1 September 2016

Suzy Turner - Expat in Portugal

Suzy Turner - Expat in Portugal

We’ve had the chance to talk to Suzy Turner, 40, an English expat who has moved to Portugal with her family. Mrs. Turner, who has been living there for 30 years, now works as an author, blogger, and co-owner of her husband’s property renovations business.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire


Q: What made you move out of England?

A: I was actually only ten years old when we left England. My parents had won the Pools (!) a few years earlier and decided they’d had enough of the English weather and wanted to move somewhere warmer. They chose Portugal.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I’m still in Portugal. I met Michael, the man I would eventually marry when I was only 16 years old, so I guess you could say he was a great incentive to stay here! Although he is English too (an Essex lad).


Q: How long have you been living in Portugal?

A: We’ve both been here 30 years! A long time.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? How are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my husband, two cats and two dogs. Michael actually moved here the same year I did - 1986 - so he pretty much grew up here too. We’re so settled here now that we call ourselves European :)


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss my brother and sister terribly sometimes. They both moved back in their teens and have since settled down and had kids of their own. I wish we lived closer so I could see them and be there for my nieces and nephews, but it’s only a plane ride away really. When I really miss them, I try and keep myself busy to take my mind off them!


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Generally speaking, the locals are wonderful. They’re even better when you try to integrate and attempt to speak Portuguese!


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Portugal? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It wasn’t too hard because I was so young when we came here. I made lots of friends at the International School I attended. These days, I’m always making new friends - both Portuguese and foreign. It’s hard when people move back to the UK though. That has happened a lot lately. Wherever we’ve lived here, we always become really good friends with our neighbours. Making friends here is easy!


Q: How does the cost of living in Portugal compared to your home?

A: I think it’s much cheaper, to be honest. But then I’ve never lived in England as an adult - I can only comment on what it’s like to go back there for holidays!

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: A black coffee (abatanado - a bit like an Americano but a bit smaller) is usually less than a euro.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 25 euros for two people +/-

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 80 euros for two people +/-

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine is very cheap and fantastic. My favourites tend to be around 3 to 4 euros a bottle. Can’t comment on cigarettes as I’m a non-smoker.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Portugal?

A: Choose your bank wisely. We’ve had numerous problems with banks here. The bank we have our mortgage with decided to close EVERY ONE of its branches in the Algarve, so now our closest is in Lisbon (it’s ludicrous)! So in order to pay our mortgage we’ve actually either got to travel all the way to Lisbon or we’ve got to open another account so we can transfer the funds. It’s insane! I’m really very angry about it.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Being a European resident, I’ve never had to get visas or work permits. Bureaucracy can be a pain in the butt, though. Don’t whatever you do, try and get stuff done in August. Everything practically shuts down for the month!


Q: Would you say that healthcare Portugal reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: It’s pretty good, really. The hospitals have treated my family incredibly well in the past, so I have nothing to complain about. If you can afford it, though, I would recommend private health insurance so you can use the Private Hospitals in Alvor and Lagos which are both very good.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Portugal?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I’m actually not insured, and as a resident here I’m entitled to national health treatment so I don’t worry too much about it. I really can’t comment on the essentials. I wouldn’t have a clue.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Portugal? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I was ten years old, I have absolutely no idea!


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Tax returns! When I first started working here, I had to do it myself, and it was an absolute nightmare. The people in the local Finance office were unfriendly and unhelpful. Now, though, things have changed, and people are much more keen to help you. Plus, the tax return is now done online. If you’re new to Portugal though, I’d recommend getting a good accountant to help you out.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Portugal?

A: The positives include the sunshine, beaches, people, food, coffee, wine, lack of traffic. As for the negatives, I’d say real estate is generally very slow to sell and yet real estate fees are astronomical (at least 5%), and winters can be colder and wetter than a lot of people think.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Eating out, days lazing on the beach, cycling, BBQs with friends, yoga. I’m actually taking a yoga teacher training course here in a few months so hope to be teaching yoga by the end of the year!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: We have considered it, but then we always realise that we actually have it pretty good here, so no. Not at the moment anyway.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Try and learn at least a little Portuguese, the locals will love you for it! Buy from the locals whenever you can and just integrate into the way of life here. It’s slower and much more relaxed than the UK. And just enjoy:D


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Portugal?

A: Suzy Turner - it’s my own lifestyle blog aimed at women 40+. I write about what it’s like to live here as well as style and other issues.