Reverse Culture Shock

It’s been a long time since I posted. I spent almost 2 months back in the U.S. before returning back home to Estombar, Portugal. Here’s a quick synopsis of my time in the U.S.

  1. SoCal and Idaho trip
  2. Las Vegas
  3. Charleston
  4. Finger Lakes, New York
  5. Portland, Maine
  6. Boston, Mass.
  7. Cape Cod & Returning home to my vineyard!

This first post in the series will recount my initial time in SoCal, a quick trip to Idaho and my initial shock at the difference in everyday costs.

On July 14th, arrived at the Faro, Portugal airport about 8:00 to take a COVID test. I passed and boarded my British Airways flight to London Heathrow and to my final destination in Los Angeles. I arrived later that same evening, albeit after 20 hours or so of travel.

Lunch near Praia da Rocha – restaurant ‘A Casa da Rocha’

First a little background. In December 2020, I applied for my Portuguese D7 visa through an online portal. In January of 2021, I visited the VSF office in San Francisco and turned in my documents live. Later that month I left Southern California for a cross country road trip to Charleston, South Carolina. In February, while in Charleston, I received my visa and departed the U.S. on March 1st. I arrived on March 2nd and came straight down to the Algarve. I stayed on the vineyard which is now my new home, but at the time my place wasn’t ready yet and I was occupying another apartment on the vineyard. Because of the delays caused by COVID, the certificate of occupancy for the new villa wouldn’t be available until August 2021, but I didn’t know that in March. Portugal was in a lockdown when I arrived and slowly started to open in mid-April. I had my immigration appointment in late June in Lisbon. I passed and was authorized to stay in Portugal as a resident. Yeah! My residency is valid for 2 years, until June of 2023. Very exciting. I toured Lisbon that same week and then spent 2 weeks in Porto before finally taking a trip back home to see friends and family. Since I wasn’t sure when the occupancy permits would become available for the villa, I decided to stay in the states a couple of months.

My base in SoCal was a very nice condo in Mission Viejo rented through a friend of a friend. The owner of the condo was in Idaho, which we will visit later.

I ended up renting a car through Turo because the traditional car rental companies were asking about $100 USD per day due to the car shortage experienced as a result of COVID lockdowns and the damage it did to infrastructure and business in general. The rental through Turo was about 1/2 the price and this included a bit of extra insurance I purchased through Turo. In case those reading are not aware of Turo, it’s sort of the “Airbnb” of the car rental world. It’s a car sharing program in most major U.S. cities as well as Toronto and London. Not getting any kickbacks but I had a great experience and would do it again depending on how competitive it is relative to the car rental companies when I visit the U.S.

Rafting in Idaho

Primary purpose of my time in SoCal was to visit family and friends but the side note of that was also to get a bit of travel in. The first was a short 3 day trip to Idaho. I’d never been to Idaho before, not even flying through. Southwest had a great non-stop from Orange County to Boise. The friend that owns the condo in Mission Viejo picked us up on Boise and took us back to her place about 2 hours north of Boise! So she drove down 2 hours to get us and then drove the 2 hours to get back to her place. She also did this when she took us back a few days later. Super nice.

Lake Cascade – front yard

The cabin we stayed was right on Lake Cascade. We had a great time at the cabin; talking, drinking wine and munching on tasty nibbles. Something we did which did not involve relaxing but having fun was a river rafting adventure. I had never done this before but I had a blast. It’s not something I would have done on my own and I was glad it was arranged for me and I just had to go along. We also went to The Cutwater on Payette Lake and had a great lunch.

Price per gallon, Southern California, in USD – July 2021

It was great seeing family and friends. It was SHOCKING to see how much gasoline prices were in SoCal as well as the high price of everything compared with Portugal. I must say, gas in Portugal is more expensive than in the U.S. Gas here is about $1.50 USD per liter and it’s almost 4 liters to make a gallon. But, I don’t have a car here yet so this one doesn’t get me that much. Plus, the whole country of Portugal is about the size of Indiana so the distances are not that much. My biggest expense in Portugal is my mortgage at about $550 USD per month and after that, is my luxurious spend on food and booze. Typically about 50 Euros a week or about $65 USD. I don’t like to go out that much as I normally like the wine and booze I bartend and my own cooking vs. eating out, but when I eat out in the Algarve, I spend about 20 Euros on a nice lunch. This typically includes a couple of glasses of wine and a nice meal. This also normally includes kick ass views of the sea. If I didn’t have the sea view, I’m pretty sure I could spend closer to 10 Euros. As in most places around the world, a view will cost you.

That $30 California Rib-eye

But back in the U.S. while I was staying at the condo in Mission Viejo, I spent almost $30USD (35 EU) on 1 steak! (today, $1USD = 1.17 EUR) or roughly 1/2 of my whole week’s worth of groceries in Portugal. We should also note that I am in one of the most “expensive” parts of Portugal. The first is Lisbon and then one could probably argue that the Algarve is more expensive than Porto. I certainly think that most of the year the rents are pretty equivalent but I found that the restaurants in the area of the Algarve I am located (Portimao/Estombar) are also pretty equivalent to what I spent in Porto. At least in the types of restaurants I like with either a view, in the Algarve, or nice setting/modern, in Porto, the restaurants seem to be pretty close in price.

I paid 30 Euros for that rapid COVID test I took at Faro airport in Portugal and would later pay $200 USD for the rapid test in Boston before returning. Just another example of the price differences between the US and Portugal. It’s one reason I chose to relocate but it was shocking to see it in action.

Next week we’ll go to Vegas, baby!


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