Our cheeky munchkins
As a regular reader of our blog, you will know that we are always sharing our stories and reasons why Spain is great for kids to live and to grow up. If you read any of the interviews we have given (links on our About Us page) you will see many of the reasons why.
In this article, we will share, not only our reasons, but also many other people’s opinions on this matter.
We are not comparing Spain in contrast to any other country. We are merely sharing opinions on Spain.
Here are our main reasons why Spain is great for kids to live and to grow up:
- A Longer Childhood: I really cannot say exactly why, but it is widely agreed that There appears to be less social pressure on them to grow up and act like adults. Age is not a barrier. It is not frowned upon for a teenager to cuddle and coo over a baby or to play with a toddler. You may be interested to read this article: Give Britain’s kids their childhood back
- Safety: Spain has a relatively low crime rate. Parents do not live in fear for the safety of their children. It is wonderful to have strangers in the street come up to your children, to talk to them, embrace them, even to take your baby out of your arms. (I can imagine some parents cringing at this very thought).
- Healthcare: Both our children were born in Spanish state hospitals. We have always contributed to the Spanish healthcare system and we have no complaints whatsoever. Spain has excellent healthcare for children. Waiting times are non-existent
- Language-Learning: Expat children living in Spain grow up learning at least two languages. Their mother tongue, Spanish and other local languages, depending on where you live. There are believed to be many advantages to learning more languages and we believe it to me an amazing gift to give to a child of any age.
- Outdoor Lifestyle: Thanks to the weather, in most parts of Spain and particularly in the South, more time is spent outdoors than indoors. Sports facilities are in abundance in all villages and towns. Playing on the beach, or in the open countryside, in clean fresh air, is a normal occurrence rather than a rare holiday treat.
- Family First: The family unit in Spain is generally very tight. Children grow up with great respect for family members and appreciating the family unit. They develop a special pride in their family. Respect for elders is inherent. Even though, children may not see some relatives as often as if they lived in the same country, when they do meet up they enjoy quality time together.
- Great Food: Living in a different place is a great opportunity to encourage children to try new foods. You can see some of our children’s favourite Spanish dishes in this post (click here). “Children’s meals” are not typical in most Spanish restaurants. It is more typical for families in Spain to share plates of food. Meal times are often family times. Fast food is yet to impact Spanish eating habits. How often have you seen people walking down the street eating their lunch in Spain?
- Holidays: Spain is famous for its ferias and festivos. There is often any excuse for a holiday in Spain. Although it may be more challenging for some parents, based on their work schedule, for those of us who work for ourselves and have flexible working conditions, regular holidays are part of the routine. What child doesn’t enjoy a holiday? Whether it’s a week at home with more trips to the beach or fun family days out, the children enjoy more family time.
- Children are Welcome Everywhere: Ok. There may be some exceptions. But, in general, you will not need to worry if your children will be welcomed in most establishments in Spain. No matter what the time or location, your children will be not only welcomed but welcomed with open, loving arms.
And you don’t need to just take our word for it. Here is what a few of our Twitter and Facebook friends’ replies when we asked them if and why they thought Spain is a great place for kids:
Karen Carter Southall (@weddingsaboutsp) The climate offers a more outdoor lifestyle, where the countryside or the beach is often their playground and imagination, is the key. Family values count and diet is generally healthier.
Pete Carter: Clean air, fresh living, mixing with nature, outdoor activities that aren’t rained off, fresh produce (inland anyway).
Diana Berryman (@soc1albutterfly) Kids get a chance to still be kids here. There is less pressure to grow up too fast, family values are still strong and kids are still respectful of their parents and grandparents.
Lynsey Drake (@lynzinthesun) Swallows & amazons lifestyle. always interacting with adults as kids go everywhere with you. They become aware of being a minority. Not as materialistic. Bilingual. I’m now in a different area now though with 2 late teens and am not sure if Spain offers all the opportunities. But I wouldn’t have had their 1-16 years anywhere else
Abi Dean: Kids are welcomed, cherished and doted on in all aspects of life – their teachers greet them with a hug and a kiss in the morning, you’ll never have to worry about anyone tut-tutting at you in a restaurant, and in the summer you can sit and enjoy a relaxing glass of wine at a beach cafe whilst watching your kids playing because every generation will be out enjoying the evening together
Mike Cliffe-Jones (@mikecj) Warm, safe, family focus, sporty, outdoor, lack of cynicism.
Sarah Hawes: Its safe, food is healthier. People are outside in the fresh air more. The need to constantly be in fashion is not a priority …. and … they respect their elders. So lots to aspire to.
Maya Middlemiss (@casslar) Children are at the heart of Spanish culture, and welcome everywhere – not marginalised or excluded as they can be in the UK.
Richard Middlemiss: For the kids, a safer less paranoid society where it’s ok to enjoy kids, even to pat them on the head or hug ’em even if they’re not your own….not that I’d do that to the ‘orrible little tics of course! They have a longer childhood but in a lot of ways a less inhibited childhood certainly than I had. They are multilingual and see sunshine almost every day. Ok it’s not Newcastle but it’s not bad!
Rebecca Eisen: Kids are always welcome in restaurants, cafes, bars no matter how much noise there making, traditional flamenco dancing lessons for girls and boys and fantastic places to explore
Marina Nitzak (@luksmarbella) Safe, happy, family and outdoor based environment and activities, local authorities that constantly improve public facilities, multicultural open-minded atmosphere where from early age kids learn languages, international traditions and share their heritage at the same time. Very entrepreneurial and positive in encouraging youngsters to take initiative in their own projects too. But most of all I think I have to come back to safety and security, absolutely priceless for parents I think.
