Expat voices: Wanda Dabrowski on getting settled in
Wanda Dabrowski talks about settling in after her family's big move from the UK to the Minho region of Portugal.
Name: Wanda Dabrowski
Country of origin: England
Currently residing in: Nogueira, Viana do Castelo, Minho region, Portugal
Since: September 2010
Do you have a partner/children?
Yes, my partner and a boy aged eight.
How long did it take you to set up utilities, furniture, etc.?
The furniture arrived from the U.K. one week after we did. The utilities we set up within four weeks of arriving, but the telephone and internet took around eight weeks to work as the whole thing needed installing and lines switched on.
Did you opt for digital television to access programmes from home?
Do you find the furnishings and/or appliances in the country very different from back home? If yes, then how?
Not different – just much more expensive, particularly white goods e.g. washer etc.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when settling in?
The language definitely.
What was the biggest challenge your partner or children faced?
The language and the cost of living relative to salaries was a surprise.
What was the biggest surprise encountered settling in?
The generosity of spirit of the Portuguese who have made us feel very welcome.
The amount of money we waste as a British urban family in comparison the Portuguese rural families.
What about the settling in process differed from back home?
Rural life in Northern Portugal is in stark contrast to urban life in England: far fewer people, a much slower pace and a much more organic and seasonal process.
What remained the same or was expected?
High utility bills.
Do you have any advice for other expats settling into new homes in Portugal?
Learn the language before you come and don’t let a day pass when you are here without practising. Go out of your way to communicate and integrate with the community you move into and remember you are visitors. This is a much easier process with a child.
Are you pleased with the final results of your move to your current home in Portugal?
Yes. This has been one of the most challenging experiences we have ever undertaken. However, the simple things like the air, water, food, scenery and nature are of supreme quality. On Saturdays, the children in the villages get to play outside in the forests and the mountains and at each other’s homes. A Sunday is like a good old fashioned Sunday when families get together, shops are closed and people relax. The pace of life is so much slower, the changing of the seasons are felt, and it becomes natural after a while to just ‘be’.
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