So for those of you who are my friends, none of this is news – but Alison and I are moving to Portugal. We don’t know when, and the process is really unpleasant and long, but as soon as our visas come through, things are really going to get moving. I’d be pretty shocked if we didn’t make it over there this year (unless we get flat-out rejected, and then who knows how long re-application would take). But I thought I might at least explain more about the why rather than the how – there are plenty of explanations about “how” that are already out there.
As to why – well, I’ll keep that brief. This country doesn’t feel like it once was, after 45 got in office – but also, it’s been feeling like that more and more with each Republican that ever got in office in my lifetime. And it’s not the former President that scares me so much – presidents come and go. It’s the people who vote for him. Those people actually really scare me, and make me not want to live here.
So it’s time to go. I want a functioning Democracy (even though I won’t be able to vote in it for a while). I want someplace warm. I will need some levels of creature comforts, because I am a bougie bitch. I want the general politics to line up with at least some of mine. And the culture to line up a little bit with mine (not interested in super-racist, super-sexist, etc.) Language need not be English (and, for Alison, she wanted it to definitely not be English). And the number one country we came up with was Portugal. (For what it’s worth, New Zealand would probably be second on the list, though I don’t think they’d ever actually have us).
- Functioning Parliamentary Democracy. The Socialist Party (PS) is pretty dominant, but they don’t always win. The do have a separate vote for President, but the President’s powers are pretty limited. (The current President is from the PS, and the “Assembly of the Republic,” or ”Parliament,” currently has an absolute majority with the PS – without having to form coalitions. That can, and will, change).
- Some of the warmest weather in Europe. Can get chilly, especially in the North, but not too much so.
- Lovely people who will leave you alone if you don’t feel chatty, but can be warm, charming, funny and even a little sarcastic if you let them in (and they let you in). Once you find a Portuguese friend they will move heaven and Earth for you.
- Delicious food, from all around the world.
- Solid internet service and cell service (in cities – in some rural areas, you’ll see the ’number of bars’ drop down to 0).
- The Lisbon subway was prompt, with modern trains and great signage.
- The full-size trains themselves took a bit of getting used to, but were also very pleasant to take throughout the country (modulo the Alfa Pendular, which I will get to later).
- SOCIALIZED FUCKING MEDICINE. And that existing means that private healthcare is much, much cheaper (current advice is: use socialized medicine for severe things, like organ transplants and cancer, use your private healthcare insurance for normal everyday things, but then switch back to the socialized system for prescriptions)
- Drug Decriminalization. We’re not big drug users or anything, but what I like here is that it means that the cops are more focused on real, like, crime-things, and not stupid things like drugs.
- Prostitution is legal, pimping is not. Same reason as before – we don’t partake, but I’d rather cops focusing on other things. And love the idea that it’s not only that ”pimping ain’t easy” but also ”pimping ain’t LEGAL.” (though it wasn’t in the song, either, so, well, I digress).
- Trans people seem pretty well-accepted, gay folks seem pretty well-accepted
- Abortion is legal (though there have been attempts to change this)
- Gay Marriage is legal!!!!!
- Later lifestyle – we’re night-owls already so that works really well for us. It’s not hard to get food at 10:30 or 11:00.
Known Cons (and these are all ’nits’ – livable little annoyances)
- Cripplingly horrific beauracracy, which is rather infamous. Apparently a lot of other European countries are similar, but theirs is really awful.
- Some very old buildings, which means some poor insulation, for both sound as well as heat/cold.
- Some things we’ve grown accustomed to we’re just not going to be able to get there. (No Ranch sauce! We’re San Diegans – how will we be able to cope??!?!)
- Some things can be really antiquated – like, buying subway tickets in lisbon with a credit card you buy a big long number online and then when you get to the station you have to type it in. You have to pay cash sometimes – not as often as I feared, but more often than I’d want. (Since the pandemic, I’ve gotten into the habit of not taking out cash for months at a time).
- The worst banking system I’ve seen. Nothing earns interest. You get nickle-and-dimed for everything. I’d do better to just keep my money under a mattress and would get a better return.
