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Why did Bruce Joffe (Founding Publisher – Portugal Living Magazine) decide to move from the USA for good? Check out his expat interview!

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Laila Oliveira

With every expat interview we conduct, we’re blown away by the love Portugal receives from expats. No wonder the Portuguese give it back to them in the form of hospitality and a warm welcome! In this expat interview, we have Bruce Joffe, Founding Publisher – Portugal Living Magazine, tell us why he relocated from the USA after a long search for a good quality of life! 

This recorded interview is also up on our YouTube channel, Viv Europe, where you can hear all about Bruce and his journey from the States to sunny southern Europe. Let’s dive right into the details! 


Guest Introduction

Bruce: My spouse and I moved to Portugal from the United States six years ago. There were a variety of factors. We weren’t comfortable living in the United States. There were too many things going on, politics, crime, money. And I had taken early retirement at 62, and my partner is able to work remotely. And so originally we were thinking of moving to Spain. But Spain, even though we’ve had a vacation home in Spain for 18 years, Spain makes it very, very difficult to get there.

Portugal welcomed us and wanted us there. From the very beginning, our experiences with the Portuguese consulate and the Portuguese embassy in Washington, the people there were wonderful, and it just was relatively smooth. 


Initial Stages Of Moving To Portugal

Victor: Thank you so much for this nice introduction. And you don’t worry about the questions. It’s an open space here. So it’s more like we’re speaking about the experience that you had moving to Portugal. 

Bruce: When we first became residents, you got one residencia, and then you had to renew it for two, and then you had to renew it for another two. And then, after a total of five, you could apply for permanent residency. Or if you wanted to, you could simultaneously, although it’s a totally different operation, apply for nationality for Portuguese citizenship. Well, we got caught in the middle of a change. It changed to 2 plus 3. 

When you come here, before you have that meeting in which you’re granted residency, you have to come over with travel insurance. And there are certain limits, there’s certain amounts that Portugal requires. Then, it’s up to you if you want to buy private health insurance or not. Many people do choose to have it because the system is slow, they are on waiting lists. Especially people coming from other countries they’re used to making an appointment and seeing the doctor the next day if something bothers them. 

One of the things that we learned from this decision to buy private insurance is that private insurance does not cover public facilities. In other words, hospitals are not covered. 

Once you’ve made up your mind that you want to move to Portugal, these are some of the things that, among many others, you want to look into and better understand. And that’s where a group like Viv Europe comes in. You have the facts at your fingertips rather than trusting what a Facebook group might tell you.

Preparing For Mindset Changes

Victor: In Braga, especially when I moved to Braga, it was pretty easy to go to public hospitals. and be with a doctor in a matter of minutes. If I were in an emergency situation, I would go to the hospital, and there was almost no queue. And I was with a doctor very, very easily. But here in Vila Nova de Gaia, for example, it’s another story because it is a much more populated place and you are appointed a médico de família. 

Bruce: Exactly. I think that that’s one of the important things when you’re deciding where you want to live. For instance, you’re going to need to deal with IMT, the Motor Vehicle Department. You’re going to need to deal with Financas. Some people will need to deal with Social Security. 

You cannot email them. You have to make an appointment on the phone. And I know people who have said to me that they have spent days Simply calling, hanging up, calling, hanging up, calling, hanging up. The larger the city, the more benefits you will get if you’re a city person. but then there are also some downsides there, or challenges, let’s put it that way. 

Challenges Faced As An American Expat

Victor: Bruce, this is a very important thing to talk about, and it leads me up to this question. Being an American and talking about bureaucracy as we are, what were the most significant challenges that you think you had to go through when you moved to Portugal? 

Bruce: You need a lot of patience. You just need to be patient and stick with it. Six years ago, it was very different. Six years ago, there were not a number of people, and the sheer magnitude of those who wanted to move to Portugal put a strain on the system. 

So, in our experience moving to Portugal, we had no problems getting our visa on time. We had no problems making an appointment with SEF for our residency. But now, with renewing after already renewing three times, this is the fourth time we’re meeting with them, I had to have our lawyer do it for us. So, anyway, it goes with the flow. It’s part of the Portuguese experience. 

Victor: Bruce, I really think that it’s even more important to make people aware of what they will face in the future than just to say that everything’s just flowers. And I think it’s very important for everyone. 

Cost Of Living In Portugal Vs America 

Victor: Being an American who has lived in Spain for so long, lived in Portugal; how would you describe the cost of living in Portugal? Is it, you know, that expensive or that cheap, as people say? 

Bruce: Well, that depends. It’s the same everywhere, not just Portugal. It’s how you live and where you live. You want to live in Cascais? You want to live in the Algarve? Well, be prepared. The prices have gone up. We’re talking about half a million dollars to a million dollars to buy a house now. 

As I mentioned, I live in a typical Portuguese town, which is what I want. One’s a town, another’s a village. They both have all of the amenities that I like. If you’re looking in a typical Portuguese village, many people I know are coming because they want to do that, or they want to buy and live off the land. You can buy properties. 

