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Have moved to Spain and am suffering - please help!

28 replies

Elf · 16/06/2003 19:07

Hello everyone, we moved to Spain, near Barcelona six months ago and I am rather unhappy, unfortunately DH is very happy and so I've got to buck my ideas up a bit!

Dd is 20 months and we moved here in the hope that it would make life easier, ie working less, good weather etc. However, personally I find it much harder here to bring up a small child and I would really like some spanish person or someone who knows Spain well to see if they can tell me some good things about this place.

this is going to sound really negative but let me get all my concerns off my chest and you see if you can help. OK the weather, yep great in the winter months because there is less rain and you can be outside more. However, all over these summer months it is too hot and I don't think excessive heat and chemically suntan lotion everydayt is good for the wee girl.

Also you can spend more time outdoors but there's not many places to go!! It appears that most parents here put their children into nurseries at a very young age so there is a severe dearth of mother and toddler gruops, or music classes, swimming classes, kids' farms you know the kind of thing. We can go to the beach sure but that's it. It makes me really appreciate what my part of England had to offer.

also, b ecause we are in Catalunya, dd will have to learn spanish and Catalan, Catalan first perhaps as the schools don't even teach Spanish till they are 6 and I feel it is a shame to have so much empahsis on a language that not a lot of people speak.

I guess that is the beginning of my rant. I am in an internet cafe and won't be able to reply straightaway but will get back in a few days and would really appreciate any thoughts from people who know spain or people who have perhaps moved overseas and had a bit of a shock! thank you so much.

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Elf · 16/06/2003 19:40

I forgot, I'm also upset that they send their kids to school here at 3! I think that is too young. but it also means there is no nursery school for her to go to at 3 because all the kids will be at school.

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lucy123 · 16/06/2003 20:22

Hi Elf

I live in Spain too (Granada). I do have a lot of the same problems as you so not quite sure how much help this post will be.

It is TOO DAMN HOT isn't it? Though apparently its not usually this hot in June. It was also much colder than usual this winter, but we've decided we can't take it: we're moving to a house with air con and central heating and damn the cost!

I agree about the lack of clubs/groups too. There aren't any in Granada. The problem is that Spain is much much less geographically mobile than the UK - almost everyon here has their family and schoolfriends living in the same street. It's a good thing for the Spanish - I wish the UK were more like that, but bad news for us immigrants.

But anyway. On the plus side:

  1. Rioja at £1 a bottle for something drinkable.
  2. the atmosphere in the streets on summer evenings.
  3. Being able to take kids to restaurants.
  4. the prices in the restaurants!
  5. (Granada only really - perhaps you should visit) - free tapas in bars.
  6. seafood.
  7. the chance to learn another language properly - for both you and your dd. It's more than a useful thing to know - it expands the mind.
  8. Rioja.
  9. Ribera del Duero.
  10. Jumilla - these are seriously cheap Spanish wines and most are perfectly good.


    I'll think of some more things and post them later. In fact I've just cheered myself up (I think the heat is bringing me down).

    Also as far as I know you don't have to send your child to school at 3. It's part of a government scheme to ensure that mothers can work - school isn't compulsory until 5 (but Whymummy you may know better). And its no bad thing for your dd to learn Catalan - it won't stop her from learning Spanish well and will help with French! (but yes, I think I'd be inclined to seek out a Spanish language school).
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lucy123 · 16/06/2003 20:23

Right - yeah, you're worried about no nursery at 3.

I hadn't got as far as worrying about that.

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fio2 · 16/06/2003 20:41

lucy123 you really are a good advert for moving to spain-all those spainish wines, you're making my mouth water.

Elf I am going to be in a similar position to you (not same) as I am moving to the other side of the country. I dont have the lanuage barrier, but I am still very frightened. I am sure once you are settled properly you will feel better. I think it will most probably benefit your dd going to nursery at 3, she will pick up the lanuage quicker and start to fit in more. You are obviously very home sick but after a while these feelings will pass. I know somebody who spends half the year not far from you and has met lots of english/speaking. I presume you are learning Catalan & spanish, and once you get a little more confident you will be able to communicate better and feel better yourself.

