Moving to a new country, away from your culture, can be a daunting prospect, and infiltrating a community there, even more of a challenge. As one of the only Brits living in my little town in southern Spain, I know this from experience. Here are my tips:
Speaking louder and slower in English? Stop
Spanish is a hard mistress but alas, your first, unavoidable, step. You will spend hours bashing verb conjugations into your slowly imploding brain and it will be painful.
Expat: friend or foe?
A common mistake people make on their arrival to strange lands is to head for the nearest Irish pub. Some smoky bacon crisps and a pint of lager while soaking up the familiar homely lilt of the barman is enough to warm the cockles of even the hardiest expat.
It’s a little known fact here in Spain that doctors will make three appointments at the same time, just to ensure someone turns up. To say that Spaniards take a relaxed approach to timetabling, would be an understatement.
It’s a family affair
The concept of family is infinitely more tangible in Spain than most places and this can take some getting used to, particularly if you have a Spanish partner. Grown-up children still go to eat at the mother’s every lunch time and it’s not at all uncommon for four generations to live under one roof.
Sharing is caring
Any possessiveness I might have felt about food in the past has quickly dissipated since living here. When going out for tapas with a group of Spaniards, each throws their two-cents worth in and a mish-mash of stuff gets ordered.
Turn water into wine
Like Jesus, Spaniards understand the importance of wine. They are justifiably proud of the Riojas and Riberas produced by their vines, unashamedly drink loads of it and scoff at the UK recommended daily intake scaremongering.
The sacred art of the siesta
If you are after a pint of milk between 2 and 5pm, forget it. Most Spanish towns are deserted during these hours with shops shut up and blinds down. The siesta is so firmly entrenched in the Spanish way of life that you may as well join the club, if clubbing is not your thing then stay at home take a good sleep cause let’s face it, there’s not a lot else to do.