welcome to emmas housethought

an australian in portugal

If I had a euro for every time someone asked me “Why are you in Portugal?” I wouldn’t be so far up the financial creek as I am now.

You have to imagine the incredulity in the way the Portuguese say it. “You’re Australian? What are you doing here?” And I really don’t know how to answer, as it’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. You see, after 18 months of living in a ruined old house in the Portuguese countryside, I’m beginning to feel that the honeymoon is over.



1. The weather

When you decide to chuck in your career, sell up and run away to your “Place in the Sun”, first make sure there is some sun. Your personal utopia should have weather at least as good as you have at home. For an Australian this is a tricky proposition. I have no gripes with summer in Portugal: this summer was relentlessly sunny and hot enough to fry an egg on the car bonnet, just as it should be.…but the winter is tragic. OK, the snow was pretty for a second but six months of cold and it getting dark at 4pm… it’s just not acceptable. When my sister in Sydney starts complaining because it’s 14 degrees and freezing, well I just want to book a flight home immediately.



2. Multiculturalism

The Poms who live here whinge (all 50 thousand of them, all at once, it gets quite noisy sometimes) about how much they miss a decent curry. Poor chaps. I miss Indian food too, and Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, North-Western Chinese, Turkish, Indonesian, Spanish… and hamburgers with beetroot. There’s nothing wrong with Portuguese food, but SBS Food Safari it ain’t. Speaking of which, I miss World News. I miss any news. The only two Australian news items to reach us recently were the thirsty bushfire koala (may she rest in peace), and an election poll that claimed that more Australian women would prefer to have sex with Kevin Rudd than John Howard. Wow, hmmm…press releases with legs…



3. Modernity

I never properly credited Australia for having a civilized, advanced society before. Honestly, sometimes Portugal makes Australia seem positively Swedish in it’s modernity. It’s like the seventies here. They are still trying to encourage people to wear seatbelts in Portugal. Recycling is new. Pregnant women smoke. Cholesterol? Would you like some butter with that? This wild & crazy lifestyle is, of course, killing them. Portugal has twice the road toll of Australia although they haven’t yet figured out that speeding is to blame. After all, if you run over a dog or a sheep here it’s not your fault. No, it’s the sheep’s fault. Of course.


Palácio do Buçaco

4. Beaurocracy

The next time the bank puts you on hold, you should thank them. Maybe they will keep you waiting for a couple of minutes but you will have a new credit card in the mail by the end of the phone call. When I was trying to get my home phone connected, I had to walk up the mountain to use my mobile (contracted to the rival company) and Portugal Telecom would keep me on hold for 25 minutes or more. I had to call them a few times a week, as they had clearly informed me on many occasions that they were not permitted to call their clients. Fancy that!?! A telecommunications company who cannot call their clients! As a strategy for any business, one might think that the inability to call clients would be a significant handicap… Anyway, after several months I had made progress. They sent me a letter to say that they would think about connecting my phone, but had no idea how long it might take. It took a year. A long year.

tiles at Pasteis De Belem

tiles at Pasteis de Belém, Lisboa

5. Friends, family and other non-transferable prizes.

The Portuguese are very nice, but they haven’t known me for 25 years. The neighbours have me over for dinner and we swap health complaints, but they are not my family. Children grow up so fast, and if you miss a year or two, you might miss the critical transition period between child and 6-foot-giant-with-muscles-and-a-deep-voice. Some Sunday mornings I just think it’s not worth eating breakfast at all if it can’t be with Jem&Kate or Lucy&Adrian or Mary&Fred. The Portuguese just don’t get going out for breakfast anyway.


Lookout at O Sitio, Nazaré

So what’s a girl to do? Maybe I just need to go back for a holiday? The last time I did that, I went straight from the airport to my favourite old café. I was lost in dreamy heaven with my skim-latte-bowl when someone started shouting at the waiting staff. “This is the worst service and the worst coffee I’ve ever had!” he screamed (hasn’t been in Berlin recently then, I thought). He went on, “and I’m going to tell all my friends not to come here!” The waiter just stood there, speechless. “If your friends are anything like you,” I said, “I’m sure the staff here are very pleased to hear that”.