One last note I am soooooo jelous:0

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fio2 · 16/06/2003 20:41

Grin
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whymummy · 16/06/2003 20:51

hi elf im sorry youre not having a good time,its always hard to move to another country,im from spain and i really miss it but thats because i have all my family and friends there and its really hard to be away from them when you have children my youngest sister is moving to barcelona in september shes expecting her first baby in dec. she also goes to barcelona most weekends to see her boyfriend if you like to get in touch with her let me know,shes fluent in english and could help you with finding places to take your dd and also introduce you to her friends over there!!good luck

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monkey · 17/06/2003 09:50

hi elf, sorry you're having a hard time too.

I'm in a simialarish position. We moved to Switzerland nearly 3 years ago. We have similar language issues inasmuch as the local language is Swiss german and this is only useful in this region, it's not a written language and is very different to German, which the children will also have to learn, but is not taught until primary school, which here is not until age 7.

Anyway, I found that although I was always happy to be here, it was hard, and looking back, I guess it was over a year before I felt really settled. I didn't want to live in an ex-pat bubble, and tried to mingle just with Swiss mums, but the reality is that because of the language barrier, I have gradually become more & more involved in the English-speaking community, which actually here is quite large. Are there many english-speakers where you are? I found that for swiss families there are very few mum& toddler groups etc, but within the English speaking community there's loads.

I'll try & stop waffling & give practical ideas.

  1. Is there a HV or equivalent who can help you meet english/english speaking mums or organisations?
  2. Can you try & set up a weekly playgroup with other parents?
  3. Here it is also very hot in the summer. I prefer to stay indoors as it is cooler.
  4. The language, while maybe daunting for you is a fantastic opportunity for your dd, and she won't have any trouble in picking up both languages - may be a bit of confusion at 1st, but that will be over come by her very easily. Do you let her watch Spanish +/or Catalonian tv? Does she play with/have acess to many local kids?
    5.Give it time & enjoy the wine.
  5. Back to point one, I guess the most important thing is for you to feel established & happy. Are you there for a fixed time or is this seen as a permanent move? I would really concentrate on establishing a network of friends - there is surely at the very least a few english/us families near you?

    I'll let you know if I think of anything else. Good luck, it can be hard, I guess it's important to try & feel positive - once you focus on the negative things it'll just make you feel worse, and make the situation seem hopeless. This is just teething troubles which everyone has, even those who really want to be there iykwim. All the best, I'll be thinking of you.
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serafina · 17/06/2003 10:26

Hi Elf, sorry to hear you are having a lonely time of it. You've always got us, providing you can get to a pc!

We are thinking seriosuly about relocating to Spain so I would be interested in hearing what you (or your DP) find good about it. Is it what you imagined? Did you take language lessons before moving?

We have a DS (11) and a DD (2) and want better quality of life for the family. We are not near family here so have little to lose on that front.

Thinking of you,

Serafina

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lucy123 · 17/06/2003 19:42

Monkey - you are right but as I said in my post, it just seems very difficult in Spain. (For one thing there are no HVs where I am at least).

But Elf, you could try the local adult education centre (usually they run lots of classes at the casa de la cultura). I haven't had the energy to sort some out for myself yet.

Serafina, someone else was wondering about moving to Spain in this thread - the thread is a bit long, but if you wade through it you will see some good points about Spain (and I have given some below! ).

You will also see my little rant about people who move to Spain without having any Spanish lessons first. Please do have lessons, and please make sure your 11 year old at least has lessons too (unless you're planning to move to a tourist area and put him in a private english-speaking school that is. But even then lessons are helpful). Your 2 yo should pick the Spanish up with no trouble though.

Much as I'm getting a bit lonely here now, we have had a great three years and I don't regret moving. Go for it!

