Porto, a city on the north coast of Portugal, has roots that go back to the 4th century. Accordingly, its historic churches and cathedrals have earned it the honor of being a World Heritage Site. Most well- known for the fortified port wine produced in its many wine cellars, Porto is Portugal’s second largest city. As Porto evolves into a hip international locale of eclectic art galleries, night clubs and boutiques, it has begun to attract increasing numbers of expatriates. Rich Clements, an American by birth, lives in an apartment in the Ribeira section. Though he began teaching at the University of Porto over a year ago, he often feels like he’s on an extended vacation.
Teaching university-level classes in a foreign country can’t be easy. What is about Porto that makes you so relaxed that you feel like a tourist?
My job does have stressful moments, and it keeps me trapped at my computer for long stretches, but there are the sudden breezes that blow through my window, the smell of the ocean, the most amazing seafood meals that I’m constantly eating. They keep me in tourist mode.
What was most difficult for you to adjust to when you first came here?
Without a doubt, it took me time to make sense of the public transportation system.
It’s different than what I was used to in Boston. The Andante tickets are quirky. I’d get a panic attack whenever I’d swipe them. I was always afraid I’d end up having to pay a fine.
No, never. Luckily, I was rescued by people who showed me how to navigate the metro correctly.
What were the things you found most surprising about the local culture?
People in Porto don’t rush around all the time. They live at a kinder and gentler pace. The lines at the bank can be very long and the service you receive in general can be slower than what’s acceptable back in the U.S. Setting up a banking account was way more complicated than I expected.
Was it easy for you to set up shop here?
I stayed with friends for a few months. It was a challenge finding a long-term rental. I didn’t have enough to buy. Looking, there were literally lots of twist and turns. I saw units that were not terribly inviting, but in my price range.
There were quite a few fully furnished spaces that were too expensive. I had almost given up when I found the place where I live. It’s right next to Ribeira Square, so I can do lots on foot. I can easily get a cab if I need. I’m also next to the train station.
What about going to the dentist or doctor? Have you done either? What do you think of our healthcare?
I haven’t been to the dentist I’m afraid. I did find myself at the doctor a few weeks ago getting treated for heartburn after putting too much piri-piri on my food.
Piri-piri? It’s not for delicate stomachs.
I actually like hot peppers. I just overdid it. But the visit to the clinic was pretty straight forward. The doctor wrote me a prescription for some pills that would have cost a fortune in the States. I took one or two and was back to normal.
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