Nazaré Beach, view from O Sitio

Only in Sydney, I thought. In two years in Portugal I have never heard anyone make such an egotistical, pretentious and rude spectacle of themselves. The Portuguese would find this incredible. Over a coffee? Just who does he think he is? The Pope? I immediately remembered what drove me away in the first place. Australia is up-itself.

São Simão

Portugal on the other hand, has so much to be proud about, but sits quietly being creative, charming and delicious on the far edge of the world, like the New Zealand of Europe. It has a rich and romantic history, full of kings, queens and knights, of exploration and discovery. Portugal has been quietly appreciated by foreigners since Roman times, for its fertile lands, natural beauty and its (pre-global-warming) weather. But for the most part, the pleasures of Portugal have been kept fairly secret. The pastries of Portugal, for example, are absolutely mind blowing. The pastel de nata (or Portuguese tart as it’s known in Australia) is just the first of 1000 Portuguese sweets you must eat before you die.



And that’s not all. The cities have strikingly sumptuous baroque architecture, a sign of the great wealth and power of Portugal’s golden era. The people are friendly and down to earth and never see themselves as superior to anyone. There’s no posing here as there is in Spain and Italy. Waiters here don’t have attitude, unlike elsewhere. The Portuguese will never scoff at your attempts at their language and what a beautiful and refreshingly unfamiliar lingua it is.


Their food is generous and tasty, the wine is plentiful and cheap. Portugal is a quiet and unrushed country. I can’t remember the last time I met anyone stressed out. There are no crowds or traffic (outside of Lisbon anyway), no horns or car alarms and no one shouting except for a kilo of onions at the market. The huge open spaces of forest throughout Portugal remind me of home, but the silence and simplicity of the Portuguese countryside is the greatest luxurious indulgence of my new life.

As you can see, I am still in love with Portugal. I couldn’t leave. For better for worse, for richer for poorer, till death us do…




pasteis de nata


  1. BlueMist October 15, 2009 12:50 am Reply

    Very interesting twisted post. I love how you have absorbed yourself in the culture. The pictures are awesome. You clicked them ?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 15th, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Yes Bluemist, most of the pics are mine, but sometimes there are shots the family from australia has taken while here on holidays. In ‘australian’ aveiro, bucaco, nazare are mine. In this post nothing is taken with a DSLR – all tiny snappers…

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  2. Ad October 15, 2009 6:48 am Reply

    Hurray! Stay there long enough and I will eventually visit. Honest. Not this winter/Australian summer though.

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  3. tNb October 15, 2009 7:46 am Reply

    Aw, I’m getting all choked up and misty … I will never say never but for now I’m so incredibly happy to be in Portugal, finances be damned. 😉

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  4. Rob October 15, 2009 8:58 am Reply

    No, don’t leave, I have only just found your blog!

    I’m a pom (of the non-whinging variety) living down south and have been here almost twenty years – and I only came originally for three weeks. I did go back, once. That was enough.

    You know, it sounds a bit too coincidental but it’s true, today I was driving on the IP-2 freeway between (well, above) Olhao and Faro and I really was thinking to myself much the same type of thoughts as I assume that you were as you wrote the post above. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too hot, the hills looked amazing, the road was all but empty, and so on, and I really did think to myself “You know self, this place is just mind-blowingly great”.

    Sure, there’s lots of not-so-great things about Portugal too, but overall, it’s just lovely, isn’t it.

    A bit hard to describe, really.

    Anyway, don’t leave. Whilst you are here at least I know that there are two of us who just ‘get’ this place.

    More power to us. 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 15th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Thanks everyone for your commments on AAIP, it was a long time brewing and very nice to pop the cork and share a cup with you all… OK I’ll stay – damn the finances 😉 !!!

    [Reply to comment]

  5. Rob October 15, 2009 9:04 am Reply

    Oh, and I forgot to say; that Piodão place in your pic above. Wow.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 15th, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Yeah – piodao is gorgeous – it’s a hell of long way along a mountain road, but it is really magic once you get there. Quite unique, very charming…

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  6. Isabel October 15, 2009 8:49 pm Reply

    Thanks! 😉

    Oh, stupid machine! Why do I have to write a treatise just to say that I was very touched by the way you speak of minha terra??? >:-<

    Since I am at it, I will quote Camões (with the words that he put on the mouth of Vasco da Gama after having described the land where he was coming from to the Samutiri of Calicut):

    Esta é a ditosa Pátria minha amada
    À qual se o Céu me dá que eu que eu sem perigo
    Torne, com esta empresa já acabada,
    Acabe-se esta luz ali comigo.