We maintain electricity, internet, water, sewer, taxes, and insurance. Everything is covered by my Social Security monthly payment. And my Social Security monthly payment is $2,200 a month. 

So the internet, cell phone, a landline phone, and two televisions in three houses together costs us €125 a month, right? In the United States, you’re talking about $150 to $200 a month for far less service. So the cost of living here is very affordable, very affordable, especially if you come into it without debt. 

Victor: I agree totally, Bruce. As an expat just like you, I could feel the difference between living here with a not-so-high standard of life. I went to Braga, a nice, calm place. And I was able to save money that I would never think about if I was living in Brazil. 

Differences In Healthcare

Bruce: Now, there are some differences, and we have to be very careful when we use the consultation. In my very first experience with the doctor, I had a consult. And the one thing she did was she took my blood pressure, and we talked. Now in the United States, when you have a doctor’s appointment, the doctor is going to examine you, okay? That’s not the same thing here. 

When you have a consult, It’s a consult, and the doctor will either give you a prescription for lab tests, which are covered by insurance, or very inexpensive. Medicines are very, very inexpensive here. They’re subsidized by the government. Whether you have health insurance or not, they’re much cheaper than almost anywhere else that I know. 

Victor: Talking about medical topics, which is a very important one, I think the way that they organize the system is very clever. You are appointed a specific doctor. So when I went here, we had a consultation. I had my background history from Brazil. And since then, this doctor has known me for six years. If I get a cold, he will know all of my history in Portugal. 

Language Barriers

Victor: And did you think there was some kind of a language barrier, not being a Portuguese citizen who speaks Portuguese fluently? Even though I do think that you speak very good Portuguese. 

Bruce: Well, not when I first got here, Victor. When I first got here, as with most people, I’ve gone out of my way. Because I love language and people said to me oh it’ll be easy for you to learn Portuguese because you’re fluent in Spanish

It’s harder for me to speak Spanish because even if I get the vocabulary correct and the words right, the grammar is different. The pronunciation is different. And I’ve had to remove that filter. 

Victor: It’s funny, this kind of situation where our brain gets used to being used in a certain way. To change it, it’s hard. I can relate to that. But I think that just for someone to know Spanish, it isn’t as easy to learn Portuguese. 

Learning Portuguese

Bruce: There are some wonderful markets throughout Portugal, and we love going to markets. Some of them are like flea markets and antique markets, and some of them are everything that sells everything from live animals to fruit and produce and so forth. 

I don’t want to offend my Portuguese people that I’m dealing with, but I want to learn Portuguese. And so after a few things back and forth, I will say to them, , because everyone here speaks English. 

As simple as that is, in terms of Portuguese, you learn by dealing with neighbors, watching television, etc. I read the weekly newspaper in the area where I live. And I’m a car freak. So the cheapest magazine to buy is a monthly called Carros. And I buy Carros every month. And so between all of those things, you know, now I’ve made it a joke with people. Okay, you want to speak English and practice English, I understand that. But we’ll do this. You speak English to me, and I will speak Portuguese to you. And if you make a mistake, I will help you. If I make a mistake, you will help me. That’s a nice exchange. 

Victor: Yeah, you were such a proactive person and I would do the same. I would do the same if I were moving to another country. Actually, for me, being Brazilian, it was not as straightforward as I thought it would be to understand the Portuguese language. 

Bruce: Brazilian is a softer, more of a sing-song accent. If you want to use Google Translate, you go to Google first and say Google Translate European Portuguese to English. And then you will get a different type of Portuguese.

Future Plans

Victor: And Bruce, in terms of plans for the future, do you plan to stay in Portugal or move to another country? What are your plans? 

Bruce: We’re staying here. We really love our life here. You can take day trips and see the most astounding, magnificent, beautiful sights and towns that, oh my gosh, you talk about creations of God. You know, they are so beautiful that human hands could not have made them. And then you go to places that human hands did make, and you look in awe. 

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Resources For Expats

Victor: I see people speaking about history and the topic of how Portugal ruled the world in the past. So it’s something interesting to know. Bruce, I would like to ask you another question. In terms of resources, you know, Facebook or books, media, what did you find to be the most helpful for you in this journey to being an expat in Portugal? 

Bruce: Okay. Let’s start with Facebook because you mentioned it. There are over a thousand Facebook groups for expats and immigrants who are moving to or here in Portugal.

My first book about Portugal, is called Expat Leaving the USA for Good. The first third of the book talks about why we left the United States, what our reasons were, why we felt the urgency, and why we selected Portugal. And it goes through the first year, maybe the first two years experience navigating. 

After the book was published, I realized that the title of my book, Expat, Leaving the USA for Good, is actually what we call an oxymoron. They contradict each other. If you’re leaving the USA for good, you’re leaving for something better, okay, or you’re leaving permanently. 

But if you are staying in Portugal for good, you’re not an expat; you’re an immigrant. And it was difficult for me. It was really difficult to think of myself. The word expat has much more panache, it just sounds more glamorous than immigrant. But you will find that many Facebook groups use the terms interchangeably. And I think probably because, like I said, there’s that connotation that conjures up that an immigrant is lesser than an expat. And it shouldn’t be. 

