Category Archives: Portuguese Living

guidance and advice on living in Portugal, from a couple of novices. Learn from our mistakes!

WHICH BUILDERS TO USE – EXPATS OR PORTUGUESE?

STAGE 1 – GETTING A QUOTE

Which would you rather use, an English/French/German builder or  a  Portuguese? There’s a danger that we lapse into using stereotypes when making this choice, but is there any difference between nationalities?

Look closely – “U” could be in the Builders Arms…

I ask because we are waiting to have an extension built, along with other work. Having used builders in UK on different properties and having a background in the building industry I’ve found it an interesting process seeking quotes in Portugal. One expat blog advocated using Portuguese builders, seemingly based on a negative experience with a British builder and a positive experience with Portuguese company. Their advice to go with the Portuguese builder was reinforced when the UK builder wanted to leave a comment. According to the blogger “I couldn’t post his comment because the attitude and language was appalling”.

I wonder whether Google’s search suggestions are a contributory factor on stereotypical views of builders and sway peoples views…

There is clearly a big gap between client expectations and tradesman’s ability to deliver. Why? Could it be the language? Not English, nor Portuguese, but ‘Tradespeak’ – Tradesmen’s language, with a dash of tradesmen psychology. You have to be in the know to decipher the actual meaning.

Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/31434

Prepare to go through the whole gamut of emotions if you want a quote. This begins right from the start. “Tomorrow ok?”  invokes the response: ‘Wow, they are on the ball, how professional. We’ll  have it done in no time!’

However, as everyone knows, or should know, tomorrow never comes! And, quite often, neither does the tradesman.

You are disappointed, but make allowances – ‘it must be because they are busy and in demand’ or ‘they are probably dealing with an emergency’.

After a few days you start to wonder whether they are as professional as you first thought. So you ring them again, but have to leave a message. Irritating, but you excuse this because it probably confirms how ‘busy and in demand they are’.

So you wait another week before you ring again, but get the same result.

Another wait, another call, but the same result. By this time you have reached the limit of your patience – “useless _______ (insert your own expletive)” .

Time to start looking for a new quote. Perceived wisdom suggests that you get at least three quotes. So you have to go through that process three times, at least!

Occasionally though, you obtain a quote. Well done, you picked a good one! But beware! It could be the tradesman didn’t really want to do the work. Did you notice he was going to charge a fortune. Why?  To either put you off, or make a packet out of your deparate plight.

Next post,.. Stage 2 –Getting them to do the work.

I’d love to hear your views – please leave a comment below.

CLIMATE WARMING UP FOR A HEALTHY FIGHT?

Hands up those who have had an argument about the thermostat on the central heating? Come on, be honest! I know I have and it resulted in me moving 1500 miles to Portugal to avoid the frosty climate, both inside the house and outside! Well actually we both moved here, but I was going for a dramatic opening to this blog about perceived or apparent temperatures. Read on to the end to get my top tips for surviving the unexpected cold snaps. 

I was sat outside the local bar with a group of expat acquaintances and we were bemoaning the fact that it was cold, the temperature having gone down to 18 degrees! Admittedly I was wearing shorts and a ‘T’ shirt but I thought of myself as a ‘roughtie toughtie’ northerner, (north of England) and so used to lower temperatures. I remembered when we first moved to Portugal three years ago, I was struck by how wrapped up the locals were and particularly some of the expats, in 20-22 degrees. But now I was succumbing to the same ‘southern softness’, or so I thought. This was a serious situation, so I decided to investigate and turned up some interesting information, myths and a possible reason for feeling cold…

According to Dr Sweiss of the University of Chicago’s Cold Hands Clinic (cool name!), a recent development of sensitivity to cold could be a sign of significant medical issues, including thyroid diseases. However, there are simpler reasons that we all know or suspect; thinner people get colder than heavier people, older rather than younger individuals. Some surprising ones; married women generally handle the cold better! I always  thought it was mainly men that had to handle cold shoulders…

One of the myths about apparent temperature involves the concept of developing ‘thinner’ blood. Medical evidence suggests it is more likely due to a person’s tolerance to the cold weather changing, or perhaps to a loss of some “insulating” fat due.

