Be as extravagant as you want

This month we meet Paula Rocha (55) and ask her 12 questions about her move to the Algarve. Originally from Porto in the north of the country, Paula lived for a long time in Lisbon. She moved to the south of Portugal 20 years ago and first lived near Olhão. Together with her mother and her children Maria-Helene (19), Enrique (17) and Joachim (15), she now calls Moncarapacho her hometown and works as a freelance musician.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2016

What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Paula: actually, it was a coincidence that I ended up here, it had to do with love and my ex-husband. Also, I was a little tired of Lisbon with its systems of artist movement; I needed freedom.

For people from the north of Portugal, the Algarve is a popular holiday destination and my first memories of this region are from vacation. As a child, the first Algarve impression I got was the light. The light here is amazing and very different from the rest of the country.


When did you feel at home here?

Paula: that took a long time. In my opinion the Algarve is for old people and holiday goers, and both come here to relax. That attitude depressed me, as I want to keep working. First I felt lost here, but now I’m close to finding balance in my life. Slowly but surely I got accepted into the community, also as an artist: I’ve even played jazz by Miles Davis in the local church. Now I have good friends and three Algarvian children: home is where they are.

Was it hard to get accustomed to the Algarvian lifestyle?

Paula: yes, very hard. The lifestyle here is very different from in the north of Portugal, where people are more extravert. They immediately invite you over for dinner and drinks when you meet them and men hold doors open for you. At first, people in the Algarve seemed more miserable to me. Also, communication is different. In Porto and Lisbon, when you don’t know a person, you address them with the formal ‘voce’; here, they immediately use ‘tu’. This confused me in the beginning.

Still, there’s a deep soul here; the Algarvians are poets, philosophers, artists and painters. It takes a lot of time, but if you proceed slowly and with sensitivity, you’ll find the real Algarve.


How does your life differ now you live here?

Paula: at first, it was difficult to find opportunities to play. In Lisbon I was a professional musician with support from a cultural organisation. Here, I had to find my own way which was hard because the cultural scene is different; there’s no production of cartoon or cinema for example. Still, it’s not a cultural desert here and the facts that arts aren’t so well organised is also good as it means you can start something yourself. In Lisbon I played classical music, in the Algarve I switched to jazz.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Paula: the mornings, when I drive my bike to Fuseta. The colours of the sea and the sky are amazing. Other favourite moments are whenever I’m with my friends, laughing, talking and having a good time.

What annoys you here?

Paula: the old attitude. The streets here are always full of old people. It’s a place people come to die. The Algarve has a nostalgic feel to it, not unlike a Luchino Visconti film.


What do you miss most from the north of Portugal?

Paula: food! Like cheese, cabbage (in Lisbon and Porto it grows in every garden) and of course the cozido à Portuguesa, a traditional meat and vegetables stew. I always have the same dialogue with people who are from up north, but now live in the south: they first thing they say is ‘Oooh, I miss the cozido à Portuguesa.’ I also miss the smell of the forest and the bohemian city vibe.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Paula: inspiration, curiosity, spirituality, a cheaper lifestyle (when compared to Lisbon) and freedom. Because if you respect others, you can be as extravagant as you want here. In Lisbon, you’re more observed.

What’s your favourite spot?

Paula: it used to be Fuseta Island, before the tourism developed, the cafés came and making fires on the beach got prohibited. Now, my favourite place is a secret spot somewhere in the middle of the Algarve.


In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Paula: living in a place where people don’t question you and where you sometimes feel that you don’t belong, gives you a lot of freedom to work. For me that’s a big deal; I’m always working and developing myself as a musician, trying to come up with fresh ideas. When I want to relax, I go to a few of my secret spots. It’s still possible to be a bit savage and free in the Algarve and it’s important that we keep it that way.

Also, here I learned to crochet, which now is a passion of mine. When visiting the region as a kid, I saw women crocheting in the streets and I’ve always wanted to try it. A woman from Pechão taught me and now I crochet a lot, it’s like meditation for me.

Does the Portuguese that’s spoken up north differ from here in the Algarve?

Paula: the words, not so much, but the sense of humour is very different. The old Algarvians have a very nice sense of humour; their jokes are poetic, funny and very visual. At first this was difficult for me to understand, but now I get it and I love it. The accent is different as well, but there are so many regional dialects here in the Algarve.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Paula: respect the people who live here and they’ll respect you. Don’t come here and try to impose your culture on them. It doesn’t work that way.

Pictures by Kyle Rodriguez


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2016

Posted in Algarve expat stories.