Dear Lana and Less, you live with your kids in a very nice house in a beautiful landscape of Andalusia but you are from Edinburgh and Liverpool. You emigrate to Spain a few years ago with your first baby-daughter Willow to start a new life abroad. What was the reason for this far-reaching change?
Originally I was living in Yorkshire and Lana was living in Edinburgh, we were creating the foundations of our relationship albeit living apart by quite a distance. When our relationship reached a point when we started to discuss beginning a family we both agreed that we did not want to do this in the UK. We had both had holidays in the South of Spain and decided this was where we would begin our search for our family home in the Sun.
Was it a difficult decision?
The decision itself at the time seemed extremely easy. The impact on Lana was minimal as it was her job which would allow us to make this big step and she had lived in other countries previously. For me, a big decision was leaving my job of 10 years where I had gained trust and respect and managed to work my up to a senior role within the company. However I wanted to start living life more and knew that it was the right decision.
What have you been searching for and did everything turned out the way you hoped for?
Our ultimate search was to create a healthy and happy family in safe and stable surroundings in a country with an amazing family culture. Our main focus was doing what was for the best of our children and we feel in this respect things have turned out even better than we could have possibly hoped.
I think, starting a new life in a foreign country isn’t so easy. When did you emigrate to Spain and what have been the main difficulties to leave your country?
Lana moved to Spain 5.5 years ago and I moved out 4.5 years ago. Our first difficult situation which we had to overcome was Lana and I spending a year living in different countries. Lana had to move to Spain earlier than originally planned and I was still in the process of selling my house and working my notice with my job. This proved a tough year, with Lana and I spending many hours commuting to see each other.
Other difficulties that we have faced include trying to understand the paperwork and administration involved in many things including setting up a business, registering our children’s birth, vaccinations etc, getting permits for building work, buying and selling cars and much more. Not only understanding what paperwork was required but also trying to deal with the language as well.
As far as difficulties with leaving the UK, I think other than me not being able to see my mum as much as I would like there isn’t really anything else that we miss.
Since you live in Spain you have two little girls who already visit the local spanish school. Why do you prefer the local school instead of a bilingual school for your kids?
We thought long and hard about the type of school to send our kids to including visiting many private schools, bilingual schools and state schools. For now, we have decided that a fully Spanish state school was going to be the best option. Spain is where we want to spend the rest of our lives and if we had to decide, we would prefer our kids speak fluent Spanish primarily and then English. We have many friends who sent their kids to the so called ‚bilingual‘ school and are unable to speak fluently in Spanish. We truly wanted them to integrate not only with the Spanish language but the culture as well.
Thinking back to Great Britain and Scotland. What did you miss? What did you gain?
From a personal point of view I miss my job. Or at least miss the sense of achievement that only a job can bring you. Because I am the stay at home parent I have been looking after the kids for over 4 years as well as managing the rental business but have still not yet filled the void that leaving my previous job has left. Other than that I don’t think we miss anything really. And we have gained everything! We feel privileged to be able to give our kids what they have and also for ourselves to be able to enhance our life and our lifestyle.
What is your experience with other immigrants in Spain? You told me there are differences between the typical german emigrant, the dutch or an english emigrant for example.
We tend to find that ALL expats have come here with a similar goal. To get away from a country, culture, weather etc to experience what this beautiful region has to offer. However although most expats have similar goals they do not all come as well prepared. Some people come here expecting to get work locally which is very difficult especially if you are unable to speak the language, some buy established businesses and some (like us) have work outside of the country.
If you want to emigrate to Spain you will need special documents i.e. insurance, Residencia, especially if you want to run a business. Was it very difficult to get those documents and how long does it took arrange things?
As mentioned in one of the points above a big frustration of living in this country is the paperwork! Every single piece of paperwork we have had to fill in or permits, residencia, birth registrations, injections for the kids… everything, has been slow and painful. A quick example of this is to get our residencia took 4 visits to the police station and this was even with us using a gestor. We now accept that if we need to apply for something or fill in any forms it will take a lot of time and effort. It took probably 3 months or so to sort our residencia. A simple thing such as getting a licence to burn things in our garden took 3 weeks. It is so true the Spanish expression, ‚manana, manana‘ (tomorrow, tomorrow).
I can imagine that emigrating with kids is more difficult than without. What is the main challenge?
Our kids were born over here so that made us moving over here easier. But as stated above registering their births, arranging vaccinations, sorting a school place for Ruby… all of this was extremely difficult. One big fear we have/had was our kids not integrating well with Spanish kids. We had heard stories that English kids were not accepted by the Spanish kids, which so far has not be realised. This is why it is so important for us that they go to a fully Spanish school and speak the language fluently.
Did you spoke fluent spanish before you came to Spain?
Neither of us spoke any Spanish when we first came. We are now able to speak well enough to get by with day to day life but are constantly trying to improve vocabulary.
What would you recommend to people who think about emigrate to the south of europe?
I would recommend that they stop thinking and just do it! We hear so many people saying one day they’ll move to Spain or another country but it never happens, there is always a reason NOT to do it. We were lucky as Lana had a job and we were guaranteed an income.
-Do your research. Find as much as possible about where you are going. Including things like, good and bad areas to live, laws of the country, licences or permits required for various things, don’t always believe what people tell you (including estate agents, gestors, builders etc), always double check.
-Learn the language. It is so frustrating to everyday life not being able to converse with people due to not speaking their language.
-Integrate with the locals. By having a foundation knowledge of the language, integrating with the locals will help improve your language but more importantly allow you to make friendships. In a country like Spain knowing people with local knowledge can be vital as we have found out.
-Don’t assume you find work, especially if you are not fluent in the language.
-Most of Europe is so accessible now and flights are not expensive. So if people are leaving friends or family behind then flights are quick and cheap.
And last important questions: Do you plan to go back any day?
This is our home and we love it. We have no plans to go back to live in the UK. We are trying to establish more revenue streams which will allow us to stay here in the event of Lana losing her job.
Thank You Less!
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