Moving Experience Interview: From the US to Portugal

July 23 2020, M. Rodríguez

We recently interviewed Maile, who told us all about her experience moving from the United States all the way to the beautiful and sunny country of Portugal. Read on to find out what she had to say!

To start – tell us a bit about yourself! 

I’m a mental health professional based in the US but I have now moved to Portugal to be with my partner and to hopefully get access to the clients that I want here. Since I moved here, I have been focused on starting off my career once more.

What were the most exciting aspects about Portugal that motivated you to pack-up everything and just leave the US?

To be honest, being with my partner was the main reason for my move. And as well, the fact that Portugal is a beautiful country. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a huge amount of time to enjoy all of the perks Portugal is known for. I haven’t been able to experience the coffee culture, the surfing, the beaches and so many celebrations because of COVID-19. But I really look forward to the upcoming years!

When did you start planning your move?

I would say I started planning my move seriously in December of 2019.

What would you say were your first thoughts about moving? Were you concerned, excited or a little bit of both? 

I think a bit of both. I would definitely say I was really excited because I’ve always wanted to live abroad. My degree was in International Disaster Psychology, so it’s always been an interest of mine to work and live abroad. I never thought it would be in Portugal per se, but I was also excited to start a life with my partner here and just experience new things, be in a new place.

But I was definitely nervous as well! There are a lot of laws and regulations in mental health, and I heard a lot of rumors about the bureaucracy in Portugal and how it’s not the easiest place to jump through all the hoops regarding starting your career –so I was nervous about what that would look like in reality. Also, I was obviously nervous about learning another language.

We know that moving usually requires a ridiculous amount of research. From your perspective, what were the things you considered to be important to research before moving? 

For me it was more about the legal aspects, sort of the CYA — looking into what I had to make sure that I’ve done before moving abroad. For example, I found out it was important for me to have international healthcare, so looking into that was definitely on the list of things to do. And specially anything that I thought would help me make sure I would secure a residency here, so making sure I was doing things right so that I wouldn’t have any problems in the future.

Also, I would definitely be looking for a location or a spot if it weren’t for my partner already doing that. I would say that for me it was a bit of a unique situation. I didn’t carry out as much research as one might because my partner was taking care of a lot of things here and finding temporary solutions in the assumption that we would work everything else out when I got here.

Tram in Lisbon

From the thousands of moving companies out there, how did you end up choosing yours? 

I think my biggest contemplations were price and the amount of time that it was going to take for my things to get here. I was definitely looking for something that wasn’t going to take three months on a boat potentially. Because when I was packing, I really had to think a lot about what I was going to need right when I got to Portugal, what can I wait three months for, etc.

Baggage Hub initially had a very attractive offer. They seemed to have the lowest prices for what they were offering, and they also guaranteed a 10-day delivery and I thought “Well wow, that’s fabulous!”, it really sounded ideal. They gave me an initial price and on the basis of that and the timeframe I chose them –I mainly focused on what companies had to offer for what price.

Which service level did you choose?

I chose the door-to-door service.

What were things you didn’t realize you had to prepare before your move? 

As far as collecting my stuff, one thing I had thought about but I didn’t really know much about was the customs process. We actually did get everything deliver to our house so we didn’t have to deal much with customs, but understanding what it means when, for example, you see that your stuff has landed but it’s not actually at your home yet, or what the processing system is like and such.

In regards to life here, I do think that COVID-19 threw a lot of changes in both my life and move that I couldn’t really anticipate. My partner and I both went through job changes because of it, and that affected our lifestyle and so on –but it was all unforeseen. Maybe a little thing that does come to mind is that in Colorado, you have to have your dog leashed when you take it on a walk –it’s a law and it’s pretty strictly enforced. Here, I’m not sure if it’s a law or not, but there are certainly a lot of dogs running around without leashes that just come up to you. So that’s something I had to get used to.

Belem Tower, Lisbon Portugal

Even though we know it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, there’s definitely a lot of admin work that needs to be done beforehand. What kind of admin work did you carry out?

Since I moved with my pet, I had to do quite some admin work on regards to that, but the process ran quite smoothly. It was definitely stressful though, I had to get a lot of paperwork and it was not a cheap process. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s not planning a permanent move –it was over $200 to just get a piece of paper allowing him to travel into Europe.

I also had to inform my bank that I was leaving, otherwise they would have definitely stopped my credit card if I was randomly spending money in Portugal, but that was just a simple phone call. In terms of taxes, I have a very good friend who does my taxes and I told her that I was moving and she agreed to figure out the situation for me  –so I didn’t have to worry too much about that. Also, even though I didn’t do this before I moved, I did have to change my voter registration and request an absentee ballot after arriving.

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Packing up your entire life into a few boxes is definitely something that requires some serious organization skills. How did you find the packing process in general? How did you decide what to bring and what not to bring?

