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.
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 spelledsenofobia.
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 …
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 hereLet’s have a look …
The original title for this post was “ Spain isn’t cheap … Stop advertising it like that!” I planned to talk about the importance of branding. The fact that successful branding establishes a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
The fact that … “A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication …” (source )
I intended to look at what Spain was doing wrong with its marketing and promotion. I was going to question why the promotional campaign “I need Spain”, launched back in In June 2011, a new digital media campaign aimed at international tourism , a new bid to strengthen the tourism brand España in the international market, was targeting people looking for a cheap destination.
I wanted to scream at the marketers. Ask them how they can use the word “need” in a campaign and then promote cheap. We all know that necessary goods have a way of inflating their own prices, and brands that successfully create a perceived “need” for their products soon build up a captivated (and almost blinkered in the “particular fruit” case, (attempt at being cryptic here to avoid libel … msg me if unsure who I am talking about … I still think the logo is very clever … like the Adam and Eve taking a bite!)) and loyal following.
Sorry, back to the point …
I planned to show how the cost of living in Spain isn’t that much cheaper than in the UK. I searched comparative websites and posts such as Marianne’s on East Of Malaga.net who publishes a really useful price comparison post every few months.
So. What happened?
Basically, I was wrong!
I was getting my back up. I let the UK press penetrate my usual barriers and I was reacting to a situation that existed only in my creative, defensive and often over protective imagination.
I was simply fed up of UK tabloids, holiday websites, other internet portals and basically anyone else wanting to jump on this bandwagon to sell their products and services, using headlines and advertising slogans such as “Counting on the Costas: Survey reveals Spain is cheapest holiday spot in Europe” and “Spain is the cheapest holiday destination”.
Fed up of articles in tabloids both in print and online about Spain being poor, having no money and targeting expats as a way to line the country’s empty pockets. I’m not referring to factual, national publications discussing the ongoing debt issues. I’m talking about the so called “expat expert” companies, targeting their own country men, distorting the facts, scaremongering as a way of generating business.
If you are unsure what I am referring to, have a look at the comments made in response to this very poor excuse for an article: Read Here
In a nutshell, I don’t see Spain as cheap. I don’t see Spain as poor. I see Spain as rich, as luxurious, as a land of opportunities … of course I do, otherwise why else would I be living here? Why would I believe it was the best place for my children to grow up? I’m a mother, I have defensive instincts. I also do a lot of research. I see challenges as positives and opportunities. And, I’m a bit of a dreamer.
Thanks to my years spent in Spain and my work, I have seen the reality. I am not usually affected by the negative tabloids and press. I have witnessed a shift in the demographics of people moving to Spain. I now see people who could live anywhere in the world, as they are financially independent or their work is not location dependent, who chose Spain for the quality of life it offers. Like me, these people see the luxury and the value of this great country. A country that offers some of us, many things that money cannot buy.
Admittedly, Spain is not as cheap as it used to be (for day to day material items and utilities). Tax evasion, on a local and international level, is not as easy and acceptable as it was in the past (A personal gripe of mine! If you chose to live in a country then you should play by its rules. Simple!). Spanish salaries continue to be very low, in comparison to the UK. Many expats have left Spain, although usually due to ill health, for family reasons or because the cash rich expat work environment along with their expat client base has shrunk or even dried up. Yes, some people are in the unfortunate position that they wish to return to their home country, but are unable to do so until they sell their Spanish home, in a saturated market of property for sale.
The expat generation who’ve lived in Spain for some years can often be heard complaining about the continued rise of living costs in Spain. The problem tends to be that they’re comparing the prices of Spain today with the prices they remember paying in UK some time back and have not kept up to date with the recent inflationary spate in UK.
Please, don’t let those who shout louder be the only ones you listen to. Do your own research. Ignore the majority of what is published in the press and the disgruntled attacks of unhappy expats who are very quick to share their unhappiness on online forums (Aaargh! I do not like to use the F word!)
I’ve been tempted to publish emails of “reporters” that have contacted me via this website, and many of my colleagues, looking for negative stories about Spain, but I won’t. I will just ask you to think about what you are looking for and what you see.
