CHATTER – ADVICE
Chatter Advice I have been resident in Spain, for just over a year now and have lived through all the seasons; experienced busy times, sat through the quiet and enjoyed the changing scene, that is Gran Alacant. I have come out the other side, still living in this little part, of the Costa Blanca and looking forward to a bright new future. A local resident once told me; ‘You won’t truly know Spain, until you spend a year living in this country, discovering what it has to offer; you’ll survive or not!’ Well, I have survived, just. There are many things I wish I had known before I came here, many more, I should have taken notice of and an even greater number, I ignored, at my peril. In this month’s column, I wanted to give those readers, thinking about settling in Gran Alacant the benefit of my advice, after living here for just one year, not a life time, granted, but a long enough period, to at least form opinions and learn from mistakes. Talking to the residents is key to
Talking to the residents is key to ones success or failure, which is what the column ‘Chatter’, is all about; conversing with the locals, speaking with neighbours and listening to those, who know far more than I. Like most people, thinking about emigrating, I did my research, just no where near enough. Just yesterday, I was asked, if I was enjoying my time in Spain, by someone visiting and thinking about moving to Gran Alacant, permanently; In the main, I can only say good things about this urbanization. Where you live, is a personal choice, it was about practicality, in our case. Living in a region between Benidorm and Torrevieja, gave us a large catchment area in which to work with. The large Expat community in this region, with British investment and businesses, was a good introduction, to working in Spain. The jobs for someone like myself are limited. I can not speak Spanish fluently, so have to rely on English speaking positions; Gran Alacant is a perfect location for me. Once you have decided you want to move to Gran Alacant, it important to get involved in the local community. The person I met, thinking about moving here, was already settling into their new surroundings, enjoying the many social activities on offer.
Once you have decided you want to move to Gran Alacant, it important to get involved in the local community. The person I met, thinking about moving here, was already settling into their new surroundings, enjoying the many social activities on offer. Expat’s are extremely inventive and resourceful, holding many events in bars and restaurants up and down the Costa Blanca. Take a few minutes out of your day once or twice a week to meet those who live in the neighbourhood, of which you are now a part. If you were a business, you would refer to it as networking; whatever you call it, it is an important part of the integration process. If you are looking for work, paid or unpaid, locals are a great source of inspiration. You have to remember, most of them, have lived here many years, know much about the Spanish system and ways to negotiate your way through the bureaucracy, which can be a nightmare at times! Make sure you start off as you mean to go on. During my year in Spain, even I have seen many people come and go; it is all part of their attitude. Spain is not the United Kingdom, it is different in every respect. Changing the way you think is important, adjust your perspective, participate, and join in. The young especially, come here in holiday mode and never leave that behind. By the end of the first season, they have run out of money, friends and damaged their reputation beyond repair. A combination of drinking, partying to all hours of the morning and an inability to forget the UK, constantly comparing the two, seals most
Make sure you start off as you mean to go on. During my year in Spain, even I have seen many people come and go; it is all part of their attitude. Spain is not the United Kingdom, it is different in every respect. Changing the way you think is important, adjust your perspective, participate, and join in. The young especially, come here in holiday mode and never leave that behind. By the end of the first season, they have run out of money, friends and damaged their reputation beyond repair. A combination of drinking, partying to all hours of the morning and an inability to forget the UK, constantly comparing the two, seals most peoples fate. Residents, do not take too kindly to people like this, they do not like opportunists; people who continue to take from others and give nothing in return. If you are this sort of person, chances are, you wont last long! Everyone likes a drink from time to time, there is nothing wrong with that. For those who just intend to sit in a bar, day after day, spending more and more money, Spain is really not for them. With alcohol, comes antisocial and disruptive behaviour, something that is a real problem in Britain; this is not acceptable to the vast majority who reside in here.
The Spanish way of doing things, is always something to be considered; I am not used to Spanish ways. Everything is so much slower; if you really want to make the most of life in Spain, you will need to adjust to the different pace. You will be living along the Mediterranean, enjoy a southern European culture and a far more relaxed way of doing things. In Britain I was always running around, constantly and like most people, spent most of my time stuck in traffic. I had a huge amount of stress and suffered from sleepless nights, all because of the speed, that we do things, back home. Spain has changed me into a much more placid creature, who has actually enjoyed slowing down!
One must prepare oneself for irritations that get under the skin; paperwork, is a Spanish pastime and a huge fact of life. I can not emphasise enough, the mountains of documents you need, to function on a daily basis; NIE number, The Padron, Contracts of Employment, SIP Card, the list is endless! The Spanish have turned form filling into a national pastime. I was rather sarcastically informed, that without the reams of paperwork, unemployment in Spain would be even higher than it is now; It keeps people in work. There is no ‘one stop shop,’ that does everything in Spain, oh no! You have to be prepared to do a lot of walking; they don’t make it easy for you here. We paid someone to do all the ‘donkey work’ for us, which does save a lot of time and complications. There is a whole industry, built around form filling! Enterprising individuals offering their services to ‘get things done’, relatively quick. I would highly recommend anyone use these people, especially after just arriving in Spain. Remember if the forms aren’t filled in correctly, it’s back to square one! When in possession of all this administration, keep it safe, whatever you do. Do not tamper with it, laminate it or mark it in anyway; it will be rejected, the next time you need it; reapplying would be an avoidable extra headache.
Most importantly, take time out of your day to study the Spanish language. I didn’t bother learning any Spanish before I left, one of my biggest regrets. A place like Gran Alacant, does have a large Expat community, all speaking English, but your experience would be much more stimulating and successful, if you can speak and understand a little of the local language. If anything the locals will appreciate you making an effort, no matter how bad it is!
So you have made that decision to move to Spain, you have done all the research, before you go and understand, just what you are letting yourself in for; you have said your goodbyes and have set off into the sunset, starting a new life in a foreign land. How fantastic you think, finally no more rain, just sunshine and sangria; what could possibly go wrong? Always think the unexpected, do not take your new surroundings for granted and be mindful of the pitfalls ahead; Everyone will experience them at some point. Stay realistic, set goals and work towards them, above all live as the Spain Spanish do; eat the food, enjoy the fiesta’s and speak the dialect. Then, only then, maybe, you will actually, enjoy everything this beautiful country has to offer!