welcome to emmas housethought

in transit

I have a serious problem with missing flights. Even though The One can make me get to the airport on time, I can still manage not to get on the plane. One theory could be that because I’ve flown a lot, I’m lackadaisical. But I think it’s more serious than that. Firstly I think I might have a pathological fear of waiting at the gate, and secondly, in this case, missing the flight rather obtusely expressed the fact that I didn’t want to go.


I’m off to Sydney for work. My Portuguese neighbours see it as the sad but necessary eventuality of a peasant’s life, where one member of the family leaves the bosom to find work in the New World. I find their point of view comforting. Far better than the grim admission that something has gone terribly wrong with the status quo, with Portugal and with my whole entire life which has led to this drastic upheaval and my new identity as an economic refugee.

No, The One isn’t coming too. No, I don’t know how long I’ll be away. No, I don’t have a job lined up yet.

Lest we forget this is the plight of hundreds of thousands of people across the world today. Only most of them are prevented by immigration laws that discriminate against people leaving home to just to improve their lot. To compare mine with theirs just makes me look greedy. All I want is to be free from worry, not from hunger. Boatloads of people are drowning off the coast of Australia because of the extremes they are forced to take to feed their families. And I complain about economy class.


Indeed with one last brave flash of the credit card I made it out alive, reassured in my physical fitness as I made the 22km sprint from one end of Heathrow to the other in half the advertised time. I am now privy to the lesser known fact that gate 43a at Lisbon is actually located in the Algarve somewhere. I know that the people at the Vueling desk are helpful and the British Airways not. Sensible shoes and a backpack is my advice to anyone susceptible to flight tardiness. These simple props can stop a big problem from becoming a catastrophe. And watching a lot of action movies the day before you fly so you can channel some stunt girl energy and attitude – better to look like you are an undercover ag chasing bad guys than a teary middle-aged tragic who just fucked up final call by hanging around the MAC counter too long.

Don’t expect me to talk up Sydney like it’s a joyride. It could be raining money here (of course it’s not raining anything. It’s winter and 22 degrees and gorgeously sunny) and I’d still be miserable because where I want to be is at home, curled up with The One.


There are some amusements, I admit. The biggest of which is choking on the extraordinary cost of things, for instance. Coffee $4.50. So, a coffee, cake and loaf of bread? That’ll be $16.00. I was looking forward to eating some quality beef and lamb but at $45 a kilo I think I’ll become a vegetarian. And let’s not talk about wine, which I have most definitely given up.

Of course what I am here for are the higher wages. Minimum wage is about $21/hr and the average wage is around $1200 a week. That’s (at least) four times higher than in Portugal. So it’s no wonder then the coffee cups are lined with gold.

On other visits I’ve felt like the dark side to all this affluence was apparent in how stressed out everyone was, but this time I’m impressed by the friendliness of the place. Everyone is polite, cheery and overtly respectful of your personal space (which I’ve always thought of as a uniquely Australian character, given the vastness of this land).

I am delighted to be surrounded by noodles and bok choy. To have ten cuisines of the world clustered together on the same street corner and to hear a different language being spoken at every cafe table. Sydney is multiculturalism at its best.


Still, the noise and traffic and technology have my head spinning. I’m awkward in the unfamiliarity of urban life. I can’t work an ipad, I struggle to figure out the train ticket machines. I’m a country bumpkin, so messy and unstylish. I’m a fish out of water.

So no matter how intoxicating Sydney might become, I know I’ll always be on the lookout for nice flights to Portugal. As they say, home is where the heart is.

In the meantime, I’ll settle into being Aunty Emsy-Poo-Poo again. And a daughter, and the youngest sister. Family. And old friends. Again, I should feel blessed that this is the refuge for this refugee. Imagine being unwelcome?