    Oh, and you can check him (Camões) on Facebook, too:


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  7. michelle October 16, 2009 12:46 am Reply

    Hi Emma ,
    have been enjoying reading your blog for some time now but I have been a ‘lurker’….so its time to come out of the shadows and say hi and thanks for the blog.Always entertaining..keep it up

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 21st, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    I love a lurker. Brave of you to come out, thanks.

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  8. Chris October 16, 2009 2:12 am Reply

    …and you call Poms whingers! Well you got it all right in the end, stay there, it’s better than Oz, UK and a lot of other places, even some of Turkey, but it’s quieter in my village I reckon. Modernity is not nice really.

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  9. Laura@mtp October 17, 2009 4:45 am Reply

    What a great post…sums up exactly how I feel 🙂

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  10. Dee Hawa October 22, 2009 2:27 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, Great stuff as usual,insightful and fun to read, don’t
    you dare go anywhere! You mentioned colesterol, well you should have sampled the all day breakfast I had in Gibraltar at Morrisions supermarket a few days ago! Cripes! double doses
    of garlic for the foreseeable! Still a quick race round the shelves
    gave me a ‘fix’ and then headed up them tha’ hills again! tee hee!
    with the pound playing silly b…ers it was worth it! Loads of goodies, but that distinct stressy feel, all elbow pads on and battling with shopping trollies with folk from Torremolinos at the reduced section great fun … take care Dee in southern Spain

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  11. PAULO REIS October 31, 2009 11:00 am Reply

    Olá ema , recebi o seu e-mail em resposta a minha sujestão do frango a cafrial.Gostaria de saber se ja fez o tal frango como eu sugeri? Quanto ao topico , fico orgulhosamente apreensivo consigo por se sentir bem em Portugal e apraciar o que de bom Portugal tem para dar mesmo com os seus problemas e defeitos . No minimo acho que nunca ninguem lhe chamou de wog ou outro nome chenofobista , e ninguem sequer lhe olha com despreso por ser estrangeira . Espero bem que se entregue na cultura Portuguesa e que seija feliz , eu cá sonho com leitão a bairrada , sardinha assada na brasa com salada de pimentos , bacalhau de mil receitas , vinho saboroso, floclore , o pão rustico e delicioso, a matança do porco e os enchidos fumados tradicionais , a qualidade da fruta e legumes sem pesticidas, do pôvo simples e sem tickes de superioridade, a bica de um café gostoso ,das festas tradicionais , do frio que desperta a mente , do cheiro do mar salgado do atlantico … estou farto de sociadades plasticas e superficiais onde o matrialismo sobrepassa o ser humano , estou farto de comer vegetais produzidos a força de quimicos e hidroponics. Portugal não é de maneira nenhuma um país perfeito , mas qual é o pais perfeito ? Ja viagei muito pela europa ,Australia, N.ZELAND, Africa, U.S.A , etc , etc , tirando a superioridade economica de muitos paises , acho mesmo que vale a pena viver em Portugal . No entanto Portugal hoje corre o risco de se transformar num país esteril culturalmente e perder o seu charme se insestirmos que seija igual aos outros paises mais modernos . Um abraco e passe um bom inverno, com muitos doces tradicionais e jeropiga para aquecer ,xau. Estou de volta brevemente ao meu país .

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  12. Andria October 31, 2009 10:36 pm Reply

    Hmmmm … Portugal (I think) is less a place to live than a wonderful experience. And if you can enjoy the experience it becomes a wonderful place to live.

    I still get the same shock reaction, as you do (or did) about where you hail from. “You’re from the UK? And you want to live here??”

    Yep. I do. I don’t love all you guys get up to, the language ties my tongue in knots and puuuuuhlease will you get with the program when it comes to queues but … it’s home 🙂

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  13. Ed November 2, 2009 10:18 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, I went to Portugal twice last year and am thinking of moving there. I had exactly the same impressions as you and it makes me doubt: year count must be 1970! Smoking must be healthy, etc, but i also love the nature and the friendliness of people. Have been living for 11 years in Canary Isles now, but ready for a move. I’ll definitely dig into your blog to read more! Thanks!

