Whatever your reason for moving to Spain, here are a few golden tips to help you ease you into your new environment and to keep you in touch with your friends and family back home. The pre-move is often fraught with worry and concern, plus you have to contend with all the practicalities of moving and the feeling that you are leaving everyone behind, but really this doesn’t have to be the case… please read on:
1. BEFORE YOU MOVE. It’s really useful to spend some time on the internet searching expat sites and associations in the area you will be moving to. In Spain there are many, especially in the areas with large British communities. The U3A is an international organisation and there is bound to be a group near you. Become a member and you will immediately have the company and knowledge of those who have moved before you.
Look at maps of your new region. Get to know where the major towns and beaches lie. This is really a good idea as when you arrive, you will head easily for your nearest shopping centre, medical centre (in your local town), school, local market and more-than-useful bar.
Try to take some Spanish lessons before you move. Even a very basic understanding of the language will open many doors for you and help you to get to know the locals.
2. ON ARRIVAL. To begin with you will be really busy with the logistics of unpacking, arranging your home and tracking down the vital things you chose to leave behind, or forgot. Despite all this, make time to head for your nearest village or town and go for a coffee (or something stronger) in a bar. Try to find one which is used by other expats, but failing that, go regularly so that the locals and in particular, the owner get to know your face. Try to communicate - they may or may not have some knowledge of English. They will be a fount of knowledge, not always accurate but often very useful.
3. JOIN SOMETHING. If you enjoy sport, seek out your nearest golf club, tennis club or stables. Amateur dramatics your thing? You will find local groups run by expats and Spaniards alike. How about a dance class - flamenco, zumba or tango? There are plenty of opportunities for yoga or tai chi too...whatever your interest, you will find it not too far away.
3. ENGAGE... Even if it is just on a basic level because your Spanish isn’t that great. Say “Hola” when you meet people, “Adios” as you leave. Learn a few basic sentences to begin with and then enroll in a Spanish class locally. Not only will you learn the language, you will also meet your neighbours who are in a similar situation to yourself.
4. GO OUT. While you are unpacking and sorting out your home, go to local events, the cinema (you will find films in English), get used to things beginning late, much later than in the UK. Perhaps have a menú del día in a local restaurant, but remember they don’t usually start serving until at least 2pm as the Spanish eat later, usually between 2 and 4pm. Dinner is somewhere between 9pm and midnight!
5. BUY A MOBILE. Get yourself a Spanish mobile, either on contract or pay-as-you-go. This will make communication with Spanish utility companies and other places much easier. There are several mobile companies including Movistar (Telefonica), Orange, Vodafone, YoiGo and you will find mobile phone shops everywhere.
6. SET UP YOUR COMPUTER as quickly as possible. Skype and other similar programmes will help you to keep in touch with your family and friends back in the UK for free. Internet coverage varies widely in Spain, with the major cities offering fibre optic broadband but outlying areas receiving differing internet speeds. Talk to a local company about increasing your broadband capability with boosters or look into satellite internet connection.
7. UK TV is a sore subject for most expats since BBC and the other main UK stations moved to a new satellite this year, disappearing from most screens in Europe. However, you can still find most channels via a new satellite box or online (with varying rates of success depending on your broadband speed). If you buy a Smart TV, you can connect directly through the internet and there will be a new App soon to directly watch UK TV.
8. REMEMBER you won’t necessarily like all the people you meet, expat or local, but the more people you get to know, the more opportunities will arise. Be a good listener as most of the expats have already been through the transition you are going through. Not all advice is correct, but most people are there to help newcomers and they can be a comfort when you are settling into your new life in Spain.
9. LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE occasionally. Discover new things, meet new people. Take a trip with a local company to a vineyard or historic location...you may not understand everything, but you will spend time with local people who will welcome your bravery in joining them on an outing. You are in their country and they will be proud to show you interesting places.
10. WAKE UP EACH MORNING and remind yourself why you moved to Spain. Blue skies (most of the time), warm days, beaches, beautiful countryside, wonderful cities, outdoor life, lots of sport, good food. Enjoy it!