchsurfing to meet people travelling in the area. While my apartment isn't big enough to host people, I happily give people tours or provide advice. You can also look for at Facebook page:

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKev is a British expat living in Portugal. Blog description: Sights, sounds and tastes of life as an English expat in Lisbon
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