Carol Byrne (@carolmarybyrne) From the mouths of babes, or mine anyway. Isobel says: the freedom, learning a new language is great, I like the culture but not making Morcilla and you learn a lot of manners and lots from chatting with the old people in the village. I like smaller numbers at school here too
Fiona Flores Watson (@seville_writer) Cheap, good food, no “kids’ meals” nonsense, lots of sunshine, can play outdoors, embraced by society.
Heidi Wagoner (@wagonersabroad) A simple, family friendly lifestyle. Back to the roots of family time, outdoor time getting out on the paseo for social time and a great sense of community. Kids are allowed to be kids and are accepted everywhere.
John Wolfendale (@johnwolfendale) You are heroes just for having children eg people make space for you in the supermarket queue, you get tolerance even support in restaurants, the idea that children shouldn’t go in a restaurant seems madness (or even in the UK weddings!!! weddings without children…how crazy is that when its the whole point of getting married!?!): health service, doctors will see children on the same day nothings too much trouble: respect for the family and for elders, no yob culture (although they are learning this from the northern europeans): food mediterranean diet so much healthier eg every meals starts with a salad and no butter, strangers will smile at talk to play with your children no like in the UK where if you smile at a child the police will come and arrest you, entertainment, the mountains, the beaches, the rivers all a few minutes away not a major traffic jam away. Climate for being outside most of the time, family events happening all the time: being cuddled I confess I teared up when the teacher gave my boys a hug when they came back from the summer holidays. I was lucky to get the cane.
What do you think? Tweet us your thoughts to @FamilyInSpain and feel free to share this post and ask your friends for their opinions too.
If you are thinking about Moving to Spain with Children, check out our book on Amazon HERE.
Read the answers posted on our Facebook Page here …
There are so many factors to consider when Moving to Spain with Children. As parents, we can often spend too much time worrying and thinking “What if?” …
Don’t waste time worrying. Start researching now. Ask Questions. Find answers. It’s all part of the incredible journey of Moving to Spain with Children.
Here are our 6 Top Tips for Moving to Spain with Children to get your journey started …
Get the TIMING right:
- Timing: as in the right time in your child’s life
- Timing: as in the time of year
- Timing: in relation to your own life
Is you child too young or maybe too old to move to Spain? Are you certain they will cope with a huge change in their life?
Research weather patterns, local holidays and school term times before planning flights and removal dates.
Why are you thinking about moving? Is this the best time, not only for your children, but also for you?
Really research your LOCATION:
Whether you are looking to invest money in a property or a simply looking for a rental property, choosing the correct location is fundamental to, not only the success of your move, but also your future happiness in your new home. This is also why I encourage you to rent before buying when first starting a new life in Spain. Yes, I agree that rent can be dead money. However, until you are certain you have the correct location for you, the dead rental paid will probably be a lot less that the expense incurred by the purchase of the wrong property.
If, however, you have visited a place many times, at different times of the year then buying a property may be a suitable option. Just don’t rush into it.
Make an effort to learn the LANGUAGE
In my opinion, too many people move to Spain without learning to speak Spanish. I’m not saying you need to be fluent, but I am suggesting that it should be a personal goal to at least make a really big effort. Being able to at least start a conversation with a Spaniard, in their own language, will truly enhance your chances of integration and open so many more exciting doors for you.
Invest in some dual language Cd’s to watch with your children. Play online language-learning games. Use flashcards … There are so many great methods for language-learning these days.
Watch out for our free Spanish language-learning articles, coming very soon.
Research EDUCATION options:
One of the first decisions about education is usually whether to enrol your children in a Spanish state school or a private international school. The availability of state schools and international schools in Spain varies by region. It is really important to carefully research the schools in the area you plan to make your new home before you plan your move to Spain.
In some areas of Spain, it can be difficult to secure places in a school, before having an address in Spain. Speak to the schools you are considering before making any definite decisions about your property.
Be prepared to learn new CUSTOMS and PROCEDURES
Spain is very different to many other European countries. Too many people move over here with the “But, back home they …” attitude. Do yourself a huge favour and leave that attitude (if you ever had it) behind.Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster.
Be prepared to slow down. Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster. You have a lot to learn. Prepare yourselves for the onslaught of the Spanish donkey-style bureaucratic system
Note: Burro is Spanish for donkey. Burrocracia is Spanish for bureaucracy 😉
Get a Copy of OUR BOOK and let us do a lot of the work for you!
The above tips are a quick summary of only a few of the many issues we cover in our guide Moving to Spain with Children.
To read some of the lovely reviews people have sent in, and to have a look inside at what essential topics are covered, pop over to Amazon (click here) and have a look.
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.
My second book will share our love of this wonderful country, where we have chosen to enjoy our family life. Spain is such a wonderful place for children to live and grow up. It will include more practical and essential information and a few more personal stories.
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.
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.
By using Daniel, on this particular transaction, I saved over £1000 on the exchange and also saved roughly another £800 by timing my transfer and buying at a good time.
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 email@example.com or 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.
Contact Daniel and Start Saving Money Now!
6 Top Tips for Surviving Expatriate Life with Kids
I love how many people we virtually “meet” on social media. It really does make the world a smaller place and enable us to exchange stories and ideas with like-minded people.
This article is a guest post written by our Twitter buddy @BGSmith.
