Thoughts on Marrying a Spanish Girl…

I was recently talking to a 70+ year old friend of my grandfather’s. After asking him if he’d lived in the same city all his life, he said:

“In Spain we have a saying: you are born where your parents come from, and you die where your wife comes from…”

The more I thought about this, the more examples I found to back it up. Married couples do often end up living where the wife orginally came from.

Now this could be a completely unfair conclusion, and is certainly no slight on women in general (I can feel myself getting into trouble here…), but it is just the kind of ‘warning’ you hear when you first end up getting together with a Spanish person, male or female, on their turf…

I received another such warning when I first got together with Marina. A teacher friend kindly passed on words of advice from another teacher who knew what I was up to. “Tell Ben to watch out,” she had said, “he has no idea what he is getting into with the Spanish family.”

This ‘adivce’ haunted me for months…

I guess she meant the fact that the Spanish family stays close, that you’ll be eating with them every weekend, and there may be quite a few extra visits during the week… all true…

BUT, doesn’t that happen in other countries too? A mother-in-law is a mother-in-law where ever you come from – ever present, in one way or another.

So according to received wisdom, if you move to Spain and get together with a Spanish person, you will end up living where they come from forever, and have to hang out a lot with their family. That pretty much accords with my experience, but you know what?

It isn’t all that bad!

Thank god Spain still has a culture where the family is respected, nurtured, kept tight! While western culture is doing it’s best to dissemble the traditional family (extended and nuclear), the Spanish still want to get together as often as possible for a good feed-up! Good for them!

And the idea you might get stuck in Spain forever? I say jump in with both feet, you’ll soon end up realising you were always destined to be here anyway.

[P.S. I miss my own family lots and wish we were all nearer!]

27 thoughts on “Thoughts on Marrying a Spanish Girl…

  1. Chris

    Hear! Hear Ben! I´m in the same boat as you and I completely agree. The family bond is something I really love. It’s what makes Spain special for me…

  2. Graham

    Thinking about it most of the people I know in Anglo Spanish marriages have made just that move. One lad I play soccer with has just been dragged away to Albacete!!!! It must be love

  3. Amar Patel

    I met my Spanish girlfriend in London 4 years ago, and despite us eventually deciding to buy a house here and settle, for a little while at least, I see myself enjoying the tail-end of our lives in Spain.

    I’m from an Indian background, and as with the Spanish we share a strong sense of family ties. I’ll be looking forward to it since my own immediate family are all much further away than Spain.

  4. James

    Just got back from visiting my wife’s family for two weeks in Busturia (the Basque coast) and remember thinking that it must be a lot harder to be a single person in Spain than it is in the US.

  5. Erik R.

    I could have written this entire blog word for word if you hadn’t beaten me to the idea. All true. All of it!

    Especially the P.S. part.

  6. Diana

    That’s an interesting observation. In my case, I grew up with my father’s (Spanish) side of the family. My mother’s side was stuck in Cuba though. We always had sunday lunches at my grandparents and they were often around during the week as well since they helped raise us.

    In the US, I have noticed both where people move near either side. I think couples usually end up moving with the family that has stronger ties. Again, in my case I married into a southern American family, who is also very close, but they live in a really small town. My family lives in the metopolitan area, so we decided to move closer to them because there are more job opportunities.

    I’m not sure if this supports your theory. I know I would have been very happy living near my husband’s family, but I can’t imagine being pregnant and raising children without my mom! lol

  7. Gary

    I certainly finished up living where my wife came from and though Barnsley is only 20 miles from Leeds it has a somewhat distinct language and culture. I soon became used to using thee and thou, keeping coal in the bath and scraping crumbs through the hole in the kitchen table to feed the chickens…. :-)
    Dont get me started on mothers-in-law!

  8. Enrique

    I grew up in Los Angeles with a small Cuban family, most of the clan was in Miami of course. I moved to New York in my 20s, qualifying me as the black sheep. For a while I was engaged to a Spanish girl, and we’d planed to live in NYC, but I’m sure we’d eventually have wound up in Madrid (or Valladolid, which is quite underrated, and I prefer Barcelona overall). As it turns out I met another Californian, and we’ve just moved with our daughter to San Francisco, my wife’s hometown. And my mother-in-law? I see her almost every day because she’s now our nanny!

  9. Richardksa

    I know of an English/Spanish couple living near Gatwick Airport in the UK as they are both in the airline business. They have a child and when they need family help it is the Spanish grandmother that flies in from Valencia rather than the English grandmother who lives just 40 miles away.
    AND @James: as a single person living in Spain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am sure my quality of life is better here.

  10. Tom

    I’m not sure that ‘Western culture’ is trying to destroy the traditional family. Certainly, modern Americanised capitalism seems to have little time for it…

    But apart from that, yes I completely agree. It was hard work for me, at first, getting used to spending so much time with Gemma’s family. Luckily she’s also sick of them now so that problem is resolved (just kidding: they’re the nicest, most generous in-laws I could ask for).

    It’s something you get used to and it’s also something that helped me better understand the importance of my own family, if that makes any sense. Feeling so welcome in a far-away land is an unbeatable feeling.

  11. RayTibbitts

    To anyone who thinks this sounds like we’ve all been drinking the Kool-aid… we have.
    If you are considering marriage with a Spaniard, but are in denial about the fair warning you’re hearing, or have any doubts, don’t just move ahead without considering the sequelae. Be open in expressing your concerns; they are real.

    (…and they’re not for everyone.)

