Posts Tagged ‘emigrating’

As my patience continues to be tested, I thought I’d post a slightly more thorough (I think) update with a bit of information regarding the whole school report debacle that I posted about earlier in the week.

Firstly, it has become apparent that it is actually a legal requirement for UK school reports, exams certificates (and other related items) to be legalised so that they are proved to be genuine when given over to the Portuguese schools.


I’d heard about this being asked of people when we first moved over but, as it’d never been asked of us, I’d assumed either it was one of those “some do, some don’t” things or just that, for some reason, it wasn’t necessary or an actual legal requirement.

Now that I know that it’s a legal requirement and that we’re having to go through it, I can explain a bit about the process.

The Portuguese authorities require that the reports/certificates are “stamped” by the Consulate. This is as much detail as they know!
After extensive investigation, it turns out that the actual requirement is for them to be “Legalised” which means contacting the Legalisation Office.

Details of how to do this are at THIS LINK.

Right, here’s where the fun starts(!)
You can’t just send your documents and get them legalised.
Oh no, that would be far too easy!

Before you can get school reports or certificates legalised, you have to get them “certified, signed and dated by a practicing UK Solicitor / Public Notary before submission for legalisation.”

Whatever you do, don’t assume that any solicitor or lawyer can do this either.
Oh no, that would be far too easy!

It needs to be, ideally, someone on a specific register as a Notary, and not all lawyers/solicitors are. You can use someone who isn’t, but this will considerably delay the process as the Legalisation Office will then have to verify that the person is qualified to certify, rather than just checking their signature on the register.


So, you’ll be getting those documents certified first then.

Be warned, it’s also HIGHLY likely that, before you can get them certified, the solicitor may also need to contact the school itself to get proof that the reports are genuine. You see how this goes, right? So you might find yourself needing a covering, official letter from the school, declaring that the reports are genuine and true also.
This is what we are waiting for now. Typically, of course, it’s Easter holidays so the chances of getting any response from the school until after 22nd are slim to none.

On the plus side, often a solicitor will handle the whole Legalisation process for you, eliminating the need to “to-and-fro” a bit.

After all that (school, then solicitor, then Legalisation Office), you might actually get your school documents back in your hands!

But you’re not done yet. Now they need translating!

Some schools/authorities will insist that this is done by an official translator. Some don’t insist this but then come back later on and ask for it, so don’t assume that, because they didn’t ask at the beginnning, it might not necessary.

Now you need to get your stamped and legalised reports to a translator and get them translated and, of course, stamped.
THEN, school might be happy with them!

Fortunately for us, school had asked us for official translations to begin with, so we’d done that.

It’s a costly process: getting all those “stamps”.


Solicitor will probably charge upwards of £100 and to get documents legalised is £30 per document (although what constitutes “a document”, I’m not 100% sure!), then of course, there’s the cost of translation which, if I recall correctly, can be €15-30 per page/document.

Some schools probably won’t ask for it all. Some might require everything doing at the start. Some might come back four years later and then say that it is urgent!

We’re in the process of getting ours certified and legalised now.

It takes as long as it takes.
If it’s weeks, it’s weeks.
School will have to wait. There’s nothing we can do to speed it up.

Meantime, if you can’t find me, I’m under this lot!

Drowning in Portuguese red tape



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Something I’ve learned this week: NEVER get too comfortable!

I swear that, no sooner do you say out loud that things seem settled, something will come along and kick you in the shins.

And surprise, surprise, if that “something” isn’t school!

As regular readers will know (well, if you’ve been reading since “the beginning” anyway),  when we moved in 2010, getting the kids sorted at school was one of our biggest nightmares.
I mean, it would be, wouldn’t it? It’s one of the most important!

We thought we’d done as we were asked. We got all English school reports (including an extra letter from the school says “Child A passed/failed” which they INSISTED on) officially translated (at significant cost!), got vaccinations up-to-date and obtained what seemed like every piece of documentation under the sun and, eventually, they seemed happy.

You know how they say never count your chickens until they’ve hatched?
Well, turns out these eggs have a FOUR YEAR incubation period!

This one made me giggle!

This one made me giggle!

Yesterday, I got a call from the secretary at the head school of the Agrupamento. She informed us that we should have had our original UK school reports officially “stamped” as well as translated. As far as I can understand, it’s so that it legitimises the report (ie. verifies that it’s from a genuine bone fide UK school and not something we knocked up on the internet.)
I get that, I do. What irks me is being asked for it NOW, not four years ago.


