Beware of it in Portugal WithPortugal
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Beware of it in Portugal

Portugal is a small European country, and year after year it ranks among the top safest countries in the world. And this is true if we consider this issue only from the fact of crime and criminality. But danger can be expected not only from criminals but from nature, domestic and other spheres of life. That is why in this article, we are going to talk about some non-obvious cases that you should definitely be wary of after immigrating to Portugal.

Danger № 1. Water heater

I want to start our non-obvious list of threats by telling my personal story, which happened to me just a few days ago. Perhaps this information will save someone's life.

Here is my story: my husband and I bought an apartment in Portugal. We moved into this apartment almost immediately after the purchase. The apartment was in excellent condition, and the kitchen had an old but working water heater, which is called "esquentador" in Portuguese. If you don't know, hot water doesn't flow automatically from the tap in Portugal, as in some countries. It is heated by a special water heater, which often runs on gas.

 

When we bought an apartment, it was completely disconnected from gas, water, and electricity — this is a regular practice in Portugal, and new residents must contact the relevant services to conclude an agreement for connecting utilities in their name. If the apartment is completely disconnected from everything at the time of moving in, then the utilities will force you to go through and additionally pay for an inspection, which consists of the fact that an employee will come to your home and check if your pipes, hoods and other issues are in order, which, if malfunctions can endanger both you and your neighbors. This service costs about 50-100 euros for each type of utility, and we reluctantly paid for these examinations. After successfully passing it, we were finally connected to gas, water, and electricity.

After a couple of months of living in a new house, we decided to change the gas water heater, because it heated the water unsteadily and we were not very satisfied with its work, so we went to the store to buy a new modern model.

When our new water heater was installed, certified technicians (following the law, only specialists who have passed special certification can install and repair such equipment) were shocked when they saw our old gas water heater. It turns out that someone turned off a special fuse in the old water heater, which automatically turns off the equipment in case of carbon monoxide accumulation. Unfortunately, in our case, this fuse was turned off, and therefore the carbon monoxide in our kitchen was uncontrollable and could lead to death at worst and to health problems at best.

 

Yes, in Portugal, people often save money on hiring certified professionals and invite neighbors or friends to see if something is broken and how it can be fixed. I consider the previous residents of this apartment did just the same when they realized that their water heater suddenly turned off for no reason (which is the norm, and it automatically happens with all atmospheric water heaters when carbon monoxide accumulates). The unscrupulous "expert" just decided to pull out the fuse.

 

The installers of the new water heater told us that such an action is considered a criminal offense in Portugal because the risk of death in such cases is very high. In addition, let's remember that our apartment passed a mandatory inspection by a Galp employee before connecting the gas, and apparently, he didn't try very hard to do his job well since he left us in a dwelling with uncontrolled carbon monoxide emissions.

This story ended successfully for us, and I think we were lucky. Anyway, I recommend that readers of our article be cautious and follow simple recommendations.

Recommendations:

  • If you want to install, repair, or replace your gas water heater, always contact certified specialists, a list of which in different cities of Portugal can be found here or here.
  • If you move into an apartment with an old water heater, given my experience described above, I would recommend ALWAYS contacting a certified specialist from this list, so that for a small fee, he will check the safety of the pipes and the heater itself. Even if you rent an apartment in Portugal, and it seems to you that this is not your responsibility, then it may be worth paying for the services of such a specialist yourself (around 50-100 euros) just to sleep peacefully and not think that you and your loved ones may be in danger. In any case, if the owner (landlord or seller) of housing assures you that the water heater works perfectly, you should not believe this because, as we have already discussed above, they cannot know this for sure, and only a certified specialist in this field can make such conclusions.

Danger № 2. Mold and high humidity

If you buy a simple hygrometer (port. "higrômetro"), you will be stunned that in an apartment in Portugal, even with closed windows, the humidity can reach 70-100%. At the same time, the WHO recommended room humidity levels should be in the region of 50-60%.

If you use a dehumidifier, unfortunately, even it is helpless if you have furniture that fits snugly against the wall because air flows don't pass there, allowing condensation to concentrate in these places.

Completely ignoring the room's humidity control issue, we will have a picture, as it is below.