  12. kahlia

    As an American woman engaged to a Spanish man, I can sort of help prove your theory (that you’ll end up living where the wife is from), as we’re planning now to move to the US in the next couple of years). However, I think Diana was right: “I think couples usually end up moving with the family that has stronger ties.” … his family isn’t as close as mine is (and they’re not the typical Sunday-paella-lunch family everyone thinks of when they think of Spanish families), and I miss that closeness. I think if they were able to offer us similar feelings (of welcoming, acceptance, enthusiasm, etc.), we might consider staying here in Barcelona (but they haven’t in 4 years, so I can’t imagine that changing in the near future).
    So, technically we’re going where the wife is from, but that decision was made based on which family has stronger ties.

  13. Diana

    Kahlia,
    It does seem like it’s about which family is closer (not distance heh). I think the reason we might see this Spanish families a lot is because they tend to be very close. Spanish culture is considered collectivistic in comparison to Anglo culture which is individualistic. We just discussed this in my multicultural counseling class. Many countries have collective cultures but in the western world the Spanish stand out, along with the other warmer cultures like Italians.

  14. Graham Tappenden

    I think I bucked the trend on this one, because I moved to Germany several years before I met my future wife, and eventually she moved to my part of Germany.

    That’s the hard bit – the nearest family lives at least 300km away!

  15. Daisy

    Well as I am currently in Newcastle upon Tyne where my husbands family are from, with the central heating on in August, I can safely say I would not live here if you paid me – oh, as UK cities go its fun friendly and all that, but I am counting the days before we fly back to Spain!

  16. Bill (Legazpi)

    My father was born in India and grew up in Kenya, and my mother was born in Sri Lanka. My wife is from Madrid, which is where we live. So I’m not sure where that leaves me, but we won’t necessarily spend the rest of our lives in Madrid. I think many Spanish women tend to assume they will bring up their children near their family, however I know of a few who have brought up kids in the UK. There’s always the exception, etc.

  17. calpe1stop

    Although my wife is english we moved to Spain PARTICULARLY because of the close family relationship, something unfortunately lacking now in England.

  18. Joanna

    Interesting article. I am not sure about your theory, but it is probably true for the most part. That being said, every couple is so different and every family is so different. Not all Spanish families are the same. There is ‘disfunction’ here as well. I am from the US (California) living in Malaga, Spain… about to get married to a Spaniard in September. This year we are here, next year we will live in Italy (don’t ask) then we will probably move back to Malaga for a bit… see how that goes, and possibly move back to California (both of our jobs allow us to work easily anywhere). I would say I have a much tighter knit family than he does… so that could be a good reason for us to move back to California, but also, it is really where the both of us are the most happy… I love Spain; He loves California… it is a win-win. :-)

  19. Laduque

    Very interesting theory and as I think about my circle of friends, it’s true!
    I (Hispanic American) married a Spaniard and I”M the one that wants to move to Spain. Both families are equally tight knit, but with the current economic situation, my esposo thinks it’s just easier to live in CA. One day, I will get my wish and live my golden years in beloved Spain!

  20. Aledys Ver

    Uh – after reading this, I wonder – where were my Spanish roots (75% Spanish) when I wanted them, then? The rule of “Married couples do often end up living where the wife orginally came from.”, especially if the wife is Spanish, didn’t apply in my case! I’m here, living in the Netherlands, the country of my husband! :(
    Lol!!

  21. Jonny

    One reason that might help explain the prevalence of the man moving to be near the woman’s family is that women often want and/or need the help of their family, especially their mothers, when they’re having, or have had kids. The father’s family (and I am generalizing greatly here) tend not to have as active a role in nurturing the young children, so it’s only natural that a family moves or resides closer to the mother’s family. That said, as a Brit living in New York and married to an American woman from Philadelphia – whose family we see very regularly, I would love for my family to be closer, so there could be a greater chance that we could see both families as often. It’s a source of sadness that my kids are likely not to know my father or my sister as well as they know my wife’s family simply because of the ocean that separates us.

  22. kashif

    m caming spain i wan marry spainsh girl m pay 3000 euro only 4 paper marry any body like marry me send mail/

  23. Lucy

    I’m Brazilian and have recently moved to Spain to live with my Spanish husband and I love it here. This is my second marriage to a foreigner and the first time I also lived in my ex husband’s country, Argentina. I loved it there too, though I was so happy to go back to Brazil eventually. Now I’m here and I don’t think of going back home for a while, even though moving from Sao Paulo to Murcia has been quite a shock. I trully believe that once you are an immigrant, and live abroad for many years, you also feel like a foreigner in your own country. That’s my experience, at least.

  24. John Wolfendale

    Everything you say is true and thank goodness. My wife is Spanish we live in Granada and what an amazing place to live. It couldnt be better! You choose, as I say to my brummy friends, Granada or Birmingham, a loving family or a group of cold fish.

  25. Pete

    Well…I guess I have a bit of a different story to tell-

    I am an American who met and married a Spanish girl in California. After being married for 10 years, I visited Spain for the first time and was hooked. I would like to move to Spain (not sure if there is work for me though, I am an industrial designer) but my wife isn’t so sure! (anyone who has moved far from “family” has their reasons right). Who knows what will happen? My wife is an azafata and has put in for a transfer to Frankfurt, Germany and may get a trasnfer in the next year. If she does, we have a decision to make.

    Lucy- your comment about being a foreigner in your home country is spot on! My wife mentions feeling “culturally foreign” in Spain some times.

    Cheers a todos!

    Pete

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