As we mentioned previously, Spain is tightening its belt economically. The taxman is going for every centimo possible as the government looks for ways to reduce the national debt. We have been seeing this happen at the expense of taxpayers and business owners. However, the quality of life and Spain, in general, still make it worthwhile to moving over and living here.
Also, with Brexit just around the corner, with whatever that could mean for expats in Spain, it is more important than ever to make sure your paperwork is up-to-date and you are living legitimately in your chosen country.
To help you survive expat life in Spain, we have put together some ‘possibly boring but definitely practical‘ tips. We’ve also thrown in a few fun tips to help you get the most out of your life in Spain in 2017.
List One: Our ‘possibly boring but definitely practical’ tips for surviving expat life in Spain in 2017.
If you are a resident in Spain, check your residency card* is valid and up-to-date. Once it expires, you will have to start the application process again. It’s far easier just to renew it rather than go through the rigmarole of producing documents – and forming an orderly queue – all over again. (*The residency card is currently (January 2017) a small green credit card size piece of paper. This replaced the A4 green residency certificate, which is also valid. The old blue card with a photograph on it is the one that has an expiry date.)
If you are a resident but you only have the white NIE certificate, you should consider applying for your residency card now. Although the details still have to be worked out, when the UK does leave the EU obtaining a residency card is likely to be more complicated. Spain already wants assurances that you will not be a burden which is why it seeks proof of your finances and medical cover. These rules could be more stringent post-Brexit or once Britain triggers Article 50. It is not a difficult process but you just need to make sure you have filled in the relevant forms and take the necessary documents plus photocopies with you. We help you every step of the way in Chapter One of our online course on NIE, residency and the padron.
Check your driving licence and car paperwork. Make sure that the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) knows your current address which must appear on both your licence and car paperwork. It is also useful for DGT to have your current address in case you should incur a traffic fine. If paid promptly, you can usually get up to 50% discount but if you don’t know about it, the fine can rapidly soar. Read our blog about our €900 traffic fine (which we fought against and won!) for a horrifying account of Spanish fines’ farce. You can find out how to update your licence and car paperwork in chapter 10 of our online course on driving in Spain.
If you live permanently in Spain, you will need to swap your UK licence for a Spanish one. It is simple to do and might involve a simple medical to check eyes, hearing and co-ordination. It will be easier to exchange licences before your UK one expires. Again, our online course on driving will guide you through this process.
Learn Spanish. We are constantly amazed at the number of Brits who move to Spain but never manage to pick up more than a few words of the lingo. To make the most of your expat life in Spain, we would definitely recommend you learn Spanish. It will help you integrate, it will certainly come in handy in an emergency and you can learn so much more about the rich culture and history through learning the language. To get the most of your expat life in Spain 2017, we suggest you make this the year you learn or improve your linguistic skills. Depending on which part of the country you live in, after conquering Castellano you may be inspired to go on to learn Catalan or Valenciano, for example, to really live like a local. For more ideas on learning a language in Spain 2017 to make the most of your expat life in Spain, sign up for Chapter 4 of our online course on language and Chapter 8 on integration.
January in Spain
List Two: Our 10 fun tips for making the most of your expat life in Spain in 2017
Stop worrying and go with the flow. We know Spanish bureaucracy can be frustrating, the queuing system confusing and the paperwork inexplicable. That is why we’ve set out easy-to-follow instructions in our online course to help you. But, even if you are learning Spanish and trying to integrate but feel progress is slow, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you have followed our advice in List One above, you have done a lot more than many others who enjoy expat life in Spain.
Get out. Discover. Enjoy. We all know how much Spain loves to party with fiestas and ferias taking place every week somewhere in Spain. These fiestas are fantastic fun, such as the arrival of the Three Kings on 12th night; Moors and Christians battles; Sevilla feria spring fair; jumping over bonfires for San Juan in mid-summer; and carnival. Others are more sombre such as Holy Week with processions and palms. To keep informed about the fiestas and ferias around Spain, sign up for our newsletter.
Use your EYES to marvel at the stunning scenery
Remember the mañana mantra. Take life in the slow lane by becoming more Spanish. Your expat life in Spain is not supposed to be stressful. Don’t get worked up about the little things and if you can’t get something done today, then there is always tomorrow.
Remember the more the merrier. The louder the better. Forget about the British reserve and make some noise. If you’re having fun, then show it. Join in the dancing and singing during the fiestas. Invite your neighbours around for a barbecue. Laugh out loud at the little things that amuse you. Nobody’s watching because they’re too busy enjoying themselves!
Savour the simple stuff. Remember why you decided to move to Spain. Was it the food, the beautiful scenery, the people, the culture? Whatever the reason, don’t get so bogged down by the little things that you forget why you decided to make your expat life in Spain. Every day, look up at the views, marvel over the range of fresh fish in the market, smile at the old guys putting the world to rights in the town square, and savour every moment of everything Spain has to offer.
Lisa & Joshua in a Padel torneo
Try something new. Spain never ceases to amaze us with each region having something unique to offer. Take time out of your schedule to try something new. It could be a new sport – padel or golf – a healthy pastime – like walking or cycling – or sign up for an art or photography course.
Taste the difference. Spanish cuisine is very hearty and makes the most of the regional, seasonal produce. Why not treat yourself to a menu del día which is typically Spanish. You could try migas, rabo de toro, pulpo a la gallega or puchero.
Pulpo a la Gallega
Gambas Pil Pil
Do something typically Spanish. This helps you embrace the culture. Learn to slice jamón so thinly you can see through it, or intricate lace-making, pouring cider the Asturian way, flamenco dancing or cooking a giant paella on an open fire.
Go exploring. Spain is such a vast country that it would take a lifetime to explore all of it. But we suggest you do the best you can by setting aside days for getting off the tourist trail and exploring the hidden Spain. Depending on your interests, you could visit a city which isn’t mentioned in the tourist guides, find a traditional village miles from anywhere or visit the national parks or mountains.
Join a group. To truly integrate, we suggest you join a group of people who share the same interests as you or sign up as a volunteer. On the internet, you can find groups of people who meet for excursions or activities. For older people, the U3A is active in many areas. Or volunteer to help others – you could join the Red Cross, help out at a local shelter for the homeless or animals. For further ideas of enjoying expat life in Spain, you can always sign up for Chapter 8 of our online course on integration.