The perception of cold begins when nerves in the skin send impulses to the brain about skin temperature. These impulses respond not only to the temperature of the skin, but also to the rate of change in skin temperature. Impulses arriving at the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain where reasoning occurs, generate information about how cold we feel. These combine with impulses arriving from the limbic system, responsible for our emotional state, to determine how miserably cold we feel. These feelings motivate us to perform certain behaviours, such as putting on more clothes, complaining about the weather, arguing about the thermostat!

Now some of us also may feel cold simply because of how others close to us look or are behaving, a phenomenon called “cold contagion”. It’s a bit like yawning – ever notice how they spread when someone starts yawning?  In one medical study, healthy volunteers felt colder if they were shown videos of actors pretending to be cold, than if the actors pretended to be warm. Now I can relate to this, remember me sitting outside the bar? Well one of the guys was continually complaining about the cold I was soon shivering and yawning!

SUNDANCE’S SURVIVAL SUGGESTIONS

  • Stop dieting, remember that fat is good for insulation.
  • Take a dip in the pool, even when the water gets down to 10 degrees. You’ll be glad of the warmer (although cool) air temperature when you get out!
  • Cycle to the bar. The exertion will warm you up and stop you complaining as soon as you get there. Wait a while before you start complaining.
  • Take control of your cerebral cortex – tell it you are just having one more beer.

FOOTNOTE: Most of us who are healthy but claim to feel cold may only have ourselves to blame. In today’s world, we rarely expose ourselves to cold. Instead, we spend money on expensive clothing to protect us from the lower temperatures and spend huge amounts warming our living and working spaces. This in turn may actually contribute to obesity as we are not using as much energy ‘stoking’ ourselves up. We’d probably all be much better off if we spent more time sitting outside the bar and being cold. But it might be a good idea to get some new friends who don’t continually complain about the weather!

Weather or Not – Health Benefits of Moving to a Warmer Climate

Apologies to Will…

One of the main reasons for people moving to Portugal is the health benefits of living in a warmer climate. As ‘Her Outdoors’ and I (Sundance) both suffer from different forms of arthritis, ailments and mood swings (I’m a self confessed SAD sufferer!) it was certainly a major factor in our decision to move here.

And what lovely weather we have had, up to mid February that is, when the first significant rain fell. At the time I was considering changing Angela’s nickname from ‘Her Outoors’ to ‘Raindancer’. (Mmm, Sundance and Raindancer, think we’ve got all bases covered there…)  As a gardener she was delighted when the rain did come.

So is there evidence of health benefits to be derived from living in a warmer (usually) climate, or are they just part of the Estate Agent’s hype? Personally, I have been fitter, more active and healthier since we moved to Portugal. However, these last three cold, wet months have had a negative effect on my health.  I’ve felt lethargic, more joint pain and been prone to changing moods. I wanted to know whether it was because of the weather, so here’s my take on my limited Google research.

One of the main benefits of a warmer climate is the increased exposure to the sun, which increases your body’s vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has been claimed to prevent cancer, provide higher energy levels, and keep your bones strong and healthy by helping your body absorb calcium.

Some of the comments I came across were; “Pain thresholds drop in colder weather”,  “cold, rainy days affect mood, “during colder weather people are less likely to be outside and get the exercise that normally helps keep arthritis pain in check.

A warmer climate will probably make you more motivated to exercise, or maybe just give you more get up and go! Motivation to exercise is certainly the case for me as I’ve taken up the Portuguese Triathlon; I swim in the pool most days, check the fridge to ensure I haven’t run out of beers and cycle to the local Bar when I have!

Joking aside, I have taken up playing football again. Or to be more specific, walking football (WF). The game is becoming increasingly popular with the over 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s both here in Portugal and  in the UK and! But here’s where the health benefits might be questionable, on a personal level. Since I started playing WF I’ve suffered: groin strains, a ruptured achilles tendon, a muscle tear and strained knee ligaments. But I keep playing. I clearly have a liking for pain, or maybe I just like to keep active!

We do lead a more active, outdoor life these days, largely due to the garden we are maintaining and developing. Any exercise is seen to be beneficial and apparently, improves memory and might even reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. It does this by increasing the necessary blood and oxygen the brain needs to function, which in turn create new, healthy cells. You just have to remember to get out in the garden each day!

Thinking of moving to a warmer climate?  My advice would be to do what works for you, but don’t just rely on the sunshine!

Algarve Sunrise

We think we’ve been cheated. We have had over a week now with very little sun and not much in prospect in the next few days. Talking with friends, they are admitting to depression because of a lack of sun. I was wondering what I could do to bring some cheer to our friends and ourselves. Whilst looking through some old video material I’ve shot I found the solution. So here it is, enjoy!