  1. Julie Dawn Fox August 28, 2012 9:11 pm Reply

    I hope it works out for you, Emma. I’ve just returned to my cosy home, complete with loving husband and dog after 10 weeks working in Vietnam so I can empathise with your desire to be in Portugal. It’s good to be home and away from the traffic again.

    I already miss the range of food available in Ho Chi Minh City though! Minipreco and Intermarché have a long way to go before satisfying my culinary cravings.

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    Emma   Reply: August 29th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    thanks julie

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  2. Lucy August 28, 2012 9:25 pm Reply

    What about a public lecture “Emma’s House in Portugal in Sydney”. You must have a fair few followers in Sydney by now? I would pay to hear you bang on IN PERSON

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    Emma   Reply: August 28th, 2012 at 11:09 pm


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  3. Helder Pinheiro August 28, 2012 10:03 pm Reply

    I am expecting new interesting insights of Australia, now that You have been living in Portugal a while.

    – New angles, fresh eyes.

    My best hopes, wish You luck.

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  4. ana August 28, 2012 10:34 pm Reply

    keeping my fingers crossed that it all turns out for the best!

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  5. maria jorge August 29, 2012 12:06 am Reply

    I couldn’t help myself from shedding a tear just reading your post. Wish you all the best and hope that you will come back home soon.

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  6. Sarah Whitehead August 29, 2012 12:26 am Reply

    ohh sad days………hope you get to do something interesting and well paid!!! very brave Em and expect one f us won’t be far behind you, except we’ll be getting off in UK and am sure it won’t be so friendly
    Good luck and keep us all posted
    big kisses from the bare-arse (beiras) mountains!!!!

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  7. Ana August 29, 2012 1:23 am Reply

    Good luck Emma! Hope you can be back soon!

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  8. Emma August 29, 2012 3:42 am Reply

    Angry Anderson hasn’t aged well.

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  9. emdns August 29, 2012 10:07 am Reply

    Good luck Emma, I will miss your tales on Portugal. I hope all goes well, God Bless.

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  10. Deb August 29, 2012 2:05 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, wow you too?? Cant believe it, we have just left behind 6 years in Europe, 2 of which were in Cascais and now we’ve arrived back in Brissie, and OMG can NOT believe the horrendous price of everything, no wonder the salaries seem lined with gold they have to be..hope all works out for you, I loved your blog when I was in Portugal & hope you will continue to blog away while in Sydney … I love your bang on insights 😉

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  11. Emma August 29, 2012 2:31 pm Reply

    thanks everyone for your kind words and support! I will still be blogging while I’m here, of course, as I stocked up on photos and ideas before I left. And I have a hoard of COTW, so I shouldn’t have to succumb to sydney cakes for a while. Now, among you Sydney readers, surely there’s someone who’d like to employ me? 🙂

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  12. Steve August 29, 2012 5:20 pm Reply

    Right thats it! Im angry. Save up and go back, what about your cats, the one, the locals, the amazing custard tarts.!!!
    I just missed you when in portugal looking for my dream derelict homestead out near Marialva…..Ive read your blogs addictively

    Maybe you need to come back (im in gold coast – urgh) to realise you need to return Portugal…
    This is the equivalent to John Lennon being shot
    I need a coffee now

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 30th, 2012 at 2:05 pm


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  13. Imogen August 29, 2012 10:01 pm Reply

    Urgh….the things we have to do for money….hope that you can earn a small fortune in a small space of time & be able to head back to “The One”, the cats & your own idylic slice of heaven in no time at all x

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    Emma   Reply: August 30th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    thanks – my plan exactly!

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  14. Papgena August 30, 2012 1:45 am Reply

    Good luck Emma! Hope you can achieve your goals!
    I hope you can blog about australia too, I would love to know about your country!

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    Emma   Reply: August 30th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    nice suggestion… would be interesting to write about sydney from an outsider’s point of view…mmm

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  15. Fatima August 30, 2012 7:19 am Reply

    Good Luck with your plans. I hope you get back to Portugal soon and that this damn crisis gets sorted. I look forward to following your progress.