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  14. Emma November 3, 2009 2:15 am Reply

    Yep, andria & ed… it’s not perfect… but it’s getting there…

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  15. Emma November 3, 2009 2:42 am Reply

    Nao fiz ja, mas comprei o leite de coco para fazer brevement! Acho que portugal nao vai torner estiril como mais pessoas descobrirao-lo e os jovens viagarao e realizaram que o portugal e melhor do que o resto! Eu acho isso porque existe os artesoes como o Joao de Agua de Prata… ob pela commentario paulo

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  16. Joe Ramos November 21, 2009 6:28 am Reply

    I have just met you and I find you a very interesting women, ambitious and a go getter. Good, at last I met someone who can grab the bull by the horns and still do something about it. I moved to Portugal 14 years ago more or less the way you did it, it was exciting, challenging, annoying, frustrating , yet beautiful and I call it home now. Yes, many times I asked what I was doing in Portugal, but every time I go back to South Africa I can´t wait to get back HOME.
    Two and a half years ago I had a car accident which put me in a wheelchair, The car accident was in South Africa while I was on holiday. One thing is for sure, I am glad that I live here, the health system has been unbelievable, they have done just about everything for me.
    Having invested a large sum of money in Property in Portugal I can´t just stop and wither away, but then again I can´t do things without help. After having said this, I would like to say to Emma. Light a fire, put some castanhas on it, grab a glass of local vinho, sit next to wookie and hibernate for the rest of winter, once you have done this, then go out and do what you do best. i.e. sell properties.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: November 21st, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Joe! Very nice words, thanks a lot. It’s good to know you.

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  17. Jacqueline November 22, 2009 9:44 am Reply

    Dear Emma,

    I have just read your website, and love it! The photos are fantastic, and you write in such a lively, funny way.

    Thank you for sharing all your amusing episodes! And may it all go well with the house.


    Jacqueline in Coimbra

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  18. Fletch January 23, 2010 5:13 am Reply

    I could have dropped off a comment on just about ANY post, but this one has to do as I am about to leave your blog after spending several days working my way through the various posts. And I’ve only managed to scrape the surface.

    But I shall be back.

    The ‘credit-crunch’ has put our dream on hold. It may even ‘not be realised’, but we continue to dream and, who knows, things might well work out for us soon.

    Keep blogging. I shall keep visiting …

    [Reply to comment]


  19. Ricardo January 29, 2010 6:08 am Reply

    I’ve been reading some of your posts for the last hour, instead of working as I should. It has been contagious as I clich from one post to the next. I just can’t stop myself from reading how someone from the other side of the world appreciates the good things of my country.
    And the post above was the cherry on the top which deeply mooved me.
    I only hope you’ll keep enjoying your stay here and never find any bad reasons to leave us

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 1st, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Just when I think I’ve had enough googooing over portugal, I find something else to like. Like now, the Ribatejo. Little villages on the barragem, tigeladas, local salsicharias artesanais…

    [Reply to comment]

    Isabel   Reply: February 6th, 2010 at 9:03 am

    @Emma, salsicharias??? Salsicharias artesanais??? Salsicharias artesanais no Ribatejo??? You mean, you can have SALSICHAS FRESCAS COM COUVE LOMBARDA where you are???? OMG, heaven on earth!

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  20. Elisa February 6, 2010 12:01 am Reply

    Oh seeing these pictures makes ME fall in love with Portugal, I can understand why you are living here. By the way found you via @Alice G.
    I love photos..they tell stories…
    ah refreshing thanks for posting, I will be visiting more often.

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  21. Celia February 8, 2010 1:09 pm Reply

    I admire you, yet I’m so jealous that you’re enjoying beautiful Portugal. I’m a Portuguese in America and really miss my country. Was just there in September for 3 weeks, but it wasn’t enough for me, I want to go back so badly.

    Anyway, I love your blog and your stories and photos. I think it’s great that you’re challenging yourself to do this (I think that’s the case!) – to live in a foreign country by yourself.

