Random Whispers …

Three major firms – MEO, NOS, and (increasingly) Vonage – serve the telecommunications market in Portugal. All those “extras” that come bundled in your telecommunications package: Wifi Internet + TV + landline telephone + mobile phone with given data? Study your contract carefully for caveats and exceptions! MEO, for instance doesn’t charge you for calls from mobile phones (whose first digit is “9”) to either other mobiles or landlines in Portugal … but call a mobile from your landline (whose first digit is “2” here), and you’ll be charged. (In Spain, landlines begin with a “9” and mobile phone numbers with a “6.”) If you’re somewhere with free WiFi available, be sure to connect to it on your mobile phone. And outside the country, where the EU has decreed that telecommunications, too, are to be “without borders” … they are and they’re not—with plenty of “ifs,” “ands” and “buts.” Know your restrictions and tariffs before using your mobile for handling calls or ^/downloading data elsewhere.

Attaching timers to certain electrical devices – electric waters heaters, for one – is a convenient, practical, cost-effective way to limit energy consumption … and reduce your electricity bills!

Coin-chained supermarket carts cut down the clutter and damage caused by shopping carts abandoned, helter-skelter, in parking lots. Are you listening, Walmart and grocery stores? Learn from responsible retailers!

Is Dawn your preferred dish-washing detergent? Sorry, but no Fairy or store brand can compare. And Dawn, by and large, isn’t available in Spain or Portugal.

Feeling “comfortable” navigating all those roundabouts, deciphering international road signs, practicing roadway rules and etiquette, can be daunting when dealing with drivers who are daredevils or laggards. Please, use your turn signals and stay in the appropriate lane!

Regarding the sensitive subject of bathroom hygiene, let’s just say that the paper here isn’t what Charmin would have us crave.

Bureaucracy is almost an art form in both Spain and Portugal.

When using a credit card and you’re given the option to pay either in euros or dollars, always choose euros. The savings can be substantial! If your Multibanco or ATM also offers this option with debit card withdrawals, choose euros over whatever conversion rate and currency exchange amount presented. Jot down the amount (in dollars) shown on the screen to be deducted from your account … then, after opting for euros, go online to see how much has been deducted from your bank account. Yesterday, the Multibanco ATM wanted to charge us $123.46 to withdraw 100 euros. Our bank deducted only $113.87 for the transaction.

Looking at a house to buy? Don’t neglect to check out the roof carefully—not just the condition of the exterior tiles (cracks and breaks often lead to water infiltration), but the supports – beams and trusses – in the attic (sótão) as well. The best supports are made of concrete or galvanized steel; wooden supports are susceptible to wood-boring insects (like termites and carpenter ants) that eat the insides of those wooden beams, leaving them hollow and unable to support the weight of the roof—especially during heavy rains.

Mold and mildew are frequent problems in Portugal and Spain, especially in typical houses not built to today’s standards. Especially when the wetter, windier, cooler weather sets in. A few suggestions for dealing with it: (1) Be sure your property can breathe. It needs “vents” that let air in and out. (2) Periodically, move things away from the walls–headboards of beds, clothing hanging from a rod next to the wall, even artwork. Be sure to give a good scrubbing with any of the products recommended to remove mold and mildew. (3) Keep your eyes closed when applying these noxious chemicals topically … but keep them open for what our UK friends refer to as the “damp.” Even if it’s not dark in color, wetness (damp) on your ceilings and walls means that water is somehow — somewhere — getting in. You need to track it down and secure it from entering. (4) Use those humidifiers. We have a large house, with four dehumidifiers going–one (without a window or vent) dedicated to the bathroom and shower. The dehumidifiers have made a major difference. (5) As tempting as it might be after opening those windows and letting in fresh — but C-O-L-D — air, be frugal with your heating appliances. Electricity is quite expensive here!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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