It’s a tough process. In terms of what to bring and what to leave, there are obviously some things that are easy, that is just make or break such as your clothes –you know that you will always need your clothes. But even then, I still had to leave some clothes behind after considering the climate I was moving to –that’s something you definitely need to keep in mind.

One thing I thought a lot about was medicine as well, because I know medicines can be very different across countries –so this is something I really thought about when deciding what to bring. I also recommend that if there’s any product that you really love that you definitely bring it along with you, because there’s no guarantee that the country you’re moving to will have it.

On a side note, I was sad to find that you couldn’t take plants from the US to Europe, so I had to leave all my babies behind and re-home them. In terms of furniture, I was lucky enough that I didn’t have a huge amount of furniture to think about. But even with what I had, for me bringing along most things didn’t make financial sense. The things that I considered important to bring with me were things that I care for and that have some meaning to me. There are a few outlines in, but I would say that the overall packing process ran smoothly even though it was tough.

Large garden in Lisbon, Portugal

Now to the real exciting part, tell us all about your move! Did everything go according to plan?

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. I think the first issue I had that I was really surprised by was that I found out, after signing an agreement for my move with Baggage Hub, that they had a lot of restrictions on what I could pack. They stated they don’t ship jewelry, kitchen knives (I love cooking, so this was really important for me), lotions and such. My thought process originally was that I wanted to ship as many things as possible to keep my luggage light because of the weight restrictions –so there were a lot of personal items that I had to consider leaving behind.

They also informed me that my move would only go through their company, and then all of the sudden I’m talking to TNT who was then working through FedEx –it was just confusing to me. This wasn’t made clear to me in the beginning and it was hard to readjust. It would’ve been fine if they would’ve told me about this, I understand that they only have a certain reach. But you definitely have to inform the person about this. The process just became much more complicated that it was stated it would be.

From there on, it was just mostly the lack of communication. They did a really poor job updating their shipping portal, so I never really knew where my stuff was or what was happening with it. There was never any communication on whether it was COVID-19 what was causing the delays with my shipment –it seemed like my stuff was sitting on warehouses for weeks on end. I called and called customer service, and emailed them over 20 times and only ever saw things moving when I directly emailed the manager. My biggest frustration overall was that I didn’t get compensated for the extra time everything took, it wasn’t really until weeks later that the manager actually fixed the issue.

I knew an international move was going to be difficult, I had a feeling that it could take longer or that things could get damaged. You have to know that it’s always a possibility, but when there’s no communication about it or just a lack of overall sense it made me feel like there was never investment from their side.

Streets of Lisbon during the sunset

Are you master of chaos or is chaos master of you: What are 3 tips that you think could help others make their moving day less chaotic? 

I would definitely ask about all the companies involved in the process. I think I had a little bit too much faith in the system, and assumed that because I was paying the company they would take care of everything as they should. So, my number one tip would be don’t be afraid to be the “annoying” person who asks a lot of questions. Force them to outline the costs and actual moving process step by step so you know what you’re walking into.

I also recognize that this isn’t always possible, but if you can connect with someone who has done this before, someone who has been through an international or national move or someone who works at a moving company I would recommend talking to them directly and asking them questions. I think first-hand sources are where you can get a lot of valuable information.

As much as possible, give yourself sufficient time to plan the logistics of the move realistically. I didn’t really give myself very long to do such, I was working full-time and finishing up other projects so I wasn’t able to dedicate the time and the effort to really making the right decision. So, I would say that you should ensure to set aside time to do the research, even if that means that it takes you two years to make the move. It’s exhausting and it’s tiring but I think it does make for less surprises along the way.

Let’s talk money: Did your move cost as much as you thought? If not, what made the cost higher?

Based on the original cost, Baggage Hub originally quoted me $800. To be fair to them, they did tell me that depending on taxes or other delays it could cost more. So, they ended up charging me another $400 via taxes and that wasn’t explicit, because to me taxes should’ve been a part of the original quote.

How long did it take for your things to arrive? Was this according to plan?

There was a delay in my shipping, my things arrived almost a month after they should have.

Lisbon skyline at night

What was something you wish you had known before you moved?  

Make sure that you really know the residency regulations. For example, I found out here that once you start the application for residency you can’t leave the country until the process is over. I was planning on visiting my family in November, and now I won’t be able to. It’s partially because of COVID-19 but also because of the process. It’s not like you can’t leave, but if you want to continue the residency process then you have to be here. Make sure that you know little guidelines like that which can make changes in your plans. Also, give yourself some leniency with things not going according to plan –don’t be too strict with plans.

And last question: What is your favorite Portuguese dish?

I really like the salted cod here; they have a lot of different dishes with that. My boyfriend is a great cook so I get spoiled. But I also really like the squid they have here, and fries. That has definitely been my go-to recently.

Thank you so much Maile for taking the time to answer these few questions. We wish you the best of luck in your new home! 🙂 

If you are still unsure whether you should move from the US to Portugal with the help of a moving company, we recommend that you request a moving quote on Sirelo and evaluate different offers. As well, you might also be interested in the following articles regarding international moves:

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