French retirees in the Algarve playing petanque with other communities


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French retirees who have come to Portugal in recent years, attracted by the quality of life and tax advantages, play pétanque with other communities twice a week in Olhão, Algarve.

French retiree Francis Warnier, 69, told Lusa: “We are at the end of our lives, in retirement, and we have fun playing petanque”, in the field next to the marina of Olhão, in the district of Faro, where he usually meets other practitioners of this game of French origin.

Portugal has become a paradise for thousands of French retirees and others in recent years, attracted mainly by the tax advantages of having a second home in the country, and many have chosen to live in the town of Olhão, on the banks of the Ria Formosa.

“I met all the people I know here. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived,” says the retiree, who travels to France twice a year “to see my children and grandchildren”. Having lived in the Algarve for eight years, he says he loves living in the region because of its “warmth, well-being and security”.

Francis Warnier, who has “worked hard all his life”, suffered from aches and pains that disappeared in Portugal, which is why he stayed: “It’s a well-being and that’s why we stay,” he said.

“I play petanque because I couldn’t play all my life and I always wanted to do it. It’s a sport for retired people, it’s quiet, it’s social and it’s fun,” he said.

The Non-Habitual Resident tax regime, created in 2009 and revised in 2012 to attract high-income earners and high-value-added professionals to Portugal, offers retirees a 10-year income tax exemption.

Another Frenchman, Dominique Touletano, 65, explains that the meeting in Olhão, by the marina overlooking the Ria Formosa, has been taking place twice a week for two years: “There’s no registration, you don’t pay anything, just good humor and the pleasure of sharing.

The retiree was pleased with the “informal meeting” between “acquaintances” who are not yet friends, but who “may become close friends” as people from different parts of the Eastern Algarve come together to play.

Dominique Touletano stresses that this is a meeting of “many retired people who enjoy living in Portugal”, but also with the participation of, among others, local people who are fishermen, craftsmen and carry out all sorts of activities, he reports.

“This strengthens the bonds between the communities. We don’t just play here, we also play in Fuseta, in Almancil, and with more and more mixing, men and women of all nationalities […] in a spontaneous way”, which is “extraordinary”, he said.

The French community is the most numerous in these informal gatherings, followed by the Portuguese, but there are also other communities where petanque has a deep-rooted tradition, such as the Belgian and Swiss.

The French retirement and pension system is one of the most favorable in the world, allowing the population to benefit from it from the age of 62. The French government is in the process of changing the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, a measure that will be phased in by 2030 and is strongly opposed by the unions.

“At the beginning, for five or six years, I only played with Portuguese people, then [French people started arriving] and now I play with everyone,” says 84-year-old Frenchman Henri Raposo, who has lived in the Algarve for nine years.

The retiree, who regrets never having met his father, a Portuguese immigrant to France, and never having learned his language, emphasizes the beauty of the Ria Formosa and the friendliness of the Portuguese, considering the climate secondary: “We are very well off here.

The majority of French people who have chosen the Algarve as their place of residence say that they love living in the region, among other reasons – but first because of the mild climate and then because of the friendliness of the Portuguese.

“The French community has started to get together here in Olhão and we all play together, in friendship, with a game that is typical of them and that they brought to Portugal and other countries,” says Válter Anjos, 43, who also attends the twice-weekly meeting.

He adds that more and more of the French community is coming to Portugal, and that its members love the sun and the beach: “The climate here is quite good for the Portuguese, let alone the French,” he concludes.

Petanca is a game of French origin, created in the early twentieth century, played throughout southern Europe and brought to Portugal in the 1980s by Portuguese immigrants in France.

The game is a group activity and consists of launching a series of metal balls with the aim of getting as close as possible to a small wooden ball (“cochonette”) previously launched by a player.

Its name comes from the expression “pieds tanqués”, which means “feet together”.


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