As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!

Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!

Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta

Let’s meet Eugénie: an expat who made of horses and travelling her job

Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!

Hi everybody ! I’m Eugénie, a 30yo Belgian girl that currently lives in Portugal. I am a professional rider and digital nomad (Eugénie – Digital Nomade).

Horses are my passion, they are the reason why I moved to Portugal and later I plan to dedicate my life to them. At the same time, I love travelling and discovering the world. I lived in different countries such as Romania, China and Netherlands.

My biggest dream was to work for a horse show, which I did in China and it was the beginning of my new life adventure. In the future, I’d like to run my own horse business, create shows and touring in a lot of countries. Things are going very well for the moment so let’s cross the fingers 😀

Why did you move to your current country?

I moved to Portugal because I had a very good opportunity in the horse business (yes, they are fully part of my life !). A very good rider offered me to go with him and learn more about the rider profession, so I took the position and here I am.

I arrived in September 2019: at the beginning, I didn’t take the time to visit around because the days were long and I was really tired at the end of the day. Then winter arrived and I have to say, it was very humid and it rained quite a lot so I didn’t want to go around and explore the country. Right now we are still in quarantine but after it, I’d like to explore a part of the country every first Thursday of the month ! So I can’t wait to be able to move around and see all the parts of this country.

What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?

Currently, I don’t win money with horses. I’m learning the profession so I took a second job as a networker. I work for a travel website, I started with them in January and I have more and more projects for it ! So I can’t wait to put everything together and work more and more for the travel website!

The good part of my life right now is that I didn’t have to look for a job. The rider job and the travel business came to me naturally and I don’t regret anything. I love doing both, even if I’m tired sometimes but I learn a lot on each side which for me is something incredible and way more valuable than money.

How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?

I work most of the time so it is hard to have a social life but I would say it is quite easy here to have some friends. Portuguese people are friendly, they welcome you in their family and it is also easy to be friends with our clients. I don’t like going out very often so just having some friends and going to a restaurant from time to time is more than enough for me. But I think Lisbon is very alive for younger travellers 😉

Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?

Well, first don’t move here during winter: you might not like the country during that period ! After it gets better and I enjoy every time I go for a walk. The landscape is beautiful, the weather is nice and if you are able to meet some Portuguese people, go for it ! When I was young, I used to come to Portugal every summer for a few years. It was always nice to meet our local friends, enjoy the country side and drink porto (Ok, that last part came later !).

Portugal has some very nice corners to visit and I really suggest you to come for a trip and discover the nature.

What do you want to say to people looking to move there?

Meet people, make Portuguese friends and explore the country. A lot of Belgian people come to live in Portugal once they retire. I think it’s a good option because the weather is way better than the one in my country !

How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?

I think in Belgium the health system is better. In Portugal there is a lot of inequality. For example, if you have the chance to have a good health insurance, you can go to a private hospital. They are very expensive so if you don’t have an insurance that refunds you, the bill is very very expensive. Another difference with Belgium is that here you don’t have a GP doctor. If you are sick, you need to go to the hospital instead. It’s very strange for me to hear that considering I come from a country where there is a doctor in every village but at the end, you get used to it.
In term of safety, I feel fine.

How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?

The cost of living is vary variable. The minimum salary is only 600€/month. So the average rent is around 200-300€/month. It is of course way more expensive if you live to Lisbon… I don’t know how people manage to live in Lisbon with such a low salary (except if they are all very rich =P !). In my case, I count 300€/month to live which means buying food, internet services, my phone and the car. It’s not a lot but it is possible if you don’t go out too often to the restaurant.

Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.

I don’t like rain and humidity ! In Belgium, everybody dreams about living in Portugal because the weather is so nice. Well, at least it is what Belgian people think ! This winter it rained a lot and it doesn’t seem to stop. It’s humid and even if it is not very cold (not less than 3 degrees at night), it is not very comfortable to live here and be outside during that period of the year.

Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend

I live in a small city town hour away from Lisbon which is truly quite dead. In the capital, there are plenty of things to visit ! In any case, it doesn’t matter where you are in Portugal, you have to eat a Pastel de Nata, a local dessert which is really good ! A must try!

Did you find Eugénie’s experience useful? Then check out the upcoming expat interviews in other cities! Follow Eugénie’s website for digital nomads!