But what's it REALLY like?
We have been here over a month now and I wanted to try to explain what it’s really like for us so far having uprooted our 9-5 London life for a tiny rural village in Southern Spain.
You will have gathered that the weather is on the whole fantastic and the countryside is spectacular but leaving that aside for a moment, day to day life is not all sunbathing and jolly trips to pretty villages.
A question that we have been asked many times is ‘Does it just feel like a long holiday?’ The short answer is 'no'.
To people sitting at their desk after a hideous hour on the tube or walking through the driving Scottish rain, this blog may seem like we are having an annoyingly fun sabbatical. I won’t deny that the quality of life living here in southern Spain is unquestionably healthier (mentally and physically) than London but life still goes on. We have the same life admin. We have to deal with bills and health insurance and running a car, making a living but all with the added handicap of a different language and nothing works like it does in he UK. Contrary to popular belief, services have proved to be more logical and efficient here so far but when you don’t understand the language or cultural habits - its bloody difficult.
Our village is picture perfect but none of the locals want to speak to us. They view us with circumspection and assume we are here for a long holiday. The accent is so thick here that even on the rare occasion we have managed more than ‘hola’ it's almost impossible to make out one word from another.
It’s an odd feeling being an ‘alien’. We now live in Spain yet everywhere we go we are treated like a tourist. When you are on holiday this is fine, in fact it often makes life easier, but we are in an odd limbo place where we can’t be treated like Spanish citizens, obviously, but also not really as ‘ex-patria' citizens because our linguistic skills are so minimal, doing even basic daily chores are challenging.
To be clear, I’m not complaining about this situation, this is exactly the challenge we knew we would face and it is why we spend every day at school learning Spanish usually followed by speaking spanish in a bar or visiting the local supermarket and throwing ourselves into situations where we absolutely have to interact with Spaniards.
When you are an alien in a foreign country you can quickly find people of your own kind. It's like a magnetic force that you can either repel or connect with. We could easily have chosen to live nearer the coast among the large community of English speakers who cling together like limpits and can say ‘dos cervezas’ with conviction and that's all the Spanish they need. But why bother moving from England? Oh the sunshine. But then they complain that it's too hot...
Anyway, after a month here, I would say we are just starting to find our feet but its not easy. I am finding school exceptionally hard. It’s taken me right back to being 12 years old. Bottom of the class. I often find it humiliating. I’m reliving the memories of my schooldays which I thought I had buried deep in the bowls of my memory. This is not a reflection of the school - the teachers are lovely and the teaching methods are very good, I am just... ‘slower’ I guess. It’s something I’ve had to deal with all my life and it’s a shock to realise it doesn’t get any easier just because I’m older. I’m not giving up however hard it gets and I am learning a huge amount and grow in confidence every day.
On a more positive note, I have had a bit of time to develop some of my creative business ideas (this side of my brain works much better!) My website is starting develop, Inktober was a great discipline and helps grow my illustration collection. We bought a camera a few days before we got here and I’ll soon be putting the best pics online. Ian has now set up up a fully working recording studio and editing suite, and been getting enquiries for local teaching jobs.
But its the small things that have been most satisfying. This morning we went to a cafe on the way to school. We have been in there almost every day for a week or so (they make incredible churros) and today they welcomed us, exchanged greetings and even shared a joke with the waitress - all in spanish of course. This doesn’t seem like much but it made us feel welcome. Not as a tourist, but like a Granadino.