Well, because NOW, it’s urgent. Urgent because both boys have exams and could potentially move schools this year.

So it’s urgent now.
Of course it is.

So now I’m to-ing and fro-ing from British Embassy departments to Ministry of Education and other Consular departments.

School wasn’t 100% sure which (of their many hundreds of them) stamp I needed, just that it needed  to come from the Consulate. The British Embassy are fairly certain it’s the Legalisation department that I need, to get the UK school reports stamped as official, but asked me to check with the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education couldn’t give me someone to whom I could speak English, so I gave up and emailed instead. Not holding my breath there!

I’m now waiting for the Legalisation Office, whose phone line is only operative between midday and 4pm – what?, to open so I can find out what I need to do next.

Seems as though we’ll need to send all the documents (originals, of course) to their Milton Keynes office for processing. At a cost, of course.

Meantime, we’re all stressed now.

Boys aren’t stressed enough though.
They need to study and won’t. In a nutshell, if they don’t study, they’re going to fail. Maybe then they will realise. Perhaps it’s what they need: to fail. For purely selfish reasons, I’d prefer Eliot to pass so he can move to the school around the corner from us and cut out a twice-daily school run. If Jake passes (big IF. Very big if) he will move to one of the Secundaria schools in town, depending on what he wants to study. That’s a whole OTHER can of worms which, while I’d love to discuss and share, right now I just can’t be bothered.

So anyway, yeah.

I guess the moral of the story is “Don’t get too comfy”.



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Can you believe it? I’m actually on Z!
I’ve done the entire alphabet, in order, and it’s taken me a little over TWO YEARS to do so. How’s that for sticking power?

Here’s A. Remember that? Seems like a lifetime ago.

As you can imagine, it’s been difficult finding a suitable word for my Z topic. The English language really doesn’t have too many Z words and, while being able to use Portuguese afforded me a bit more choice, it was still pretty tricky.

I actually decided to cheat a bit a lot! I’m not actually going to DO a word for Z!

We’ve covered a lot of ground during this challenge, and I suppose it’s a fair reflection of how our lives have been since we made the leap across Europe in 2010.

There have been highs and lows, laughter and tears, sunshine and… well, more sunshine (but it does occasionally rain too!)

Lagos Marina – regular followers will probably recognise it!

As we approach our 4 year anniversary in Portugal, it seems to have gone so fast yet, at the same time, seems like we have been here forever.

Eliot has grown from being a 6-year-old to being a strong, independent 10-year-old: definitely his own person!


Eliot aged 6!

Jake aged 10! This photo makes me laugh so much. He actually used to be cute and funny!


Eliot aged 10 can usually be found outside playing…

or dressed up…

Or just generally being cool!

Jake aged 14 is a rarely-photographed beast! This one was taken in Gibraltar during a very rare forced moment away from technology!

This is a much more usual sight nowadays!

How things change in 4 years!

But it’s not all bad. The boys have grown, become independent and have all the freedom they could ever want to play out, visit friends etc (even if one of those boys isn’t remotely interested!)

I’m pretty certain we’ve probably reached a “point of no return” though. Switching back to the UK would be harder than staying right now, even if only from a schooling point of view.

What they decide to do, once they leave school, is anybody’s guess.

Maybe they’ll stay, maybe they’ll return to England, but one thing’s for sure, it’s been an adventure so far!

I seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee you!!


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I am actually making headway with my “Z is for…” post, but this just dropped into my inbox, and I thought I would share.

So, little bit to wait before my “Personal A to Z of Portugal” journey is done.

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Now, I must thank my teenager for the topic of my “Y is for” post, because there is no way in a million years that I’d ever have come up with it!
He said it in jest, but as soon as he did, I thought, “Yes! Perfect!”

Y is for YOLO

Some people have, I think, a natural leaning towards “going for it”, whatever ‘it’ happens to be. Some people, however, have an inbuilt caution – a fear, perhaps – of doing anything out of the ordinary; of putting themselves out there and taking a chance.

Even as kids, there’s a split. Mine, for example, are very much 50/50. I have one go-getter and one who definitely is not (oddly, the one who gave me YOLO!)

I spent most of my life playing it safe. Since getting married, we had never even lived outside our settled area, but every time we holidayed, we were taunted by what else is out there. I don’t just mean in a “grass is greener” sense. Everywhere can look idyllic and wonderful when you’re only on holiday there for a fortnight. You don’t get to see the mundane, every day life of a place which could quite easily be just as dull, boring and humdrum as the grass you have right there at home.