Remember to smile and have fun!
So, there you have just a few of our many tips for surviving and making the most of you expat life in Spain in 2017.
What do you have planned for 2017? Have we helped you make some decisions? Pop over to Our Family Life In Spain Facebook Page and share your ideas with us.
We have started 2017 with a bang! Thanks to readers like you, our family language project, Cooking With Languages, has been brought to life. You helped us raise over £5,000 via Crowdfunding. The campaign ends 30th January 2017 so you might still have time to bag yourself some bargains …
UPDATE: Our How To Move To Spain Online Course …
We are currently working on our online course, our project for 2017. As soon as it is ready, our Newsletter subscribers will be the first to know and, of course, the first to get the discounted price 😉
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER
PS. IF YOU LIKE OUR POSTS, PLEASE HIT THE SHARE BUTTONS AND SPREAD THE WORD!
GRACIAS AMIGOS 🙂
Let Us Show You How To Make Money From Your Leftover Currency!
Did you know that Spaniards are still hoarding pesetas worth about €1.7 billion?
Since the euro was introduced in Spain on New Year’s Day 2002, the Spanish have kept the faith with the old money by hoarding about €864 million in notes and €805 million in coins, according to the Bank of Spain. Whether the money is stuffed under the bed or hidden in cupboards, that’s a lot of spare change lying around! But there are more useful things to do with your leftover currency.
Why the pessimism following the peseta?
Pesetas can still be exchanged by the central bank until the end of 2020, so there’s still time to swap it for euros. After all, what else can you do with it? Maybe some people are hanging on to the money in the hope the peseta will be reintroduced into Spain. Many still complain the euro led to rapid inflation as prices were rounded up. A cup of coffee in a bar which previously cost 100 pesetas was priced at €1 while a menu del dia – three-course lunch – went from 1,000 pesetas to €10, which was a whopping 66% increase. (The exchange rate says €1 is worth 166 pesetas). So it’s no wonder that people were suspicious of the new ‘funny money’ and wanted to hang on to the beloved peseta. But can this still be the case 15 years later?
But even the peseta is a relatively new currency as it was only created during the monetary reform in 1868, according to A Farewell To The Peseta speech given by Eugenio Domingo Solans, Member of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, in February 2002. The mid-19th century was a turbulent time of social upheaval, economic depression with a need to establish financial and monetary order. So a new currency was born.
According to historians, the franc and peseta share the same origin with the Livre Tournois, from Tours, being introduced into Catalonia by French troops during the War of the Spanish Succession which ended with defeat in 1714. In France the Franc Germinal replaced the Libre Tournois while the peseta came into being in Catalonia before becoming the basic unit of the Spanish monetary system in 1868 when decimalisation was also introduced (something the British didn’t bring in until 1971 incidentally) Prior to that, the ‘real’ meaning ‘Royal’ was the Spanish currency from the middle of the 14th century until 1864 when it was replaced by the silver ‘escudo’ which lasted from 1864 until 1868.
So what is a peseta? The word ‘peseta’ is thought come from ‘pesseta’, the diminutive form of the Catalan word ‘peça’ meaning ‘piece’. However, it may also have come from the Spanish word ‘peso’ being ‘weight’.
Euro euphoria – reasons to be cheerful?
Despite the doom and gloom by many traditionalists, the reasons for setting up a Euro-wide currency were sound.
You no longer lose out on currency exchange when travelling between Spain and other European countries. Changing money always had a cost to it so it’s much better for tourists to have one currency to use in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and other European countries.
Obviously, businesses benefit immensely too as they can trade with their fellow European companies using just the one currency unless they have dealings with the UK of course.
It’s great for exports because it cuts out any fluctuations of exchange rates which could lead to a difference between a healthy profit and a possible loss.
It’s easier to compare prices between countries. With one currency, it means prices are transparent so you don’t have to work out if you pay more for a new Volkswagen in France than in Germany – it’s all in euros!!
Has the penny dropped?
When you read about how much old money is being stashed away by Spaniards, did it make you think about that drawer crammed full of useful stuff that never gets used?
Everyone has a drawer or box full of old TV remotes, phone chargers and cables which you put away because ‘they’ll come in handy some day’. I bet many of you will also find some leftover currency in that drawer too. You know, you had a handful of small notes or loose change from your holiday in Greece or Turkey, which wasn’t worth changing back into sterling, so you put it away – and forgot about it!
Well now, you can cash in obsolete currencies or coins in many currencies at leftovercurrency.com. Your old Spanish pesetas, Deutsche marks, French francs and currencies still trading today such as US or Canadian dollars and Euros can be cashed in.
So why not hunt out all your leftover currency – old and new – to find out how much you can get for it?
Quotes from Leftover Currency Clients
Leftover Currency was set up Mario Van Poppel and Aleksandra Ruchala after finding old banknotes in a drawer. Curiosity aroused, they wanted to find out if they had any value and so they learned how to convert old money into cash. Thus Leftover Currency was born in 2010 to help other people exchange old currency and coins.
They were joined by Steven Lawrence in 2014 and Leftover Currency started to trade as a limited company. Steven has worked for 30 years in the UK financial and retail sectors, so brings a wealth of experience to complement the couple’s passion for numismatics – the study or collection of coins, banknotes, and medals.
So why not declutter that ‘drawer full of useful things’?
Just dig out any leftover currency, go to the Leftover Currency website and follow the instructions to see how much better off you can be by offloading your foreign currency.
If you are feeling generous, you could even donate your leftover currency to charity … now we like that idea!
Are you a charity? Get in contact with Leftover Currency to be featured on their page.
Public Holidays Spain 2017: Time to start planning!
As 2017 gets into full swing and we start thinking about the year ahead, planning holidays, family meet ups and day trips, it is a good idea to consider the dates for public holidays Spain 2017.
If you are planning your relocation and arranging to visit schools and visit potential rental properties, you will find many places closed on these dates. Avoid them if you can.
If you are looking for the 2016/2017 school holiday calendar, visit here.
