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Brian 19th January 2008 08:42 AM

Epilogue: Leaving Spain
After 6 months of living in Spain, we are moving back to the US. Basically, it´s been very difficult to overcome our financial needs.
It´s been a very wonderful time for us as a family, as we´ve experienced what it´s like to live in a small pueblo. We´ve seen generosity and a giving heart from many Spaniards who have accepted us as family. We´ve been invited into their homes and have made several groups of friends. Our boys have learned so much Spanish in 6 months! Even the boys can carry on a conversation in Valenciano--amazing! I´ve lost weight just by eating the healthy Mediterranean diet-- and by walking everywhere! I´ve experienced the weekly mercadillo, buying fresh fruit and vegetables every week. I have participated in the Cabalgata- the parade on the evening of Reyes. I´ve seen David Bisbal come to our little town for a concert. I´ve been awakened by fireworks at 2 AM. I´ve strolled for hours in the cauce del Túria in Valencia, where they´ve constructed green parks and museums.

I´ve experienced Spanish life, and I don´t regret it a bit. It´s been fantastic.

If you´re thinking about moving your family to Spain, let me share a few of my experiences. This is not intended at all to be a criticism of Spanish life, but I do hope that you can learn from our experiences.

1. Moving to a foreign country sounds romantic and exciting, but the truth is that you still have to work and pay bills at the end of the month.

2. Starting a business is expensive and time-consuming. In fact, if you don´t have a good grasp on the laws, you will find yourself over your head really quickly. We contracted a gestor, and it was still really hard. If you are going to start your own business, bring enough funds to last for a year. If you can do it for a while without a local while building a customer base, better. For a small family business, plan on it taking 2-3 months between permits, tramites, licencias, construction, Telefonica, and Iberdrola before you can ever open your doors.

3. Whatever you budget for a specific project, triple your estimate in terms of time and money. For example, if you think that something will take 2 weeks and 200€, be prepared to wait 6 weeks and 600€. This isn´t an indictment or criticism, but it´s just how things work.

4. Learn how to regatear and reclamar. These are 2 very critical skills. Bargaining is not only accepted, but EXPECTED. If you accept the first offer, then they will look at you strangely. Also, our American and British sensibilities tend to keep us from making complaints. Here in Spain, reclamando- complaining about a perceived lack of service or response- is part of the culture. It is a skill that you must develop when you have to call Telefonica day after day after day, going through the same argument that you did the day before. And when reclamando, make sure that you exaggerate. If it´s been 2 weeks, say, "Hombre, llevamos 3 meses y ustedes todavia no han...."

5. I agree with Ben´s assessment that it´s important to make friendships with your fellow ex-pats. It´s a good network of support that will help you through the stages of Culture Shock. They´ve been through it, too. On the other hand, don´t build a "little America" or "little UK" around yourself. You must learn to swim in the culture quickly. It´s ok to watch your favorite American TV shows, but if you don´t accept the new culture, you will be homesick.

6. In the middle of the fight to make a living, don´t forget to stop and smell the paella. Take weekend trips to the campo. Hit the beach. Go out for tapas. I know, this is a given, but isn´t that why you came to Spain, anyway? It´s easy to get caught up in everyday life and not enjoy those things. Pleasurable experiences in the culture go a long way to help you forget the bad.

7. Don´t pay Telefonica´s exhorbitant long-distance fees! Skype your family. The quality of the call is much, much better than many telephone connections. When I call someone, they say, "but you sound just like you´re in the next room!"

8. Have enough cash in reserve to return in case of emergency. This is common sense, but it´s always important to keep a portion back, in case things don´t work out.

9. If you bring a family, don´t go without a job offer. Salaries are low, and jobs are even harder to find. There is a lot of competition, and honestly, discrimination abounds. I once had a job interview, and 3 minutes into the interview, the interviewer stops me and says, "May I be honest? I can´t present you as a candidate to my company. You have impeccable skills. In fact, you are overqualified for the job. Your Spanish is very good, but it is not perfect. If I were to present you as a candidate, they would toss me into the street, because in a pressured environment, you might have difficulties communicating." I repeat- If you have a family, do not go without a job offer. If you are able to get your university degree convalidated before going, do it. However, this takes a lot of time (up to 2 years) and money. Keep in mind that most degrees will require for you to take additional university courses for convalidation. So, if you are young and single, going without a job offer is probably ok, but be prepared to wait out the search time. If you have little ones depending on you for food, be wise and get that job offer before buying plane tickets.

10. Above all, enjoy the process! It´s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And you know what? I have no regrets.

MrMark 19th January 2008 09:18 AM

Sorry to hear it's not worked out for you and your family Brian. It can be hard enough making a living in one's own country where you know the language, culture and contacts. You've made a determined attempt to earn your way in another country, and you have my total admiration. It's fantastic also that you've been able to leave such good advice for others wishing to make the jump. Valencia can be a superb place to live, but, it has to be said, job opportunities are not on the Madrid (or even Barcelona) scale.
Here's hoping you have better fortunes in the year to come, and that you're soon able to visit again.
Hasta Luego!

