24 December 2018

Julie Dawn Fox - Expat in Portugal

Julie Dawn Fox - Expat in Portugal

We’ve had the chance to talk to Julie Dawn Fox, 48, a British expat who has moved to Portugal alone but now lives there with her husband. Mrs Fox, who has been living there for about eleven years works as a blogger and travel consultant. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: The UK, although having moved around a lot within England and Wales I don’t have any place that I would call a hometown.


Q: What made you move out of the UK?

A: When I returned to the UK after a 16-month round the world backpacking trip 20 years ago, I quickly realised that I didn’t want to live there. I wanted, and pursued, a career in English Language Teaching (TEFL) so that I could live abroad and earn a living, although I now run my own business in Portugal helping people plan their Portugal itineraries.


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

A: I now live in a small village in Central Portugal although I spent my first year in the city of Coimbra. I came to Portugal for work – at the time I was still a TEFL teacher.


Q: How long have you been living in Portugal?

A: Since 2007


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I came here alone and met my (also English) husband at work.


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

A: I’ve been living abroad since 2002, so I’ve got used to not seeing much of my family and oldest friends. I do still miss being able to hang out with them more easily, but we usually manage to see each other at least once a year.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The people in my village are pleasant and friendly enough, although we don’t go much beyond exchanging pleasantries. Certain people have been particularly kind and helpful, which we appreciate.


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: Because I was working as an English teacher when I first arrived in Portugal, I socialised with fellow teachers, and although I no longer work there, I keep in touch with some of them. Other friends have cropped up along the way, although they are mostly fellow foreigners. It’s not that I have actively avoided making friends with Portuguese people – I do have some Portuguese friends - but the language and different lifestyles are barriers. I also have very little free time so it’s easier to spend it with people I can chat freely to.


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



Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Dirt cheap compared to the outrageously priced muck they call coffee in the UK


Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Anything from €5 for a set lunchtime menu on a weekday or around €20 a head for a 3-course meal with house wine.


Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: As much as you like! But unless we’re talking Michelin stars, you’re looking at around €40 to €50 a head


Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: A perfectly drinkable bottle of red will set you back around €3, although you can get wine from €1 a bottle. I don’t know about cigarettes.


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

A: Take every possible piece of documentation with you but be prepared to be sent away because you haven’t got the right piece of paper. And don’t expect to get a credit card as easily as you might in your home country.


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

A: Painful at times. Under staffed and a lack of training and clear understanding of and communication of guidelines/regulations/requirements. One person will tell you one thing, and the person at the next desk will say something completely different.


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

A: The national health service is underfunded and understaffed although when you do get to see a doctor, the care is usually pretty good. If you can afford to go private, it’s often much easier to do so. Medical insurance is relatively affordable and pays out a large proportion of your costs.


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

A: I’m covered by my husband’s policy through work, so I don’t have any experience of taking out a policy. I do know that dental costs, for example, are capped at €450 per year on the policy we have, which is not enough for anything more than basic treatments so consider the limits before choosing the level of coverage you need.


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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: This has always been the worst part of moving country for me. I used DHL to ship a few boxes of my most treasured items from Venezuela to Portugal and would NOT recommend them. By the time the boxes got to my house, they were almost in tatters, and I had to help the delivery guy carry them into the lift myself.


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

A: Not being able to communicate properly because of the language barrier. I still find it frustrating even though my Portuguese is quite good now.


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

A: Positives include better weather and coffee, great cheese, beautiful countryside, river beaches and fascinating towns and cities to explore. Plus it’s safe. Negatives include summers that are too hot for my level of comfort, poor salaries and forest fires.


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

A: There’s a lot to do in the Coimbra area – check out my blog for all the things I’ve written about it so far.


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

A: Nope


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

A: Learn Portuguese and get air conditioning


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

A: Mine, My blog, Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal aims to help people discover the less touristy parts of Portugal and there’s a lot of information on there that’s of use to people who are thinking of moving to Portugal.