Thursday, 14 April 2016

Living the Spanish Dream

By now, most of our friends would have been fed up by the stream of photos in our Facebook pages. Of our sun-kissed faces, sipping wine by the beach after work watching the magical hues of the sunset mixed in with the dust travelling as far as the Saharan desert. Of the sweeping views of the Mediterranean with the backdrop of the Rock of Gibraltar and the Atlas mountains of Morocco from our balcony window. Of the weekend trips to romantic hilltop villages and lively seaside resorts that dot along the the Costa del Sol. The last four months, for it has been that long, still feels like being on a holiday.

Just before Christmas, we left the cold comfort of our friendly neighbourhood and the easy security of our jobs in Sheffield to chase after our Andalusian dream. It was raining when we boarded the plane in Manchester, a fitting farewell to the life we were leaving behind. It was sunny and warm when we landed in Gibraltar. A perfect homecoming.

For it was here where our adventures really began, where John and I met and got married. And soon after we left for Britain, we have longed to return. It took us six years of convincing ourselves that the life we already have is worth giving up to chase after a romantic dream of life in the sun, embracing a different culture and mastering a new language. But we eventually made it back.

Spain is everything it promised to be - sun, sand, tapas bars and colourful festivals. But our longing for it has blinded us to the things that it doesn't have. Jobs don't come easy. The unemployment rate in Southern Spain is the worst in the EU and Gibraltar has toughened up in employing foreign workers in favour of the local workforce. Public transport is not frequent and often unreliable, so we are gripped with guilt for contributing to the global warming because of our reliance in the car. Language barriers and close Spanish family ties also mean that we are yet to be welcomed to a Spanish family home.

Yet these are things we can live with. We have family around and expat families tend to forge a community of support and friendships. We are slowly settling down, having found a home by the beach and gradually easing our way back and expanding our social circles. We have been exploring new places, embracing the new culture and learning the language. We have slipped easily into our new routines and very seldom think of our old life.

But we do think of home. Isaac still talks about his friends and remembers our street in Hillsborough. We think of the tulips and the daffodils we have planted in our garden. We look forward to seeing our friends again when we go on holiday in June.

In talking to expat friends about their own experiences, some are adamant that they are never going to leave. Others say that sometimes they are tempted to pack up and go back to the comfortable and familiar. With Brexit looming ahead, we are not quite sure what the future would be for us but it's nice to know that we always have the option to go back. For now at least, we are relishing the sunshine and patting ourselves in the back for having the courage to chase after our dreams. 

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