According to Spain’s BOE official state bulletin, these are the public holidays Spain 2017:
- If a National Holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday may also be declared a holiday date.
- There are many local holidays that are not included on this calendar, ensure you do your research about the area you plan to visit, before making any plans.
Name of Holiday
Where in Spain?
||New Year’s Day
||New Year’s Day Holiday*
||Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Castile and Leon, Murcia and Melilla
||Día de Reyes (Kings’ Day)
||Día de Andalucía
||Balearic Islands Regional Holiday
||St. Joseph’s Day
||Extremadura and Madrid
||Jueves Santo (Semana Santa)
||National (Except Catalonia)
||Viernes Santo/ Santo Entierro (Semana Santa)
||Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Valencia, Navarra, Basque Country and La Rioja
||Castile and Leon Regional Holiday
||Castile and Leon
||Día de los trabajadores
||Madrid Regional Holiday
||Galician Literature Day
||Canary Islands Regional Holiday
||Castile-La Mancha Regional Holiday
||Murcia Regional Holiday
||La Rioja Regional Holiday
||St. John’s Day
||Santiago Apostle / National Day of Galicia
||Galicia, Navarra and the Basque Country
||Assumption of Mary
||Feast of the Sacrifice / Eid al-Adha *
||Ceuta & Melilla
||Astorias Regional Holiday
||Extremadura Regional Holiday
||National Day of Catalonia
||Cantabria Regional Holiday
||Valencian Regional Holiday
||Fiesta Nacional de España
||Todos los santos
||Navidad/ Christmas Day
||St. Stephen’s Day
We’ll be adding information about all these holidays on the blog, so make sure you sign up for updates!
If you’d like to write about your favourite Spanish Festival, or you think we’ve made any mistakes, please Contact Us
WARNING: Lisa is rambling again. This ramble is about totally related and unrelated stuff in Spain 2016. We have neglected our blog for too long so this is her way of getting it all out, looking back and moving forwards … you have been warned 😉
Our April Fools in Spain
December 28th in Spain, is Dia de los Santos Inocentes. It is basically the equivalent to April Fools in Spain … a day when is it customary to play practical jokes.
To all the lovely people who emailed us and posted messages on our Facebook page, please accept our apologies, but we couldn’t resist it…
NEWS: It is with regret that we must inform you of our decision to leave Spain.
As a result of our decision, our…
Posted by Family Life In Spain on Wednesday, 28 December 2016
A little bit more about December 28th, April Fools in Spain …
This celebration appears to have its origins in an event narrated by the Bible concerning King Herod and the innocents, although over the centuries it has evolved to become a boisterous day in which even the media usually reports on some outrageous and completely invented news story.One of the most widespread jokes on this day is to stick a figure cut out of white paper on someone’s back (without them realising). The word in Spanish for this practical joke is an “inocentada”. And, in the numerous Christmas markets (usually located in the large squares in the cities) you can find a whole range of joke articles (wigs, itching powder, false ink…).Many areas in Spain also have other typical local celebrations on 28 December. Examples include the festivity of Los Locos (or “lunatics”) in Jalance (in Valencia, the mayor of the lunatics governs the town for 24 hours); the festivity of the Holy Innocents in Nogalte (in Murcia, with popular dancing and bands of singers); the Danza de Los Locos, or “dance of the lunatics” in Fuente Carreteros (in Cordoba); the “Obispillo”, or “little bishop” (celebrated in places such as Burgos, Palencia and Murcia, where a small boy is chosen to carry out the functions of the bishop for one day); and the “Festa dels Enfarinats” de Ibi (in Alicante, involving a “battle” fought with eggs, flour and firecrackers).
Why did we decide to play this December 28th “joke”?
It may surprise you but we were doubting whether to continue with our blog and social media pages. Life seems so busy these days and time is of the essence.
Sometimes we just need to take check of everything, especially tasks that take up a lot of our time. Thanks to your responses we know that we shouldn’t give up what we have spent years creating.
We have been blogging since 2010 and have built a wonderful family both online and in real life. It is thanks to all your comments, the private emails and business offers that we are now fully motivated for 2017 and will be planning lots more exciting adventures.
If you use social media, join us for more online fun and activities in 2017:
Looking back over Spain 2016:
A very quick summary of the continuing struggles in Spain 2016 …
- Education standards, particularly related to “so-called” bilingual education, are in question in schools in many parts of the country. We continue to collate feedback and information on this.
- The Spanish royal family and many highly prominent characters seem to be continually engulfed in scandal en corruption.
Good News in 2016 from friends in Spain:
Spain’s ‘ghost’ airport finally gets ready to welcome its first flights as Ryanair confirms routes between Castellon and the UK.
The project cost more than €150m to build and was the brainchild of a local politician who is now serving a four-year sentence for tax fraud…
Castellon is one of a number of building projects that fell victim to developers going out of business, running out of funds or not appreciating that their masterpiece was not needed during the boom years.
Another airport, in Ciudad Real, remains unused despite costing more than €1bn to build. Airlines did use it, but left when the company managing it went bust.
The inclusion on the UNESCO cultural heritage list of the festival, which dates back to the 18th century, comes at the end of an intense two-year campaign backed by authorities in Valencia and involving the participation of thousands of people including falleros, as the people taking part in the festival as known, as well as the artists and craftspeople working on creating the fallas, and pyrotechnics experts – fireworks and firecrackers are an essential part of the festivities.
Located in the heart of Andalusia in southern Spain, the site comprises three megalithic monuments: the Menga and Viera dolmens and the Tholos of El Romeral, and two natural monuments: La Peña de los Enamorados and El Torcal mountainous formations, which are landmarks within the property. Built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age out of large stone blocks, these monuments form chambers with lintelled roofs or false cupolas. These three tombs, buried beneath their original earth tumuli, are one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism.
An article in El Pais informs us that July shatters tourism records in Spain. There were 9.6 million visitors last month, beating previous all-time high set in August 2015 July 2016 has shattered all tourist records in Spain. Never before had so many foreigners – 9.6 million – visited the country in a single month.