BG Smith leads study abroad programs for his university in Spain, and on the side, produces videos and blogs on surviving expat life with a family of 6. For more insight and adventures, subscribe to his YouTube Channel Expatriate Snippets and follow the Expatriate Smiths blog.
Over to you Brian …
We’ve often been asked what it’s like to bring a family of 6 to Europe–usually following an indirect inquiry about our sanity. So I thought it might be apropos to pen this blog post with the top six considerations of traveling and living in Europe.
1. Be Flexible with Your Living Conditions
Across the board, living spaces in Europe are generally much smaller than they are in the U.S. Apartments tend to be two bedrooms or less, and we have learned to fit all four of our kids in the same bedroom, using bunk beds, or putting some kids on a couch if necessary. Hotels may be a good alternative, but even they are much smaller than in the U.S. Shortly into our first expatriate experience, we finally gave up on finding an American-size hotel room that fit us all, and looked for multi-room bookings that were cheap enough to “vale la pena” (as they say in Spain). While Booking.com seems to be a good resource for European hotels and homes, we have also had varying success with Ibis hotels. Their rooms are extremely small and basic (usually a bed, bathroom, shower all in 100 sq ft), but they’re also extremely economical.
2. Go local with Food
After traveling to so many countries, and living for long periods of time especially in Barcelona, we often have friends who ask for restaurant recommendations. Problem is, we don’t go to any restaurants. I mean…we don’t even go to restaurants in the U.S.–we have 4 kids. Not only is it pricey, but “Smith, Party of 6” isn’t always the most relaxing dining experience. No, we don’t do restaurants in Europe, especially since in many cities, the dining experience can be much longer (up to 2 hours or more). Instead, we do “Grocery Stores”. Yep, Grocery Stores. Especially Aldi, Lidl, and Mercadona. WE also do outdoor markets. I’m a firm believer that you learn a culture by its home-cooked meals, and grocery stores are the ground floor. We love to dive into the new and different foods, and we often let the kids choose what they want. Of course, some grocery stores are more difficult than others, esp. Croatia where we didn’t have the advantage of an easily translatable romance language, and the Croatian Kuna has an uneven exchange rate against the euro and dollar. Either way, though, we’ve found that you can get the same, and sometimes better, food in grocery stores than restaurants, and it’s always cheaper. (Below, some favorite grocery foods in Italy and Spain)
3. Level Up on Going Green
From meticulously dividing garbage into up to four different categories and putting out the right receptacles on the right day in Italy to paying for utilities in HomeAway and AirBnB rentals, life in Europe can be much more conservation-minded than life in the U.S. Europeans like to save energy and live green. The value of conservation may even carry over to laundry, as few apartments in the places where we’ve lived (Spain and Italy) have had a dryer; and washing machines in Europe take 2-3 times longer than U.S. counterparts (up to 3 hours for a load to finish). But one thing we’ve learned, is that welcoming the change in lifestyle is actually something our kids have enjoyed–in fact, in Italy, hanging the laundry out became one of the coveted chores.
4. Hang with the Locals
One of the most significant opportunities to grow has been interacting with locals while we’re abroad. It’s a chance for all of us (not just the children) to see from another’s viewpoint and thereby broaden perspectives. For this reason, I always encourage my boys to jump into a futbol (i.e. soccer) game with local kids at a park. Whether it’s been France, Spain, or Italy, the kids have always figured out how to work around the language differences–playing seems to have a language all its own.
We have also religiously attended our church services on Sundays, no matter where we are. This has often meant staying for 2-3 hours of church services, depending on our travel schedule, even when we may not speak the same language as the congregation. In Spain, my fluency in Spanish has made it easier, but the more we’ve gone to Church, the more the kids figure out how to communicate and get around the language barrier, to the point that the oldest have often said they don’t need me to translate for them, even though they don’t speak Spanish.
5. Don’t Always trust the Travel Gurus
Despite what travel gurus like Rick Steves preach, the Euro Rail System is NOT inexpensive or frugal, especially with a family of 6. Inexpensive flights can be a good alternative–even commonly derided cheap airlines like RyanAir aren’t as bad as billed, as long as you know the conditions/specifics of traveling with them. (EasyJet is particularly constricting on their carry-on baggage policies). If booking a flight, don’t fall into the “you can book flights once you get here” trap…it’s best to plan ahead, as Euro flights, just like US flights, are much cheaper a month or two before your travel date.
A good alternative is rental cars. Yes, they can be somewhat expensive (up to $100 a day) but renting from a carrier in an airport is cheaper, and car prices vary by country. Generally, we found them to be more expensive in the UK, and extremely cheap in Spain ($50 for an entire weekend for a car that fits 7). If you book online early enough, they can be the cheapest option for travel. Of course, if you drive, tolls and gas are worth examining (especially in France and Spain), but Michelin has a great website for figuring out travel costs.
A few travel laws you’ll need to keep in mind if you drive in Europe: 1) If you’re renting in Switzerland, Austria, or Slovenia, make sure you get a highway “vignette” sticker, or you’ll be slapped with a huge fine; 2) You will get caught speeding…by a camera. There are a ton in Europe. On the bright side though, the average speed highways can be fun (esp. in Italy where people driving sports cars sit on the side of the road for a few minutes just so they can push 120 MPH). 3) Make sure you follow traffic signs, especially the zone traffic limitato signs. Risking it just because you don’t see a cop will lead to a steep fine (like I found out in Padova). There are cameras everywhere.
