Expat Editions is a series of interviews with expats from various countries living in Portugal, as well as Portuguese living abroad. It offers a brief insight into their personal experiences, providing unique information from “outsiders” that you don’t find in travel guides. If you’ve considered moving to Portugal, or if you’re Portuguese and debated living abroad, you may find our featured expats share more with you than their home country: you may recognize your own dreams, fears and challenges in their experiences.
In this edition, we interview Kev Harrison, a 30-something English language teacher and part-time writer living in Lisbon. He has put his language skills to the test by learning Portuguese, which he has used throughout his many travels around Portugal.
Catarina: How long have you been in Portugal and why did you decide to move?
Kev: I moved to Portugal in September 2014. I’d been teaching for 3 years in Poland, which was a great experience, but after some time it became apparent that it was impossible to fulfil any of my dreams of travel or to save money as a result of the weak currency there. I needed to get into the Eurozone to earn a “hard” currency and decided that I may as well try something completely different. Portugal was one of 2 or 3 nations that I considered.
C: Name one positive thing or experience you weren’t expecting to have in Portugal.
K: I wasn’t expecting the diversity that I’ve found here, in terms of landscapes and people, in particular. Not really knowing a whole lot about the country outside of Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve region before I came, I was expecting a nation of beaches. While it’s true that there are stunning beaches up and down the length of the country, the mountains, the fields, the deserts were all completely new to me. Now that I’m here, for example, my favorite part of the country is Alentejo. I don’t think I’d want to live there, as it might feel a bit too isolated, but to visit it’s wonderful, with nature, history and a sky that doesn’t ever seem to end.
C: What do you miss the most about home?
K: I’m going to sound like such a typical Brit when I answer this, but I guess the things I miss the most are food and drink related. One of the things I miss is a good hot curry. I know that’s Indian food, but it’s so ingrained in British culture and here, though there are plenty of restaurants serving Nepalese, Indian and Goan food, it’s often tempered to the Portuguese palate, meaning that the heat is really taken out of it. Another thing is the beer. In England we have a rich heritage of beers being startlingly different to one another. At a typical beer festival, you might find five hundred or more on sale. Here in Portugal, the standard offering of Sagres or Super Bock is a bit underwhelming by comparison. But, as I wrote in this blog post this is a situation that is improving fast. Besides these, I miss my friends and some of my family an awful lot, too.
C: Name your favorite Portuguese dish/food and your favorite place there.
K: Portuguese food is really excellent, so I could go on forever in answering this question. If I have to choose a favorite savory dish, I guess I’ll go for feijoada transmontana. I love the cured meats you find here in Portugal, like chouriço, alheira and morcela; so to have those in one dish with beans and root vegetables, strips of beef and cabbage, it’s terrific for me. Especially now in the winter, this is a dish that really warms you and I can see how the people from “behind the mountains” must love this at the coldest time of year. On the sweet side, you can’t look past the pastel de nata, as far as I’m concerned. It’s almost a religious tradition that I take my guests who visit me here to A Manteigaria in Chiado to try what I think are the very best you can buy. I’ll never eat a British custard tart again!
As for favorite places, I mentioned Alentejo just now. I suppose if I have to narrow it down to a single town, though, I’d swap that for Sintra. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere in my life that holds such magic.
C: What advice would you give someone who wants to move to Portugal?
K: I’d say get on with learning Portuguese quickly because, outside the big cities it’s a lot harder to survive without it. I’d also say see as much as you can when you’re here. Travel is cheap, relative to much of Europe, as is accommodation and, while Lisbon, Porto and Lagos are gorgeous places, deserving of attention, if that’s all you see of this incredible country then you are missing so much.