 

High humidity has a negative effect on health, and mold in the place where you live can provoke coughs, allergic reactions, indigestion, headaches, etc. In addition, prolonged mold exposure can lead to more severe illnesses such as asthma and pneumonia.

 

You most likely have nothing to fear if you live in a comfortable apartment with central heating, air conditioning, underfloor heating, and high-quality windows and doors. And if you live in the most ordinary Portuguese apartment with insulation problems, just follow these recommendations.

Recommendations:

  • Always sleep in a room with the door open (otherwise, condensation will form on windows and other surfaces, which is a direct way to mold).
  • From time to time, move pieces of furniture away from the walls and check for mold. For example, you can move the bed away from the wall right now and check for black spots behind the headboard. If you find even the slightest sign of mold in the apartment, immediately eliminate it with a sponge and detergents with chlorine, dry these places, and then keep a close eye on them because this is where condensation will accumulate and mold will form. No dehumidifiers and ventilation in the rooms will help if mold already lives in your apartment. First, you need to eliminate it mechanically, and only after that you should turn on the dehumidifiers and resort to other measures.
  • Humidity needs to be especially carefully controlled in the bathroom. If you don't have a window in the bathroom or a high-quality working hood, you should turn on the dehumidifier (port. "desumidificador") for a few hours after taking a shower. You can buy it, for example, here. The cost of a high-quality dehumidifier starts from 200-300 euros, and don't try to save money on this because it is one of the most important household appliances in Portugal.
  • In addition to a dehumidifier, buying a hygrometer to control humidity will be essential, and you can do it, for example, here. According to WHO, the perfect indoor humidity level should be 50-60%. Anything above this will be an unfavorable environment for life, and as shown in the picture below, humidity over 70% precisely 40 times increases the number of fungi and bacteria in the humid air. So actively ventilate the rooms, and then turn on the dehumidifier with the windows closed to bring the humidity level in the room to 50-60%. This procedure must be done every day in every room of your apartment. Yes, it will take time and money (for a dehumidifier and rising energy bills), but it will be an investment and an important step toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
 

Danger № 3. Bicycle

What could be better than cycling along Portugal's coastline? It would seem that good weather and good roads have the best possible conditions for this, so what is the danger?

 

The fact is that every year the number of road accidents involving cyclists in Portugal is growing, and recently this growth has reached 20% per year.

Thus, according to the Portuguese road service ANSR, in 2021, as a result of road accidents involving cyclists, 23 people died (130% more than in 2020), 138 people were seriously injured (16% more than in 2020), and 2511 people got minor injuries (19.7% more than in 2020).

In addition, it was the driver of the car, and not the cyclist, who was to blame in 72% of cases. We previously wrote about the features of driving in Portugal on our website.

 

Unfortunately, on the way of such unscrupulous motorists, cyclists are often forced to ride on the carriageway because Portugal isn't the Netherlands and cycle paths are still rare here. A collision between a car and a cyclist almost always causes serious injuries, so consider where and how you are going to ride before buying a bike in Portugal.

Recommendation:

  • After looking at the statistics above, think about how badly you need a bicycle in Portugal. If there is a bike path near your house, or if you plan to ride only in nature or deserted places, then buying a bike (and the necessary equipment) may make sense. On the other hand, if you want to drive on the busy highways of a major city, consider whether it's worth it.

Danger № 4. Ocean and beaches

The ocean and picturesque beaches attract hundreds of thousands of tourists and immigrants from around the world to Portugal. Indeed, walking on the beach, surfing, and other outdoor activities are an absolute advantage of living in the country.

Nevertheless, a massive number of people die in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean every year, and Portugal broke all mortality records in 2022 when 88 people died in the country from January 1 to August 1 on the water (ocean, rivers, and lakes).

 

Many tourists and immigrants who have recently arrived in Portugal often sense the Atlantic Ocean as a sea or a pool. However, how often have I seen tourists from other countries in winter trying to "catch a wave" on completely deserted Portuguese beaches, where there are no lifeguards or passers-by? So many people disappear in strong ocean waves without a trace or witnesses.

The waves of the Atlantic Ocean are powerful and can easily stun even an adult, and undercurrents often drag even experienced athletes along, so it's worth soberly assessing the strength of the ocean, and if you don't know how to swim or you don't have experience of being in such rough water, then it is hardly worth the risk and go into the water.