- Some really nasty history – we are talking about the place that literally invented chattel slavery
- There are gonna be shitty people there, just like there are shitty people here. We saw some graffiti saying ”COVID = NAZISMO = SOCIALISMO”, and we saw an ’anti-vax parade’.
- In bigger cities, the ’MultiBanco’ system (when they offer it) allows contactless payments, right with your Apple Watch or Phone. It’s really quite nice. And if you do use a credit card, it never leaves your hand – they don’t take it away then bring it back, you can just tap or insert it right there on the mobile terminal your server brings you.
- Hooking up utilites and stuff – once you’ve got it going you just put in your IBAN number and it just takes the money out – easy-peasy.
- They actually had a revolution to escape out of dictatorship. That’s pretty cool! (Yes, it’s embarassing that I didn’t know this. Blame American public schools)
- And this is going to sound like a back-handed compliment, but it isn’t – European Portuguese is hard. But we very much do like a challenge 🙂
- As our Portuguese gets a little better, we’re starting to understand more and more bits of other Romance languages – we were watching something in Romanian and both of us said, ”wait – why did I understand that?!” And something similar for French, and Italian. And the weird thing is that our Spanish is still better than our Portuguese (though not for long!). Basically some weird feature of Portuguese, I guess, that it’s closer to some of the ”Vulgar Latin” roots? I dunno, I read something on Wikipedia or something 😛
- Because of the way Parliament works, you can get little teeny parties that have different platforms, and if coalition-building happens, maybe they can get some of their stuff pushed through. There’s the Pessoas-Animais-Natureza party (PAN – “People, Animals, Nature”) that’s won a seat or two. The PCP (Partido Comunista Português) also has had a seat here and there (and it’s WEIRD to see sickle-and-hammers around on campaign posters. And it’s weirder to read what they’re saying and say, ”hrm, those are actually some decent ideas…”)
- Some really amazing laws that we don’t have here. I haven’t vetted all of these but they include:
- You can’t take pictures of people without their permission
- It’s illegal to discriminate in housing to people with pets (though our real estate person said that sometimes people still do)
- Some strong privacy laws – I had to redact my social security number on my visa application because they didn’t want to see it. Same with some transaction details on my US-based bank.
- Every public building (school, hospital, prison, etc) must have at least one vegan option.
- AirBnB’s are regulated insanely hard – every (legal) one you see will have a completely identical plastic ”Alojamento Local” placard posted conspicuosly, and the licenses for those are hard to get.
- The anti-vax parade was orderly, and had cops embedded in it to prevent the parade-goers from getting attacked by the regular folks, and vice-versa.
- They’re pretty smoking-friendly, but that’s actually kinda good for us – as we both vape and most places now treat them the same.
- Green wine is actually delicious!
Unexpected Cons (that did genuinely suck, but, not deal-breakers)
- I went to get a haircut and shave and the douchey place I went to wouldn’t fix up Alison’s mohawk (I mean, just shave the sides is all!) because it wouldn’t ”Fit the aesthetic” they were going for. (I think they’re just sexist pieces of shit). Meh, that shit happens everywhere, but Portugal still isn’t some kind of Utopia.
- The Alfa Pendular – a super-duper sophisticated train that uses ’tilting’ technology to be able to achieve very high speeds on relatively old tracks – can make you motion-sick. I got queasy, Alison got full-on horrifically sick.
- My wife wants to live in the Algarve, and I’m more interested in Lisbon. SPOUSAL CONFLICT!
- Driving is difficult, the streets are tiny, and weird little ’bollards’ will pop-up and prevent access to some areas.
- Absolutely terrifying toilets. Honestly, Alison might start a blog about this once we get there.
So that’s why I want to move there. At this point, for me, it’s still more wanting to move there, rather than get away from here. Though the latter I must admit is true. I still can’t wait til we have us and our animals all safe in our apartment in Lisbon, wake up and walk the girls over near that one tree, then go out to the local cafe to have cafes pingados and some pasteis de nata, then relax for a bit with some portos, then wander around Lisbon for a bit until we go for a nice big lunch at noon, then it’s off to work!