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  22. rui barreto February 9, 2010 1:25 am Reply


    Love your stories

    My parents(both deseased) came from Villa Facaia and Carvalheira Pequena and emigrated to soth africa,
    and i am now in South Africa . I have been to Figueiro Dos Vinhos a few times on holidays, and i loved it
    Reading your blog has brought back many memories.

    i have inherited property in that area , but because of red tape
    it has been a nightmare.

    enjoy and keep well

    rui jorge pires barreto
    south africa

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 9th, 2010 at 3:51 am

    The best bread in the district comes from vila facaia! So spongey and addictive, it’s the best. 🙂

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    Zolmira   Reply: April 13th, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    @rui barreto,
    Dear Rui,

    We too are in the sme boat. My Dad died in 2006, and we still have not settled his estate. It takes way to long over there. (Madeira)
    Zolmira Barreto

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  23. Valdemar Alves February 21, 2010 9:32 pm Reply

    “It’s like the seventies here” (in Portugal)… Acredito que nunca tenha saído de Sidney porque não vejo nada de moderno neste seu país… Os seus patrícios continuam a comer “fish & chips”, a vestir-se no “Best & Less” e a andar de chinelos e claro os nativos “suicidam-se” nas mãos da polícia… Portanto permita-me dizer-lhe… “It’s like the sixties here” (in Australia)
    Valdemar Alves
    NSW 2529

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 22nd, 2010 at 2:06 am

    60’s No way! The reason I left Australia was that it had turned into the 50’s. O antigo primeiro ministro John Howard ficou-me com vergonha pelo meu pais. O tratamento dos nossos aborigenes estam o mais grande pesadelo. Claro que sim, alguns australianos são ignorante e “backward”, e outros são pretentioso e arrogante. Este blog não e serio, e humoroso, e no fim, eu conclui que preferi a portugal. Peço desculpe pelo minha portuguesa imperfeita.

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  24. Nigel March 11, 2010 4:11 am Reply

    Really love the site & pleased you’re enjoying life in Portugal.

    I’m one of those whinging Poms, but you’re ok, we (myself & my wife) haven’t left the UK yet… We’re building a house about 12km from Piodão so we can soon too enjoy those rubbish Winters.

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  25. Whingeing Pom March 27, 2010 10:34 pm Reply

    When you decide to chuck in your career, sell up and run away to your “Place in the Sun”, first make sure there is some sun. Your personal utopia should have weather at least as good as you have at home.

    You know, it doesn’t always work like that. I sold up and went to live in the Caribbean. My daughter grew to hate the continuously hot weather and couldn’t wait to get back to Britain. She is never more in her element when she is skiing and surrounded by snow. One of my nicknames for her is: Artic Girl.

    It’s like the seventies here.

    There is another, very big reason to love Portugal.

    alguns australianos são ignorante e “backward”, e outros são pretentioso e arrogante.

    Haha. Ya don’t say! Just kidding.


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  26. matt March 29, 2010 12:26 pm Reply

    Wonderful colourful adventures Emma. We are looking at Portugal as a destination to settle in. Thanks for sharing your life here. A very informative site indeed !!
    kind regards

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  27. Lynette April 11, 2010 1:46 am Reply

    Hi Emma,
    I heard you on Sydney ABC Radio this week talking to Deb Cameron about your life in Portugal. It was so interesting and I really enjoyed listening to you. I love the photo’s on your site and all the information.
    Kind regards,

    [Reply to comment]

  28. Scott Hamilton April 11, 2010 8:53 pm Reply

    Keep it up Em, I still enjoy your writings and pics of beautiful Portugal from all the way back in Melbourne. Hopefully we’ll get back there next year.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 15th, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Thanks scott. Now I’m missing melbourne.

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  29. Rosalina April 13, 2010 9:01 pm Reply

    Hi! I loved your post! I’m australian too, from Perth, living in Portugal for 8 years now… but i’m not as into it as you. I miss home and am planning to return soon 🙂 xo

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  30. Dave May 28, 2010 11:04 am Reply

    Hi Emma, i read your blog and thought about how much fun it would be to get out and see the world…if i could drag the kids along. I must ask you as i’m keen to understand some of the types of food available about presunto ham? i’ve seen some pics but its like the best kept secret on the planet…Have you had some? How do i make it? i’m happy to cure and air dry and wait for a year!
    thanks dave brisbane ( couldn’t wait to get out of sydney too)

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: May 29th, 2010 at 9:46 am

    @Dave, will consult the pig-leg-drying neighbours and get back to you with the tricks… otherwise it´s a trip to the butchers of petersham in sydney for you!