An important side-note on Europe travel is how walkable cities are. It’s a blessing and a curse. Driving in large cities is difficult, and often forbidden (esp. in Italy), but it also means that everything is fairly close (or at least a 15-20 minute walk). Bonus: It’s also the most enjoyable exercise in the world–amazing sites and cardio at the same time. It also means a lot more walking for kids who are used to taking a car everywhere. At least a month prior to our trips to Europe, we like to take long walks around our home in the U.S. to get them ready for the “Euro-Cardio”. Also, we’ve found it essential to always bring water bottles when we go sight-seeing, whether it’s hot or cold. Some cities, even major ones (I’m looking at you Paris), have no public drinking fountains. Having a water bottle has not only saved us a few Euro, but it’s also saved us a ton of frustration when kids get thirsty. (BTW, Barcelona is the overwhelming exception here, as there are fountains all over the city).
6. Don’t Slack the Sight-seeing
While we try to avoid the American tourist experience as much as possible, we also believe that sight-seeing can be both exciting and educational. In fact, we tend to see everything we can in an area (sometimes more than locals see). Of course, sight-seeing with 4 boys can be difficult, especially when museum-meandering and architecture-admiring usually isn’t on the top of their list. So, to engage them more, we invite our kids to choose a country, city, or location, and do the research about the area themselves, choosing where to go, what to see, and why to see it and put together a powerpoint presentation about it. This usually includes guided Internet research and at least one trip to the library (bonus). We then reserve a night when they can officially present the idea to us, and when we visit the location, the child in charge gets to be the official tour guide, leading the visit, and talking about interesting historical, cultural, or other significant facts about the location.
Most recently, this led to a weekend road trip around Catalunya, to the Roman ruins of Tarragona and the beach castles of Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar.
Another thing we’ve found that works with endless sightseeing is to give the kids a travel journal, where they can draw some of the cool places we visit.
To be fair, sometimes living abroad has to involve the usual video-game playing and TV watching downtime for the kids, despite how much we, as adults, would rather spend every moment taking in the beauty of the culture around us. However, we’ve discovered it’s a balance thing…downtime makes the sight-seeing easier to do and the kids more amenable to the activities. Not to mention, downtime can be a great motivator, especially when visiting cities where there’s a lot of walking.
Overall, expatriate life requires flexibility and, to be honest, isn’t for everyone. Setting expectations, however, is the first step in ensuring a good experience for both parents and kids.
Do you have any Tips for Surviving Expatriate Life with Kids? Do share them with us 🙂
Top Tips for Moving Abroad: Speaking From Experience!
Moving abroad can be compared to a fairground ride. The question is … will it be a fun ride that you enjoy or one that has you shrieking in frustration and fear?
It goes without saying that thorough research and careful planning are fundamental for a successful relocation. Whether moving to a new country on your own, as a couple or with your family, you can always benefit from advice and feedback from others.
Who better to ask for help than people who have experienced the ups and downs of the relocation rollercoaster themselves. In this post, some of the lovely members of our Multicultural Kids Blog Facebook Group share their own advice and experience and also top tips to prepare you for successfully moving abroad, as part of this month’s MKB Kids Blogging Carnival.
This is what I asked my fellow members:
“Moving to another village or town can be a daunting prospect for some people. So, what happens when you move to another country? And imagine moving to a country whose language is different from your own. Many of us in this group have experienced this transition. I’d love you to share your biggest fears about such a move. What tips would you like to share with others facing a move? What, if anything, would you do differently, if in the position again? All matters can be child or parent related or both.”
So, what are their Top Tips For Moving Abroad?
I have listed each contributor`s Top Tip and you can read each of their great articles by clicking the titles. Also, if you are on Twitter, you can follow each contributor by clicking on their name.
Top Tip: There are a lot of worries when we move to a new country, not just for ourselves but also for the kids. But try to learn more about your host country–the good, the bad, and most importantly the funny!–and soon enough the nerves will calm down and hopefully, you won’t feel too much like a stranger anymore and even learn to call this new place Home. 🙂
Jackie shares with us “Rediscovery Beijing: 25 Things I Learned About Beijing 2016” and reminds us how “experience is the best teacher”.
Did you know that in Bejiing:
- You cannot buy knives in supermarkets
- Less people are riding bikes than before
- You need to know about WeChat
- It may be an idea to shop online rather that attempt local supermarkets
- It has become more English-friendly
These topics and lots more are covered in Jackie’s personal insights into life in Bejiing.
Top Tip: Exploring your new home (country) with a local will always lead to a more rich experience than roaming alone or with a fellow expat.
Anjelica shares “5 Tips on How to Make Friends With Locals & Learn to Love Your New Country” She shares with us how Puerto Ricans value chatting with friends, lingering over food, and island time; which means that everything happens way slower (I kind of love this way of life 😉 )
Her list of 5 tips will help you ease into your new host country.
I totally agree with Anjelica’s final piece of advice, “ Don’t compare your old home with your new one. There will be many differences between the two, that when given the opportunity, will make you a more well-rounded and cultured person. You will most likely learn early on that others do many of the same things you do but with a slight twist. Let go of any feelings of superiority that you may have. You are most likely not in the majority and not in a position to change a whole nation.”
Top Tip: Learn the local language.
Amanda let us know “5 Ways You Can Make Expat Life Easier for Yourself”“. Having been living in the Netherlands for over 15 years now, Amanda admits to being restless and getting itchy feet. Her next relocation would be different as children are now involved. However, she has lots of ideas that she shares, that will make moving with children easier.