I think that’s what makes making a decision to actually leave your “safe zone” so hard. You really don’t KNOW that anything is going to be any better until you actually GET there. You have to research, weigh up, make your decision and commit with a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude.

Sure, it’s scary. Sure, it might not be as wonderful and perfect as you hoped. Sure, there’ll be days when you wonder what on earth you were thinking, but there might just be days, weeks, months or years when you know you did the right thing; when you look out of the window and see your kids playing with the local children (yeah, ok, so anybody who knows us will know this would only ever apply to ONE of our boys!), chattering away in their now-fluent second language as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
New friends are made, both in and out of school.

Eliot’s birthday trip to Aqualand with his schoolfriend André

Eliot playing with local kids at the Skate Park

You’ll find yourself sitting outside a cafe, in the middle of winter, with a cold beer or a coffee, imagining how different it would be if you hadn’t made that move.

Late November at the Marina

and ice creams in January

Or playing on the beach in February, stripped down to t shirts as if summer had arrived.

Yes, it really was February!

Having visitors is a treat that we never really had in the UK. We enjoy even more days out when they are shared with friends and family.

Nik’s cousin Andy (and Nik’s Mum) during Andy’s 40th birthday visit last year

My mad sister!

And not forgetting the wonderful friends that we ourselves have made since our arrival here.


So yes, maybe it’ll be the right choice or maybe it’ll be a big mistake, but one thing’s for certain, if you don’t try it you’ll NEVER know. Can you live with that?


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Not my original choice.
Not even my second original choice.
But something I decided might be a little bit different.

X is for Xenophobia

flagsSomething everybody probably considers (or certainly should!), before moving to a completely different country, is how they will be accepted by the locals; the people who become neighbours; colleagues; friends and possibly even family.

It would be naive, I think, to expect everybody to welcome you with open arms, particularly if you are coming over looking for work. In a time when local unemployment is high, nobody is going to appreciate “the foreigners” who come in “taking locals’ jobs”.

Sound familiar?

Regardless of whether it affects you or not, it’s a sentiment that is difficult to get away from in the media in ANY country.

Obviously, we are in the fortunate position of not needing local jobs so this isn’t something we have experienced here, but I would imagine that it happens here just as it does anywhere else.

We are also fortunate that we have never really experienced any form of xenophobia or prejudice based on the fact that we are English living in Portugal.

People have been, on the whole, very friendly and accommodating. The Portuguese are a sociable lot anyway, and even as we struggle along with the language, we find ourselves welcomed in by people who will often go out of their way to speak to us in our native language rather than theirs.

Sure, there have been (many) times when “Fala Inglês?” has been met with a po-faced “Não!” (often followed by fast-paced Portuguese on their part and mindless nodding on mine!) but even when there have been clear language barriers, we have never been made to feel unwelcome or alienated.

confusedJake’s first head of year, when we moved here, spoke little English (school teachers who don’t speak English cause me the most fear because it’s such an important thing to be discussing: schooling, and I’d hate to misinterpret something!) but he was very enthusiastic about having Jake in his class at a time when it was absolutely CRUCIAL that Jake be welcomed in. He (the teacher) went out of his way to speak to us in English, helping both us (as new arrivals in the country) and himself (wanting to improve his language skills) and spent considerable time ensuring that Jake understood what he needed to in their classes together (he was the science teacher). It was lovely, and it really made a difference.

Some teachers are more old school, of course. Eliot’s first teacher (she’s been mentioned before!) was a formidable force of nature. I kid you not! She spoke (or claimed as such, anyway) no English whatsoever so meetings between us were terrifying (I can only imagine how Eliot felt!)

Having said that, at no point did I ever feel that she held our lack of language skills against me or, more importantly, Eliot. We still see Professora Ana on a fairly regular basis (she teaches a class at Eliot’s current school) and she still scares the bejesus out of me, but she’s lovely really. Friendly and approachable, even in the face of my pigeon Portuguese!

Now, I suppose all of the above is helped by the fact that we live in a tourist area. The locals, in general, are used to being amongst English (and Germans and Dutch and Aussies and many more!) and I am sure that the fact that we actually live here goes unnoticed by many in our day to day life.
It is entirely possible that it would be very different if we had moved to a small village in the hills. I can’t speak for those people. I’m sure there are communities where “outsiders” or “immigrants” (which is what we are!) are ostracised, particularly as not everybody who moves to a different country is quite so mindful of their new locale.