The figure represents a 9.1% rise from July 2015, which was already a bumper year for tourism. And it is higher than the previous record for monthly foreign visitors, which was set in August of last year.Despite the Brexit vote and a weaker pound, British citizens continue to make up the bulk of foreign tourists to Spain, with 2.2 million arriving in July, a 11.4% rise from the same period last year.
We are happy to announce that Malaga, one of our favourite Spanish cities, continues to blossom and is receiving acclaim from many sources. In December, the museum of Malaga opened to the public. You now need even more time to visit this great, open and welcoming city.
Family Life in Spain’s Spain 2016:
Let’s start with the happy stuff …
2016 was a great year for us, particularly on the family travel side. In February, we discovered an amazing ski destination in Northern Spain. We had an fabulous summer, travelling to new places, meeting up with family and friends (Yes, I know I have still to write those up and I will!)
We welcomed many beautiful families and couple to Spain, to start their new lives, via our relocation services on http://movetomalagaspain.com/ and we’d like to thank the wonderful Louise for assisting us with this. We couldn’t have coped with the demand without her!
Due to popular demand, I , Lisa, started focusing on the Property Finder section of our business and 2016 was a very successful year. We’d like to thank all our lovely property owners (both current and in the pipeline) and wish you all a wonderful 2017 and many more years to come in your new Spanish homes, be they permanent or holiday homes.
Our son took the leap from Spanish state school in Mijas Pueblo to a private bilingual school in Benalmadena. (http://familylifeinspain.com/2016/09/15/secondary-education-in-spain/) He has taken to it like a fish takes to water, making us so proud. Bilingual education rocks and if you have any questions about it, we’d be more than happy to discuss it with you.
Our daughter has overcome many of her inner demons and has participated in two live performances, for her ballet and rythmic gymnastics. And, despite the uncertainty of her unexpected change of class at the beginning of the school year (http://familylifeinspain.com/2016/09/11/living-abroad-with-children-changes-inevitable/ ) she is loving school and adores her new teacher.
Dad with a grumpy face!
And now onto the not so positive stuff for us in Spain 2016…
Like many people, we have had a few incidents, particularly monetary issues and bureaucratic challenges, over the last few months. However, it will take a lot more than that to make us leave the place that we continue to call our home.
We are as determined as ever to discover more about living in this great country. A country that is also experiencing its own issues and internal struggles.
We have always promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about living in Spain on our website and this will not change.
Looking back, I think we seemed to have forgotten all the good stuff and ended on a kind of low. We are battling to understand why it is the honest taxpayer who appears to be being targeted in order to recover the biggest economic debt the country has “ever experienced” … those who continue to work outside of the radar need to be pulled in and exposed.
Despite being very careful, we have been hit hard by the Spanish authorities, not only sending unjustified traffic fines (http://familylifeinspain.com/2016/04/20/paying-traffic-fines-in-spain-this-time-we-refuse-to/) which we managed to contest and win, but also claiming all kinds of taxes relating to our business and land purchase. We are in a whirlwind of Spanish red tape and bureaucratic challenges.
Can you imagine paying a price for something and then being charged tax on almost 170% of that price? Read more on Move To Malaga
Thankfully we have very good professionals working with us and we will continue to contest what we do not believe to be acceptable. It is not easy but we will fight.
Our advice for you …
It is more important than ever to keep all authorities informed of any change of address. Remember that you are responsible for checking if you have any unreceived fines. The longer you leave it, the more expensive they become.
If you haven’t done so already, ensure you have a reputable and reliable gestor, account and and when necessary, qualified lawyer. (http://movetomalagaspain.com/spanish-property-lawyers/)
As we look back on Spain 2016 and look forward to 2017, we are, once again, excited. Admittedly, there are lots of unexpected’s lurking over many people (sorry but we refuse to discuss the “B word” until those in power stop pussyfooting around and make the decisions that need to be made for many to get on with their lives). Once the regulations are clear, our Moving to Spain books will be updated and our new How To Move To Spain Online Course will have all the information you need.
We will continue to share our real life experiences with you in 2017. Remember we are not selling dreams, we are sharing reality. The good, the bad and the ugly about Family Life In Spain.
Whether you are planning to move to Spain or are already living here, ensure you read Our Top Tips for Enjoying Life in Spain in 2017. (This article currently being written so come back soon!)
Phew! That’s it. Sorry to ramble but now that that’s all out of the way we can move on and look forward to what Family Life in Spain has to offer in 2017 🙂
Lisa & Francesca in Paris July 2016
“But she’s so beautiful”, says the mother of another girl at the rhythmic gymnastic practice.
This is what almost every parent we meet says about our daughter.
But that’s what she needs to hear. Nor is it what I want people to say to her.
She is growing up and the words she hears are very important.
It is almost four years since Francesca stopped going to rhythmic gymnastic practice.
The memory of the last event is etched deep in my mind.
I sat there, on the cold concrete floor, hundreds of non-seeing eyes across the hall from us. I was rocking her in my arms, trying to console her, to comfort her, to give her confidence. At least she was in my arms at last. No longer screaming and shrieking, as much at herself as at me. Scolding herself for her self-imagined inadequacies. Desperately trying to hide her inner fear. Control her inner demons.
A few minutes earlier (actually, thinking back, the incident had lasted close to 45 minutes) I had been torn apart with emotions as I stood there and watched her screaming aggressively at her fellow gymnasts who attempted to comfort her, encourage her, to calm her. These were the girls she so loved to practice with. They encouraged and supported here all the way. They knew she knew her routine. She had practiced religiously. She was to be the mini-star of the show.
But, when she was like that, only one person could console her. These were demons she had created. And only she could tame them.
I simply had to be there, ready to step in as soon as the opportunity arose.
Our hard-working, determined little girl was not ready. She was too young. We decided to walk away.
Our family back in 2010
As a toddler, it was heartbreaking to see her scold and even hit herself when she thought she had upset somebody. A slightly raised voice or a change of tone would cause her to erupt. It was soul destroying.
How could this angelic looking child appear to hate herself so much? Why wouldn’t she let us comfort her? For us, a hug could solve everything. It had worked for our son. What a lesson we had ahead …
Francesca practicing what she loves to do!
