Brave or Bonkers?

How the hell did we get to this point????

Let me start by saying that moving to another country is a lot easier said than done, especially if you are doing it all on your own (i.e. without the help and support of an army of corporate relocation experts and resources). It sounds very romantic and exciting to say that you are going to move to Portugal to have an adventure, but the process, time, energy, and money to get there strips away all of that and is quickly replaced with a lot of research, a steep learning curve, incredible amounts of patience, perseverance, and planning. Our hope is that once we are there and settled, the romance and excitement returns.

We are just weeks away from January 12, 2020 – the day we fly to Lisbon and start this wild and crazy adventure. It’s odd to realize that it’s so close. We started this journey when Won, my husband of 20 years, fell in love with San Sebastian, Spain when we were there in September of 2018. He said he wanted to move there and if you know Won, then you know that once he sets his mind to something he typically follows through. In his professional career he’s served in the US Army (101st Airborne) and the Los Angeles Police force, became a Certified Public Accountant, worked as a revenue agent for the US Internal Revenue Service, became a baseball agent (signing 2 players with the Philadelphia Phillies), started his own accounting firm, and was the regional director of Fashion Group International, Los Angeles I put the kibosh on his plan to open a bank in Costa Rica.

So, when he said he wanted to move to Spain, I should have taken it just a bit more seriously, but the reality of that seemed so remote, I just told him, “Sure! Sounds like fun!” We returned home and I fell back into my work routine, but as the year came to a close, it was obvious that major changes were going to be taking place at J&J where I had worked for nearly 7 years. Won threw himself into learning about Spain and we fantasized about moving there. Our conversations on the subject were more fun and escapist for me, but Won was taking it more seriously. He prefers to always have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan C1, Plan C2, etc. ready to go. As his research progressed, he learned that the tax situation in Spain wasn’t optimal. Being the finance guy that he is, he’s always looking for a way to optimize our financial situation. Then we had dinner in mid-April of 2019 with friends who are originally from Brazil. Carla and I worked together at J&J. Her husband Adelino works in the finance industry and his parents are originally from Portugal. Over dinner Adelino casually remarks that we could live in Portugal for up to 10 years, without paying local taxes, on a non-habitual residency visa. I thought Won’s neck was going to snap based on how quickly his head whipped around. We barely made it in the front door after dinner that night before Won began his research. Sure enough, we could, indeed, apply for such a visa and live there for up to 10 years without paying local taxes. This changed everything.

We had never been to Portugal nor really spent any time focused on it. Our research has helped us learn what a gem it is! It has rebounded admirably from the 2008 global recession, which means we are not quite arriving when prices are super low, however, the cost of living generally is still far more affordable than other European capitals. Other surprising facts are that Portugal receives 300 days of sunshine a year and annual temps are quite comfortable – especially compared to New Jersey. It is one of the safest countries on the planet. Lisbon is the second oldest capital in Europe, after Athens (it is older than Rome by 400 years!). The people are incredibly welcoming and kind. The food is great and it is easy to navigate the country as the transportation infrastructure is very good. It’s a really good location to get to and from anywhere in Europe or to the USA (it’s a 7 hour flight from Newark to Lisbon).

Then, in mid-May, I learned that my position was being eliminated in mid-June along with thousands of others in a significant shake up within the consumer division at J&J. I was at a place in my career that allowed me to retire, so that’s what happened. I said my goodbyes and we got the house ready to sell. We had already planned to take a river cruise in July with friends so we tacked on a trip to Lisbon since we had never been there. We spent 4 days exploring the city and checking out places we had learned about on line. It cemented our plans to move there. We returned at the end of July, put the house on the market and received a full price offer the very next day. Well…that was fast!! Plans just got kicked into overdrive!

Because we didn’t know when the house would sell, we held back applying for our visas because they are only good for 120 days once you have them. We made an appointment with the Portuguese consulate in Newark the week we returned from our river cruise and learned that 2 new elements were now required to be submitted with the visa application. I’ll be covering that in my next update.

Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

11 thoughts on “Brave or Bonkers?

  1. So far, really fascinating and you’re already answering a lot of questions I had! Thanks so much for sharing the story with us!!


  2. Great start! So how do you handle healthcare on a 10 year non habitual residency visa? If I point Lynne towards your blog she will start packing…


    1. I’m going to address health care costs in another post in the not-too-distant future. You won’t believe how inexpensive and good it is!! It’s one of the main reasons we are moving there. We know of a family of 4 whose monthly premiums are $125/month – for PRIVATE insurance. Are you still breathing??


  3. What an adventure! We enjoyed Lisbon and Cintra about 30 years ago and met some wonderful young attorneys from Lisbon 9 years ago. The citizens are indeed genuinely friendly. Good for you to challenge yourselves with this major move. I’ll look forward to learning about your adventures as they unfold.


  4. Wow !!! Thanks for sharing and keep us informed . Best to you both . Marj & Randy . As you know we did move countries and all with help ( thank goodness ) . China & USA . Marj can add Canada from Holland to that list back in ‘53 as immigrants and that wasn’t easy ( as you note ). Keep up the good work . Rocket 🚀 & Marj

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beth – Thank you so much for all your posts. My husband and I are in the initial planning stage of moving from Dallas, TX to CasCais. We need lots of help – starting at the very basics (finding a place to sent for a year or more – a great real estate agent or person who can help, lawyer to read all the legal documents, etc.), cost of moving, cost of living, recommendations all including “avoid this”, “do this”, “watch out for this” etc. All the “things” that wouldn’t make a list if moving in the U.S. or being temporarily relocated overseas by a company. If you know of any websites or places I can find this information let me know. The places I’ve checked on the internet, etc for information are outdated or vary to widely on the same information that it’s more than difficult to determine a range costs/trade offs. Thanks for you help and patience since I’m sure you’ve been asked these questions many times before.


    1. Hi Pam (I think I replied to your husband, Mark a bit ago after he left a comment on my most recent post). Happy to connect with you as well! It can be overwhelming to think about all the elements of a move like this, but research is the best place to start – we did this all on our own too and managed it successfully. I’ll do my best to answer your questions. I would put you in touch with Marta Alegria of Keller Williams (I mentioned this to Mark in my reply to him). We never used a lawyer, but Marta can refer you to one. I’ll send you an email separately so I can get yours and Mark’s phone numbers to enable that connection. Cost of moving – that will depend on a lot of factors and I’m not sure I can provide any useful information other than, if you ship anything here, be sure you get a document from the Portuguese Consulate allowing you to bring those items into the country without paying taxes on them (read my post “Holy Ship! for details). I’m just about ready to post more on what we have gone through to bring one of our cars. Cost of living can vary widely. Much depends on your personal preferences, but these might be helpful: fuel is very expensive here (refer to my post “I Have a Question” for details), healthcare is 90% LESS than what we paid in the US for private health insurance (refer to my post “The Cost and Quality of Healthcare for more details), car insurance will run you 45 to 70 Euros per month, cell phones and Internet fees are about 20% less than the US, food costs can be a lot less or the same depending on where you shop and what you eat. Local restaurants are very affordable and there are expensive places to eat too. Our overall cost of living is about half the cost of what we were spending in the US, but we live in an apartment now vs a 4000 SF home on 2 acres of property; however, our quality of life is a lot better here. Hope that helps to get things started.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: