So with our decision being made that we are officially moving, there was a lot to consider. What does housing look like, what does schooling look like, what do the basics cost, what do the luxuries cost, do we need a car, do we need two cars, is public transport really that efficient and reliable? As I may have alluded to in the previous blog, this move is mostly about giving our children a better future, a better opportunity in life, a fairer opportunity in life, we just want them to have equal footing, the chance to shine and grow in an evirnornemnt which enables this, what they do with those opportunities is up to them and us to an extent. BUT let me be clear, this move is not to the extent that our life, lifestyle, and personal wellbeing will take a back seat, sure there will be some adjustments, compromises, and dare I say it even sacrifices(or rather trade-offs), but we have worked really hard on identifying the life we want to lead.
Our move to Cape Town from Johannesburg helped us better understand what is important in our lives. We understand and value the positive benefits of living in a beautiful space(Community Wellbeing). We value the ability to freely walk around the neighborhood alongside the coastline(Physical Wellbeing). I so appreciate being able to continue serving my clients’ in an online world, while Cole has the talent and tenacity to make her clients look and feel beautiful anywhere in the world(Career Wellbeing). Engaging with people from all walks of life, different cultures, and communities, with different perspectives, has really broadened our social circle(Social Wellbeing), all while wisely allocating our resources, enabling us to save for tomorrow but not at the expense of today(Financial Wellbeing).
However knowing what you want is only the first step, actually orchestrating it is another thing, Below is a breakdown of the three biggest issues we faced.
Living in South Africa we are spoilt for choice when it comes to our homes and especially the size thereof. My first taste of this came when we moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg, we lived in a 400sqm free-standing home in a small estate, 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, staff accommodation, pool, and double garage, it was perfect(albeit at the time we thought we needed more space), then we decided to move to Cape Town… and For us Cape Town means, the sea, and the sea meant Atlantic Sea Board. So you can imagine the shock I got when I compared the housing prices to where we came from in Northcliff to where we settled in Greenpoint, our home in Northcliff would cost us 3 times the price in Greenpoint. Needless to say, we didn’t buy in Greenpoint but rather chose to rent.
But still, it was a 4 bedroom house, pool, staff accommodation double garage. We moved our Joburg house to cape town, basically, at a financial premium, and in hindsight, unnecessarily, so(but these are all valuable lessons).
When looking at Portugal, we soon realized our biggest monthly expense would be housing, initially, we’d rent, and potentially buy once settled(my views on home ownership can be found here), but because of the location we wanted to be in and proximity to good schools and the ocean, and parks and public transport, there where definitely trade-offs that were going to be made; goodbye private swimming pool, Luke, Sephora you may need to share a room, daddy needs an office, bye-bye double garage and hello on-street parking. Apartment living here we come.
Having realized life in Portugal may mean living in an apartment, whilst still living in Cape Town we decided to try it out(I say we, but I kind of thrust it on my family, that we should downsize before the actual move and get a feel for apartment living), Goodbye Greenpoint, Hello Waterfront. We traded in the 4bedroom 4 bathroom, 350sqm house for a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom 140sqm apartment in the Waterfront. It was quite an adjustment at first, but what I was starting to learn more and more, is that the outward materialistic things, mean less and that as a family we could pull together and make things work, in the end, one of the harder things about leaving, was actually leaving our little community in the waterfront.
We swapped this…
Another luxury, we had become accustomed to in South Africa was the ability to afford private schooling and enjoy all that it entails, and the biggest one I learned, was basically an attitude that because we pay, it removed all the “inconveniences” associated with the public schooling system, we didn’t have to try to enroll through the government system, selecting three choices and hoping we got our pick, We didn’t have to live within a specified radius of the school, we were able to attend a tour of the school meet the principal, the teachers, have a say in how things where done, basically our kids where wrapped in Egyptian cotton blankets and cuddled all day long, and as long as we could afford it, it would stay that way. (Note, I say all of this, acknowledging the privileged position I speak from, but once again it didn’t come without its trade-offs, for some efficient funding methods check out this video we put together)
The schooling system in Portugal is divided into three segments; Public, Private, and International. Briefly, the main differences are Cost, Language, Curriculum, and extra-murals.
Let’s start with International, it’s aimed specifically at Ex-Pats and I’d go a step further and say foreign diplomats and the likes, or foreigners who are on secondment and their employer is paying for the education as part of the secondment. Basically what I’m saying is it is EXPENSIVE, like R300 000-R500 000 a year kind of expensive. There is a hand full to choose from, they are taught in English, and the curriculum is based on the school’s origin, Cambridge A-Levels, etc.
Then there is Private School, now not in the same way we know private schools to be in South Africa, but more I would compare them to the old model C schools but at Private school fees(between R65 000-R210 000 per year). Portuguese is the primary teaching medium but English is well understood and assistance is offered to English-speaking children, they follow the local Portuguese curriculum and offer a variety of PAID for extra mural activities. Its aimed at the more affluent Portuguese local and the ex-pat who wants their child to integrate into the Portuguese culture but is earning a foreign income. The location to the school is not a factor and most of the schools have waiting lists due to their “target market” and Portugals’ appeal to Ex-Pats.