If you are thinking about moving to Spain, what I’m trying to say is:
If this is your motto …
… don’t bother coming!
If this is what you are looking for …
… the lifestyle, a safe place for your kids to grow up, great weather, beautiful scenery, strong family values, an open and generally honest society that continues to respect eachother, good food that doesn’t cost the earth … what are you waiting for?
Maybe, this comes down to perception … I look forward to your thoughts.
Many people think about moving abroad with children, but not everyone fulfills their relocation dream. There are so many uncontrollable outside factors. There are, however, many other factors that you can control.
I have received so many beautiful comments, reviews and emails from my recently published book Moving to Spain with Children, that I am planning a second book.
Book one was written to assist people in the decision-making process when thinking about moving to Spain with children. It was not written to sell the dream. It includes essential information and personal anecdotes.
Today, I would like to share the opening chapter with you.
Photo by Sheila Roberts Photography
This is the moment I decided that I would be moving abroad with children. I didn’t know which country it would be. I left that to destiny …
I remember the moment well. I was stretched out on the rocks, soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine, on the island of Malta. I was enjoying a week of sun worshiping with mum and a close family friend.
It was early afternoon, the rays were beating down, the only sounds were the occasional splashes as the waves gently lapped against the rocks on which we lay.
And then they arrived. The same group as yesterday. Shrieks of laughter and excited chatter, at a rather loud volume, broke our relaxed silence. A group of young children hurtled onto the beach, discarding any excess clothing as they ran and launched themselves into the crystal clear waters.
School was over for the day and this was their way of spending the summer afternoons.
That was the moment.
Although only twenty years old, that was the moment I realised that that was the kind of life I wanted for my own children.
The actual thought of one day getting married or even having children had never actually entered my mind. But the seed was planted. I’m known for planting seeds.
That day in Malta was back in 1990.
Skype chats with clients from here.
As I write this, November 2014, I am sitting in the midday sunshine in my garden in southern Spain. I am anxious to get finished as my two amazing children will soon be home from school. My work will be put aside and we will sit down at the table to enjoy our main meal of the day, as a family.
As in many Spanish households, our main meal is enjoyed at lunchtime. On weekdays, my husband collects the children from the school bus at around 2.20pm, they walk the 5 minute stroll back to our house (funnily enough we are the only ones who walk, this is commented on by all the elderly neighbours), and we all sit down to together to eat, discuss the day at school, homework and make plans for the afternoon.
The seed that was planted 24 years ago developed incredibly strong roots and is now producing a bumper harvest. A harvest big enough to be enjoyed and shared by many. A harvest full or experiences, knowledge and roller coaster rides.
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. Most days I hear the children chiming “Yes mum. You always say that mum”, giggling, as I point out how blue the sky is, how amazing the sunset is and how big and blue the sea looks.
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”?
Photo by Sheila Roberts Photography
Do you remember the moment when you knew you would be moving abroad with children? When you decided you wanted to offer your children a better life, by moving to another country? We’d love to hear your story.
If you are moving to Spain and are considering the Malaga, Costa del Sol region, Contact Us now.
If you are thinking about moving to any part of Spain, Look Inside our Book and send us your questions. We are here to help you get it right first time.
You don’t even look at the kid’s menu when ordering for your children.
Josh was not impressed!
Your jaw hits the floor when the barman produces a double measure that only just covers the bottom of the glass.
You expect the waiter to ask you to remind him what you’ve eaten and drank, when you ask for the bill.
The wonderful invention of “sobremesa”
You are totally oblivious to the desperation of the staff as you spend hours after the meal, simply chatting and enjoying yourself with your companions. You are in no hurry to vacate your table … (sobremesa 😉 )
Using A Good Currency Broker For Sending Money To Spain And From Spain Can Save You A Lot Of Money!
With the current volatility of the currency markets it is more important than ever to make sure you maximise your money.
Exchange rates are moving around a lot more than normal so it is key to have not only a currency broker on your side that can get you a great rate of exchange, but also one that is proactive and will make you aware of any opportunities that arise.
I recently had to exchange some Euros into Pounds to make a purchase in the U.K and for many years I have been using and recommending Daniel Wright from www.currencies.co.uk to all of my friends and clients.