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  31. carl July 28, 2010 1:04 pm Reply

    ola emma,im a portuguese living in sydney for quite a wile,i foud you today and love what you say about my country true and simple,no sugar coat,have you try the north?you should but not in winter,keep going and you will fall in love with it like i have with your country,chau

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  32. victor August 2, 2010 5:39 am Reply

    Hello Emma, just found by hazzard your blog, i ve been reading it for 3hours now, and the reason that im writting you ( sorry about my english) it’s because i love your blog, because of the way you write, its funny the way you see us, but also because off your photos, they are really nice, are you the photographer ?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 2nd, 2010 at 6:40 am

    yes the photos are mostly mine, occasionally one borrowed from family when they visit…

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  33. victor August 2, 2010 5:43 am Reply

    ahhh , another thing, this time about your complaint about the weather, i do also live near Coimbra and i hate the weather here, i us to live in Lisbon and the wheather its diferent, warmer, and it never snows, and if you go to Algarve it’s even better.. 🙂

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  34. Maureen September 5, 2010 4:26 am Reply

    Hi Emma, Just loved reading you living in Portugal, I and my family lived in Madeira, which is a beautiful island, and one day soon hope to move back there. The weather is beautiful, the winters are lovely and the summers you just want to spend at the beach.
    Lived in South Africa for many years, and now in Oz, in a small town called Tamworth. Keep writing about your adventures.

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  35. pilar October 14, 2010 9:50 pm Reply

    So nice Emma! Such a beautiful description of my country and my people makes me shiver. Thank you for that. Regards from Sydney

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  36. steve mckay November 6, 2010 2:11 am Reply

    hi there Emma

    just found your blog, i am loving it , we are a bit further north than you in the valley just between of Santa Comba Dao and Tondela. been here two years now…and have had similar experiences re: building rule regs etc etc..

    keep up the good work…love the photos..

    steve & vannesa

    ps. where you in films or tv ?? anything we would know ??

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  37. Gabriel December 16, 2011 8:08 am Reply

    Well, i am Portuguese buy i was born in Paris. I grew there. Once that i came to Portugal, as a teenager, i had (and still have, to some extent) the same perspective of this country. Always looking at it like someone neutral, taking nothing for granted.

    I am still amazed by the cool, but conscient, naivety of Portugal. Sometimes i also feel that there is no other country in Europe where people are so stupid. I can say that because i am Portuguese. And only Portuguese’s are allowed to speak trash about themselves and their country. And they do it all day everyday.

    Strangely enough, they rarely praise what there is to be praised. They only do so when needed. When something is treating it’s honor.

    A Portuguese always think that another city is better than their own. Any other place is prettier. Any other country is better. There is a mix of a forced humility and self critique in us. Nevertheless, is someone really starts being rude about Portugal, a Portuguese will always fight back with everything they love about it.

    All this to say one simple thing:

    Portugal is a really good place to live if you are not Portuguese, and have conditions to do so without working. Portugal has always been a country for rich people. (i am not saying you are one).

    Do you really know why there are thousands of abandoned iconic houses and villages?

    -Because people lived like in the middle age only 50 years ago. No power, no running water, no shoes, no doctor. Only a priest and the heaven above them.

    My father left is village with 14 yo and walked is way to France only to escape total misery and a colonial war. 60% of the population in villages did so and they only came back when they had money enough to live here without having to be a slave of work. And only then, after their prime, they started to discover their country. Their region and, sometimes, their cities! Before, they couldn’t. Had to survive first!

    And then, today, youth is still leaving the country at an even more alarming rate than they did in the 60’s. All this because they have no future. We always were a country of super hard workers and respectable people and, nevertheless, we had to fled the country.

    Some say that you only get to be a real Portuguese the day you leave it to live somewhere else. Nothing as change and it will never do.

    90% of Portugal lived, 50 years ago, in total harmony with nature. They where totally sustainable despite the harsh and, today considered, inhuman living conditions. Working sun up to sun down, all days of the year, only to manage to survive.