Top Tip: Find ways to recreate a semblance of normalcy and familiarity to take the pressure off all the newness. Also, be prepared for the culture shock and allow space to hear each other out as stress levels get the best of you.
Esther shares her personal experiences in “Keeping the Family afloat”. Having literally just moved continents, they have not yet even got to enjoy the honeymoon period. As she says “I’ll be honest, stress levels in our farmhouse are still pretty high. Being the resident French speaker, the entire administrative piece is on my shoulders. “ … I feel your pain Ester, have a read of my rant posts about Spanish “Burrro-cracia”. It may give you some ideas!
You’ll soon look back on this post and wonder what all the fuss was about 😉
Top Tip: If I had to do anything differently it would have been twofold. First, I would have just bought everything new when we moved to Morocco instead of trying to bring so much with us. Second, I would have relaxed a lot more. With so many unknowns I put way too much pressure on myself and my husband to figure everything out the “American” way. That didn’t work at all. I had to learn to go with the flow.
Ensure you fasten those seatbelts and get ready for the ride as you read Amanda’s “How Moving to Morocco is Like a Carnival “Fun” House”. You can literally feel the ups and downs experienced on many fairground rides as she shares her experiences and frustrations of the tasks that are so simple in your own country but so much more complicated abroad. As Amanda says “you never know what’s going to pop up in front of you, and it will. Be prepared for all scenarios. I felt like I should have run a risk analysis on everything ahead of time.”
Top Tip : Connect with others. This is no reason to feel isolated, but you have to make an effort to find friends and activities.
Jo shares with us some essential “Advice for Expats with Children in Saudi Arabia”. She advises you to “Be open-minded to different styles” and not to listen to the ever present gossiping oh the expat grapevine. She believes that having children in Saudi makes integration a lot easier. Like in Spain, where we live, family comes first and children are to be heard rather than just seen 😉
I must confess that I hadn’t thought of Saudi as a child-friendly destination, however having read Jo’s post I think we might well have to pay a visit.
Top Tip: Batten down the hatches and ride out the storm.
Lisa makes some very valid points in her “Top 3 Reminders When Relocating With A Family”
Despite what many books will try to make you believe, living abroad does not always mean living the dream, although it can be amazing! Be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, be prepared and take it one day at a time. And, of course, The addition of children to the relocation equation makes it a whole different ball game
Top Tip: Be curious and open-minded.”Ask all the questions you have” helps a lot to make things easier for you and the locals because you will let others know what feels strange, new to you and you don’t misinterpret situations.
In “Frequently moving TCKs and expat children” Ute covers aspects to consider when moving with kids / TCKs. As she correctly points out “people need to be aware of the long-term side effects such a life can have on themselves and their children, in order to make the best out of this kind of life.” She explains the phases of such a move and points out the issues that may arise, àrticularly with children. If you are moving abroad with children, ensure you read this very informative article and the many others on Ute’s website.
The team at “The Art of Home Education”
Top Tip: “There is always a reason NOT to do it.” You can always wait for the right circumstances. But what if those circumstances never happen, then you’ll end up waiting forever.
In this article, we discover “That dream about living abroad – 10 things you want to know”
There are some really heart-warming and thoughtful tips and ideas in this article. I particularly loved Nº8, the idea of opening up your house to new people in your neighborhood with view to creating a closer feeling of community. And the fairground ride makes another appearance …
Top Tip: Expect to leave a piece of your heart in your previous location. But relish the new adventure, these are exciting times! Give it a good two years before things start to be familiar and you start feeling settled.
In their article, “Switzerland Here We Are” Babelkid share their experience about just arriving at their latest destination.
And finally some input from Me 😉
Top Tip: Don’t move abroad in a dreamy bubble. Do your research and then do some more. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare yourselves for a thrilling ride. No matter the outcome, make it an experience to remember … in a positive way!
Our popular post “6 Top Tips for Moving to Spain with Children” can be applied to many other countries.
Don’t forget to have a look at our Relocation category for lots more articles about moving to Spain and abroad.
I’d like to personally thank all the members of MKB Kids for taking the time to share their stories and experiences with us today. If you are thinking about moving abroad, do not hesitate to contact any of these lovely people who will only be too happy to help you in whatever way they can.
And remember, if you’ve been thinking about making the move and have done your research … there’s no time like the present!
I like to think of myself as a positive person. I don’t consider myself as a Pessimist. Am I an Optimist? Hmm, in most situations my head rules my heart so I suppose a Realist is a better classification.
When assisting people in making decisions about moving to Spain, including renting and buying property, (which is my real “job” by the way), I play the devil’s advocate. I help people make the best decision for them. I use my head when I believe their heart has taken over.
I don’t sell false dreams. I highlight reality. I am known for telling is as it is. Neither an optimist nor a Pessimist. Yes. I suppose I’m an optimistic Realist.
On our website, www.familylifeinspain.com our Facebook Page, Twitter and Pinterest, we tend to share the fun and positive aspects about living in Spain. However, we do also like to share a few rants. Our ethos is that every problem has a solution and if we do not have the solution immediately to hand, we endeavour to find it and share it with you.
Every now and then something happens and all “normailty” flies out of the window. Everything seems to get pushed aside and this one issue has to be dealt with. Like now. Immediately.
Do you remember the post: Spain Isn’t cheap … Or is it?
I admitted that “ 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.”
