If you’ve ever contemplated living abroad, then you’ll love Orlena’s insight on living the dream and how her family adapted to life in Spain!
Living the Dream
When I look back, I can’t pin point exactly when I decided I wanted to live abroad. I’ve always enjoyed travelling, always had that itch, that yearning to travel abroad, to seek new experiences, new smells, new sights. To taste life from different cups.
When I met my husband-to-be, he felt the same way. We shared a dream of living and working a different life. It’s not that I don’t like England, I do. I think most people there don’t really comprehend what a great country it is. For all its faults, we’re lucky to have a free health care system, free schooling and a welfare state. The problem lies more in its latitude and rather unfortunate climate. “Perpetual winter,” I have heard it called, not unreasonably to my mind.
Deciding Where To Live
It took us a while to decide where we’d like to live. Australia would have been, relatively speaking, an easy place for me to work. But it’s a long way from family and friends. I have family in the Caribbean, a paradise destination. But that’s nearly as far and very isolated. We settled on Europe. After all, we’re all “European,” right? We share similar cultures and our history goes back, for better or worse, a long way back.
A rather cerebral thought process led us to the Costa Brava. We both wanted Spain. I wanted Mediterranean. Not too far south that it was ludicrously hot. Pretty much as close as we could get to my mother, who lives in the southern area of France.
The only problem remaining was one of language. A double edged sword. Our children would grow up bilingual, which would be great. We would both have to learn another language, which would be fun but difficult, not to mention a barrier to working.
My by-then husband finished his PhD and started up a software business. By started up, I mean from scratch, including learning how to program computers and write software. In theory at least, we could be mobile and still earn money.
Arriving In Spain
So that was how we arrived. We spent a week in Spain looking for somewhere to rent, packed up our stuff and moved. Pretty much like that. Except my husband drove our stuff across the continent and I flew with my 2 small children. But that’s a story for another day. We arrived in one piece.
And that was it. Our new life in the sun. Now what? How were we going to integrate? Learn two new languages? They speak Catalan and Spanish here, two different languages, but similar enough to make it confusing to learn them both. What about bureaucracy? Spain is hot on bureaucracy, not even the locals like it. It’s even worse when you don’t really understand what’s going on.
Settling Into Our New Life
That was three years ago. Now we’re relatively settled. The children go to school and nursery. The oldest two speak Catalan, pretty much like a native. Although, I expect their vocabulary isn’t as good as some of their school mates.
I still feel like an outsider, but I’ve learnt to live with. The culture here is very different from the UK. I’d love to join a mother’s group and drink coffee while we watch the children play and do activities. But they just don’t exist here, not in our little town. People are very friendly and I have some friends who are happy to work beyond the language barrier. Most of my friends I met because they wanted to learn English. I guess their interest in another language makes them more forgiving.
I still find it difficult at the school gate. I’m friendly with some of the mums. Some of our children are very close friends. But, I know I’m not “one of them.” As much as I can do small talk chat, it can be difficult to express yourself quickly and with the subtleties of your native tongue. They chat away easily, I only understand half of what they say. Especially since, as a mark of acceptance, they now talk in Catalan to me. They know that I’ve started to learn it; I just understand Spanish better.
There are many groups at the school gate. In fact, there aren’t that many Catalan children at the school. Spain has always had a long history with Morroco and there are lots of Morrocans. Romanians and Latin Americans make up the majority of the remaining foreigners. We’re the only British people at our school. I suspect there are others who feel like an outsider too. Perhaps we should all get badges.
Our Dream For Raising Our Children
The children don’t remember our home in the UK anymore. They know they aren’t Catalan but I don’t think it bothers them. They’re the blond, blue-eyed English boys. I think it gives them a bit of a status symbol. I sometimes worry that it will affect them, “not really belonging” to this culture. But I hope that if I keep an eye out for it, we’ll work around it. I hope that they’ll grow up reaping the benefits of two cultures. When they’re older, I hope, they’ll be able to live where they want. In this ever growing global culture, as boundaries and barriers disappear.
It was our dream that we could bring our children up in a beautiful country where we can enjoy the outdoors and teach them to enjoy the fundamentals of life. Obviously we’re always learning and adapting as parents, but we’ve achieved the first goal. Sure, there have been sacrifices — namely my career, but that’s also another story.
If something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for. And that means sacrifices. A dream that involves a fairy godmother is unrealistic. A dream where you work hard? That’s do-able.
What’s Your Dream? Are You Living It?
I love how Orlena described their dream, and how they made it a reality. They are truly living the dream, and loving it.
The truth is, everyone’s dreams are different. And every dream is worth considering, no matter how far out there or how mundane it might be. Some people dream big, while other people have more subtle dreams.
What is your dream? Are you working hard to achieve it? What sacrifices have you made?
I’d love to hear your stories, your dreams, your struggles… leave a comment below!