I am certain that there will be pockets of English who live like they are still in England (I’m choosing the English just as an example. Not because other nations are not guilty of this also)They make little or no effort to learn or speak the local language, they don’t socialise beyond their little group of English friends, and they wouldn’t be seen dead eating the local cuisine.

It happens in England, right? I have no doubts that it probably happens here too, and in these cases you could argue that the locals would have every right to feel somewhat resentful. It puts out an erroneous impression though, both of the English and of the Portuguese, and it’s a shame. But, I suppose, it happens world over.

At the end of the day, if you move to a new place with the intention to RESPECT that country, its traditions and its locals, I am fairly certain that you will usually be welcomed openly.

Certainly in the Algarve, we have encountered very little prejudice against us for being English. We have made an effort to get out and make friends, to learn the language and to generally get along.

That’s what life’s about, right?

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Goodness knows, I’ve asked myself that a lot since we moved here in July 2010.

There’s no denying that moving to a different country with children is a very difficult thing to do. However much you tell yourself you’re doing it for “the greater good”, there are worries and doubts at every step of the way.

Obviously, these doubts and worries are not helped by plunging those children into a foreign language school environment. In fact, I think that language is, and probably always will be, our number one hurdle.


There is only so much preparation you can do before moving to a foreign country. You can visit and research local areas, amenities, schools etc. What you can’t do, unless you happen to be fluent in a second language already (that’s you AND your family, of course) is remove the language barrier completely. Some basic language skills in advance are a good thing, of course, but they really won’t prepare you for what it’s like to be surrounded by it 24/7!

I’d be lying if I said that our boys’ education hasn’t suffered in some way. Jake used to be a Maths whizz in his UK school. Now he struggles, even in this subject. His first 2 years here, he actually did really well. He passed both years and seemed to be doing ok. He’s been having one-on-one Portuguese lessons at home, for an hour a week, for around 18 months now and these have definitely helped. Jake has gone from “I am NEVER speaking Portuguese” to being (or claiming to be) fairly confident. He says he doesn’t feel that way any more. That’s definitely a step in the right direction.

In his first term of year 8, however, it seemed like we’d taken huge steps backwards. He went from only failing the “least likely to scrape through” subjects, to failing, well, nearly all of them! 6 negatives on his end of term report were a real shock. They’ve prompted change though and I’m hopeful that the changes we’ve made will help. His end of second term report will tell us, I suppose.

Eliot is also struggling. He was held back last year and remains in year 3. This was a good thing really because he needs the extra time in the lower classes and his teacher tells us he has improved a fair bit. There’s no denying his verbal Portuguese skills are confident but reading and writing lags behind. His reading in English, however, is very good (something which bemuses us because nobody has actually taught him this!) and that’s reassuring. His Portuguese reading will catch up. Now he just needs to learn to spell. Either language would be good!

Jake’s last report plunged me into doubt and regret, of course, and renewed all the “are we doing the right thing?” feelings. I actually ran through my mind how returning to the UK could be better. For Jake, perhaps the move back wouldn’t be a problem in his education (in fact, the stuff he’s learning/studying here is far beyond the UK equivalent school curriculum) but it would be a huge problem for Eliot. When we moved here, Eliot was held back a year. He was also held back again last year. This means he is currently in year 3 (which, in Portugal, isn’t a problem as there are many 9 year olds in year 3) but his UK “peers” and old school friends are in year 5. Even if we returned to the UK next school year, he’d be at least 2 years behind everyone he knew and that can’t be a good thing.

Does that make me feel any better? Does it hell?!

It’s not just the kids that throw up doubts and worries, of course. Work is a constant fear. Running our own business remotely puts a lot of pressure on. There’s no steady income. If we don’t get sales, we don’t make money and, if we don’t make money, we can’t transfer it here to live on! We don’t make a huge amount of money (we pretty much live off our 2 minimum director’s salaries here) but  we still have to cover that transfer each month. Most months, it’s OK. Some months, the quiet ones (and don’t all businesses have those?!) are quite unnerving. As anybody who relies on this sort of self-employed income will know, it’s hard and a constant worry.

Oh hell, that really sounds like it’s all doom and gloom! It’s not of course. Aside from money worries and kids, everything is fine!

*insert maniacal panicked laughter here*

There’s a fine line between worrying unnecessarily and sticking your head in the sand.

Here, have a sunny photo to brighten things up!

My beautiful boy. January 2013

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