GBN expat secrets - Portugal: 'Everything is about lunch here - and most of Portugal is drunk from 3pm onwards'

GBN expat secrets - Portugal: 'Everything is about lunch here - and most of Portugal is drunk from 3pm onwards'

Expat in Portugal gives advice to those considering the move

Anna Barry

By Anna Barry

Published: 08/07/2024

- 08:30

GB News is talking to expats across Europe and the world who have exclusively revealed the best places to live, tips and tricks for moving abroad, and the potential pitfalls to avoid. This week, an expat in Portugal shared what makes the Algarve so special, and provided some important warnings for anyone considering the move

Bradley Dodd, 41, moved from Hertfordshire to Portugal with his wife and baby boy for a change of scenery before enrolling their child in school.

However, after falling in love with the place, they decided to make the Algarve their new home. Bradley spoke exclusively to GB News about life in the sunny European paradise.

Bradley and his wife decided to move abroad when their little boy was one and a half, rather than do it a few years later when he was at school, so as not to upset his routine.

Australia was on the cards - his wife had lived there briefly in her younger years and loved it - so the couple spent a month there first to "peruse".

But the couple decided they weren't destined for a life down under when their family and friends told them they didn't want them to be that far away - so they settled on Portugal.

Bradley in Portugal / Algarve, Portugal

An expat in Portugal spoke exclusively to GB News about why it's an amazing place to live

Bradley Dodd / GETTY IMAGES

Bradley said: "My uncle and his family were living out here in Portugal, where I've holidayed for 30-plus years. And he said to us, 'Why don't you come and join us? You've always loved it'.

"He told me to come out and said we'll buy a property together and start a renovation company. And the rest is history."

The expat admitted they "hit some roadblocks" starting up this business, as renovation in Portugal is vastly different to the UK - but they're "still smiling".

Nine years on, Bradley is loving life in Portugal and resides in Almancil, Algarve, close to Faro Airport.

He said: "It's really nice - we get 300 days of sunshine per year, so can't really complain."

The Algarve's weather was certainly a selling point for Bradley when moving here, and a reason he loves his life so much now.

"It's the outdoor sort of living really. Back home, when we were living in Hertfordshire, if we were to plan a barbecue, it would always be subject to the weather.

"I used to go to the gym and swim a lot, but outdoor sports wasn't really something that you could regularly get involved in. But here, we play paddle tennis every week and we can go down to the beach whenever we want.

"I think my favourite thing is that being this much closer to the equator than the UK, we get that little bit of extra sunlight every day. So if you tally that up over a week, we get a whole day's worth of sunshine more than the UK."

Winters in the Algarve are beautiful too - in fact, it's Bradley's favourite time of the year to be in the Algarve.

While tourists flock to this part of Portugal in their masses year after year, the expat's life does not feel completely overwhelmed by holidaymakers.

"Where I live, we've kind of got the best of both worlds," Bradley said. "We have a small market town called Loulé, which is a traditional town and very Portuguese.

"But then we've got the main tourist resort, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, on our doorstep as well.

"I'm sort of equidistance from both, about five minutes from both, and it depends on what you're after, really.

"We can go up into the hills and get the authentic Portugal or down to the beach where it's full of expats and holidaymakers."

For this reason, it's always been easy for Bradley to meet people, although he admitted that it's hard to form the kind of connections you make in your younger years.

The expat said: "That is the problem out here. You can't actually make those friends that you grew up with. I've got a really, really good group of friends in the UK of about 10 guys I hang about with, and all of our wives get on very well.

"That's one thing we really miss because I don't think you can ever make those friends again, you know, you make them when you're at school. So we've got some close friends here, but none of which are as close as my friends from home."

As for making friends with locals, Brad is still working on his Portuguese and is determined to master the language as best he can.

"I try my absolute hardest to speak Portuguese wherever I go. I think it's incredibly important, and I can't stand the arrogance of the expats who just speak in English."