Today, in my eyes, she has grown so much and in so many ways.
Yet, as she stood there, amongst the other girls, before her first practice session in years, she had never looked so petite and fragile. But she was beaming from ear to ear. She wanted to do this. And when she wants to do something …
In no way do I mean to be rude when I say this, but, next time, when you see a young girl making a big effort to do something, congratulate her on what she is doing, not on how she looks. And watch how she smiles back at you.
As I sit here, deliberating what to share with you first, I am torn. Living abroad with children is a whirlwind of life experiences. Sometimes you just need to stop, take a breath and slow down. Otherwise, life simply passes you by.
It has been far too long since our last blog post but we do have an excuse. In fact, we have several fabulous excuses. We have eleven weeks worth of excuses.
I have made a promise to myself that I am going to take the time to relive our amazing summer and share our memories with you, in the form of blog posts and lots of beautiful pictures.
So much has happened and is happening. This coming year is marked by change. Lots of changes. More changes than we’ve had for many years.
The fountains in the new Plaza in Mijas Pueblo
Tomorrow is the first day of back to school for our daughter, Francesca. We were not expecting any changes for Francesca. Our daughter thrives on routine and stability. Unexpected changes can be painful.
It is important to remember that changes are inevitable when living abroad with children. Learning to adapt to change is an essential skill for living abroad.
Let me take time out for a second, my mind is racing ahead of me already …
Here is a taste of the stories we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks:
- Our son’s education story: The end of an era and new beginnings in bilingual education
- Making Memories: Summer holidays in Cadiz, Paris, The Dordogne, Archidona, Paxos and London
- The Challenges of Living Abroad: I found a Lump and how it affected my relationships.
- Integration and Family Time: Padel Tennis
- Spanish Bureaucracy: Why we have chosen to live in a building site rather than sell our house in Spain and buy another one
- The Language Show Live 2016 : Presenting Cooking With Languages.
But before all that, here we are today:
As I mentioned, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year for infant and primary, state school in Spain. Francesca is heading back to school in the morning.
It was “school as usual”, up until two days ago that is when we were advised of an unexpected change.
For the first time in six years, she is starting the school year in a new class. She is still at the same school in the village but, due to changes made by the Junta, she is now no longer with the same classmates she’s been with for the past six years.The previous three classes have been merged into two. There will be twenty-eight children in each class. Francesca, along with three others from her class have been moved. How they decided this, I have no idea. However, we are grateful that she is still going to be with one of her best friends. Her other best friend, however, has not been moved. We are hoping this will change.
When you’re moving and living abroad with children, stability is an important part of their lives and we have previously been concerned that Francesca’s lack of confidence was due to the fact she’d been moved so many times, from such an early age. The news about her being moved to another class initially shocked and upset me. I was afraid how it would affect her.
Thankfully, so far, this is proving not to be the case. Despite my fears, she does not appear to be scared and is very happy to be returning to school tomorrow, even though there’s going to be a big change in her learning environment. An environment which has been stable for her, for the past six years.
Her strength and ability to adapt just prove how strong children really are. I do believe that provided we pay attention to them and are aware of their feelings and their behaviours and we take the right steps we can help them, they can adapt to almost any environment.
One of the *main reasons we decided that our children should go to the local state school rather than the private international school, was stability. The expat community is generally a very transient community. Friends, with children in international schools, have often told us how their children struggled to maintain good friendships as many expat children, for differing reasons, come and go over the years. Enrolling our children in the local village school has resulted in them, particularly Francesca, developing beautiful bonds and friendships with Spanish children. Children who have grown up in the village and who are here to stay, although we know that nothing is guaranteed.
(*In case you were wondering, the main reason was the desire to learn the language and become bilingual.)
Francesca warming up and stretching before ballet class.
The stability and the lack of change in her class have helped Francesca gain in self-confidence over the years. It has been a slow process but we are getting there. Her school is a place where she is growing in confidence. She knows all her classmates, they go to parties and ferias together. She knows who she sits with during class time. She knows what to expect. She loves the school routine. Or she did …
This is a massive change for her, in the most constant environment. It will be interesting to see how she copes with it and what effect it has on her however in the coming months.
We are hoping that the new found confidence, thanks to her ballet classes, continues to grow and she can enjoy what lies ahead in this new school year. One day our little lady will enjoy the confidence she so deserves.
Thursday marks an even bigger change. Our son Joshua will start a new chapter in his education. A new chapter in a new school. An exciting new chapter in bilingual education.
And that, my friends, is a whole new story …
A to Z Spain: (Part Two)
Welcome to the second part of our very first A to Z Spain. In future posts, we will focus on more specific topics but for this first A to Z Spain we would like to share some general insights into the country we have chosen to make our home.
We hope to provide you with some interesting facts, dispel a few myths and touch on a few delicate issues.
And so we continue, with N to Z …
N is for Natural (National) Parks :
In Spain, a natural park is a natural space protected for its biology, geology, or landscape, with ecological, aesthetic, educational, or scientific value whose preservation merits preferential attention on the part of public administration. Natural parks focus their attention on the conservation and maintenance of flora, fauna, and terrain. Natural parks may be maritime or terrestrial and can be in the mountains, along the coasts, in the desert, or any other geographically defined space.
The largest protected space in Spain, and also its largest natural park, is the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park in the province of Jaén. 9.1% of the surface area of Spain is protected, including 42 % of the Canary Islands, 30.5 % of Andalusia, and 21.51 % of Catalonia, with lesser percentages in the other autonomous communities. Andalusia has 36 % of the total protected areas in the country. For a full list of Spanish Natural Parks See here.
O is for Olives and Olive Oil:
Olive groves line many a road in the Malaga province. Unlike the bitter olives tasted in some other countries, Spanish olives, particularly the manzanilla variety are juicy and even sweet. Iberian olives are usually cured and eaten, often after being pitted, stuffed (with pickled pimento, anchovies, or other fillings) and packed in brine in jars or tins. And, of course, almost everything is cooked in olive oil!
There are around 850 million olive trees on earth, covering more than 10 million hectares of land and 2,513,400 of these hectares are spread across Spain. Growing increasingly popular in recent years with food lovers around the globe, over 18 million tonnes of olives are produced each year, with Spain accounting for 30% of the world’s total output.
