It’s not often I get to speak to Spanish lovers with as many years in Spain, or in quite the same circumstances, as Lisa, mum from the excellent Family Life in Spain blog. Being a (relatively) young, solo traveller myself I have absolutely no idea about what it’s like to travel (or indeed raise) a family abroad. This might be the rude wake up call I’ve been searching for!
In this new chapter I’ll be speaking to Lisa about the challenges of immersion in Spain, learning Spanish and a host of other things that comply with this wonderful life we’ve chosen in the sunny climes of Andalucia.
Over to Lisa!
Hola Lisa! Thanks so much for speaking with me, and giving My Spanish Adventure a taste of Family Life in Spain. It’s refreshing following you and your family’s journey as you work, travel and, in some cases, grow up in Spain! Your blog is a wonderful mix of the lighthearted and the practical, and a great resource for people who are thinking about moving to Spain. For people who don’t know about you or your blog could you give us a brief introduction?
I’m mum from @FamilyInSpain, also known as Lisa Sadleir. Our blog Family Life in Spain is a family diary that talks about random things that we encounter during our day to day life in Spain. The idea is that we delve deeper into detail and history as the children grow older. They are currently 4 and 7 years old so I don’t have to think too hard yet! We also give advice and tips about paperwork and other possible difficult issues expats living in Spain have to deal with.
That’s useful stuff to know and especially now as I get a few people asking me more practical questions about how to move here, I’ll be sure to get them to check you guys out! Now you first travelled to Spain from your home in England. Why did you initially decide to make such a big leap? What was it about Spain that called to you?
Many moons ago I went to university in London and France to study European Business. On graduating, I decided to take time out and work as a travel guide and headed off to the island of Gran Canaria. 10 years later, having worked all over Spain and the Spanish islands, in ski resorts in Andorra & the French Alps, a brief stint in Corsica, USA and the Dominican Republic, myself and my then “hubby to be” (also from England), settled in Fuerteventura.
7 years later having got married, bought and sold our very first home, set up and sold a successful snorkeling business and had two gorgeous children we decided that we had to move back “home” … to mainland Spain, to Malaga, Andalucia.
As much as we had enjoyed our time in Fuerteventura, it is not the real Spain!
Hmm I’ve got friends from Tenerife that might beg to differ! Ok, so what were some of the initial trials and tribulations that you faced when you first arrived in Spain? How did you overcome them? Are there any ongoing challenges that come with this particular lifestyle of immersion in Spanish culture?
We love the Spanish culture and their attitude to life. They have their priorities right. They work to live not live to work. Family and children are priority. Admittedly, the bureaucracy leaves a lot to be desired but it is easy when you know how … or you know somebody that does. (Quick plug for my CCB Spain business here!).
The biggest obstacle we see every day is the lack of ability to speak the language. And unfortunately, the lack of willingness to learn it!
I definitely get what you’re saying about the the bureaucracy but speaking the language? That’s never been a grand problem for me! But on that subject, how much of the Spanish language did you know before coming out here? What things did you do to improve and where do you see your level now?
When I first started working as a tour guide in Gran Canaria I had taken O’ level Spanish (do you know what they are? lol) but my knowledge was very limited. I clearly remember going into a shop shortly after arriving in Gran Canaria and asking the little old man something like “como se llama este en espanol?” holding up a stamp … and that was it he was off, babbling in a tongue I didn’t have a cat in hells chance of understanding. But from that day on I made the effort whenever possible to learn words and practice conversation.
Having spent 2 years in France where the tight lipped French refused to understand me (although I spoke fluent french without the typical Brit accent!), it was so encouraging to practice a new language with people who were only to willing to help you.
Although I have never properly studied Spanish I am able to converse fluently about most subjects and still continue to learn new words … even after 20 years in Spain! I am learning more about the Spanish grammar now whilst helping my 7 year old with his homework than I have ever learnt before.
Ah! So that’s what I need to do to master Spanish grammar – get myself a 7-year old! It all seems so easy now…OK, so what are your favourite things about the Spanish language? Any favourite words?
The Spanish language is so expressive. It is also a lot easier to teach the children how to read and spell in Spanish than it is in English. I wrote a blog post about this.
The Spanish language is so much more passionate and expressive than English. I love having a rant in Spanish … especially when you can throw in a few Catalan words too!
Favourite words? Mariposa (butterfly) and caramba (blimey) – although you do not hear that last one much anymore!
Aye Caramba! I think I first heard that in an episode of the Simpsons, never in Spain! Right so what have been some of the biggest, major highlights of the past 20 years living and working in Spain? What places would you recommend people seeing?
To be honest we are yet to really “discover Spain”. We have really enjoyed the beach life over the past years as we were always working so the beach was our relax time. We have lived and worked in many places and so have lived them as a local. We are looking forward to visiting the more touristy places as our children get older.
Agreed. Does anyone ever really “discover Spain”? Even the locals? Anyway you’re an expert in this field: what things should people who want to move out to Spain, to perhaps have a similar experience to yours, know about doing so? What advice would you give them?
Do your homework! Rent before you buy. Do not be cajouled into buying a so-called bargain property. Learn as much of the language as you can if you want to really enjoy the country. Contact CCB Spain for honest and unbiased advice and assistance (business plug there!).
If you are moving with children, think long and hard and seek advice!
Great advice there. As for you and your family, how do you sustain your travels around Spain? Do you have any money saving tips whether it’s with travel, food, living or anything else that can help people out who are preparing for a trip or relocation?
Before settling down to do the family thing, we always financed our travels by taking seasonal work in the area that we decided to travel to or we worked for tour operators who provided us with accommodation and a salary. Again, due to the fact that I spoke the language, finding work was never an issue.
For anybody thinking of relocating, if they do not have a good level of Spanish, I would not advise them to relocate during the current climate unless they are able to continue their present work and are simply relocating for a better lifestyle and in that event I would say … “what are you waiting for?” 😉
I have to echo your final sentiments there, but I’d also say you can move without Spanish too (depending on your situation of course!) Alright so what are some your favourite things about the culture? What is it about Spain that makes you enjoy living here most?
I love the fact that family and friends come first! In Spain we work to live not live to work. Any excuse for a feria and a fiesta … the more the merrier! Ole!
I love walking down the street, looking at the surroundings, the blue sky, smiling and saying “hola” to complete strangers, particularly the older generations! But be warned, an innocent “Hola” can easily lead to a full blown personal life history!
Don’t I know it! Talking to strangers has never been a bad idea for me. Ok, so any last words for people out there interested in immersing themselves in a foreign culture, learning a language and travelling the world?
Go for it! Stop making excuses! Stop saying “ I wish I could do that”, if you really want to, you can.
Start learning the language now, even starting with a phrase book in your pocket is a good start. Although we love our children and could not currently imagine living anywhere else in the world, we cannot wait until we retire, buy another camper van and hit the road.
What a great interview and full of practical, honest advice that you can use to start planning your own relocation or trip to Spain. Many thanks to Lisa for being such a good sport and giving up her busy time away from her family to chat to me for a while. Make sure you head over and check our her excellent blog Family Life in Spain and, especially if you’re searching for practical information, the CCB Spain site too. Make sure you follow Lisa and her family on Twitter too.
Don’t forget to get in contact if you’d like to be my next Spanish lover!