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sibble · 17/06/2003 20:41

Hi Elf
As you will see on the other thread I moved to NZ, no language problem, but still a long way from home and feels very different. Missing family and lack of familiarity are the worst for me. Grocery shopping, looking for presents and every day life is a chore because nothing is familiar. Having spoken to a few other people living abroad the first year is definately the hardest, I have been here 9 months and have booked more than 1 flight I have not paid for or got on. DH took our passports to work for a while because he thought he would come home and we would just be gone. They say most people go on to love year 2 once they meet people and start to get to know their way around the system. I am certainly coming through the other side and am starting to have fun mostly because I am starting to make friends. I know a few people who are still abroad after 3 years because they have either grown to love their new home or it seems equally as hard to move back having been away for so long. I hope it works out for you. I really agree with finding some English speaking Mums if you can, they may not be your best friends forever (they might) but they could be the starting block to you feeling happier.
Good luck

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suedonim · 18/06/2003 10:37

Hello, Elf. Sorry to hear you're having a difficult time of it. I've been living abroad for a year (Indonesia) and the best thing I did was hook up with other ex-pats. I know some people frown on the ex-pat scenario but it can be just the right spring-board for getting into other things. If you want Spanish lessons, someone is sure to have recommendations as to who to go to and so on. It is hard work to begin with, as you have to make all the running, but it will pay dividends eventually. Good luck and I hope you can let us know how you are getting on.

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suedonim · 18/06/2003 11:58

I forgot to say, there are quite a few books about living/working in Spain, if you don't have them already. Amazon have a selection.

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aloha · 18/06/2003 13:38

Elf, have you checked out the school provision for three year olds? Maybe it's more like nursery so might be good for helping your dd settle in and learn the language and would help you meet more mothers via the children. I know nothing about this but just wondered.
I don't suppose the heat will damage her unless she has extremely fair skin. The spanish seem to manage OK. However, you do make me feel lucky to live near so much provision for young children.

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bunny2 · 18/06/2003 14:53

Hi Elf, I hope you find all these supportive messages a comfort. We moved to Spain in 2001 and stayed for a year. By that time, although we had made friends, neither of us had settled and we decided to move back to UK. We are both much happier so for us it was the right thing to do. If you really cant settle, is there anything to stop you returning? Even if dh is happy, if you arent then something needs to change. ALthough we are more settled in UK, there is one aspect to life in Spain that I miss, people are more socialble in the evenings. HEre in England, once it gets to 6pm everyone disappears into their homes and locks up till next day. In Spain we went out loads, or had friends round for bbqs and drinks. I really miss that.

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Elf · 30/06/2003 17:33

I don't believe this, I have just written a massive reply and it's disappeared. . I have to go now. to recap very briefly THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH EVERYONE. We have just decided to go home at the end of the year, if we hadn't then I really think your messages would have saved me from a big depression.

I had thanks for people and advice for Serafina and everything, what a shame, I'll try and get back sometime soon. It was just great hearing from people with similar experiences, the usual amazing support one feels when that happens, fantastic.

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Elf · 02/07/2003 10:21

I,ve managed to get back to the cafe and i have time to write properly. ONce again thanks everyone for replying. I feel like a different woman due to our decision to go back to England at the end of the year. I am now able to really enjoy the place and it´s limitations don´t matter now becuase it is only short term. I don´t have to worry about schools, work or anything.

I forgot to mentino that I am 12 weeks pregnant so that has been an issue for me too, before we came here I was really cool about having a baby in Spain but now I feel not so relaxed about it!