The main olive yielding region of Spain is Andalusia in the south, which produces 77% of the total olives grown in the country.
Central to Spain’s Mediterranean way of life, the olive is so much more than just a simple fruit. Originally thought to symbolise peace and wisdom, Spain’s olives are steeped in history and are today as highly prized as they were centuries ago. Read more Here!
P is for Paperwork:
Paperwork and Bureaucracy are the main cause of headaches for many people in Spain. Daily tasks that can often be easily resolved in your home country, by a quick telephone call or a visit to the local office, can appear a lot more complicated in Spain. Sometimes even speaking the local language fluently does not make the battle of fighting through the Spanish red tape of bureaucracy any easier. You can read our experiences and advice in the posts HERE
Q is for Queueing:
Basically, queueing is a rare experience in Spain. Should you walk into a bank where several people are waiting you may hear somebody ask “¿Quien es el ultimo?” , they simply ask who is the last person waiting and they know that they wait to be served
Basically, queueing is a rare experience in Spain. Should you walk into a bank where several people are waiting you may hear somebody ask “¿Quien es el ultimo?” , they simply ask who is the last person waiting and they know that they wait to be served after them. Oh, and if you ever have the chance to “take a number”, when waiting at a seemingly empty counter, make sure you do so. It is not unusual for people to turn up and claim their place whenever their number has passed!
R is for Religion:
Spain is a Catholic country. In school, all children have religion as an optional subject. Semana Santa (Easter) is Spain’s most celebrated religious holiday, even more so than Christmas! Even after so many years living in Spain, we are yet to fully understand the story behind this strangely religious festival, but with the aid of several colleagues we hope to produce an informative post for you in the near future.
S is for Sherry:
Sherry is one of the oldest wines in the world. On 26 May 1933, it became the first recognised D.O. in Spain. From Southern Andalucía, Sherry is made and aged within a triangle formed by the 3 main Sherry towns of El Puerto de Santa Maria, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Jerez. It is the only place in the world where Sherry can come from, as Champagne can only come from the district in and around Champagne. Sherry takes its name from Sherrish, the name given to Jerez by the Moors when they lived there for 600years. Sherry is F.A.B. Fortified- by a grape spirit. Aged – in Bodegas using a system called Solera y Criadera. Blended- Sherry is rarely vintaged, it is a blend of different vintages thus allowing for consistency year after year.
Sherry is a generic term under which there are 8 types: Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, Moscatel & Pedro Ximenez (PX) All types of sherry have several things in common – they are all made from green grapes – Palomino, Moscatel & Pedro Ximenez, the latter always being sun-dried. The main differences are the level of fortification and the exposure to oxygen.
Sherry is very definitely a food wine and if you match it with the perfect dish, it can give you a food and wine matching experience that you will never forget. To learn more, check out the amazing Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen.
T is for Tapas:
Be warned, tapas are not always free! Tapas are a wonderful Spanish tradition and can be found in many bars around Spain. Tapas are small plates of food that are a great way to test the local specialities. It is thought that the name came from “tapar”, “to cover”, from back in the days when a slice of bread was placed over a glass of beer or wine, to stop flies or dust getting in.
If you are visiting a new part of Spain, taking part in an organised Tapas Tour, organised by a local expert, is a great way to taste the local specialities! We recommend Lauren in Madrid, Shawn in Seville and Victor in Malaga.
U is for Uvas (the Spanish word for Grapes):
And what comes from grapes? Wine of course! Spain is one of the greatest producers of wine in the world: in first place, in terms of planted surface area, the 3rd biggest producer (giving a larger yield than that of France and Italy) and 2nd global exporter when it comes to volume, third if you take into account value. In my totally biased opinion, the best Spanish red wine is from the Ribera del Duero region and Albariño / Rias Baixas produce the best Spanish white wines. To read more about the incredible amount of varieties of Spanish grapes, look here .
V is for Ventas:
Ventas are fabulous restaurants, usually located in more rural areas of Spain. The food is always homemade, tasty and great value for money. Look out for them on the larger country roads between towns and villages. Visiting a venta is an excellent way to see traditional fare and way of life. They have a friendly, family atmosphere. The simplest ones consist of a bar and tables in one room. The larger ones have a separate dining room away from the noise of the bar and perhaps an outdoor terrace. In the summertime, the large rooms and shaded terraces are nice and cool and in the winter, it is not uncommon to have blazing open fire. Highly recommended!
W is for Weather:
It does rain in Spain and not just on the plane! It is not always hot and sunny! Spain does enjoy a decent amount of rainfall (particularly in Grazalema the wettest place in Spain, surprisingly located in the South of the mainland) and many places have had snow this year too! However, Spain does have a predominantly warm Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and winters with balanced temperatures. You can enjoy more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. It is no surprise, then, that Spain is one of the warmest parts of Europe.
For an updated weather forecast, click here .
X is not always for X:
How do we pronounce the letter “X” in Spanish? Basically, due to regional language variations, there aren’t any rules that hold true throughout the Spanish-speaking world. In general, however, when between vowels (as in exactamente) the Spanish X is pronounced basically like the English “ks” sound. When it comes before another consonant (as in expedición), it has the “s” sound in some areas but the soft “ks” sound in others. In some areas, the letter’s pronunciation before a consonant varies from word to word. The only way to know for sure is to listen to someone speaking with the regional accent you wish to emulate.When a word begins with X (there aren’t many such words, and most are English cognates), it is usually given the “s” sound, not the “z” sound of English. Thus a word like xenofobia sounds the same as if it were spelled senofobia.
Oh and just in case you thought this was now clear, please note that a few words of Catalan, Basque or indigenous American origin the X is pronounced like the English “sh”.
Y is for Youth Unemployment:
At the time of writing this, there is an incredible amount of publicity about the current youth unemployment in Spain. Many a tabloid refers to the unemployed youth of Spain the “lost generation”. Without doubt, it is not a desirable situation but I think it needs to be put back into context. Unlike in many other EU countries, until last year, the average age of a Spaniard leaving the family home is believed to be 34 years old. Many young Spaniards work for family businesses and unfortunately, due to complicated employment laws, work full time jobs on very short, part time contracts. Without doubt, there has been a lot of activity “on the black”.