Nevertheless, Brad has found that a lot of Portuguese people are keen to practice their English speaking too, as they often learn it as a second language at school.

The expat continued: "And my Portuguese isn't fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, so it's probably better if they do speak in English because we get to the crux of the conversation a bit quicker. I'm still learning to this day.

"I use the Michel Thomas learning app which has really helped me, and I would recommend that anybody moving to a foreign country definitely try to learn the language."

In the nine years that he's lived there, the expat has found the locals are very community-focused, which has allowed him and his wife to meet new people.

He said: "My children play for the local football team, which has really created a community feel. They're mixing with more Portuguese people and just understanding the way that they do things."

Asked what he loves most about living in Almancil, Bradley said: "It's very convenient. We're very, very close to the airport, and I couldn't live further away from the airport because I do a lot of travelling back and forth to the UK.

"My house is 15 minutes from the main airport here and I can be in Stansted by midday and then into London sorting out stuff that I need to do.

"I also love that I'm close to the beach, and the people are lovely. The Portuguese are very eager to please, and I love their way of life: everything is about lunch here.

"The whole world stops between sort of midday and 3pm, and everyone goes for a plate of the day. It's really reasonable, you can get a fantastic meal which includes your starter, main course, dessert, wine and coffee, all for around €10 (around £8.50)."

On a plate of the day, you can expect a starter of bread, butter and olives, then a main course of fish, a mixed grill, stew or salad, and then a dessert, coffee, not to mention "a litre of wine each".

"It's a blue-collar working lunch, so I'm told. All of the contractors, the gardeners, the builders, they all sit down at lunch and it's fantastic." In Portugal, it is common to offer meal vouchers or lunch cards to employees.

"In the UK, we just wouldn't do it. We wouldn't drink at lunchtime either. But the Portuguese, they do, they enjoy their lunches and they stop. The only sort of plate of the day you can get in London would be McDonald's.

"The majority of the Portuguese will then go to the bar and finish off with a Medronhos which is a digestant. I mean, I could never drink it - it's like petrol, but they all love it. Most of Portugal is drunk from 3pm onwards."

Brad admitted that while he does love the idea of taking time to eat and rest at lunchtime, his builders drinking during their break has posed a few problems - "not a lot gets done in the afternoon".

"I used to spend a bit of time in Norfolk and I liken it to there. It was a slower pace of life. I could never get used to it there, and I'm still not used to it here. You want to pop to a shop at lunchtime to get something, and they're all closed, you know?"

While Bradley is very far off retirement age, he believes it would be a great place to spend the later years of your life.

"I think it's a fantastic place for people to retire, and sometimes that's our problem, that there's not enough younger people here for us to integrate with."

He has noticed more of the younger generation move to Portugal in the last few years though.

Brad said: "I think since Brexit, it has definitely picked up with people looking for something different. And since the coronavirus and the big lockdowns, people just thought that there's a bit more to life than this.

"And if you can work from home in London, you may as well work from home in the sunshine."


Algarve, Portugal

'I think anyone can find themselves at home here and enjoy their life. It's a fantastic place to be'


One thing that Brad struggles with though - especially as someone with young children - is how late into the evening things go on.

"Everything's so late in the evening and we're used to getting up quite early, so we've constantly got incredibly tired children," the expat shared.

"For a football presentation last weekend, the kids [aged five and nine] weren't on stage until 10:30pm, and that's just the norm here. All the Portuguese kids just roll through it and enjoy it, but my children are still really struggling to keep their eyes open.

"Their football training is very, very intense too. They do three nights a week, and one night the football training doesn't end till 8:30pm - so again, past bedtime."

Brad isn't the biggest fan of the bureaucracy either - and there's "a hell of a lot of it".

He said: "The Portuguese absolutely love paperwork, and when I say paperwork, I mean old-fashioned paperwork. If you walk into a council office or a finance office, there's paperwork stacked high like you'd expect to see in the late 70s or early 80s in the UK. They're still doing paperwork like that.