Those of you that still use banks should seriously consider getting in touch with Daniel to see how he may be able to help you too and those who are already using a currency broker should also get in touch to see how much he can save you. I have dealt with many currency brokerages over the years and he has been head and shoulders above the rest in terms of his price and efficiency.
The Pound has had an awful run of late and Sterling exchange rates are down against all major currencies and with the referendum on the ‘Brexit’ causing major uncertainty out there for the U.K economy it is likely that investors and speculators alike will steer clear from the Pound in the coming months.
If you are in the position that you need to carry out an exchange in the near future then feel free to contact Daniel for a no obligation chat or a free quote on firstname.lastname@example.org by calling him on 01494 725353 quoting Family Life In Spain and he will put you down for the preferential exchange rates I have negotiated for our readers.
By adapting to the Spanish way of living, you are able to integrate easier and reap the rewards of their relaxed and sociable way of life. Family first and happy children are just some of their priorities.
However, it isn’t always easy. You often have to change your chip. For starters, banish any thought that starts with the words “But in the UK … “
We will take a more detailed look at obstacles that need to be dealt with and overcome in another post. However, for today, we’d like to share some humorous observations about life as a mum in Spain.
So, here are our suggestions of signs that you’re adapting to life as a mum in Spain…
You introduce yourself as “la madre de …”, (the mother of…), more often than your real name.
You know your “barra” from your “bocadillo”, from your “pitufo”, from your “sandwich” …
When the children ask for “jamón” (ham) you need to check whether they want “Serrano” or “Cocido” (Spanish cured or boiled).
You no longer flinch when Spanish radio and TV play the explicit lyrics of UK / US songs and videos.
You’re not upset by people saying “Adios” (goodbye) when they meet you in the street.
Your phone contacts are : Barbara Madre; Barbara Padre; Roberto Madre; Roberto Padre; Violeta Madre …(you get the gist 😉 )
You buy clothes instead of toys as birthday presents for children.
You stop dreading the arrival of the 12 weeks school summer holidays.
You no longer feel guilty helping the children to finish their homework … especially when it’s colouring!
You can throw together a full fancy dress outfit for a school dance with less than 24 hours notice.
You need a trolley (or a hubby!) to carry all your stuff to the beach.
You are totally unflustered when you receive a note on Friday evening telling you that it’s a one week school holiday … starting on Monday!
Here are a few more suggested by friends, who have adapted to life as a mum in Spain on Twitter:
Welcome to 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.
Here we go with A to M …
A is for Architecture: Despite what we may lead you to believe, Spain is not all about beaches! It boast some amazing architecture, in places such as Barcelona, Granada, Cordoba, La Coruña, Seville, Valencia to name just a few … Because of their artistic relevance, many architectural sites in Spain, and even portions of cities, have been designated World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Did you know that Spain has the second highest number of World Heritage Sites in the world? See the full list here A friend of ours , Molly, has visited quite a few of them …Read her comments here: UNESCO Sites I´ve seen in Spain – 8 and a half?
B is for Bullfighting: At the time of writing this, bullfighting continues to be a controversial subject and a matter which divides many people. Once considered an honored and patriotic, Spanish tradition, bullfighting is becoming a bone of contention in many areas of Spain. Bullfighting was banned in the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia by a vote of the Catalan Parliament in July 2010. The ban came into effect on 1 January 2012. The last bullfight in the region took place in Barcelona in September 2011. The ban, which ended a centuries-old tradition in the region, was supported by animal rights activists but opposed by some, who saw it as motivated by political nationalism rather than animal welfare. There is a movement to revoke the ban in the Spanish congress, citing the value of bullfighting as “cultural heritage.” The proposal is backed by the majority of parlamentarians. Read more via Wikipedia HERE
C is for Coffee: We love Spanish coffee. Spanish coffees should never be served in a paper cup nor from a filter pot. Ordering coffee in Spain is an art. Each area has its own interpretations of the mixture. Read more about How to Order Coffee in Spain HERE.