Lessons Learnt Along The Way

Bruce: Now that we got here, settled, and found a place, we moved. We found that the first place we bought didn’t suit our needs. And what did we learn from that? Would we rent instead of buying? Would I advise people? It’s up to the individuals. Frankly, the thought of renting, moving, unpacking everything, hanging all of our artwork, and then two years later, taking it all down and moving again because I’m renting doesn’t appeal to me. 

But what happened to us? We lived for two years in the first place that we bought. And the town was too small. It had one cafe. There was not even a snack bar. The people were wonderful. And I would walk our dogs around the streets. But I couldn’t go up and down 37 stairs 8 times a day to walk dogs and move around the house. 

Before moving to Portugal, we had in our minds where we wanted to live, and what kind of place we wanted. We didn’t know specifically, but we knew we wanted a place where, in the center of the village, there would be a church. And the other thing I wanted was cobblestone streets. I mean, the charm of a Portuguese village with a church in the center. 

I loved the two years that we spent living there. And by walking my dogs all the time, I got to meet our neighbors. And little by little, I started talking more and more to them. They started talking more and more to me. They helped me with my Portuguese. 


Lifetime Experiences – No Plans To Relocate

Bruce: All of the Portuguese people we have met have been, especially when they see that you’re trying to honor them by speaking their language, even if you stumble over it and even if you get it wrong. They care about that, okay? 

All of a sudden, you’ll get a knock at your door, and it’s your neighbor that you don’t even know his name or her name, but they’re bringing you a basket of fruit from their gardens. It’s a very, very good country during a very, very difficult time in the world, so there are going to be things that aren’t the way they used to be. Portugal might be a small country, but it’s very strategically located. 

You should familiarize yourself with things. Whether it’s through Facebook groups, whether it’s through the books that I or others have written. All I can say is we’re not moving, we love it here. 

Victor: Bruce, I cannot stress enough how glad I am that you have this interview with me talking to our public. These are very helpful insights. Everything we talked about, including the medical conditions and your experience moving to Portugal. 

And I’m really glad to have you as a friend. I mentioned this many, many times to you. It’s nice to know that we can have someone to rely on. And you being here, it’s just you showing that we do have a nice friendship. And not only for you, but everybody here. 

Ending Notes

Bruce: One last thing, a PS. There are many groups. There are many businesses out there that are trying to do the same thing, that are competing for the same audience. They are competing for clients that want to move to Portugal and will help you get your NIF, open a bank account, and do all of this stuff. 

Victor has an extremely talented and professional staff who works with him. But beyond that, in terms of resources, I have never seen a single other relocation specialist. that researches and puts out as many articles as Victor. And not just puts them out, but updates them because things change here. 

And so I would very much encourage people to go to your website. There are hundreds of articles. And if you really want to know what’s going on or what it’s like to move from South Africa, what it’s like to move from Brazil, what it’s like to move from the USA, what it’s like to move to Coimbra, what it’s like to live in Braga, all of these articles are there, and I highly recommend it. 

Victor: Thank you. Thank you so much, Bruce. Yes, we try our best to give the best information to people. And this is another example. My purpose in being here for an expat interview with you is to show you the reality of Portugal. Like you, I’m very happy living here, and I don’t plan to move anywhere else. Thank you. Thank you so much, Bruce. 

Bruce: My pleasure. Anytime I can help, Victor, it is my pleasure. You take care, and best wishes to all your viewers, clients, and anybody listening to this. We’re all here to help. Thank you.

With that, we conclude our expat interview with Bruce Joffe. We would like to extend immense gratitude to Bruce for joining us to share his inspiring story. It was an absolute honor to hear candid insights to help our readers assess if Portugal can be the forever home they’re looking for. 

If you’d like to learn more about Bruce and what he does professionally, check out Portugal Living Magazine

How Can You Relocate To Portugal?

Did Bruce’s expat interview help you get more clarity on what to do if you’ve got the same dreams? 

Moving to Portugal from the USA takes a considerable amount of planning, but it’s super achievable! 

Start off by deciding what visa to apply for. To do so, you must research all the types and which one fits your lifestyle the best. 

From there on, the process gets easier – get in touch with Viv Europe and leave it to us to sort out all legal matters for you! From visa assistance to getting a property lease under your name, we help our clients achieve seamless relocation to Europe. 

Here’s how to get started. 

Types Of Visas To Portugal 

Check out the list of all the visas Viv Europe can help you with: 

To know more information, get in touch with Viv Europe’s visa assistance experts

Do You Need Help Relocating To Portugal? 

If you’re excited to turn this dream into a reality but don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place! We hope this expat interview has helped you understand the real situation of living in Portugal and why expats still make the decision to relocate. 

Viv Europe’s experts are just one call away – book a free consultation now and receive advice on what to do next! See you soon! 

*All photos of our guests are used with permission for this expat interview only. Unauthorized use of these photos is strictly prohibited. 



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