10 Things I Miss
This is the first in a series called 10 Things I Miss. We’ll ask our regular bloggers what they miss to get the ball rolling, and then it’s over to you, Dear Readers: Email us your list (maybe it’s 10 things, maybe it’s not) and we’ll publish them. email@example.com
Ten (?) Things I Miss, by Algarve Ben
The last time I sat and thought about the things I miss from my old “home” in England, was when I wrote this blog post in late 2009.
I had only been in Portugal for about six weeks at that point. 18-months on, I like to consider myself a somewhat more seasoned expat, so thought it would be an interesting exercise to ponder what we find ourselves missing, now that living in Portugal is rather more routine.
Last time I did this, I intended to list ten things and only got as far as four. I suspect there may be a few more now. Let’s see if I make the full ten this time…..
1. DELIVERY FOOD
My wife and I are not retirees—we both work full time. I adore cooking, but at the end of certain hectic days, all we want to do is reach into a drawer in the kitchen, pull out a huge stack of menus, giving us a choice of Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, fish and chips, kebabs, burgers, Italian pizzas, American pizzas and greasy nondescript south London pizzas. Not even one of those is an option here. It’s great for our health, but it’s fair to say we miss it.
About 11 million people live in Portugal. 8 million live in London alone. This is a good thing, which results in a lot of clean air, space and peace and quiet. What is does also mean though, is that there aren’t enough people to make it worthwhile for every supermarket to be permanently stocked with every type of food.
It’s hard to plan a menu for a whole week without spending Saturday touring different shops. Our local butchers only has lamb on Wednesday and Friday. It’s wonderfully endearing most of the time, and quite fun to go shopping with no fixed plans, coming home with whatever is fresh and available. Sometimes, though, when you’re stressed and want something specific, it makes you long for a well-stocked English supermarket.
3. BEING FLUENT
Only knowing a smattering of your country’s language takes away your ability to do many things: eavesdropping on juicy conversations, completing official documents without needing to take a day off from work to do so, and complaining when a response from a financial institution takes a month rather than the promised day are all off-limits. Learning more Portuguese, as ever, is a priority.
Sausage rolls, taramasalata, proper jam doughnuts, redcurrant jelly, smoked mackerel, pad Thai, low quality breaded supermarket chicken kievs and consistently good beef. That’s today’s list—it changes all the time. To be fair most things CAN be found somewhere in the Algarve with sufficient effort—that doesn’t mean they’re not missed at certain points (see points 1 and 2!)
OLD friends. The friends who know everything about you, from your history to your hang-ups. The friends that can always be found in the same pub at the end of a crappy day. The friends you think about when you’re exploring new towns and think “this bar is right up John’s street,” or “Dave would love this fish.” They’re not here, unless they’re visiting, and that can suck sometimes.
Right, I’ve got to five. One more than last time I carried out this exercise. As before, I asked the wife for inspiration. That was 15 minutes ago. So far, all she has come up with is “cheaper suntan cream.” Hardly a dealbreaker!
In the interests of a balanced article then, let’s consider what we DON’T miss about the UK 18-months on.
STOP PRESS: Wife has just informed me that “she misses carpets a bit….”
So, what don’t we miss:
Aggression, crowds, traffic, chavs, mean-spirited city folk, the London Underground, the Daily Mail, reality TV (sure they still have that here but at least we don’t understand it), radio adverts (same applies), congestion charges, parking charges, council tax charges, bad customer service, call centers (our bank may take a month to answer a question but at least you can phone them direct), and plans being cancelled due to rain.