welcome to emmas housethought

bemvindo house hunters!

Hey here’s a little message for HGTV House Hunter’s International viewers who have found my blog! And for any others that have stumbled in accidentally just at this moment: I have just appeared (10:30pm New York Thursday Night Time) on a cable TV show about my search for a house in Portugal. Congratulations to you all and thanks for googling.

sweden crew shot

I suppose you’re wondering if I am still alive and whether I have built a house yet? Yes and no. But there’s far more to the story than that and every gory detail can be found right here on the blog. In fact, you can start on the epic true story of before I bought the house at the beginning.

Let’s backtrack a little. Bought a house in 2007. I scrapped around for a year applying for building permission, digging holes, planting things to eat, accumulating pets and looking for a builder. Then, come around November 2008, the globalfinancialcrisis tornado hit and over the next 4 months blew away almost half of my money. There was no clicking my heels and wishing I was back in Kansas, or Oz.


The plan then was to sit tight, work hard on the writing and pray for a financial miracle.

I worked hard on the blog, and the blog grew and grew and then grew some more! People became insanely passionate: finding at last a safe place to share their pasteis de nata desires!


But, alas. So far, sharing-the-love of Portugal has not made me rich, nor therefore built me a house. I’ve extended my building licence twice, fortunately because the council people do understand that no one has any money anymore, least of all us foreigners. Portugal was hit very hard by the crisis and will take a long time to recover. But on the other hand, the Portuguese are so familiar with tough times that this is a really nice place to be poorer. A part of this story is how I’ve learned to live on less and how this translates into living a greener, friendlier and healthier life. Caring about the environment might be a by-product of having less money, or it might come from living in the countryside in a less stressed, self-obsessed existence. Whatever the reasons, the alternative life to wanting, consuming and polluting is viable growing here in Portugal, in a strong way driven by the expat community and by switched-on local authorities. Without a cent in the bank, we still feel like we will survive. Hope makes you rich.


But enough about money, love and hope, let’s talk about me. Instead of building I have been adventuring, checking out secret corners of this sunny country and digging below the surface of the big towns. If you’re planning on doing the same, it really pays to shop around for car and/or camper rental, as finding the hidden nooks and beauties of rural Portugal is really better done by private vehicle. Campervan holidays are hugely popular here. As my Portuguese has improved I’ve been able to understand more about the Portuguese psyche, and what makes this country tick. Along the way I´ve been eating, drinking and watching football (that’s soccer just between you and me).

As with any journey, it’s not all roses. Portugal is a bureaucratic country, frustrating to do business in and make an honest buck. Portuguese businesses are way behind when it comes to service, the internet and marketing. And this is the conundrum. We love this place because work does not come first. We love this place because the people aren’t mad with stress and rage. We love this place because it has creativity and originality. It has pride and passion. Like a ruined house, it has beautiful potential.

On the personal front, I’ve had health dramas which I am now almost completely recovered from. My pets, Mao and Wookie, also no strangers to bumps in the road, are also happy, fun and as cuddly as ever. I have fallen madly in love and moved house (and now luxuriate in the sound of a flushing toilet and the hot water that gushes from the kitchen sink). There are rumours of roof building, of annexe finishing and even of surprise weddings…


What more would you like to hear? What piques your curiosity? Why not start in the archive or the category section to read more? Or cruise the gorgeous gallery of photos. Would you like to contribute or get involved somehow? You might be interested in being a sponsor. You can advertise on my blog, and reach thousands of loyal Porty-philes. You can make a donation to keep the wheels oiled and the pets fed, and at the very least you can make comments and share your stories. I’d love to hear from you.

For a speed read of the blog, I recommend:

the most commented on:
• an australian in portugal (48 comments)
• frugal is the new black (46)
• restoring windows (37)
• cultural differences: a brief guide (34)

the most googled:
• portuguese tiramisu icecream

the most viewed:
• emma gallery

the author’s favourite:
• the day wookie vomited eyes

for more about me in the media:
• emma in the media

and something for you:
• a delicious desktop!