Also, there are a lot of so-called breakwaters in Portugal. These are concrete separators between beaches. Some breakwaters end in small lighthouses, and many like walking on them, fishing, or taking pictures. Be especially careful in a storm because sometimes huge waves overwhelm these breakwaters and wash away everything on them.

It is not worth taking risks for a successful picture against the background of a wave because not a single, even the most beautiful picture is worth a life.

 

By the way, since we are talking about pictures, in Portugal, people die every year in an attempt to take a selfie in dangerous natural places. The Portuguese cape Cabo da Roca is especially famous for that fact, from which tourists regularly fall.

Many rocks on the beaches of Portugal are precarious and have a sandy structure, so you should not climb to the very edge of the cliff or place a beach towel under the shade of such rocks and boulders.

Recommendation:

  • Never leave children unattended on Portuguese beaches. Explain to them in advance how dangerous waves and rocks can be.
  • Use common sense when visiting Portuguese beaches and relaxing in nature. Remember that so many people rely on their strength and, in the end, die in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. If you like to surf, then do it in a pair with an experienced partner. If you like swimming, look for pools, river beaches, and beaches without waves, there are plenty of them in Portugal.

Danger № 5. Milk and dairy products

It may seem strange, but the fifth line of our list is milk and dairy products. As in the first paragraph, this was prompted by a personal story, which I will share below.

Milk has been my favorite product since childhood, and after immigrating to Portugal, I continued to consume it, as well as other dairy products, especially cheeses, of which there are a massive amount in Portugal.

A few months ago (at that time, I was already living in Portugal for almost 8 years), I began to feel extremely ill. I had a feeling that I had constant food poisoning. Even though I lead a healthy lifestyle and don't consume fast food or alcohol, I eat only vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy products. It was extraordinary, and I even thought about the worst, when suddenly my husband, a native Portuguese, advised me to start a "dairy diet", that is, to give up all types of dairy products. It turns out that a few years ago, he had all the same symptoms as me.

Unable to withstand severe pain, I was ready for everything, even giving up milk and other foods with lactose. I felt better after a week, and after 2 weeks I felt just fine.

I was surprised when I found out that almost all of my adult Portuguese friends also do not eat dairy products for the same reasons. When I began to study this issue in more detail, I found official statistical information that 1 person in 3 is lactose intolerant in Portugal. This means that a third of the country's population cannot consume dairy products.

I am not a doctor or an employee of a statistical office, so I cannot draw any objective conclusions. I cannot judge whether this is the fault of Portugal and local products or whether the same situation happened to me in any other country. But the fact remains that in my home country, most of my acquaintances, older relatives, and grandparents drank milk, and everything was fine, and in Portugal, every third person suffers from acute intolerance to dairy products. Now I have joined the ranks of these sad statistics.

I don't know if this can relate to milk quality, its composition, and the conditions of keeping and feeding cows. Maybe it's just genetics, and I was unlucky, but remember that this situation can happen to you after an extended stay in Portugal. Therefore, before you start running around clinics and doctors, perhaps at the first feeling of discomfort, it is worth eliminating all dairy products from your diet for at least a couple of weeks and seeing what effect this will have on your well-being.

As for me, now I feel great and actively research lactose-free products (port. "sem lactose") and milk substitutes since they can be found in any supermarket in Portugal at a very affordable price.

 

Recommendation:

  • If you feel a sharp or dull pain in your stomach or right side, if you feel constant discomfort, indigestion and this doesn't stop for days and weeks, regardless of what you eat, if you don't have other problems (appendicitis, gastritis, etc.), then try eliminating all dairy products from your diet for a few weeks and maybe this will help.

Learn better from the mistakes of others

And this is true because other people's experience helps us reduce the possible risks in our own lives. The purpose of this article wasn't to scare you but to inform you about some of the nuances and dangerous moments I encountered during my 8 years of living in Portugal.

Problems and dangerous situations are an inevitable part of life. Still, we hope this article will help you adapt to a new country, and you will know in advance about possible pitfalls and challenging situations that can be easily overcome by following the simple recommendations above.

We wish you good luck and are waiting for you in Portugal!