Waking up to the sound of the birds instead of the sound of traffic

Marianne Hoesen (57) is originally from Kerkrade in the Netherlands. In 2007, she moved to the Algarve, where she now lives near São Marcos da Serra with her partner, three dogs, and some chickens. Marianne is the woman behind saomarcosdaserra.com (about rural life in the area) and the bilingual everybodylovesportugal.com (with lots of info and holiday rentals).

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2017


What inspired you to move to the Algarve?

Marianne: We wanted to leave the Netherlands because the quality of life there was not what it used to be. We were looking for a place where life was more simple, the climate was better and the air cleaner, but not too far away from the Netherlands. Here in the Algarve we found peace and quiet, space, more sunshine, fresh and clean air, a diverse landscape, lower cost of living, friendly locals and like-minded expats. As Portugal isn’t too far away, it’s easy to keep in touch with my family. Shortly after we arrived here, my partner’s asthma disappeared and his overall health improved. Also, the dogs have a better life: instead of a quick walk around the block on a leash, they now have the freedom to run wherever they want.


When did you feel at home here?

Marianne: That didn’t take too long. The local people are very welcoming and, especially here in the countryside, very happy when they get neighbours again. They’re generous with bringing over all kinds of veggies and fruit from their own land, or eggs from their chickens. Even though we didn’t have any knowledge of the Portuguese language before we arrived, we tried to meet as many locals as possible. We learned our first words in the local bars, while having a beer or a wine: ‘mais uma, se faz favor’ (translation: ‘another one, please’).


Was it hard to get accustomed to the Portuguese lifestyle?

Marianne: Not for us. But it depends on your attitude towards the Portuguese. I find some foreigners quite judgmental; they think the people here should be the same as in their home country. But that’s not the way it works. Show respect and have patience, it gets you further. Live and let live.


How does your life differ now you live here?

Marianne: It’s completely different. In the Netherlands I’d never have pictured myself living in a little house on the prairie and yet now we live in the middle of nowhere and I’m happy. Sometimes you can surprise yourself! It’s so great to wake up to the sound of the birds instead of the sound of traffic. It’s lovely to breathe fresh air, scented with the perfume of wild herbs and flowers. Living in this beautiful area is like balm for the stressed-out soul.

When we arrived here, there was just the old house; no bathroom, no running water, no electricity. We had to collect water from the well in the village in 5 liter bottles, and fill a 15 liter bucket for the shower. After we installed the solar electricity system, things got a bit better, as we could have a fridge and watch some TV. It was really back to basics, but that’s not as bad as it might sound.


What is your favourite Algarve moment?

Marianne: My favourite time of the day is the morning. When the sun rises and the birds are singing, the air is fresh and cool, and the sky slowly turns into this marvellous blue. I occasionally enjoy the coastal area, outside of the tourist season, but I prefer the green hills of the serra.


What annoys you here?

Marianne: Sometimes I get annoyed by the mentality of some Portuguese. Some don’t show up on time when you have an appointment. Or they simply don´t come at all and don´t even bother to give you a call. Being raised in the Netherlands, where time is sacred and being late a big mistake, this can be difficult for me. But having lived here for 10 years now, I’ve mastered the game of patience. Another thing that bothers me at times is that this is still a man´s world. Some Portuguese just shake hands with my partner and ignore me. Things are slowly changing though and I can defend myself ;-).


What do you miss most from the Netherlands?

Marianne: I thought I’d miss a whole lot, such as chocolate sprinkles on my bread for breakfast and Dutch liquorice, but in daily life I really don’t miss that many things, except of course my children. Also, I find that in your memory things taste better than they do in reality. I’m usually disappointed when I eat something during my stay in the Netherlands of which I thought I missed it. An exception is the Limburgse Vlaai (special cake from the south of the Netherlands) and the bread.


Which 5 words would best describe the Algarve for you?

Marianne: Blue skies, easy living, peaceful, authentic, diverse.


What’s your favourite spot?

Marianne: Our own home in the middle of the serra. I like to go and see other places, such as Alte, Monchique or Lagos, but I’m always happy when I get back here. This is our little paradise.


In what way does the Algarve inspire you?

Marianne: Because the Algarve is so diverse, you discover news things every day. We have an 8km dust-road leading to the village of São Marcos da Serra, which I’ve driven every day for the last 10 years. Surprisingly, this has never bothered me as I see something new all the time and it’s is a beautiful curvy road through the hills and countryside. Also it’s the time of the day to let your thoughts drift, because there is no traffic to watch out for.


How’s your Portuguese coming along?

Marianne: Since we don’t take classes and are learning from the locals, it takes more time to learn Portuguese. But we’re learning more every day. It took us at least two years before we could have some kind of conversation, but now I don’t need to carry my dictionary with me all the time. I don’t feel the need to learn all the grammar though; for me it’s more important to get a larger vocabulary.


Do you have a secret tip for our readers?

Marianne: I’d recommend people to step out of their comfort zones and do something different, even if it’s only for a day. Go to the countryside for a change and feel how it is to be a local in the Algarve. Observe their way of life, make your pace as slow as theirs for a while, and see how content they are with the few possessions they have. There’s so much more to discover in the south of Portugal than the beautiful beaches and the busy tourist towns.


Pictures & words courtesy of Marianne Hoesen


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2017

Posted in Algarve expat stories.