Life in Portugal

Aug 11, 2020

Brendan FitzGerald is a Chartered Accountant living and working in Portugal. Recently, he kindly spoke to us about his life and work there, touching on the challenges, perks and secrets of great sourdough.

Why did you first go away and/or why Portugal?

The reasons behind me moving to Portugal were twofold.  The first was for family reasons. My wife is originally from Brazil and due to the close cultural proximity of both Brazil and Portugal we decided it was a good opportunity for my wife and her mother to be close to each other and of course for my mother in law to be close to her grandchildren!

My mother in law now spends two thirds of the year in Portugal. The second reason was to satisfy our sense of adventure.  Having spent over ten years in Dublin, Ireland we wanted to try something new and experience a new country.  We felt our kids were at just the right age, having not started school and thought “it's now or never”.  Thankfully, I work for an organisation and with people who are supportive. They helped make the move happen, something I will always appreciate.

What are the pros and cons of living there?

The main advantage of living in Portugal with a young family is the country’s culture and lifestyle.  Portugal has a relaxed pace of life, terrific food centred mainly around fish and fabulous weather.  There are plenty of places to visit and the choice of beaches is endless.  There is a strong investment in children’s facilities including swimming pools, public playgrounds and sports facilities so there is lots to do with young children. 

As ever though,  it is not always rosy in the garden!  Being away from friends and family in Ireland can be difficult. I find myself missing small things sometimes, you just can’t get Clonakilty black pudding in Lisbon and forget about Barry’s tea (a controversial choice at the best of times, I know)! 

The language barrier is also something to overcome.  While I am lucky enough to understand the language very well from listening to it at home over the years, the spoken word remains a challenge. Simple things like going to the local offices to pay your car tax can elevate your stress levels beyond what they need to be for what should be a simple task!  Luckily, most of the time the Portuguese are willing to break into English to help out if needed and this is often appreciated.

What advice would you give your pre-departure self?

Keep calm and accept it will take anywhere up to a year to start to feel fully comfortable in your new environment. While the initial stages can be challenging as you navigate the administration tasks, settle into your new accommodation (if you are lucky enough to have found a place before you arrive) and find schools for your children, try and enjoy the new experiences a new country brings during this time.

Can you describe your home town, your home away from home?

I live near a town called Cascais, which is west of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast. The town itself is historically a fishing town and still is today.  During the spring and summer months many tourists pay a visit, some on day trips from Lisbon, others for longer stays. The pace of life is steady and the mantra is keep stress to a minimum!

The locals are extremely proud of their town and region and will happily engage anyone who wants to discuss it. I recently took up cycling and enjoy riding around the region, especially along the coast where the views of the sea and the Sintra mountains are stunning.

Are you in touch with any other Chartered Accountants in Portugal/nearby in the region?

I have met a few Irish expats over the last couple of years.  Some are retired and others are either working for international organisations or own their own businesses. I am not sure whether or not they are all Chartered Accountants. I may have to ask next time I see them!

Finally, we heard your family make great sourdough, we have to know the recipe! What are your children's tips for success?

The great thing about sourdough is its simplicity! The trick is to create a good “starter” which is just flour and water added and subtracted in equal quantities from a jar for about 11 days (you can get exact guidance online).  The sourdough itself is then just flour, water, salt and the starter. Buy a proofing basket and a dough scraper and then get cracking! Every one you bake will turn out different.  My eldest daughter says the key to success is “patience”. Good luck!

Brendan FitzGerald is Director of Internal Audit with Metlife Europe.