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    Emma   Reply: August 30th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    thanks fatima. I think the only way to beat the crisis is to be more creative and industrious than before. I’m already thinking of more things I could do… if everybody does that then we could pick the economy up ourselves and damn the government and the troika. I’ll be snooping around linked-in meanwhile. The worst thing about a depression is how depressing it is, não é?

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  16. Lisa August 30, 2012 9:55 pm Reply

    Good luck with your work plans, Emma. Don’t fritter your earnings in the David Jones Food Hall. Those AUDs will go a long way back here. As far as cheap flights are concerned, you can’t beat Emirates – no back tracking and wasting time in Europe (particularly Heathrow). Lisbon-Dubai-Sydney (or a stopover in Asia) is the way to go. Dubai to Sydney flies by with movies and snacks, Modern Family and snacks, BBC and snacks…

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  17. Ailsa August 30, 2012 10:52 pm Reply

    Emma I used to live in Portugal and followed your blog and loved it, im back in Oz now in Perth come over here you can drive a mining truck and earn stacks in a short time. seriously though Oz is not that bad expensive yes but when you add it all up it works out pretty much the same I went back to Portugal in June and found it pretty difficult beautiful place but difficult (probably because im older I found that) would just loveeeeee a good coffee. best of luck

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  18. Ana Pedrosa August 31, 2012 3:12 am Reply

    Good luck Emma – You’re right – we are lucky to have the option and access to work that pays well, but that doesn’t make it any easier to leave home and be away from the ones you love. My heart goes out to you. I look forward to hear news of your return.

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  19. Cyril August 31, 2012 3:35 am Reply

    Best of ‘British’, stiff upper lip and all that, and, well Aussies know whats what, what!
    Seriously though; come back… Rich!

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  20. Cyril August 31, 2012 4:11 am Reply

    After some research, the truth is out! Given your admitted love of cakes and other sweet treats: It’s for the 26th January celebrations, or more precisely you’ve been missing…

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  21. Denise August 31, 2012 8:21 am Reply

    Emma, time to switch from the small screen to the bigger screen. Go pitch that treatment / pilot screenplay for a new exciting series about a gutsy Aussie girl who leaves the rat race to find tranquility in a bucolic European backwater. Like Carrie Bradshaw, she chronicles her single life, bravely blogging from her mountain hovel about the numerous obstacles to achieving her dream of renovating a rustic farmhouse. Weathering financial crises, tussling with obstinate bureaucracy, and facing health scares and hospitalization, she finds friends and ultimately true love along the way… Your hit series will eventually go into syndication which you will enjoy decades from now during the cocktail hour in you Estoril villa. In the meantime, waitressing at a fine dining restaurant earning 20% tips is a good way to salt away the cash. Boa sorte from the blogoshpere.

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  22. Dee Hawa September 1, 2012 8:15 am Reply

    What a brilliant idea Denise!
    Be super lucky Emma, and hopefully back home soon
    Dee x

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  23. Wendy September 2, 2012 3:25 am Reply

    Oh crap! My condolences and sympathies.

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  24. Vern September 5, 2012 2:39 pm Reply

    Hello Emma,

    The way to fly cheap is to use Air Asia, they fly from the Gold Coast in Australia, from where you fly to KL in Malaysia and land at the domestic terminal, then you use a variety of flights to Europe, all very cheap.
    I used Air Asia for a cheap return trip to Japan from Oz, and it only cost A$600 return.
    However, you cannot have any baggage, just a tiny backpack and there is no food, just snacks you buy. I always travel light with very few clothes, buy on arrival at op shops and throw away on return.
    You will find Australia the most expensive country in the world to live these days, blame the iron and coal industries surge to China. You could try these as employers as there are big bucks to be earned in remote settlements.
    Wish you the best of luck.

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