Moving to anywhere away from your natural environment can seem daunting, even within the UK, so when you are packing your bags and heading off for another country it is understandable if you feel a little worried by the prospect - but take heart, with preparation and goodwill you will find that it isn’t as difficult as you imagined and that people are fundamentally much the same all over the world.
Having moved 15 times in my life in Britain, in France and then 12 years’ later to the Costa Brava, I really know how we feel landing in a strange, albeit a familiar place and realising that this will be your home. I say familiar, because I am sure that many of you will have been to Spain on holiday, and perhaps these visits have been instrumental in your decision to make the move. Being on holiday somewhere is however quite a difference experience from living there (although you may feel you are on holiday every day once you are in Spain, many people do).
A little forethought is helpful. Lookup expat associations and clubs in the area you are moving to well before your removal date. There is a wealth of information on the Internet, and you can make contact with expats who have already arrived in Spain. They can give advice and support, and all expat associations are always happy to welcome new members. The U3A is one such, with branches all over Spain -and they offer a large variety of activities from art groups to cycling, local interest outings to cookery. If photography is your thing, look for local photographic societies - and for those who enjoy sport, Spain is the place for you: why not join a golf club, cycling club, walking group, kayak or sailing club, tennis club or a padel club (this is without doubt the biggest “new” sporting craze in Spain, which is similar to tennis but with a smaller court and a solid “padel” rather than a strung racquet)?
Learning basic Spanish can really help you, so think about going to classes both in Britain and as soon as you can after the move. It will feel wonderful when you first go into a local shop or bar and find you can communicate with Spanish people. Being word perfect is not the aim to begin with, rather try to speak their language and don’t worry about grammatical errors. Generally the Spanish are very friendly people and they will respect you for trying and will be helpful and encouraging. A smile and a “hola” go a long way.
When you first arrive in your new home, take a long walk to discover what is available nearby. Seek a friendly local bar where expats meet, be brave and introduce yourself, and you will find that they will be happy to help you settle in; it’s always nice to see new faces and to hear new stories.
Try to make one room in your new home as comfortable as you can as quickly as possible. While chaos reigns around it with packing cases, you will have one place in which to relax, enjoy a glass of wine or a beer and to feel “at home.” Gradually, everything will fall into place anyway, so take your time and enjoy your pool or the sea as well as unpacking boxes.
It’s inevitable that some people will feel homesick. Staying in regular (daily) touch with family and friends in the UK can help. Get a pay as you go mobile phone as soon as you can for contacting Spanish utility companies, and make sure you are connected to the internet so you can Skype your loved ones. There are other options and numerous Apps which can keep you in contact with them too. If your Internet hasn’t been connected yet, you may have to wait a while to be online; this is where that local bar can become very useful as they will probably have WiFi. If not, your local library certainly will and some local authorities provide free connections in town centres.
Expecting everything to fall into place at once will simply put more pressure on you and those around you. It takes a little time to get used to your new surroundings and way of life. Shops close for several hours in the afternoons, people eat late in Spain, school hours are different and for much of the year it is really hot in the middle of the day, so the pace of life revolves around the climate and is slower than in northern Europe and the UK. For me, the best way to settle into a new country or area is to be open-minded, embrace my new surroundings, try to fit in with the daily routine of local people and remember all the good reasons which encouraged me to move there in the first place.
Be happy. Enjoy each day.