Unintentional, that’s how I became an Ex-Pat.
I only came for a summer of decadent living and ended up meeting the man who was to become my husband.
We met in June 1989 and within the year I was packed up and heading for a permanent move to Spain.
My only previous experience of Spanish living had been that summer on the coast and here I was, off to live in a small village with a population of 11,000 in the middle of Jaén.
First impressions, olive groves and the intense heat.
All you could see for miles were acres and acres of olive trees. The heat was stifling and the dust got everywhere.
I am sure people thought I was mad, changing London for Torredonjimeno, but I grew to love it. The people accepted me with a lot of love and warmth, even if half the time communication was through my almost non-existent Spanish, a lot of hand gesturing and loads of laughter.
Village life is of course, totally different to settling on the coast.
The only English I heard was from the school children, they would try out the little they had learnt in school. That led me into a job opportunity,
I am a chef, but found teaching English was more in demand than cooking a Sunday roast.
During the summer, the working day commences much earlier too, due to the high temperatures; men would be up and out by 8am.
The lovely ladies began their housework before the burning sun was overhead, all doors being closed and blinds down before 11am was probably the norm. Of course, nobody missed his or her siesta, and it too became an essential part of my day.
My first winter was quite a shock, when I realised just how cold it got, and that it snows too.
Shopping became quite fun, after years of popping in an out of those large UK stores, I had the choice of a few singly owned grocers, a local market- Plaza de Abastos- or two tiny supermarkets. First thing you need to do is understand the queuing system.
You ask who is last in the queue, obviously using the correct feminine or masculine use of the word “last”…that took me ages to grasp. Even then said person could be in two separate queues, the fruit section and the butchery at the same time. I once hit the jackpot when a little old lady was actually waiting her turn in the Deli queue too.
I never encountered many problems with bureaucracy.
But, that was possibly because I learnt to be as forceful as the Spanish, and it seemed to work. You need to stand your ground, especially if you have an appointment and they attempt to close the shutter when it’s your turn. Eventually you take it all in your stride, and there is always mañana.
They do love a form though…if it can be filled in, black pen and capital letters please, they will hand them out. I can guarantee that when you return it, in triplicate, you’ll also need a DNA sample from you neighbour’s dog and the date of birth of Cervantes. 27 years I have lived here, that is almost half of my life, I absolutely love it.
Yes, I have had times when I think I would like to go home, but at the end of the day, I chose this and it’s what I want I want.
We left our village 4 years ago to move to the Costa del Sol.
In the main to give our children new opportunities, I am enjoying myself immensely, but I am very much looking forward to the day when I return to a sedate village life, I cannot wait.