Not forgetting our involvement in the #SpainIs campaign …
“In light of all the negative press Spain is receiving, particularly from UK sources, a group of Writers And Bloggers About Spain (WABAS), have launched a campaign to show that life is not really as bad as some may like to have us believe. We have been astounded by the number of times press and television companies have contacted us over the past months, in search of negative stories.”
This time we’re going one step further. Wait until you read what follows …
I’ve been tempted to publish emails of “reporters” that have contacted us and many of our colleagues, looking for negative stories about Spain, but I still won’t do that. They are merely doing what they are paid to do. We all need to earn a living. I’m a Realist remember 😉
However, I will share a excerpts from couple of emails that have literally just been exchanged (ie. the day prior to posting this).
The names have been removed as I do not intent to direct this post solely at the sender of this email, nor the production company. This post is directed at all journalists and documentary makers. Please think before contacting expats in Spain.
That is all. Think. Please!
Excerpts from the initial email:
“Hi Lisa …
…We are currently developing a documentary series for ****** about Brits who are emigrating to Spain and wondered if someone from your team would have time to help with our research.
We are looking to speak to people who are planning to move to Spain this year and thought given your experience you may be able to help, or point us in the right direction of soon to be expats.
The documentary series idea is in its final development stages with ****, and the last thing they require from us is a ‘taster tape’ which shows the types of people moving abroad.
We are keen to appeal to the **** audience and would like your help in finding couples and families who have packed up their life in ‘blighty’ in search for a better future in the sun. We want the series to feel accessible to the masses, so we aren’t focusing on businessmen/women being headhunted for global companies, we are more interested in professions like plumbing, building, nursing or hairdressing – filming with people who believe that they can have a better life in Spain. This will be an aspirational series which will highlight how regular people can live their dream.”
Thanks for contacting us, however I am afraid we will not be able to assist you with research for this production. Although you say “This will be an aspirational series which will highlight how regular people can live their dream”, looking at your search criteria, I do not foresee a positive final production.
If you have looked at our websites you would see that we do not encourage the kind of people you are looking for to move to Spain, “professions like plumbing, building, nursing or hairdressing”, unless that are financially secure.
If you research any “successful” moves to Spain, you will discover that they are “businessmen/women being headhunted for global companies” or location independent workers who source their income from outside of Spain.
People are no longer moving to “live their dream” in Spain by finding work over here. It is a now a lifestyle decision. They are prioritising better standards of living and primarily, quality family time. If they listen to us, they are also treading carefully and not burning bridges by “packing up their life in ‘blighty’ in search for a better future in the sun”.
The phrase “people who believe that they can have a better life in Spain” also sets alarm bells. Surely you understand that these people have little chance of success in the current climate.
The cost of setting up a business is much higher than in the UK. The only people we are currently helping set up business here are location independent workers. This is because we do not sell dreams to our clients.
I am quite confident you will find others willing to work with you and I will be interested to learn of the outcome.
I apologise if this seems abrupt but I am tired of the number of production companies who ask us for assistance and who appear unaware of the real situation. There are many expats very happy with their lives in Spain. Unfortunately, these do not appear to be who production teams wish to talk to.
If you are interested, I’d be more than happy to send you a copy of my book that is due to be published this month. It will give you a better idea of how people can successfully move to Spain, without losing everything they have worked for (ie. not for those on the usual UK programmes and in the tabloids).
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to email, I appreciate you that you must be very busy so thank you in advance.
I understand your concerns about the documentary and can only apologise for the number of production companies who contact you for assistance who appear unaware of the situation in Spain, I bet it gets exceptionally frustrating.
I thought it may help to give a bit more background about the project – I seem to have spent the last year researching this series, and have been over to Spain and lived amongst expats who helped form this idea (which was lovely, I was lucky to catch the good weather it seemed!) The initial idea originated from our other documentary, Benidorm ER, which is now in its forth series on *****. During the filming of this documentary we came across a lot of expats who have left the UK and were living a better life in Spain, they were eager to tell us their story.
In April I then spent time with expats living on Camping Benidorm (amongst other places), there was a mixture of ages, and a great variety of people, from the ‘swallows’ coming and going, to new arrivals eager to start a fresh, and families who had been there for a few years, even through the rocky times. They all talked positively about the life they had, their quality of life and the hope for the future – there was a mixture of professions too, from bar owners to electricians, hairdressers to mechanics, dancers to chefs. There was a strong sense of community and obviously little overheads with them living in mobile homes (which were very impressive!). They were aware that the employment wasn’t going to be easy, but they were determined and proved so by all working.
We felt that these expats hadn’t been represented in the media and they were keen to tell their story about their life in Spain, they had improved standards of living, better quality family time and more disposable income.
At this time we are looking to speak to people who haven’t moved out to Spain yet, but if the series was to go ahead we would be looking to feature a variety of expats who have made a success of their lives in Spain, we would want them to advise and be an inspirational case study.
Please let me know when your book is published, I’m sure it will be of help with our series.”
My reply …. there isn’t one!
How could I reply, when a researcher, asking for my assistance, wants to portray the best of life in Spain based on insights gained from expats living in a camping in Benidorm??? Is that really a true portrayal of expat life in Spain?
I am sure that the residents of Camping Benidorm live a great life. Campsites create great communities. However, is that really the best this beautiful country has to offer? Is that real as good as it gets for expats in Spain?