I do not think that I am alone in congratulating some of the younger Spanish generation of today who are literally getting off their butts and making moves to secure employment away from their home country. For some of these youngsters, the current “crisis” in Spain, is creating a world of opportunities. It is making them break the mould of the past and taking action to secure themselves a better future.
Z is for Zzzzz, better known as the Spanish Siesta:
Yes, the Spanish siesta still exists in may places but not all! Some shops do close between 2pm and 5pm but not all. The idea of the siesta is that this is the hottest time of the day, and to be avoided whenever possible. It is advisable to find out which shops and businesses do close before planning your days out.
The slideshow below shows the main points in pictures, go and make yourself a cup (or a glass 😉 ) of something nice, sit back and enjoy …
So, there you have Part Two of our A to Z Spain: Things we think you should know about Spain…
We hope you found it interesting and would love to read your comments and insights.
To Read Part One (A to M) Click HERE
By Lisa Sadleir
We Share Our Story and Show You How To Contest Traffic Fines in Spain
Sometimes you just have to draw the line and say “That’s enough!” “We are not doing this. We are not paying this money!”
We didn’t now how to do it but I, Lisa, was determined to find away.
We are true believers that if you “commit the crime” (and get caught) then you should “do the time”. In a previous post, we confessed to driving legally, although totally unaware, and were thankful that a fine was issued. Had this not happened it could have been a much more expensive lesson! (We’ll add a link at the end of this article).
However, when we know that procedures have not been followed and we are being unfairly penalised, we will do our best to fight the matter. We don’t fear authority. We respect authority. However, authorities can make mistakes too. And why should we pay for their mistakes?
So, why are we once again talking about traffic fines in Spain?
Yep, it was hubby ( again 😉 )
Much to my despair, a couple of years ago, he acquired a motorbike. He is a very careful driver, and took his full motorbike course and test, and despite my previous resistance, (he’s been wanting one for over 5 years), I decided he was responsible for his actions and decisions. My only insistence was that the children went nowhere near it!
So, the ding dong of the doorbell marks the arrival of the dreaded recorded delivery envelope from an official department. They don’t send good news like this. You just know that receiving these envelopes are going to cost you money.
The question is “How Much?“
HOW MUCH????? was our immediate response as we opened the dreaded envelope and saw the figure of NINE HUNDRED EUROS!
The last time I had seen a fine like was this was many years ago when I assisted a young lady, with the help of my lawyers, in getting her father released from prison. So, you can imagine my shock!
Let me explain how traffic fines in Spain are processed …
As we’ve previously mentioned (read this post), as is the case with most Spanish paperwork, the way traffic fines are issued and processed are a bit like the lottery. However, certain rules must be followed. The penalty for non-compliance is a very hefty fine.
Once a traffic fine is emitted, time is of the essence. Prompt payment is rewarded (if you receive the notification of course!). If you do not reply to the original notification, within the allotted time, the fine multiplies at an incredible speed. And before you know it, your 150€ fine is suddenly €900!!! And if you ignore this, money will be embargoed from your bank accounts, you will be refused credit and life basically gets more complicated in lots of unexpected ways.
Do you get my point?
So, how can you avoid these hefty unexpected fines? (aside from not breaking the rules in the first place 😉 )
Ensure you advise the DGT / Traffico of any change of address for any vehicle in your name. Your gestor can do this for you, for a small fee, you can go direct to your local DGT office or do it online, using this link. (in Spanish)
If you are uncertain that your vehicles have been correctly registered and you may have incurred some traffic fines that you have not yet received, go to your local Hacienda building and go to the “recaudación” desk with proof of ID. Ask them to print an “informe de deudas” / a list of any outstanding debts against your name/ID number. This may seem crazy but it can avoid some nasty surprises. (We know, we’ve done it!)
If you receive a fine, pay it as soon as possible and, in most cases, you will qualify for a 50% discount.
If you receive a fine for 900€ as we did, and you are certain you have not received any prior notification, Contact Us and we’ll put you in touch with the lawyers who are contesting our case.
Back to Our Story …
Upon receipt of this nasty letter, I initially tried to find more details online about the “supposed offence”. You can check details of any fines you have online (use this link) but it doesn’t really tell you much more that what is written on the denuncia itself.
From the letter we received, shown in the image above, we can see the date, time and location of the offence and the number of the original expediente / fine issued. Hubby thought he had been caught breaking the speed limit going up a hill, overtaking a van, and spotting a radar car so we didn’t deny this and were prepared to pay the fine.
But, the part of the letter “hecho que se notifica” is accusing us of not having replied to their initial request to identify the driver of the vehicle that committed the offence.
That is rubbish! That is why we are going to contest the fine and have lawyers fight our case.
As you can see from the email below, our case is not unusual, it seems to be happening more frequently these days. We have our lawyers on the case and even though they cannot guarantee a favourable result (if they did they wouldn’t be telling the truth!) we are hopeful that the fine will be removed. Only time will tell …
Following our conversation, find attached our budget for claiming against the fine.
Apparently it is a very common fine, and even if long to claim against it is mostly won.
The issue here is that they notified in order to identify the driver at some address which does not correspond to the address where they should have notified. For example, and most commonly, the address where the vehicle was registered with the previous owner.
Due to the lack of identification of the driver they issue a second fine, which is the one you received. Which is against the procedure, as they should have attempted to notify the first fine and the request to identify the driver on the second address they hold.
Therefore, there are sufficient grounds to claim against this fine.
I hope this explanation has been helpful.
Abogado/Attorney at law
PS: We will keep you updated with the outcome. We have been warned though that it will probably take a long time. Possibly over twelve months … but justice is worth waiting for 😉
QUESTION: Have you ever contested a traffic fine? How did you get on? Share your story with our readers!
Can you believe we’ve been living in Spain for 25 years?
Family Life in Spain is a whirlwind of excitement, adventure and learning experiences touched with the odd dash of frustration. It can easily be compared to a fairground ride … the enormous roller coaster that is life!