    50 years ago, only descendants of noble families, rich traders, politicians etc had a real civilized way of life. They lived in the historic town centers and palaces that we see all over the country. All the rest were poor or poorer farmers.

    In 50 years the country turned itself down thanks to enormous amounts of money coming from UE. Most of it corrupted, stole and poorly used in stupid unplanned projects with no future.

    This is why, in 20 years, you will be the only person in the village. The older people will die and the young people already live in another world. A rift killed the society interrupting a natural evolution.

    Has i said, Portugal is beautiful when you have conditions to look at it has a permanent visitor. Only then you are able to appreciate the little treasures that do exist. But, for most Portuguese’s, the daily life is just filled with other thoughts.

    We do know what we have, what we COULD have, what we should do to have it. But, and their is always a but, we also know the reality of the country we live in.

    As many Portuguese emigrants say:

    “Portugal is beautiful. But it is even prettier wen see at distance.”

    This our “Fado”.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 27th, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks Gabriel, Fado yes indeed.

    [Reply to comment]


  38. Peter January 18, 2012 9:15 pm Reply

    Hi Emma,

    I’m an Australian and been working outside Oz since 1988, mostly in Asia, but work has now moved me to the other side of the World. On holiday in Portugal (2011) we fell in love with the place and went back 6 months later (Dec. 2011) and bought a lovely home in Guimaraes. Now comes the job of packing up our residence in Oz which we’ve used as a holiday base, and moving to Portugal.

    I’m trying to find assistance on the bureaucratic process so that we can uplift our household possessions in Oz and ship them to Portugal. We have Portugal Tax Registration and take possession of the house in March 2011, but now guess we need a Residency Permit before we can ship our things to Portugal, or do we?.

    Is there a service company in Portugal that assists with such things to make the move a little smoother?, it would not be great if the ship arrives with our personal effects and not allowed to unload, or, if everything winds up in Bond store until our paperwork is in order.

    any advice on this would be much appreciated.

    look forward to hearing your comments.

    by the way, I love your photographs



    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: January 19th, 2012 at 12:31 am

    complex stuff, peter, I’ll email you.

    [Reply to comment]

  39. Adel Sainsbury February 25, 2012 7:48 pm Reply

    Wow Have you had a holiday in oz. I was day dreaming of a little house in Portugal thanks for the reality check.
    I think I just want it as a holiday house for me and friends.
    Thanks Emma and others as each person tells you a little bit more.
    How expensive to keep house Taxes and electricity rates? what do you need to pay for eg Water. Health system?
    Most other places I like are out of my budget but Portugal may be possible.
    Adel Single older white female but not dead

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 27th, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Adel The Older But Not Dead,
    House taxes: I pay the shocking sum of €11/year, but you’d pay more for an expensive house and a holiday home. I’ll email you something. Electricity is expensive when you use it – a small A+ fridge, eco lightbulbs, gas or solar hot water and we pay about €20-€30 a month – and we are here all day every day. Water is almost nothing in my area €5/month but the last house was €10. Free health system but I wish I had health insurance (or money) so I could see specialists without waiting a year. Good luck with your mission Adel the Elder. Viva as mulheres!

    [Reply to comment]

  40. Adrienne July 22, 2012 5:02 am Reply

    I have wondered about you and how you’re getting on in my (sort of my) lovely country since first watching the House Hunters episode. Glad I thought to Google you!

    My hats off to you for living the dream even if it isn’t all glamorous. Running off to Portugal to do my writing was my dream, but alas, I met a man through my blogging, fell in love and got married. His not being a writer means that jetting off to another country isn’t in the cards…for now.

    Have you been to Vila Velha de Rodao? If not, you should — it’s lovely. And seeing as my 96 year old grandmother who is fond of company and booze is on vacation in her home in Rodeios–a village near by that may be even smaller than yours–feel free to drop in on her and her neighbours and enjoy some more heartwarming Portuguese goodness.

    Oh how I miss it!! *sniff*

    Will be popping in on the regular now and living vicariously through you.

    Um abraço,
    Adrienne (or Adriana for my Portuguese peeps!)

