Today, I’m starting a new series; ‘Reflections.’ I miss this side of ‘The Quarantine Diaries‘ now that they are over: the reflections on life, lessons learned, personal growth and development, etc. I find this kind of writing very therapeutic, and I hope there is something beneficial to you in these reflections. Please let me know what you think!
The first reflection will come from my experience as an expat twice removed from my country of birth, the United Kingdom. I sometimes feel it’s more of a Divided Kindgom these days, and all of this has happened since I re-located to Spain in April of 2016. If you followed ‘The Quarantine Diaries’ you will know that I recently relocated from Spain to Slovenia. And if you follow ‘Postcards from Slovenia,’ you will see that there is a lot to love about where I live now. But I do miss Spain, and I think about my life there often. So here’s the lowdown of what I loved (and didn’t love quite so much) about life in Iberia:
10 Things I miss about Spain:
- The Spanish Language
When I first arrived in Spain, I knew enough of the language to order a beer and explain that I didn’t speak Spanish. That didn’t get me too far when it came to things like dealing with labyrinthine bureaucracy, having a baby and getting my driving licence! Suffice to say I learned by being thrown in at the deep-end, and now I really enjoy speaking Spanish.
- Spanish-speaking people
Note that I don’t just say ‘Spanish people’ here, because Spanish is a truly international language, and I met some wonderful Spanish people during my time in Spain, but also made many friends from Central and South America. Though South American Spanish is a little different from Castilian, this makes matters still more interesting. It can lead to amusing misunderstandings (for example, you never coger a bus in South America, as this version of the verb ‘to take’ has very different connotations on that continent…)
- Jamón Ibérico
There are more pigs than people in Spain, which means the Spanish are passionate about their pork. And they make the best cured ham I have ever tasted. Jamon Iberico bellota pata negra? Yes, please!
- Eating out for a small price
Eating out in Spain is not a big, formal occasion. It’s an everyday, family occasion. Sitting on a terrace in the sun and eating cheap tapas is surely the true essence of the Spanish lifestyle.
- The Sun
We have plenty of sun still in Slovenia at this time of year, but in Spain the sun is more-or-less guaranteed everyday from May through September. A natural antidepressant.
- Oranges and Olives
I know, two things technically speaking, but they’re my two favourite Spanish food products. My favourite olives of all time are the Aceitunas Aloreñas from Málaga. I also remember being fascinated by the orange trees lining the streets when we first arrived in Fuengirola. How very un-British! Unlike my next entry…
- British food
On the Costa del Sol, British ‘delicacies’ such as fish and chips, curry and back bacon were very easy to come by, unsurprisingly given the large…
- Expat community
When you’re living away from your home country, it’s always good to get to know other people from back home. I certainly didn’t realise how very British I was until I left Britain!
- Laid-back lifestyle
This goes with tapas on the terrace, siestas and endless afternoons by the pool. Not a lot not to dislike about any of that, is there?
- The vast and varied landscape/cultures
Spain is a patchwork of very different regional identities, each with their own culture, traditions and language. In my four years of living there, I only scratched the surface of what there is to see, and I would certainly like to go back and see more!
10 Things I don’t miss about Spain:
Sad to say, but I felt this a lot more keenly in Spain than I have in the UK or Slovenia: women are judged very much by their appearance; men by their perceived masculinity. The female TV presenters are done up like barbie dolls, while the males are pumped up like matadors. Traditional roles. Clearly defined gender pigeon holes. I can definitely do without this aspect of Spanish life.
- Motorway ‘slip roads’
Madre Mía! In the UK, a slip road is exactly that: a road giving access to the motorway. In Spain, more often than not, it’s a lay-by from which you must incorporate into the flow of fast approaching traffic by flooring the accelerator and saying a prayer. To my health-and-safety conscious British sensibilities, this seemed a little ill-conceived.
- The heat
At this time of year, in Spain, I would spend most of the day enduring extreme physical discomfort. I can understand very well why people take siestas: in the hottest part of the day, any kind of physical activity is difficult, to the point where you can end up feeling trapped by the heat.
- The tourists
I am well aware that tourism is vital to the Spanish economy. But there are tourists and then there are tourists. I am not talking about the kind of tourists who come to experience and appreciate the culture and lifestyle of another land. I am talking about the tourists who come to Spain to get drunk in the sun, piss in the street and generally be obnoxious. I much preferred this year during lockdown when the beaches were clean and the only sounds were those of nature reclaiming this part of the earth for itself.
- Expat community
Some members of the British expat community simply want to extend the holiday lifestyle into a year-round experience. They don’t respect the local people, think they are superior, and don’t make any effort to integrate. They are glad about Brexit. At least until they lose their right to free healthcare and they have to head home to rainy old Blighty in order to collect their pension. Que pena!
- Laid-back lifestyle
As a fairly hyperactive person who is currently blogging at 6 a.m., sometimes Spain could be a bit too laid back for me. Compared to London, Barcelona was chilled; compared to London, Malaga was horizontal. Want something done in a hurry? Forget about it, have a beer and come back mañana, only to be told you don’t have the right papers, you’re in the wrong office and…ah what the hell? Back to the tapas bar…
- Litter and dog poo
It’s a problem in Britain too. I’m just noticing now how clean the streets in Slovenia are by comparison. I think many other countries could learn a lot from Slovenia’s deep-rooted respect for the natural environment.
- Spanish T.V.
If there was anything other than mindless programming on Spanish T.V., then I never found it. Of course it’s great watching glitzy game shows in order to improve your Spanish, but intellectually stimulating it is not.
- Internal politics
I was in Catalunya at the time of the most recent independence referendum, and I witnessed its fallout. It was thoroughly fascinating, but at the same time the divisions it wrought in society were very ugly. You were either pro-independence or contra: independentista or fascist franquista. Nothing like that ever happens in Britain, does it? Ah, wait a minute…
Just awful, and very popular in Spain. Many people insist on pumping out high-volume reggaeton rhythms from their car stereos night and day. I’ll take unplugged flamenco guitar on a sultry Andalusian night over this any day.
So there you have the top ten likes and dislikes of an ex-Spanish expat. Perhaps you’ve been an expat in Spain and have your own take on this: if so, let me know! Or maybe you’re considering a life in the sun and are interested in what life in Spain is really like. In that case, I hope that you enjoyed this post!