Serafina I don´t know if I´m the right person to ask about Spain because it just isn´t for me. But if I were to do it again I would - 1/ do more research on the area before moving, ie check children´s facilities etc ie our town doésn´t even have a swimming pool which may sound petty but it´s a real shame and there´s nothing else except for the beach. 2- I definetily agree with ? who said to learn the language, well at least start some good lessons in England. I had quite good converstaional spanish a few years ago but it had gone more rusty than I thought and it is such a barrier (espeically on the phone). 3/ and I think this is important, are you happy for your 2 year old to go to a nursery? If you are great. DD is 1 and we don´t want her in a nursery yet and although we have a Mary Poppins for 12 hours a week, the time just goes and we have very little time to organise, relax whatever and there is so much more to do, sort out than at home. I would say come when your kids are schoool age so you have all day to sort yourself out. 4/ anothe rthing to check out is the expat community, I must have given the impression I hadn´t found it here but I have, I am very involved with a playgroup here and it has been a lifesaver.

Monkey, I´m so glad there is someone else who understands about he Catalan-swiss german thing. I know kids can pick up languages but it´s still a pain isn´t it?

And Sibble you haven´t got the language barrier but you are so far away and things are still different aren´t they? I hope you will be alright.

Well I feel a bit of a phoney now as the crisis has passed but it´s still great to know other people know how it feels to do this lark. I would say to people the grass isn´t always greener! We shall certainly be settling back in Engladn a lot more satisfied and happier than we might have been without this experience.

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cossie · 27/08/2003 14:26

help! we are moving to the san pedro area in the costa del sol at the end of october for a year possibly longer and I am desperately trying to find people our own age with children - the only people we have met so far are all retired. Are there any playgroups nearby?????? I know there is a nursery called Humptydumpty kindergarten but are there any others??? hope someone can help!

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bunny2 · 27/08/2003 21:34

Cossie, there are qiote a few families with young children on the Costa del Sol. When you get there, get a copy of Sur in English (comes out every Fri) and Town Crier (every Mon), both free papers for ex-pats. They sometimes publish the M&T groups. I know of several in Fuengirolia but I think that might be a bit far for you.

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MAZ1 · 09/11/2003 16:29

AM MOVING TO SPAIN AFTER XMAS BUT HAVE JUST FOUND OUT I AM PREGANT WITH OUR THIRD CHILD. dOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT ANTENATAL CARE IS AVAILABLE AND WHAT WE WOULD BE ENTITLED TO

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lucy123 · 09/11/2003 17:08

Maz1 - antenatal care is excellent in Spain, but you will need to:

a) get registered sharpish (social security registration through a job, yours or your husband's; or if you can prove you have a reasonable income you can just get residencia and then get registered with soc. sec. Latter option is more messing about)

b) find an interpreter or learn Spanish. Most local docs on the coast have interpreters, but only at certain times of day. Actual ante-natal classes will be in Spanish though, and interpretation service in the hospitals is patchy.

a is particularly important - you will not get scans etc. without proper registration. I do know ex-pats who refused to learn Spanish who managed OK though.

Feel free to email me for more info. Where are you moving to?

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mint · 16/12/2003 21:31

Hi Elf,

So sorry to hear that its been hard settling in Spain. Its not easy for any place to begin with. I hope coming back to UK will be pleasant.
I was curious to know which part of barcelona were you staying in? Was it Girona or sitges?
As we are moving with 2dd's next month and would love to be pre-warned and prepared.

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Chandra · 29/12/2003 16:50

Don't worry for medical facilities, they are excellent and antenatal care is provided by proper specialists like obstetricians and ginecologysts. As for small children, all my friends are shocked that here in England we don't have access to pediatricians for rutinary things so I assume that at least during the first year you don't see a gp but a pediatrician, which is definitively an advantage. Now, about the thing of mixing up with the locals... language helps but you will always be a foreigner, no matter how well you speak the language, that's why it's important that you find other ex-pats no matter if they come from the same country as you do...

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Chandra · 29/12/2003 16:51

or I meant to say... from a different country...

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SenoraPostrophe · 29/12/2003 17:38

Chandra - on peadiatricians: yes, but they don't half dole out drugs here! Plus it's a nightmare when you have to see an emergency doctor - if he/she is not a peadiatrician they can be of little help.

Anyway, where are you from?

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Chandra · 29/12/2003 17:39

LAtin american married to Spanish living in England...God my DS is going to be sooooo confused!!!!

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