The Azores, Portugal Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from The Azores, Portugal

The Azores, Portugal 08/14/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

It was my fourth expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. There is a five hour direct flight from Boston to Ponta Delgada.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The houses are big and nice but tend to be drafty. Moisture seeps in through the walls, even in the nicest houses and creates paint bubbles and mold. You have to have dehumidifiers in every room to prevent the mold.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available and cost is similar to the U.S.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Dehumidifiers. Better rain gear.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is Burger King, McDonald's and Pizza Hut. The local restaurants are good and reasonably priced.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

None that I saw.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There is a major cockroach problem that spikes in the fall. You can see them walking on the sidewalks. There are also many flies and mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

There is help available at about 10 Euros an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes there are several gyms.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are available everywhere. Credit cards can be used freely.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No newspaper. Cartoon Network is in English.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You have to know Portuguese (and be able to pronounce it like the locals).

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. There are no ramps and the streets are cobblestone. There are almost no sidewalks.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They are safe and affordable, but you need a car without doubt. Buses run only the city circuit and it would be expensive to take a taxi to the beach or mountains.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any type of car is fine, but small cars do better because of the small size of parking spaces and city streets.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. It costs similar to the U.S.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are several plans available.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are very few vets and they all have very bad manners.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dressy casual. Suit and tie for work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It is very, very safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The medical care is good.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air is very clean.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is beautiful in the summer, but the rest of the year is overcast, rainy and windy. The lows are in the 40s, but feel colder because of the wind. The highs are in the seventies but still feel chilly because of the wind.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are no international schools as there is no international community. Our two children attended what was meant to be the best private school here, and the experience was terrible. They were singled out for being the only foreigners and the teachers also excluded them. They learned Portuguese and even adopted the local accent and they were still not welcomed.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Special needs children have programs available to them, but a foreign special needs child would encounter many more difficulties.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There is soccer, judo, tennis, golf.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Non-existent.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very low because of the isolation and lack of other expats.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The locals would come to our events/dinners, but would not reciprocate invitations.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it is best for couples or families with children that are not yet school age.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't think so.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There seems to be a generalized problem with inclusion.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Bathing in the hot springs, driving around the island and stopping at the many viewpoints.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking the many mapped-out paths. Having a picnic at the many picnic areas along the lookouts. Going to the hot springs.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Cheese, wine, and pottery.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The beauty of the islands.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, but I must say that having lived in isolation made our family stronger!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Visions of a sunny island life.

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3. But don't forget your:

Entertainment.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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