What you have to decide is whether you will be shrieking with laughter or screaming in fear.
Fasten your seat belts and let’s make this the ride of your life!
Spain is a wonderful place to live, and an amazing country to visit, particularly for children. Whatever you are looking for, you are sure to find it.
We have been living in Spain for 25 years and we are still learning, discovering and are totally excited by our findings about this colourful world of:
- beautiful blue skies,
- endless sunshine,
- miles of sandy beaches,
- rolling green hills,
- snow topped mountains,
- noisy and vibrant ferias and festivals
- and not forgetting, the deliciously fresh and healthy food.
Use your EYES to marvel at the stunning scenery
Use your EARS to listen to non-stop noise and chatter of the Spanish people
Use your NOSE to breathe in the clean air of the crisp mountains or salty seas
Use your MOUTH and your tastebuds will be bursting with all the gastronomic experiences
Use your sense of TOUCH to feel the warm embrace of the welcoming locals
Take your time to have a good read through our website for an idea of the amazing range of activities and options Spain offers individuals, couples and families with children of all ages. No matter what the weather (yes, believe it or not, we do get have bad weather days and sometimes even weeks!), you will find plenty to keep you busy.
If you are thinking about moving to Southern Spain, have a look at our website www.MoveToMalaga.com for lots of practical advice and tips that will save you hours, days and even months of time and frustration.
We share our experiences of the good, the bad and the sometimes down right ugly experiences of life in Spain. Blissful beach holidays, stunning day trips to Malaga’s not so well known lake district, experiences and frustrations of Spanish schools and the infamously frustrating and hair-pulling “burro” system that is Spanish bureaucracy … you have been warned!
When people ask about where we live and what we do, they often refer to us as “lucky”.
I hear myself saying “we’re really lucky because…” when talking about our children, our life and what we do. Yet, in all honesty, “luck” is only a very tiny part of the big truth. We never take what we have for granted.
Enjoying family life in Spain may appear to be a dream for many people, but the reality is often very different. However, if you are prepared to put the effort in the results can be better than you could ever have imagined.
In Spain, family comes first. Children are not only seen but also heard and welcomed with loving, open arms. Children stay children for longer. When we chose to have children, we chose to change our lives. Living here allows us to do this. Would we call that “luck”? Well, maybe!
So, whether you are also lucky to be living in Spain, are thinking about moving over or are simply visiting, we hope you love it as much as we do.
Photo by Sheila Roberts Photography
¡Hasta pronto, amigos!
If you are Moving to Spain from UK, avoid these mistakes and save yourself stress and even unnecessary embarrassment …
Congratulations on deciding to move to Spain. You’ve chosen a fabulous country for the next stage of your life. Spain has so much to offer in the way of culture, cuisine, beach resorts, cities, art and sports. However, there are a few things you need to bear in mind as you adapt to living in Spain.
Firstly, you have to lose the great British reserve. Spain is a friendly country and people will think you odd if you don’t join in the fun. Make an attempt to join in the conversation at the bar or bus stop, dance at the fiestas and shout for your team at the football. Just relax and be spontaneous. Embrace the culture, try new foods and open your mind to new adventures.
You seriously mustn’t speak English all the time. Don’t just mix with the other expats but make an effort to learn Spanish. You don’t need to be word perfect but learn enough to talk to your Spanish neighbours, read the newspapers or watch Spanish television. Many towns arrange exchange groups and will put you in touch with a Spanish person so you can practise speaking and make a new friend.
Don’t expect people to form an orderly queue at the bank or bus stop. There is some kind of system going on here. Often you need to get a ticket so you know when it is your turn in the bank or post office. Otherwise, people ask who is the last person in the queue – ¿Quien es el ultimo? – so they know when their turn arrives.
Never underestimate Spanish bureaucracy. The paperless society doesn’t exist here and you need photocopies of so many documents when you get your NIE number, register on the Padron or deal with any kind of officialdom. And, you can almost guarantee, that you will always have one vital photocopy missing. Although the Spanish are notoriously unpunctual, you really need to turn up to these appointments on the dot.
Don’t expect to get anything done in August. It’s too hot to work and many people are on holiday. Anyone still at work has to do the work of two or three people while dealing with local residents and the massive influx of tourists. If you can, leave all appointments until September.
Be well prepared if you decide to spark up a conversation in the bar or with Spanish neighbours about football. The Spanish are very passionate about the sport and you will never escape once you’ve opened the debate. Real Madrid and Barcelona are definite no-go areas. Talking about politics and politicians is also best avoided.
Watch what you wear and where you wear it. Speaking of football, you should never wear the wrong football shirt in the wrong city. A Real Madrid shirt in Barcelona is asking for trouble. Also, you should never wear the wrong clothes. Beachwear should be kept on the beach not the streets and topless men in a restaurant is a real no-no. Never wear socks with sandals. Never ever!
Fiesta fin de curso 2015
You mustn’t think you are going to get a quiet night’s peace unless you live in the campo or anywhere else in the middle of nowhere. While the Brits are going home at midnight after a night out, in Spain the fun is just getting started. Often live music doesn’t start until midnight, fiestas can go on all night and firework displays are often held at about midnight. If you can’t beat them, join them, that’s what we feel. After all, you can always embrace the Spanish tradition of taking a siesta the following day.
You mustn’t get married or travel on Tuesday 13th, according to an old Spanish saying. For the superstitious, it’s no longer unlucky Friday 13th but Tuesday 13th is a day for staying in bed. Also, from now on, April Fool’s Day (or the equivalent) is held on December 28, which is the Day of the Innocents. This is when you can play pranks or practical jokes on your friends and work colleagues.
You mustn’t ignore rural inland Spain and the mountains. There’s so much more to see in Spain than the beaches and the “costas”. Make time to explore small inland towns such as Alhama de Granada, Jaen, Ronda, or Arcos de la Frontera, and the spectacular mountain ranges such as the Sierra Nevada in the south or the Picos de Europa in the north.
And last but by no means least, you mustn’t forget to grab a copy of our book, Moving to Spain with children. It will save you a lot of time, money and headaches when preparing your move to Spain, with or without children! Don’t just take our word for it, read the Reviews here Let’s have a look …
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