I will stand by my belief that, in the current climate, moving to Spain expecting to carry out professions such as: a want to be bar owner, electrician, hairdresser, mechanic and many other trades which require a decent client base to keep you afloat, is a massive risk. I am not saying it is impossible. I am saying it is not cheap and you’ll need more than lady luck being 100% on your side to make it work in Spain at the moment. I’m a Realist, remember.
Don’t move to Spain and think you can “get away with it” by burying your head in the sand and ignoring legalities and bureaucracy. If you are moving over here, get it right from the start, Do your research. Do it right. If you are not ready, wait. It will save you a lot of money and heartache.
Seriously, if you are thinking about moving to Spain, keep an eye out for my book due to be published this month: Moving to Spain with Children by Lisa Sadleir. It is written by a Realist. A Realist who loves Family Life in Spain. It is written by somebody who wants you to make the right decision. We are not here to sell you a dream. We want you to enjoy the reality of what is Family Life In Spain.
On a last note, have a look at these “Rules of Expat Life” from Mr Steve Hall …
Rules 7 and 8 are particularly apt to this post:
Rule 7: Before you arrived, the traffic police weren’t as tough as they are now. They got that way from dealing with expats with no paperwork, no insurance, no ITV and listening to you bang on about how you thought you were in the right. So before you abuse another officer to his face or on a forum, try getting your UK car registered here. Just because you have not done it for 7 years does not make it legal.
Rule 8: The UK may have done away with winners and losers, but Spain HAS NOT. In the UK, they have a welfare state that supports people when they fall. They’ll give to you as MANY TIMES as you want to – housing benefit, disability allowances, single-parent allowances, job-seeker allowances, free dental care and a NHS service that has got itself on its knees with more administrators than surgeons. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in Spain.
And remember, if it was that easy to move to Spain, everybody would be doing it. Some things are worth fighting for. You don’t need to do it alone, but you do need to do it right. Right from the start.
Rant over … I’d love to know your thoughts on this matter. If you agree or disagree with what I say please feel free to add your comments and share with others you think may have something to say. We are open to ideas … we are Realists 😉
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I’ve been working from home in Spain for just over two years now. And, you know what, I absolutely love it! I’ll show you why later.
Admittedly, working from home is not for everyone. However, for many people currently moving to Spain, it is a very popular option. As demographics are changing, families and couples are no longer moving over, looking to set up bars and restaurants (the expat “dream of the past”), many are able to work remotely, commuting where necessary ( ie. traveling overseas to work for periods of time and returning to Spain to enjoy the lifestyle) or, conducting the majority of their business via the internet and mobile devices.
The view from the office in my garden.
In this article, I am looking at the working from home in Spain idea and not working remotely. For different options for working remotely, that can also be implemented in Spain, read “Working remotely doesn’t mean you should work from home“. This will give you an alternative take on working from home or remotely and other options to consider. When you have read his opinions, you can read my own thoughts and then hopefully decide which is best for you.
If you research articles about “working from home” or “why work from home”, you will find lots of information about how you can convince your employer to allow you to let you work from home. They include reasons such as …
- With the advent of smartphones, laptop computers, and remote technology, studies show that even for many organizations, the advantages of having a plan in place for remote workers far outweigh the costs.
- With all the hurdles employees face simply getting to the office five days a week, the potential for costly absenteeism and inefficiency is definitely cause for concern. Remote working avoids this.
- Studies have shown that stay-at-home workers are actually more productive than their cubicle counterparts and they report higher rates of job satisfaction.
In all honesty, I’m not bothered about that. I’m not interested in keeping the boss happy. I’m talking about being the boss. I’m talking about you. I’m talking about me. I’m talking about working for yourself in Spain. I’m talking about why I, and maybe you, realise why working from home in Spain really does rock.
So, let me tell you my story …
About five years ago, my children had both started school in Mijas Pueblo. I decided the time had come to get back to work and look at regenerating my business. I decided that there was too much distraction at home and I needed my own space. A proper workspace.
After some initial research, I came across a small office in Mijas Pueblo. It was ideally located across the road from the children’s school. This meant we could all go up to the village together in the morning, the children went to school and I went to the office. At 2pm, when school finished, we all headed home for lunch. If I had to schedule afternoon meetings or had other tasks to complete, I would sometimes head back to the office in the afternoons, often when the children had after school activities.
This was great. For awhile. Then I started to get busier. I was using my office less. People were asking why my office was always closed. It wasn’t usually closed, I just made it look like it was to stop people “popping in”. After all, my whole reason for renting an office was to get my own space. People “popping in” invaded that space. I had started to feel trapped between four walls. It was almost like working for somebody else. That feeling that you had to be there at the times stated on the door. Even though, I had chosen the times and the advertised opening times were rapidly diminishing.
I started to consider the cost of my new “proper workplace”. On top of the extra rent and insurance policies, I was now also paying duplicate phone and internet lines, electricity and water bills. Did it make sense?
Actually, no. It didn’t.
So, I gave up my office and decided to work from home.
Skype chats with clients from here.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to fight with my own mind and with what I believed to be peoples’ perceptions. Particularly in Spain, I think we are lead to believe that a “real business” has an office. A “real business” does not just have a mobile phone number for contact. With all the scamming and scaremongering that has been talked about and sadly, is often true, about expat businesses in Spain, I was afraid that by giving up my office, I would no longer be considered as a “real business”.
However, that preconceived idea is wrong. An office and a landline will not protect you from people who intend to take your money and not provide a good service. Nor does a lack of an office and the use of a mobile phone mean that you will not receive a good service from a “real business”. For some reason, living and working in Spain can be very different from in many other countries.