Lastly, there is Public or state schooling, not in the way we know it to be in South Africa now, but I would compare it to the state of our public schools back when In the 80s and 90s. The schools are old and with deep history, but old buildings, yet upgraded inside. Portugues is the primary teaching medium, although some schools pride themselves on being bi-lingual(kind of like how we were taught Afrikaans as a second language) English is a subject and the teachers understand it, but all classes are taught in Portuguese, they follow the Portuguese curriculum and offer No extra-murals, other than Physical education, music, and some others where the teachers are the “coaches”. There is ZERO cost, other than if you need “aftercare” and a small stipend towards the daily meals. Yip, they feed the kids too, a 3-course meal at lunch(it’s No Kauai offering, but it’s still healthy) and a snack during the day. The location to the school is important, but each “municipality” has a network of schools that cater to that area’s children, so there would be multiple Stage 1 schools and Stage 3 schools, and a few Basic schools(kindergarten). So you are guaranteed a school it just may not be your first school of choice. Interestingly they also have a cap on the number of children per class which is 25.
Resources to use: https://portaldasmatriculas.edu.gov.pt/pmat/#/portal/home, https://www.gesedu.pt/PesquisaRede, https://www.cascais.pt/sub-area/escolas-publicas-e-privadas, https://sicnoticias.pt/ranking-das-escolas/2020?fbclid=IwAR1wMHcnlxoYWR4ZT1Es-_K5KwAaseFxdT79kpQMiCoXOTgF-aZvWM00y1o
Now, this was a big one, living in South Africa we had become accustomed to a certain way of life, a certain way of living, a certain way we spent our hard-earned money. The biggest categories in our house were Schooling, Housing, Groceries, Entertainment, and Debit Orders(cell phones, electricity, water, medical, security, insurance, etc)
We’ve touched on housing, but briefly, to replace our apartment in cape town would cost us about 28% more.
We’ve touched on schooling as well.
Groceries; as a family in South Africa we did a weekly shop at woollies with a midweek run to top up fresh produce. During COVID when we had a lot of time on our hands due to lockdown, I would do a weekly comparison of food prices between Pick n pay Woolies and Checkers, and for our basket of goods, Woolies came out cheaper, coupled with our vitality discount it made the most sense.
This overall cost is the same in Portugal, if not slightly cheaper. They also have their different Chain stores, Continente, Pingo Doce, Lidl, and Auchan, again I did the comparisons and for our basket, Continente is best.
When compared to SA, some things cost more, like Meat, but fresh fish is much cheaper, house brands are a lot cheaper and the quality is amazing. The Portuguese love a pastry including bread rolls etc, so we buy these fresh when needed, but they are cheaper than SA. Alcohol I’m still figuring out, beers in-store seem to be cheaper for local brands, but I’m unsure of the wine scene, Nicole has a rather refined palet, so finding good quality wines at good prices is proving to be slightly more challenging.
Next is entertainment, now in our house, this is a catchall phrase for anything we do outside of the house(with or without the kids). So think, takeaways, drinks, ice creams on the beach, Dinners, lunches, going to movies, the aquarium, and renting electric scooters. (on a side note, this has changed drastically since our days in Joburg, it has gone from being more about our individual activities to be more focused on activities we as a family do together)
Again some things are more expensive, a simple margarita that would cost R100 in Cape Town, now Costs R170 in Portugal, a 340ml Beer in SA costs about R25, here it’s about R35, so all in all entertainment costs more, BUT the big caveat is that there is a lot more FREE things to do as a family; Parks(parks are huge in Portugal, more of this in another blog), beaches, outdoor festivals, forests, etc. So while we don’t spend our entertainment budget on fancy dinners, it gets gobbled up on family activities, and all in all along with housing it’s more expensive to maintain our previous entertainment lifestyle(more trade-offs to be made)
Debit orders; most of these are a like-for-like swap, except for cellphones, internet, and TV, this was a big one for me, for half the cost of my and Coles combined cellphone contracts(excluding the actual phones), we can get double the amount of data and minutes each, a home fiber line with 500Mb up and down uncapped, HBO+ and Amazon Prime subscription, along with 140 local Portuguese Channels, That’s a real win. Then the other big ones, No Security, No medical(more on this in another blog)Less insurance. Overall our debit orders have reduced.
Resources to use; https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/comparison.jsp
All in all, given our specific lifestyle choices over a 12-month period, our cost of living will be lower in Portugal than in South Africa. This was absolutely mind-blowing for us to see, and probably more importantly the future cost of living would be more predictably sustained in Portugal when compared to South Africa, given the different long-term average inflation rates between the two countries and the future prospects of each.