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 22nd, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    fellow writer yearnings… *sigh* dois abraços x

    [Reply to comment]


  41. Lisa August 18, 2012 3:29 am Reply

    Hi Emma
    I discovered your post googling for the Australian cyclists in this year’s Volta. You’ve captured what it means to be an Aussie living in Portugal so succinctly – bitter/sweet with a big dollop of pumpkin jam. I returned from a month in Sydney this week and despite all the tears at the airport, I was elated at jetting along the Douro from Madrid to my home in Porto. After 23 years it’s home despite the growing hardships. Sydney and Melbourne are a whirlwind of eating out with people taking photos of their food (and other people’s fares!) for their blogs and not a decent bottle of Chardonnay under $25 (or $60) in a restaurant. Good to be back. Look forward to more of your musings and gorgeous pics.

    [Reply to comment]

  42. sholto July 8, 2013 5:36 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, great to read a real persons view! Im a Territorian of 20 years, but Australia has become so over regulated and focused on wealth I am beginning to become very jaded. I was taken by East Timor, such a beautiful country, the Portuguese architecture, hills and tropical warmth but with the omnipresent threat of Indonesia invading or being hacked to death in a machete attack…well perhaps not! I’m in Germany at the moment, liking Europe, but seeking some warmth and simplicity…with the ocean near by…perhaps Portugal is the place to be? I will try to get there this trip, how are Australians regarded in general, are we judged as a person and not as an expat?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 8th, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    It’s first assumed you’re english, but when, at the first opportunity to correct this slight, you are then greeted in the manner australians have come to expect from all our international brothers and sisters – wonder and warmth, like a friendly celestial being, perhaps the revered ghost of a great ancestor. Or maybe like the best friend of their much loved and missed cousin… in australia…

    [Reply to comment]

  43. Raul December 19, 2013 9:15 am Reply

    Is Emma still living in Portugal?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: January 14th, 2014 at 11:31 am

    @Raul, most of the time, yes, still in Portugal. The last couple of years I’ve been back to australia for work…

    [Reply to comment]

  44. Raul January 16, 2014 12:21 pm Reply

    OK. Glad to get you back.
    It’s just a matter of curiosity.
    I was borne in Lisbon only 77 years ago, at 16 emigrated to Mozambique, at 29 emigrated to South Africa and on 75 emigrated do Australia, living now in Strathpine, Brisbane, Queensland.
    Unfortunately, because we, me and my South African wife are at my son tutelage, we do not qualify for any old age benefits in Australia.
    We can’t have CENTERLINK, MEDICARE etc. and living on a South African Pension is quite testing.
    This is just a bit of back ground for you to have an idea of who we are.
    Fare well and keep on give us news about you and your endeavors.

    [Reply to comment]

  45. Ana August 18, 2014 10:08 am Reply

    Can’t believe you’ve posted this in 2009 and I’ve only found it now, I hope you’re still in love with Portugal and still living here. Wish I could get to talk to you some time, I’d love to actually meet someone from OZ.
    Greetings x

    [Reply to comment]

  46. Ben September 16, 2015 3:40 pm Reply

    Very funny and informative post.

    [Reply to comment]

  47. Bill March 18, 2018 1:46 am Reply

    Hi Emma
    reading your blog of oct 14 2009. So special a few words can be to others that some do not understand. Just arrived in Lisbon (15th) on way to Algave for 3 weeks. Any chance of a tall cup of coffee and a chat ? That is unless you’ve gone back to oz !!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: March 18th, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    @Bill, i’m so sorry but I am back in oz! have a great trip anyway and eat a bolo de berlim for me!

    [Reply to comment]

  48. Paula August 5, 2019 9:01 am Reply

    Hi Emma
    And I have never adapted well to Australia. After forty six years in Queensland, I’m still dreaming of returning to Portugal.
    I can do it now but lack the courage. Leaving the children and grandchildren behind is no easy matter. Then there are questions of sending house stuff or buying it there. Rent or buy, public health, relearn to drive, etc. If you can inform me of sites with this sort of information I would appreciate it. Thank you 😊

    [Reply to comment]

  49. karen September 2, 2020 3:49 pm Reply

    Hi Emma
    Just discovered your post 12 years old! my dream to retire to live in Portugal ruined by Covid . Luck you to have lived your dream

    [Reply to comment]

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