  1. Andria October 15, 2010 11:39 am Reply

    Wish I could help in some way Emma. I totally get all that you say about Portugal. I miss the place. In case you ever feel like you could force a few articles out, shout out as always. Fab Wookie/Mao shot 🙂

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  2. Matt October 15, 2010 12:05 pm Reply

    Wonderful news and story Emma. A huge hearty congrats to you, a real fighter. Enjoy the spoils. Peace

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  3. Celia October 15, 2010 2:34 pm Reply

    Love this:
    “We love this place because work does not come first. We love this place because the people aren’t mad with stress and rage. We love this place because it has creativity and originality. It has pride and passion. Like a ruined house, it has beautiful potential.”

    Congrats on being in love!

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  4. Maria Silva October 15, 2010 3:44 pm Reply

    …You’re so right Emma ! We, Portuguese, enjoy our lifestyle and work does not come first. “Don’t worry, be happy” is truly our motto. And we are proud and passionate about our country. Enjoy the love and passion!!! 🙂

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  5. Rodrigo October 15, 2010 4:05 pm Reply

    Hey Emma
    That is why I want to live in Portugal. To be a wealthy poor bastard. Give me an olive tree so that I can have my daily nap, a bottle of good wine and now and again a plate of bacalhau.
    groovy 🙂

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  6. pilar October 15, 2010 10:24 pm Reply

    Hi Emma,
    you’re in love with my country, I’m in love with yours, I think we have lots of things in common. Keep on posting!

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  7. Emma October 16, 2010 2:18 am Reply

    It got aired! Oh, congratulations. So very proud of you!! Hope this is the start of a very profitable love affair with the Yanks. Beijos. xx

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  8. James October 16, 2010 3:20 pm Reply

    Is Portugal considered third world country? Is it very poor country?…I´m German, would love to know the country and maybe work there for some time.. is it dificult to blend with the Portuguese people? I have been in Spain and people told my that is very diferent… But Still the IDH of Portugal is very high..so I´m very confuse

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    Emma   Reply: October 20th, 2010 at 4:23 am

    well james you should really visit the place! No portugal is not considered a third world country, the minimum wage is €475 month, blending is not difficult with the portuguese is you make the effort to learn their language. So just get over here and see for yourself!

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    inthelimbo   Reply: October 23rd, 2010 at 8:00 am

    @James, Apparently a bit ignorant, for a German, no?

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  9. Pedro Braganca October 23, 2010 6:25 am Reply

    Hi Emma,

    Do you know where we can watch/download the episode? I’ve been looking (hgtv.com, torrents etc) but no luck. I missed the original air date. Thanks.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 24th, 2010 at 7:14 am

    well actually no, I dont. I know they get repeated a lot, but I havent received a copy myself so dont know nuffin’.

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  10. frodojohn November 27, 2010 8:47 am Reply

    Bom dia Emma
    Been looking at your website and blogs for several months now. As similar Porty-philes I can relate seriously to some of the comments about the country, especially the Camara, the pace of life, the old Mrs Miggins who sells at the market what she has rather than what she can get at the wholesalers etc.
    We visit eastern Algarve frequently, mostly trying to avoid fellow Brits and the influx of “Full English Breakfasts”. We could write a book, and perhaps should, on the buying process of a house in Portugal. Needless to say we bought a 2 acre plot with “a building” just before Christmas 2005. Yesterday (November 25 2010 at about 10.30) we got a decision on whether we could build a new place to our plans, which are not outrageous. Some 3 solicitors, 1 barrister ( I think that is what she translates as being but you never know in Portugal do you?) 2 architects, a surveyor, a local builder, contacts with ex-pats and the whole gamut of Portuguese Departments, we finally have a light at the end of tunnel. Sadly like yourself we have suffered from the economic climate and now can’t afford to build what we planned for – bugger – as we say here in Yorkshire. Time to get thinking cap on.
    Just a thought on your efforts to improve/build/renovate your property. Have you heard of WWOOFing? Could you promote your property as an Organic venture and advertise for assistance (free labour) in exchange for some form of board and food? We have been looking into this sort of volunteering and there are loads of places in Portugal already offering places. Have a Google, might be a way to helping you move things on a bit quicker for no financial outlay. Anyway I like what you are doing and especially the large pictures of natas. I count down the days to my next one sat sipping a galao overlooking and sniffing the fish market in Olhao.
    One further suggestion. Have you tried offering labour assistance to someone with some woodland/scrub/forestry in exchange for firewood? Keep you warm twice!

    [Reply to comment]

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