Ben 19th January 2008 09:29 AM

Thanks so much Brian for sharing this with us. It is invaluable advice, especially for those that are thinking about moving to Spain with a family. In this case, point 9 should be read over and over. Don't come without a job offer, unless, I guess, you have a very very large amount of money in the bank.

omeyas 19th January 2008 10:03 AM

Also sorry it didn't work for you. :( But you gave it your best shot, sounds like you could not have done a lot more to have made a success of it.
I read a few other forums, and in one, several people there that would not have a negative word said about Spain a couple of years ago, are now openly expressing a desire to get out, I was very surprised. I know a lot in Andalucia are quite worried by this latest case of a seemingly completely legal house being demolished, and more in Córdoba being demolished.

tad 19th January 2008 10:54 AM

I am sorry to hear things didn't work out Brian, although at least you did seem to have a wonderful life experience in spite of the downsides and I'm sure your children will have benefitted from the experience.
I'm not so much a visitor to the 'lifestyle' side of the forum here, but from what I remember things were going OK, so it's a bit of a bolt from the blue -and does highlight some of the difficulties even for someone as apparently well prepared as yourself.

greytop 19th January 2008 01:03 PM

Sorry you could not manage to stay Brian, but at least you tried and that's better than wondering "What if?" for the rest of your life. Maybe as you get older and your responsibilities reduce you can try again, knowing more what to expect.
I've been here nearly 6 years now as a retiree so did not have to tackle the job market but I think you've summed up the problems pretty well. I still get exasperated sometimes by the seemingly endless bureaucracy and paper trail to do the smallest task.
Hope the return home goes well.

tomc52 19th January 2008 01:17 PM

Sorry it didn't work out but there's always plan B: Get rich in the US and retire in Spain!

Palmerito 19th January 2008 01:18 PM

Brian, I'm also sorry it didn't work out for you and your family. I admire your positive outlook despite the problems. Your comments will undoubtedly help others. Hope your transition back to the states goes smoothly.

karena 19th January 2008 04:16 PM

I'm sorry that it didn't work out, but still sounds like you have a positive attitude. Life is no fun thinking about the "what ifs."


virgeved 19th January 2008 05:23 PM

Good Luck!

Such good advice!!!! I agree that the number 9 is a big one! Even my Spanish friends are mostly working for 600 or 700 euros a month and living with their parents....the job market is tough here!

Un abrazo....

gary 19th January 2008 06:10 PM

Better to have tried and not quite made it then never have tried at all... I am sure that you will be more contented now that you have done this. How much better to look back and say you were glad you did than to say you regret not having tried....
Good luck....

guapo 19th January 2008 06:46 PM

Best of luck to you Brian. Even though it did not work out it sounds like you and your family gained a lot from the experience. As the old cliché says - as one door closes another is sure to open...

Beckett 19th January 2008 07:09 PM

I join with everyone else here in saying I'm sorry things didn't go as planned for you and your family in Spain. Your attitude and outlook is very positive and upbeat which is so wonderful to see.

Are you moving back right away or are you waiting until the end of the school year? Are you headed back to your former residence/home town? I recall you saying previously that you were selling (or had sold?) the house.

Thank you for posting such a comprehensive report on your experience. It is bound to be very useful to other people in the future. And please keep us posted on the next chapter of your life. The return and reintegration into one's former life is also an area of great interest.

All the best,

Brian 20th January 2008 07:52 AM


Originally Posted by Beckett (Post 40574)
Are you moving back right away or are you waiting until the end of the school year? Are you headed back to your former residence/home town? I recall you saying previously that you were selling (or had sold?) the house.

We´ll be leaving fairly soon, as my former employer has my old job available on his staff. It seems that although he has had 2 employees in my old position, none of them has worked out. So, I will be returning to this job, which will be fantastic. As a result, we are headed back to our same town in Indiana. We did sell the house, but we have the capital in our bank account to invest in another. The boys are getting bigger, and we´ll need more space soon.

Davehodgo 20th January 2008 08:54 AM

all the best for the future Brian. i just want to echo Greytop by saying you had a go and you will all the richer for it. you won't have the what ifs! hope the move is as stress free as possible.

make sure you stay in the forum.

omeyas 20th January 2008 09:02 AM


Originally Posted by Brian (Post 40589)
We´ll be leaving fairly soon, as my former employer has my old job available on his staff. It seems that although he has had 2 employees in my old position, none of them has worked out. So, I will be returning to this job, which will be fantastic.

Sounds great, that although it didn't work out in Spain for you, things seem to be falling nicely into place at "home".:) Give it a few weeks, it'll be just like you have never been away! Only the memories. :thumbs-up:
How do the children feel to be leaving, happy or sad? And the wife?

eldeano 20th January 2008 12:58 PM

Enhorabuena Brian por tener las agallas para hacer todo eso, primero para mudarte a España y después para reconocer que las cosas no funcionaban como habías esperado.

Aviso de gato: Ponte un poco de mantequilla en el fondo de las patas y sentirás en casa de la noche a la mañana. ;)

ValenciaSon 21st January 2008 02:31 PM

Brian, I'm sorry things didn't work out as you planned. I hope you and yours have a successful reintegration back home. In the meantime, I hope you have a good time before you leave Valencia and welcome back.

Marina 21st January 2008 05:11 PM

Brian, I was very sad to hear that you have to go back after investing all of your time and energies in making the move possible. However I'm really impressed with the positivity that you've explained things to us. Sounds like it has been absolutely worth it for all of you as an experience.

Sorry we couldn't make it down to Valencia to meet you.


Edith 22nd January 2008 03:43 PM

I'm sorry things didn't work out for you Brian! Perhaps you will return to Spain after your retirement?

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