Happy to help :-)
It is really encouraging to have had so many emails as a result of our last blog post regarding the steps we have taken to get our paperwork here sorted out and formalised.
It seems that one or two of our blog readers are contemplating a similar move - leaving behind the UK and forging a new life in Spain. Many of the questions we have been asked involve reassurances that the move is straightforward and not traumatic. So, by way of an open reply, we would say the following:
- Planning. We planned meticulously. That was part of the fun for me, as I had a truly comprehensive ‘spreadsheet of joy’. This spreadsheet had our entire budget for the 12 months (which we have managed to adhere to without any adjustments or problems). The spreadsheet also had links to all useful websites (hire cars, accommodation agents etc etc), it had a detailed timetable so we knew when we needed to appoint a letting agent for the house in London, when we needed to decorate the flat before letting, when we should throw a leaving do (essential!). We pre-planned the drive through Spain and pre-booked the hotels for our 2 nights on the way down. We had to know that we could support ourselves for 12 months, we had to know that we had accommodation sorted, all just for peace of mind.
- Moving. The physical move here was absolutely plain-sailing. You will have seen in one of our earliest blog posts that we hired a one-way van and drove down through Spain. We wouldn't say it was massively expensive, and as we got the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao at the end of September, the ferry costs were reasonable. We have heard that these prices rocket during peak summer season. To be honest, the thought of hiring a full removal service, then flying down all sounds a little bit more traumatic but, as we haven’t done that, we can’t really say…
- Learning the Language. This is not easy, but we had decided even before we came out here that we would enrol in a Language School as soon as we had settled in. We had been to night school in London for a year, but this merely scratches the surface. It is totally worth every penny to get an immersive start and learn the solid basics as soon as you arrive. It makes life so much easier and you get to make local friends who, in our opinion, are vital. We have seen too many people (on the coast, particularly) fall into the expat trap and surround themselves with fellow Brits and, as a result, we feel they deprive themselves of so much that is fantastic about living here. Make mistakes, keep trying to speak Spanglish and you will, slowly, pick up more and more of the language. As we say, it is not easy, but never give up!
- Staying. Although we had initially planned to try living here for 12 months, we knew within a very short period of time that we would not want to leave. Psychologically, we think it was a great thing to plan just for the year, as it means you are not cutting the umbilical cord too soon, and you do have an escape route should things not pan out. If you have a property in the UK, do your utmost to hang on to it as both a safety net and as a source of income. Rent here to begin with and do not rush into buying a property. Give yourself time to settle into your surroundings and look around to make sure that you know the area in which you’d like to live. We will probably continue to rent until we find a suitable property that is too good to miss - it is still very much a buyers’ market in Spain, and there are bargains to be had.
- Inclusion. Spain is the most welcoming and inclusive country we have encountered. The people are genuinely warm and generous, even in the poorest areas. In your nearest town or city, take the time to visit a few bars and cafes regularly and, once the owners see that you are not a tourist (here today, gone tomorrow) they will welcome you with ever-open arms, and you instantly feel a sense of belonging. The bars in the villages are a source of every piece of information you could ever need, and the villagers who frequent said bars will bend over backwards to try and answer any queries you have, even if you only have the very basic Spanish.
- Working. For my part, I can honestly say that I have had more opportunity here than in the UK. In the UK, I started to feel my age and that I was undervalued. Here, my age is completely irrelevant. I now have a voiceover agent in Madrid; I was contacted through LinkedIn (there’s a first!) by a Spanish e-Learning company and as a result I have just complete my largest ever voiceover project (over 70,000 words for a UN E-Learning programme), and subsequently I am now registered here as self-employed. I have three teaching jobs and start as a partner in an academy in Granada, full-time, from September. I have two radio programmes, one of which is here in Spain and gives me a huge opportunity to build my own network - today, for example, I learned from one of my radio guests that there are opportunities for native English people to work in Theatre-in-Education, using drama as a way of engaging with school-age students.
Andrew, as a result of being here, has had the time and inspiration to build up a portfolio of his own designs and launch his first on-line business that will now evolve and grow. The initial response has been supremely encouraging, and that is the surprising element of being here. Give something a go, push it out to an audience and you will be very surprised at the outcome. Spain has a high level of unemployment, particularly amongst the younger population. However, they need help, and English is a very valuable commodity. That doesn’t mean that teaching is the only avenue, but fresh entrepreneurial ideas can gain traction here. I know some people have encountered the worst side of bureaucracy, but the people I meet are resilient and resourceful, and never seem to be deterred, and optimism remains undimmed. The cost of living here is less than in the UK, and so are the average salaries, but there is something about being here that both inspires and provides a backdrop for creativity. It is one massive adventure.
- Paperwork. Get your paperwork sorted out. Read our last blog post and ask us for help if you need any further information. We might not have all the answers, but it just makes sense to start off on the right foot, legally, in your new home.
As I go around chatting to guests for ‘Life Stories’, my Spanish radio programme, I have come across musicians, tour guides, gardeners, writers, cooks, bloggers, teachers and business people, all of whom have been inspired by this country to create their own employment and their own lifestyle. Some have found the journey difficult at times, others less so, but they all share something in common: they love life here and would not go back to the UK unless they were absolutely forced to. We, too, love it here and our affinity with our village, the people, Granada and Andalucia strengthens daily. We have never had one moment's doubt that this was the right move for us.
If you are considering a move to Spain, and need to ask anything at all about the experience, we are here to help if we can!