I WANT to talk through two different sides to our ‘move’ story. My move to Spain, which was non-complex and completely stress free, to the point that I can probably say the most strenuous part of it, was directing the non-English speaking taxi driver to our new house.
This may not seem stressful , but directing someone in another language, half way up a mountain , in the middle of the night and getting lost 10 times really truly, was! My move consisted of packing my bags, jumping on a plane and moving in with my family, compared to my aunties move which consisted of arranging herself, her husband, her two children and a grandmother. After you’ve heard my ridiculous story, and compared it my aunties ‘move abroad’ story I’m sure we’ll all agree on who should get a gold star for their efforts!
When we originally decided to move abroad, I wasn’t phased in the slightest. I knew I’d have to be away from friends, have to give up my room, leave housemates, leave my job and just, generally, make some day to day changes. It worked out quite nicely as I wanted to take a few months off from work anyway, and when better than before I moved away.
At the time, I didn’t have any ties… no boyfriend, no mortgage, no unfinished arguments with friends and genuinely nothing to hold me back whatsoever. I hadn’t experienced a big move like this before, I’d moved from Wales to London but that wasn’t too drastic, and from North London to South London, which really was drastic! Simply because Londoners don’t ever cross over the river!
When it came to the logistics, I thought to myself, well I’d be flying back so often, I’d be in continuous contact with everyone, nothing will really change. I should have known that was just a coping mechanism! Instead of actually thinking about the involvement of leaving, it was water off a duck’s back to me, good job too because if I had actually thought about it properly, I may have actually shed a tear for the first time in five years!
When the time came closer and it was time for me to actually pack up my life, it still wasn’t a huge chore or inconvenience, it was just one little responsibility I had to do. I didn’t have to think about anything past the packing stage because I was piggy backing my family’s move.
Obviously it would be sad to leave, but I assumed as I’d be travelling back once or twice a month anyway, I wouldn’t miss anything: birthdays, weddings, engagements , friends performances or just any social engagements. Yep, that was naive. I’ve only been here for three months and I’ve already missed two birthdays, a wedding, an engagement party and who even knows what other occasions!
When I first arrived, I fought tooth and nail to be at every single social gathering back in London so that I didn’t feel left out, thinking back this was probably because I didn’t actually want to admit the fact that I’d moved. So I was flying in to London for a party, flying back to Malaga, flying back to London for a theatre performance , then flying back to Malaga again… it’s not until recently that I’ve had to really face the fact that I actually live in another country.
It’s just not feasible to make all of those commitments anymore. Despite not being here long, everyone still says on a weekly basis, “Are you enjoying it? Oh that’s great but when are you moving back?”. If only they could come out and see how amazing it is to live here they’d understand why it hasn’t even entered my head to move back to London!
This may not be everyone’s point of view, but when I go back to London, I feel like there’s a cloud over everyone, the commuters, the shopkeepers, the by passers, the mums, dads , kids even! Maybe I’m just biased now, but here, everyone just seems so happy and stress free.
The food’s nicer, the trains are nicer, the buses are nicer and even the animals seem nicer! With the exception of a two-inch mutant bee that’s inhabiting our garden.
I moved to Malaga a week after my family had arrived, so they had already familiarised themselves with our local beach, the city centre, the banks, the bus routes, the supermarket and anything else essential to our survival. This obviously made life a lot easier, I didn’t have to go wondering the streets, fending for myself. I remember thinking how daunting it was to get a bus, order a coffee or even go for a walk on my own.
I’d be constantly holding my breath because god forbid someone spoke to me in Spanish and I couldn’t understand them (yeah, I quickly got over that too).
In the early days we didn’t have wifi so I’d walk down to the beach everyday to use the free wifi, sitting in the 30-degree heat keeping in close contact with my London friends, who were yep, sitting at their desks in the pouring London rain, shame.
After arriving I spent the next week trying to make my room feel more homely, sticking up pictures and arranging my collection of creepy china ornaments in exactly the same way they were in London.
I keep thinking to myself why on earth am I trying to recreate London in my lovely new Spanish home, you move abroad to get a change and a new vibe, not redecorate your house identical to your last!
I suppose one key point with my situation is even though I live in Malaga and my life and family are here, I still go back to London every two weeks or so to see my boyfriend. It almost feels like I haven’t entirely moved, I’ve still kept one foot back ‘home’, and between you and I, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped if I hadn’t done so.
Personally I am very bad with change… even to the smallest degree, like someone sitting in my place on the sofa , I will just sit on you until you get so fed up and move over. So to me, leaving a foot over on the other side has helped me to slowly adjust to the new and wonderful Spanish life. I don’t know if all expats do the same thing or if they just up and leave and don’t do all the tooing and froing I do?
Back to reality
After the honeymoon period had run its course, I sat down and started looking for a job in Malaga. I would say it’s quite a tricky task to over come, there seem to be plenty of exciting jobs in Malaga city, but they require fluent Spanish!
I picked up some newspapers, looked online and as I have a sales background I decided despite really not wanting to, beggars can’t be choosers and this was my best way to go.
Within a week or so of my search I’d landed a fabulous role in a fabulous company, but working from home. I’m sure you’ll all agree when moving to another country where you know no one, and don’t speak the language, this isn’t the best way to go.
Because I’ve only worked from home, I haven’t had the chance to get out and meet new friends, I have a great team I work with remotely, but that face to face communication just isn’t there, which I think is essential when socialising!
Each week would go by and I’d think yes I’m doing so much better, I feel much more settled in now. Looking back despite being here for three months, I’d wholeheartedly say I’ve only truly felt settled in the last few weeks.
It’s not a case of just moving, closing up shop in London and opening up again in Spain (as I’d envisaged).
When you get down to the nitty gritty and the actual logistics of being a resident here, like how the tax system works, NIE numbers, bank accounts, is there a library or where can I print things … ( the list could go on and on! ) it is so much more complex then I’d thought.
Malaga city really is a unique and beautiful place to live, there is so much to see and experience, not to mention the amazing restaurants and the beautiful people!
By all means I still have a long way to go, I need to learn Spanish, meet some new people, make some friends and start building the life I carefully dismantled from London, it is however a phenomenal city to be doing it in!
I’d say my experience of moving abroad is almost laughable, because it was a hell of a lot easier then most people’s. I didn’t have to do any of the actual arranging. I mean I did some emotional arranging but when it comes to moving companies, finding a house, a school for children, bus routes etc I have my Auntie to thank. I’ll be getting a run down of her experience moving abroad and I’m sure you’ll agree from a ‘responsible adults’ point of view, it is so much less glamorous and stress free then a ‘child’s’ point of view of the move!
To be continued…