D is for Driving: Be warned that, in Spain, indicators are optional extras. Double parking is the norm, especially if you need a quick chat with a passing friend. Whenever possible avoid taking the middle lane around a roundabout, even if taking the 3rd exit. You may be there for a long time … On a more serious note, the Spanish traffic police are quick to issue fines and non payment of fines can become a very expensive experience, for residents and tourists alike. Read more about driving in Spain HERE.
E is for Education: When you come into Spain you are faced with an option about what sort of education you are going to give your child. There are primarily four options: homeschooling (which is currently illegal in Spain), state school, private and concertado. We often hear people criticise the Spanish style of “rote learning”. However, we have been very happy with our own experience so far. Read more about education in Spain here.
F is for Festivos: More commonly known as bank holidays in English. Be warned that there are loads of them and no matter how many calendars you check, you will get caught out one day! Not only do we enjoy national holidays, every city, town and village have their own excuses for a festivo. ¡Vive la Feria!
G is for Guiri: The term “guiri” is street slang used to describe the what is considered to be the stereotypical tourist or foreigner from Northern Europe. Although generally considered a friendly term, even a term of endearment, it can be a slight mocking that you’ll hear from anyone who’s picked up on something particularly un-Spanish about you. Some people are offended by this name, and go out of their way to avoid being called a guiri by their Spanish friends. If you are one of these people, you may want to read this amusing article on The Local “How not to blow your cover as a guiri”
Strolling around the Mijas feria …
H is for Horses: Horses, of all breeds and backgrounds, are a prominent feature in Spanish daily life in many parts of Spain. For us, there is still something magical about seeing a horse trotting through our local village, Mijas pueblo, or down the main road towards Fuengirola and of course, dressed up to the nines when it’s feria time. The sight of Spanish horses and their riders, (usually beautifully dressed in traditional costume), stood at a bar, having a drink, always puts a smile on our face. For some more information about the PRE Horses (purebreed spanish horses) read this great guest post by Manni from Toma Tours : An article about Spanish Horses.
I is for Islands: Aside form the Spanish mainland, Ceuta and Melia (in Africa!), Spain is also made up of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) and the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa and Isla de Lobos). We will not venture in to the debate about Gibraltar at this point!
J is for Jamon: Jamon Serrano, Jamon Iberico … Spanish cured ham. Whatever you want to call it, it is simply delicious! A local delicacy and a common starter or tapa in most parts of Spain. (By the way, can you spot which of the ones in this picture is not a Spanish Jamon?)
K is for King Juan Carlos: Juan Carlos I is the current King of Spain. General Francisco Franco named Juan Carlos as the next head of state in 1969. He became King on 22 November 1975, two days after General Francisco Franco’s death, the first reigning monarch since 1931. Despite most members of the Spanish Royal family enjoying favorable popularity, King Juan Carlos has received an unusual amount of publicity over the last couple of years and not without reason. If you’d like to read more, have a look at this tongue in cheek article in The Guardian “King Juan Carlos of Spain: a man of sacrifice”
(Please note this post was published in 2013, as of 19 June 2014, following the abdication on Juan Carlos I, Felipe VI was crowned king)
L is for Language : Not everyone speaks Spanish in Spain. Although Spanish (Castilian) is the official language of the whole country, there are several regional languages: Aranese, Basque, Catalan and Galician, which have co-official status in their respective communities (except Aranes) and are widespread enough to have daily newspapers and significant book publishing and media presence
In the cases of Catalan and Galician, they are the main languages used by the Catalan and Galician regional governments and local administrations. A number of citizens in these areas consider their regional language as their primary language and Spanish as secondary. The use of Catalan is a hot topic as we write this, partly due to the ongoing fight for independence. For an insight into this subject, read Simon Harris’s post HERE.
M is for Menu del Día: Simply the best value for money food you will find anywhere in Spain! A Menu del Día normally includes; a choice of starters such as soup, pasta or salad; plus a choice of main courses such as fish, meat, chicken; plus a selection of desserts or coffee. In some establishments a drink is also included, all for one fixed price. It’s a great way to taste what the locals are eating and it will probably include dishes that you would not have ordered if left on your own. For a great article about Menu del Dia, read Gabriella’s post HERE.
So, there you have Part One 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.