"Things are slowly moving online. We've set up an electric motorcycle rental company here, and we've really had some hurdles put in front of us. I think you just have to keep trying."

Bradley has also enlisted the help of a lawyer who he runs business decisions by before making them.

Asked what advice he'd give to Britons considering the move to Portugal, the expat said: "Number one, learn the language. People might say that you can get by with English, but I find it incredibly arrogant to go into someone's country and think that you can speak English everywhere you go.

"It is widely spoken here, but I would say learn the language because everyone speaks English until something goes wrong. When something goes wrong nobody wants to speak English. Everyone's talking Portuguese and it's your job to understand, so learn the language and just double-check all the I's and cross the T's.

"Make sure that you get the right lawyer as well. That's very important, and the right person for tax returns and any financial stuff. Definitely make sure you get the right person."

Brad concluded: "I think anyone can find themselves at home here and enjoy their life. It's a fantastic place to be."

Moving to Portugal

What you need to know

Portugal is a beautiful choice for expats and is popular among Britons looking to relocate. For those considering the move, it's important to be aware of a few things regarding visa and residency information, how to find accommodation and driving in Portugal.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has provided essential guidance for Britons considering the move.

On GOV.UK, the Government office said: "You must tell the UK government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax if you are moving or retiring abroad."

Britons must check the entry requirements for Portugal. They must read the Portuguese government’s general entry requirements for Portugal, information about visas on the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Page, and the Portuguese Immigration Authority’s website for information on residence, working and studying in Portugal (in Portuguese).

Get Golden Visa provides a definitive guide on Portugal's Golden Visa in 2024, including eligibility and requirements.

The Government also has detailed guidance on buying property abroad. Britons were warned: "If you’re considering buying a property overseas you’ll need to bear in mind that the legal system and steps to follow may be very different from those you have experienced in the UK."

The FCDO offered some key points Britons should be aware of when purchasing property in Portugal.

The Government said: "If you are buying property in Portugal, consider taking advice from a lawyer who is experienced in land law and property transactions. Make sure that they are registered with the law society, Ordem dos Advogados (in Portuguese).

"Some notaries, who are trained lawyers in Portugal, offer an independent property purchasing service known as Casa Simples, Casa Segura (in Portuguese).

"If you are thinking of buying a coastal, river or lakeside property, ensure it’s not affected by the 2005 water resources law (in Portuguese).

"If you buy rural property, make sure you comply with the law on preventing forest fires."

A recent agreement means that driving in Portugal is very straightforward for Britons. The FDCO explained: "A new bilateral agreement between the UK and Portugal on the mutual recognition and exchange of driving licences entered into force on December 31, 2023.

"This means that if you are a resident in Portugal and hold a full and valid driving licence issued in the UK or Gibraltar, you can drive in Portugal on your current licence until it expires, provided you have registered your licence with IMT, or exchange your licence for a Portuguese one without needing to take a test (see exception below)."

Best places for retirees

  • The Silver Coast
  • The Algarve
  • Lisbon
  • Porto
  • Madeira
  • Coimbra

Why Britons choose to live in Portugal

  • Warm climate
  • Affordable (depending on where you decide to live)
  • Safe
  • Incredible landscapes
  • Excellent healthcare
  • English is widely spoken (although more so in major cities than in smaller towns)
  • Slower pace of life - may suit expats who have relocated for their retirement
  • Sociable and fun - perfect for those who love a party
  • Community is important

Possible pitfalls

  • Language barrier (officials in government offices will likely not speak English)
  • Some places operate on a cash-only basis so you will need to remember to carry change
  • Bureaucracy can be laborious
  • Slower pace of life means that things may not get done as quickly as you might like
  • Homes can get cold at night as many do not come with a radiator - you may need to purchase your own heater

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