Moving to Lisbon: The First Week

crop sad woman with pillow

I had meant to write this when it was a bit fresher, but I honestly didn’t have it in me.

Friends, this past week was hard. Harder than I thought it would be, and I’ve been though some shit.

I had what I assume must have been a full on panic attack yesterday that was so bad I was throwing up and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking for hours.

I keep fighting the feeling that we’ve made a mistake. What if the animals never adjust? What if I can never learn this damned language well enough? What if we hate it here? What if there’s something we forgot to ship that I’ll be devastated to realize is missing. How do we even get our stuff once it’s here, what with the weird bollard systems? Where will we put it?? Maybe we shouldn’t have shipped anything?

What if they don’t renew our lease? What if we can’t get doctor’s appointments in time to get renewed prescriptions? What if my sister never comes to visit and I never see her again? Will the frustration of not having direct road access because of the bollards be too much hassle? What if the time difference creates a real problem with us managing the company effectively and the employees start to suffer? What if the frustration of not having “normal for us” items in the grocery store becomes too much?

Speaking of, shopping for tampons today was a pretty massive disappointment. They only had plastic applicators, which I despise, or no applicators at all – which I also despise – and they only came in tiny sizes. I don’t care about adapting to weird non-US brands, but this is going to be messy. Ugh.

I can get some things from Amazon Spain, but average delivery to Lisbon is a week or more. We definitely want to try to shop locally instead as much as we can, but it can be difficult to find certain things (cat pan liners seem surprisingly difficult to find, for example.)

I’m sure this panic is pretty normal. Moving to another country where you don’t speak the language is a big deal, and I KNOW I need to be more patient with myself, but man it’s tough. It comes in waves, and the jet lag and lack of sleep surely doesn’t help, but it’s exhausting. It’s all very exciting but also nerve-wracking. I know in my head that while some of these things are rational concerns, some are just me taking a leisurely stroll through crazy-town and I need to knock it off.

Our Portuguese is getting better day by day, and the folks in our neighborhood are very patient with correcting us when we mess it up. It can be tiring to have to run that constant language-processing in the back of your head, but that will get better over time and we’re pretty proud of ourselves when we can have entire interactions in only Portuguese.

The animals have started to adjust, thank goodness. Ripley (the more nervous of the two dogs) has stopped peeing inside, and is even signaling us when she has to go out like she used to do in SoCal. Moxie (the noisier of the two dogs) still barks sometimes when we’re out with her, but she’s adapting better than we thought she would. Dogs barking here is a pretty common occurrence, and barely noticeable over the endless construction noise. There is a small terrier we call “sky dog” that barks endlessly at any dog that passes under his teensy European-style balcony and another cream-colored dog that roams off-leash in the neighborhood and allegedly sometimes bites, so that’s fun.

Qwerty the cat seems to be doing okay mentally, but I haven’t seen her eating much and am starting to get worried. We already have her on prescription food for a thyroid condition and she only just recently gained back the weight she had lost before we had her switched to the special food.

The waves of panic are happening to both of us, so we’re mostly just trying to not have them at the same time so we can be strong for each other while the other one melts down and vice versa.

They fixed the refrigerator, which is a HUGE relief, but now we’ve got an intermittent water leak from the apartment above us and nobody seems to know what’s causing it.

Our property manager for the apartment is awesome. Super-friendly and very responsive, which is a great, especially since so many small things (and some big ones) seem to be kind of messed up. I desperately hope the property owner doesn’t think we’re problem tenants. These things were borked before we even got here. 😔

The apartment above us – the one leaking water – is an AirBnB and is very loud. It’s not the renter’s fault, it’s just an old building, and that stuff is pretty normal, especially for Portugal. We like to rename the renters every time a new family cycles through. We called the Californians “Stompy McStompersons” and the Spaniards who replaced them are now “Los Estompeadores.” Surprisingly, the stomping doesn’t seem to bother us too much. I guess spending so much time in NYC made us a little more immune to that part.

To clarify, I don’t think we did make a mistake, but the waves of doubt and fear have a way of sneaking up when you’re not paying attention, especially when you’re running on 2 hours of sleep a night because of jet lag and already have crippling anxiety.

Hopefully we can do something fun this weekend – go to a park or something – that will make the toil of this week feel a little better. This is all normal anxiety for people to have and I know it will get better.

I think the most important thing I want you to know is that if you’re in a similar situation and are feeling the same way, you are NOT crazy. Honestly, my friends on Mastodon helped me SO much. I thought I was losing my mind. Not that I was under any kind of illusion that this would be easy, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how hard that first week was going to be. This too shall pass. Friends who have made a similar move have said it takes about six months to a year to get past all the junk and bullshit that comes with immigrating to another country so… just over 11 months to go! 😬

Até breve,
Alison (aka “snipe”)

Post a Comment


  • Heidi Florio
    Heidi Florio
    June 7, 2023 at 9:58 pm

    I really appreciate the open and honest way you talk about this transition. Thanks for sharing this epic journey.

  • Moke
    June 16, 2023 at 3:21 pm

    It gets easier with time. Hang in there!

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