Things I miss about the UK
I have been living in Spain for a year and a half now; longer than I thought possible. For me, it has been a difficult ride, experiencing many ups and downs. The problems I have endured, have often made me recall my past. The truth is, as much as I love my new home in Spain, there will always be a part of me, that forever lives in Britain. I am more of an Anglophile now than I ever have been, appreciating my roots, remembering with fondness, my life in the UK and cherished memories made. I am often asked, if there are particular things I miss about England; probably the wrong question to ask someone like me, having just emigrated, feeling a bit sensitive and nostalgic; however, yes there are many items, concepts, aspects of living and qualities I miss about Britain, It is only now, no longer in my country of birth, that I can appreciate a life, that in the past I took for granted. The UK was never as bad as I thought, just as Spain is not the paradise I imagined. Wherever you live, you will have your mountains to climb, that’s life. Looking back with affection, is part of the process of leaving the past behind, adjusting to your new life and finally accepting the new path you have chosen.
I have embraced my new life in Spain, wholeheartedly; if not always enthusiastically. I accept, I can not live as I did in the UK and do my best to survive as the Spanish do. The convenience of Britain, everything at ones finger tips is not mirrored in Spain, at least not in Gran Alacant. Back home, I could choose to shop twenty four hours a day if I so wished, often seen in Tesco at four O’clock in the morning, preferring the relative quiet isles, to the heaving Saturday morning rush of consumers through the door. Shopping was a much easier activity to undertake, compared to the difficult navigation of numerous Spanish supermarkets, to buy everything I need weekly. In GA I don’t seem to be able to buy everything in one place, having to spend a good few hours sourcing produce. In the UK, it may have taken me half an hour to do a shop; a big difference in time. I am only able to facilitate this traditional method of shopping, because of my change in lifestyle. I have a much larger window of time to procure groceries here. In fact I tend to buy necessities every day in Spain, rather like my Mother did, decades ago. The advantages and benefits of the weekly shop is clear for me: I don’t enjoy supermarkets at the best of times, let alone on a daily basis.
The subject of shopping brings me neatly on to the topic of food. There aren’t many British items you can’t get in Gran Alacant. The World is a much smaller place and there are international produce isles in every supermarket, selling all the British staples; equally you can order items online for delivery to your Spanish address. For me the biggest let down is cheese, proper, decent, tasty English cheddar. Every supermarket sells its own brand, but none I have tasted so far, meets my expectations. Large jars of Marmite and Bovril don’t seem to exist in Spain; the only option is to buy the smallest jars at highly inflated prices; a constant bugbear and annoyance, like the lack of pre-packaged convenience food. When you lead a busy life in Spain, there are no real options for quick alternatives; putting a microwave meal in to cook before work is a no no. Like most things, the Spanish expect you to live in the same way they do. Not a bad thing; Processed food is less nutritious after all. You can cook a cheap simple meal, in the time it takes the microwave to ping, even if you don’t always want to bother. The Spanish lifestyle is less tailored to expediency and more customized towards families; a stark contrast to the British way of life!
I used to live on the south coast of England, near the New Forest, in Hampshire, a beautiful part of the World. Myself and my partner would often spend time walking and enjoying the scenery, this part of the UK has to offer. As a small child my Grandparents would take me for long country walks, picnics in the forest; spending quality family time in a setting that has a special place in my heart. I do miss this aspect to British life. I was born in a village and although I moved to a city, still remained a village boy at heart. Spain also has some fantastic topography, very different to the English rolling meadows and fields, but nothing compares to the landscapes of my childhood, a pint in a local country pub, beamed ceilings, horse brasses on an open fire. When I am finally able to return, a pint of Tanglefoot at the Jolly Sailor will be first on my agenda!
Leaving friends and family behind, when locating to foreign shores is also fraught with difficulties. I have many good, long standing and enduring relationships with those I regard as close. The hardest aspect of moving abroad, is leaving these associations behind. The people of Gran Alacant have been very accepting and I have managed to form some fantastic bonds with people, but I still miss my friendships of the past. When you grow up with someone and know every aspect of each other, it can be difficult to replicate. The community is strong here; in time, as I feel more settled, at ease and at home, the problems and issues of forming durable, rewarding friendships, will not feel so daunting at my time of life.
Interestingly, especially lately, I have been missing the British weather. Spain and the southern mediterranean has been suffering from a heatwave; inland temperatures of 47.3 degrees have been recorded. Hospitals have been inundated with those experiencing the effects of sun stroke; wildfires are widespread and the humidity is 80% or above. The last time I experienced such excruciating heat, was when I was living in Australia; what I wouldn’t do for a little British weather right now. Although my body has adjusted to the Spanish seasons well over the last eighteen months, I am still finding it hard to work in such sweltering conditions. I hear people complain about the rain back home all the time; enjoying the three hundred plus days per year of sunshine in this region, we do seem immune. Unlike the extreme temperatures in Spain at the moment, the UK, enjoys a more temperate, agreeable climate. I find myself looking back with fondness, at rainy days sat in front of an open fire; a memory that can not easily be replicated in Spain!
When one makes the decision to move abroad, one has to accept the inevitable loss of a lifestyle we are leaving behind. There will be aspects of British life you will miss, after all when you have lived in the UK all your life, it is going to take a while to adjust to a southern European life. Emigrating to the continent isn’t as difficult as it once was, we still have access to most of the pleasures we took for granted in the UK; the World is a much smaller place. It has done me the World of good, writing about just a few things I miss about home; recalling their importance to me is a great healer, bringing back memories of my life in another country. As long as we continue to look forward positively, seizing opportunities, modifying and remodelling our perspective towards our new chosen home we should be fine in our unfamiliar, as yet untested and unaccustomed role as an Expat, settling into Spanish life on the Costa Blanca. The UK is just a plane journey away, as the World gets ever smaller; keep your memories alive by making new ones to look back on, as you live the life you always dreamed of!