Paderne Medieval Festival

Paderne is a typical village in the  Algarve. To celebrate the history of the area, Paderne turns back the clock to Medieval times for four days over the festive period.

Thousands of visitors are attracted to the old centre of Paderne, where there’s a Medieval  market, bars and stalls with delicious food, arts and crafts, exhibitions, musical performances, street theatre, a violent siege and a historical procession.

Where else can you travel back in time for the princely sum of a couple of euros!

O CARNAVAL MAIS ANTIGO DE PORTUGAL

THE OLDEST CARNIVAL IN PORTUGAL!

The flags were flying and the town was buzzing when we arrived on the third day of the Loulé Carnival. Steeped in more than a century of history the Carnaval is one of the must-see events of the Algarve calendar …. the riot of colour, vibrancy and spectacle is not to be missed even if the music can be deafening at times.

The theme for 2018 was “Carnaval Summit de Loulé”, a parody of the Lisbon Web Summit. But if you did miss it, here’s a little collaborative snapshot produced by Her Outdoors, Sundance and son of Sundance.

The Loulé Carnival has been held for more than a 100 years and was originally a pagan festival to herald the new spring. Carnival nowadays is celebrated predominantly by Catholics in the lead up to the start of Shrovetide (pre-Lent), the traditional Christian time for fasting.

Paint not pastries for modern day Carnivalists

The festivities these days are now mainly based on the style of the Brazilian Samba. However, the history of the event chronicles much mischief, offering people the opportunity to settle old scores, “by throwing cream pastries, eggs, flour and sandbags” designed to hurt or at least get the others dirty. There was also some elements of violence. including one person who burnt down a rival’s workshop!

The Great and the not so Great
Putin on the style

 

 

 

 

The present day Carnival owes much to the Carnation Revolution of  1975 which got rid of the repressive system in place and opened up a more liberal climate in which the arts were able to flourish. Loulé Carnaval however, whilst embracing  a style akin to Brazilian Samba, retains the essence of its historical traditions, focussing on political and “celebrity” caricatures and parodies. Among the characters parodied this year are Cristiano Ronaldo and his Golden Balls; Donald Trump and his Mexican Wall, Valdimir Putin hosting the 2018 World Cup, and Angela Merkel, dancing with the new Eurogroup president, Mário Centeno.

Next  March 5, 2019 (Tuesday)

 

Health, Wealth & Welfare?

We decided to visit an organic farm, as Her Outdoors was trying to find some turmeric to grow in our garden. ‘Organic’ is usually a term added to the description of items for sale in order to charge more. Cynical, I know, but perhaps there is some truth in it. What the term does suggest, is that the items are healthier, or ‘good’ for you.  Not for me though, our visit landed me in the hospital casualty and gave me an unwanted insight into the Portuguese health system.

I’ve not played serious football since1983 when I sustained a serious knee injury. Shoot forward to November 2017 and I started playing football again. Or rather the walking football variety of football; no running, three touches and the ball is not allowed above head height. I strained my calf muscle playing, but hobbled on in goal, so as not to let my teammates down. Silly me! Two days later Her Outdoors and I went for a look round the organic farm. I limped round, but when leaving the farm I tried putting my full weight on my foot. Big mistake! To the sound of a loud ‘pop’ and an excruciating pain in my ankle crumpled. I thought Her Outdoors had kicked me to hurry me up! The pain was serious, so we decided to visit the nearest hospital. This was my second mistake; the Hospital Lusiades is actually a private hospital.

Old codgers playing walking football.

At the Lusiades we got a great reception – wheelchair brought to me immediately, charming receptionist speaking excellent English. But when she realised we didn’t have private health insurance (other than our EHIC), I was kicked out of the wheelchair and directed to the ‘Centro de Saude’. (Actually I jumped out immediately, fearing that she would start charging me for its use. Just trying to evoke some sympathy here.) Why no private health insurance you might ask? It’s a long standing socialist principle with me, I have trouble supporting elitist systems or divisive public services.

‘Her Outdoors’ suggested we went to Faro Hospital. My third mistake of the day was insisting we went to the local Centro de Saude. Once there, I quickly got registered and saw the triage nurse where I was colour coded. Well my arm band was coded, not me personally. I was the second lowest ‘urgencia’ band. One above the “don’t waste our time” category. A notice suggested my colour code would entail up to 2 hours wait. The waiting room was full, so we settled in for a wait. We sat back and I researched the likely diagnosis: rupture or partial rupture of the achilles tendon.

