Expat Voices: Sue Walker on living in Jumilla

Expat Voices: Sue Walker on living in Jumilla

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Except for its infamous bureaucracy, British expat Sue is enjoying life in Spain – good food, friendly people and cheap prices.

Name: Sue Walker
Nationality: British
City of residence: Jumilla (Murcia)
Date of birth: 2 September 1947
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Author, freelance journalist and complementary therapist.
Reason for moving to Spain: Lots of reasons: relaxed lifestyle, beautiful scenery, friendly people, good weather and - last but not least - good food and wine!
Lived in Spain since: June 2008.

What was your first impression of Spain?

I first visited Spain in 1968 and, although that’s a long time ago, the one thing I remember is how friendly the local people were.

What do you think of Spanish food?
Apart from the fact that I don’t eat meat, which limits my choice in some restaurants, I love Spanish food.

I have learnt the hard way that saying “sin carne” means you may still end up with ham or chicken because in Spain “carne” just refers to red meat! The concept of tapas is brilliant as far as I am concerned, allowing a great selection of food to be shared between friends, so that even “fussy” people like me can have plenty of dishes to select from (as well as not eating meat, I don’t like tomatoes – yes, I know, very difficult!).

Fiesta de San Blas
Fiesta de San Blas

Another great idea is “menu del dia”, which allows even pensioners like John and me to eat out frequently, as we can have three courses, salad, bread, wine and refresco, plus occasionally coffee, for a grand total of between EUR 8 and 10.

What do you think of the shopping in Spain?
I love shopping in the local markets, where we can buy fresh fruit and vegetables very cheaply, but more importantly the quality and flavour are superb.  

I also like the prices of clothes and shoes in the market, although my husband John keeps telling me I don’t need to buy any more! The only things that I bring back when we visit the UK are tea bags and Marmite – which cost a lot more in Spain on the rare occasions when you are actually able to find them here.

What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
As stated earlier, the great weather (we have enjoyed two superb summers over here, with very little rain) and the relaxed lifestyle, however if I have to choose one thing, it would have to be the friendliness of the local people.

What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
The fact that there is no sense of urgency: nobody worries if deliveries are late, and events usually start at least half an hour later than announced.

However even if an event starts one hour late, the locals don’t seem to notice!

What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I wouldn’t say that I am puzzled by it, but it does seem a bit strange seeing very young children around late at night, although I accept that this is part of the family traditions that are still alive in Spain, which on the whole I endorse.

The only thing we really miss is seeing our families and friends on a regular basis.

Castillo Jumilla
Castillo Jumilla

How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
There’s no comparison! Before we moved here I was working in central London and travelling to work on the tube during the rush hour, which is not a good start to the day as you are stressed out even before you begin work.

If we do start missing the buzz of city life, we take the bus to Murcia to do some shopping and have lunch there. I think many older expats find life here in Spain very much as it was in the UK when we were growing up in the 50s or 60s, which is why we say the quality of life here is much better.

I particularly appreciate the strong sense of community and the importance of family life here in Spain.

If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
The fact that everything takes so long to achieve because of the bureaucracy, and as stated earlier there is no sense of urgency. We have been waiting months for Telefonica to install a phone line in our new apartment, so that we can have internet access at home.  

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Take part in local events and don’t be afraid to try out your Spanish, no matter how few words you know.

We have found that Jumillanos appreciate us trying to speak some Spanish, and are very patient with us if we are struggling to make ourselves understood. We have made some good friends locally too, who now invite us to take part in local fiestas.

Our housewarming & book launch party
Author's housewarming & book launch party

Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
Buy local Spanish newspapers as well as English papers. Not only will your Spanish improve, but you will find out about local events.

Ask your Ayuntamiento about Spanish classes for foreigners; though be prepared for the possibility that your teacher won’t speak any English! Our teacher doesn’t, so we always take a Spanish/English dictionary to classes.

Always remember that you are living in a foreign country, with a different culture to your own country, so don’t expect things to happen the way they do in the UK. Why should they?


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5 Comments To This Article

  • Lisa posted:

    on 22nd October 2009, 12:46:52 - Reply

    Hi Sue, thank you for your reply. I, too, live inland (about an hour from the coast) and still I find things very expensive!!! I agree that fruit and veg on the market is very cheap and that we don´t have TV licence or horrendous council tax here, but taking everything into consideration, it is my opinion that Spain is no longer a "cheap" place to live. Another example is the cost to send my two kids to school. 250-350 euros each child for books and materials (we get an allowance from the town hall of 150 euros to help) but I still find it tough to have to pay this out in one go in September. My eldest child has to get a bus to high school and although you can apply for help with costs, nobody has been able to tell me how much I will get or when!!! I find this very frustrating as this has been happening for years now so surely someone must know!!! So far the general idea is that I will get the money (no idea how much) at the END of the school year (next June). I need that money now!!!! Anyway, enough of my ranting....
  • Sue Walker posted:

    on 22nd October 2009, 11:27:26 - Reply

    Lisa, you make some good points especially about wages being low, however I am looking at this from the aspect of people thinking about retiring here. We live inland, so I suspect that is one reason why we find things cheaper here. Fruit and vegetables are very cheap, as is fish bought in the pescaderia. Eating out is something we can afford to do regularly here but could not do as often in the UK even when working! We don´t have to buy a TV licence, plus council tax in the UK was horrendous compared to what we pay here.
  • Nataliya Vasyleha posted:

    on 21st October 2009, 20:15:02 - Reply

    Sue, I'm glad to know that you found a pleasent place to live and that's place is Jumilla. My best wishes.
  • Janice posted:

    on 21st October 2009, 12:32:14 - Reply

    Sue, that was excellent. We had the pleasure of meeting you
  • Lisa posted:

    on 10th September 2009, 19:38:02 - Reply

    I was a little surprised to see that you think it is cheap to live in Spain!!! I have lived here now for over 6 years and yes, when we first arrived, it was pretty cheap to live here. Now, however, most things are just as expensive, if not more so, than in the UK and yet the wages here are very low. Food has increased in cost that much. The other week I went to the airport and popped in Iceland in San Javier. I was very surprised that I did a weekly shop there and it was the same as shopping in my local Spanish supermarket but I had more food that lasted me almost two weeks!!!! A few years ago, going in an English supermarket was a treat and I bought only a couple of items on rare occasions. I wish I lived nearer to the Iceland store!!! As an example, I bought a bag of 36 frozen sausages for 2.50 euros and a 4 litre tub of Neapolitan ice cream for 2.50 euros, a pack of English bacon for 1 euro and 3 tins of Crosse and Blackwell beans for 1.25 euros. Also, electricity and telephone bills here are very expensive, if not more so, than in the UK. The only things that I think are cheaper here are cigarettes, alcohol and poll tax!!!