Expat Voices: Claire Lloyd on living in Cádiz
British expat Claire Lloyd offers four top tips to newcomers -- come with an open mind, expect cold winters, learn the language and don't believe everything you hear from fellow expats!
Name: Claire Lloyd
City of residence: Alcalá de los Gazules, Cádiz
Date of birth: 14 June 1952
Civil status: Married
Reason for moving to Spain: Better quality of life on retirement
Lived in Spain since: May 2008
What was your first impression of Spain?
I was impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the Spanish people. I had just come over the border from France and the difference was noticeable instantly. In the two years since I moved here permanently, I have never had cause to revise my opinion.
What do you think of Spanish food?
I love it, especially the fruit and vegetables. I buy fresh produce every couple of days and cook it straight away, the way my Spanish neighbours do. It provides a healthy wholesome diet and (at least where I live) the fast food industry doesn’t seem to be having much impact. In fact they refer to it as “comida basura”. I rarely eat out as I don’t have much spare cash, but when I do I enjoy lunching at the local ventas where you can get a big plate of stewed venison or wild boar, wonderful chewy pan de campo and a couple of glasses of vino tinto, for less than EUR 10.
What do you think of the shopping in Spain?
I’m not a great fan of shopping for its own sake. I enjoy visiting the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer in my village and having a chat with each one; so much nicer than impersonal supermarkets. If I need to buy clothes or shoes there are lots of malls and hipermercados around, with more choice than I would ever need. And I love the fact that shops are closed on Sundays, it is still a family day.
What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
I am lucky enough to have been able to retire early, and Andalucia is a great place to retire to. The slow pace of life, the lazy hot summers, the winter sunshine, the natural beauty, the food, the music, the spontaneity and independent spirit of the people … And I love the fact that there is a socialist government and the word socialist is not considered an insult, as it now is in the UK.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
The treatment of animals, especially dogs which are allowed to wander the streets crapping everywhere, or else kept locked up all week so that they can be used for hunting at weekends.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I have managed to resolve most the things that puzzled me since living here, but I am still intrigued – and occasionally disturbed – by the apparent lack of ability to anticipate problems or plan ahead. This is especially noticeable when driving! Spanish people seem to prefer to deal with problems as and when they arise, rather than planning in advance to prevent them happening.
The only thing I miss about England is the company of friends who share my values and outlook on life. Facebook isn’t quite the same.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
For me life is infinitely better here, but that is also due to the fact that I gave up work at the same time as moving to Spain, and because I now live in a small rural community rather than a big city. I have far less money but far more time to appreciate the good things in life – books, music, nature, friendship. I appreciate the absence of many of the things that I disliked about England: blame-culture, narrow-minded patriotism, excessive consumerism, over-zealous health & safety legislation, etc.
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
The maltreatment of animals.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
a. Come with an open mind, don’t believe the stereotypes. The Spanish are not lazy, but they do know how to party. Hence shops and businesses will close for days on end at fiesta time because fun and family are more important than profits. Just stock up the freezer and go with the flow!
b. Winters here are colder than you think.
c. When dealing with bureaucracy, beware of the expat Chinese whisper syndrome. The amount of wrong advice circulating on forums and in expat bars is unbelievable.
d. Learn the language! Most important of all.
Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
I am saddened by the narrow-mindedness of some British expats. They complain about the UK being taken over by immigrants, and fail to see the irony in this. They complain that their doctor doesn’t speak English; does it not occur to them that the doctor would then have to learn Dutch, Belgian, German, French and even Chinese?
They complain when they can´t get “English” food items. They regard the Spanish with suspicion, as if they are always trying to rip them off or deliberately make things difficult for them. They only socialise with each other and make no attempt to integrate. They sign up for Spanish lessons but give up as soon as it starts to get difficult. It’s sad, because they could be so much happier if they stopped complaining and opened their minds to Spanish culture with all its generosity and spontaneity.
If you would like to share your perspective about life in Spain and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorES@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire on life in Spain' in the subject line.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.