Spanish, but similar!

Two hours later, the waiting room had emptied somewhat and I was hopeful… (mistake number 4!) Unfortunately the next two hours saw no progress. We learned later that there were no Doctors in attendance at that time. When things did start to move again, there was a commotion. A new, greenbanded incomer was immediately seen by a Doctor because she knew him. Docile patients immediately started rebelling and the sacred complaints book, Livro de Reclamações was brought out. We also complained, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Clearly there were no doctors in Ear, Nose and Throat either…

Another two hours ensued, at which point Her Outdoors asked the receptionist why I had waited so long and when I would be seen. Very shortly after (!) I was taken in to see the Doctor. I explained the problem in English, with the odd Portuguese word thrown in for effect (It didn’t have one!) and also gave my own diagnosis. The Doctor didn’t seem too impressed with my new found medical expertise but called in the receptionist, not for a second/third opinion as I thought, but to translate. She explained that I needed an ultrasound, but they didn’t have one I was offered an X-ray. I pointed out that I understood it wouldn’t show a ruptured tendon. I needed to go to Faro Hospital, (cue a ‘look’ from Her Outdoors) but it was unlikely to be done that night, as there is usually a two month wait. This all happened without any examination of my ankle at all. We were amazed at either; the Doctor’s skills in diagnosing injuries telepathically, or how convincing I must have been in my diagnosis. Google has a lot to answer for!

I waited a short while to get my ankle ‘immobilised’ (bandaged!), and took the time to stop an older man leaping out of bed while attached to a drip and oxygen mask. I paid the €14 tax for the appointment, which would have been €20 if I’d had an X-ray and we headed home with the instructions to go to Faro Hospital at 8am the following day.

Author, with borrowed crutches.

Faro hospital was a better experience. I only waited two hours to be seen, or rather before asking the nurse why it appeared that nobody was being seen by a Doctor. Two minutes after asking, I was ushered into the consulting room. After a brief examination, but no ultrasound, I was diagnosed with a partially ruptured achilles tendon (well done Google!). I was then plastered, (a cast that is and by the Doctor!) told not to put any weight on my foot, to come back in a week and then wheeled to reception in a decrepit old wheelchair and left to sort myself out. Without crutches as they don’t supply them!

Faro was a better experience, although I was shocked after taking a wrong turn and coming across a basement room with about 50 beds/trolleys, full of old people with drips and breathing masks. No privacy curtains, no windows and standing room only between beds. It looked like a war zone hospital. Not that I’ve ever experienced a war zone hospital…

A week later I returned to Faro Hospital, as directed. I wasn’t given an actual appointment and got the impression that an appointments system is an unknown concept. The reception was full, although I was able to go straight to the reception. Language was a bit difficult, but I gleaned that I had to wait for the triaje nurse, which took about 20 minutes. Once I had explained to the triaje nurse why I was there (I was beginning to wonder…) I was directed to the ‘ortho’ waiting area which was already full of walking, and non walking wounded. (Forgive me another war zone reference.)

THREE hours later I was eventually seen but the Doctor didn’t know why I was asked to return. He told me that the Doctor I’d seen the previous week “would be here in half an hour/an hour” and for me to wait. I did, for a further 90 minutes until he arrived but it was 2 hours until I was seen. The cast was removed (again by Doctor!), my hand was shook (I forgot to wash my hands!) and I was discharged with a smile and a wave. No explaination, no follow up, no fitness regime, no advice other than “be careful”. And he gave me no date to start playing football again. It was all an anti climax.

On leaving the hospital via the triage area, I was again shocked by the sea of bodies (alive!), trolleys, ambulance crews, Bompeiros crews and the faces of people who I am sure had been there before me. It was a scene you would expect to see after a disaster, yet it was relatively calm. The Portuguese are remarkably patient at being patients in a seemingly chaotic system.

Did I tell you we were invited to a breakfast at the Organic Farm we visited? I think I’ll give it a miss…

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Sunshine in the rain

With no significant rain from early May to November, Portugal has had it’s worst drought in over 20 years. Her Outdoors tried pleading, praying and dancing to break the dry spell. See her reaction as the heavens opened.

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