Fortunately for me, my clients supported and respected my decision. They congratulated me on what they understood to be a difficult decision. They continue to promote my business and refer others to me. I thank and respect my wonderful clients for this.
If you have your own successful and reputable business, you have the freedom to decide where you prefer to work from when you move to Spain. With modern technology, we have freedom. If you are moving to Spain and planning to run your own business here, make sure you keep this at the front of your mind when looking for a place to live.
So, what advantages do I enjoy by working from home in Spain?
- I can stay in my PJ’s or swimwear as many hours as I chose.
- I can work my hours around our children and our family life.
- I can walk the dog anytime I just need to get out and clear my head.
- If I get hot and need a break, I can jump in the pool.
- We enjoy sit down family meals almost every day of the week.
- The fact the children finish school at 2pm is not an issue.
- I can schedule my meetings and Skype calls to fit around day trips and pool visits.
- I now only pay one phone and internet bill (actually the SL Company does).
- Our SL Company pays a monthly rent for using space in our house (rather than me paying somebody else to rent an office).
- I enjoy client meetings in cafes that serve excellent coffee and place with stunning views.
- I feel free.
- I feel creative.
- I look forward to “going to work”.
Which option is best for you? Carry out your research and make an educated decision. I cannot stress enough, the importance of a good gestor and accountant. The future lies ahead … Enjoy!
A great way to clear your head 😉
Here are a few related articles you may like to read …
Do what you love. Love what you do.
Business In Spain … A Crazy Idea or a Concept?
Setting Up a Business in Spain – Autonomo 1
Starting a Business in Spain: The cost of setting up an SL
All of the videos on our YouTube Moving to Spain with Children series were filmed at home:
What are Your Priorities When Planning a Year in Spain?
Anybody who has read my book and our previous articles on Education in Spain will know how I stress the importance of finding the best school for your child.
When planning a permanent to move to Spain for your family, researching education options should be above deciding where to look for a property on your “to do” list.
However, if you are planning to spend just a year in Spain, for language purposes or for a family life experience, priorities change.
Or, in my opinion, they should.
Spending a year in Spain is becoming more and more popular for families with children, of all ages. Admittedly, this is still very much more so with US residents rather than European residents. However this appears to be changing with more European families contemplating the idea.
Deciding your own “WHY” is important at this point.
“Why are you spending a year in Spain?”
Ask yourself, “What do we, as a family, want to gain from our year in Spain?”
The most common reasons people tell me that they want to spend a year in Spain are:
- To spend more time together as a family.
- To learn or improve Spanish language skills
- To experience another culture.
- To enjoy a family experience that they will never forget.
I am yet to be told that the year in Spain is to improve the academic education of the children.
This may seem obvious as you read this article. However, when we are engulfed in researching and absorbing information, scheduling trips and making travel arrangements, the obvious becomes clouded or even hidden beneath all the other stuff.
Let me help you with this decision.
Do not feel guilty.
There really are other factors to place on your year in Spain “to do” list, above researching education options.
Photo by Sheila Roberts Photography
Some factors to consider when planning your year in Spain:
- Do you want a rural, coastal or city environment?
- How much travelling do you plan to do?
- What transport options are available form your chosen location?
- What are the seasonal variations to the size of the population?
- What are the temperature variations and weather patterns?
- What are property rental prices like in the area?
- Is it easy to secure a short / long term rental within budget?
- If you are opting for an international school education, are fees within budget?
Language Immersion Requirements:
- Consider the level of your Spanish knowledge.
- Do you really want to be in an area where nobody speaks any English?
- Do you want a mix of languages spoken?
- You do not need to be in a place where no expats are to learn the language.
- Is it worth enrolling in language classes to enhance your learning?
- If your focus is on language learning, subject to the age of your child, consider enrolling them in a Spanish state school
- Many International schools in Spain are mainly attended by Spanish children (check this in advance) so this does not mean that your child will not learn any Spanish whilst there.
- If you do not want to delay your child’s academic progress, consider enrolling them in an International School that follows the same curriculum.
- Many schools finish at 2pm on a Friday so that allows for lots of weekends away, visiting new places.
- School holidays are less often but longer durations, great for planning trips away.
- School term starts around the first week in September so plan your arrival based on this.
Based on experience, I would like to encourage you to shift your focus when planning your year in Spain. Focus on fun. Focus on family time. By doing this you are not neglecting your child’s education … after all, by spending a year in Spain with your children, you are gifting them an education that many would be envious of.
For more advice about finding your ideal location, CLICK HERE to visit our relocation website …
Have you spent a year in Spain with your family? We’d love to share your experiences with our readers…
“The first step to growing strong roots is to start planting seeds.”
It feels like an eternity since I last posted on this blog. So much has happened over the past few months: We have finally moved into our new home in Spain; we are in the process of re-launching our business in Spain.; we have become involved in launching a new networking group on the Costa del Sol.; and we are helping to organise the Children’s Fayre 2011 to raise money for the oncology ward at Malaga children’s hospital.
So much to tell and so little time to tell it …
Yet, sat here now, after the recent storms, looking up towards the Sierra de Mijas, breathing in the fresh, clean air and marvelling at the feeling of space and tranquillity that surrounds out new home, I feel as if we have all the time in the world.
The forecast is for further storms and unsettled climes. For the weather in Spain, maybe, but not for us... We are home. We are happy. We are looking forward. We are ready for this new chapter of our Family Life In Spain.
We have planted our seeds. Now it is time to get to work and help them to grow…