Expat Voices: Susan Bearder on living in Lorca
British expat Susan Bearder has a personal relationship with the butcher, knows her bank manager and feels connected to her enviornment at her new home on the border of Andalucia and Murcia.
Name: Susan Bearder
City of residence: Lorca
Date of birth: 27.07.1945
Civil status: legal partnership of 23 years
Occupation: semi-retired writer and photographer
Reason for moving to Spain: health, family commitments and a new quality of life
Lived in Spain since: 2005
What was your first impression of Spain?
I first visited Tenerife many years ago and loved the light, the flora and fauna; the difference from home.
Over the years we kept coming back to different regions. We started to look some five years ago around the Alicante Province for a large quiet parcel of land where we could to some extent be self sufficient. But away from the coast.
What do you think of Spanish food?
Love it and it is one of the main reasons that I live here. I have MS and food is one of the factors I can control for my general health. Whereas I did not eat much dairy or wheat products in UK I have found ways to use better alternatives here in Spain.
Murcian food is so fresh, also so much good fish and poultry. We have our own olive and almond trees which we tend and harvest. I seem to be able to eat the local goat’s cheese.
I am even good at finding and using wild foods like acelgas and fungi. I even wrote a book about Spanish food and wine - Going Native in Alicante.
What do you think of shopping in Spain?
I love my little town which has a very good weekly market and a number of outlets where vegetables are not pre-packed.
I have a personal relationship with my butcher, friends with the local electro domestico shop where I can usually get better service than one of the hypermarkets (consequently spent quite a bit of money with then in the early stages of living here. I know my bank manager. We have bought second hand cars from the local dealer.
You can probably get the picture that we have a good relationship with our Spanish neighbours on the whole.
What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
All of the above which allows us a quality of life that was eluding us in UK particularly since I had to give up my main profession on health grounds. A slower pace of living? Here I have a stronger connection to my environment somehow.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
Oh the powerful hunting lobby probably. A very mixed attitude to animals - some pragmatic and reasonable, some of it downright cruel.
The latter sometimes includes expats who take up causes and animals and then abandon them when it doesn’t suit. There are a lot of things obviously in a state of change in Spain right now which makes for interesting observation from my point of view.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I am dead nosy and I am still struggling to come to grips with the impact of 20th Century events on the people of Spain so I am reading a tremendous amount.
Politics still puzzle me but I do try to understand what is going on. I wish I could read original text in books but I can get by reading Spanish newspapers which helps me to be less puzzled and more intrigued.
There are things I miss – a good rummage around second hand shops, book shops, friends who can just call by when they are in the area, English tea, marmite and Sunday papers are always on my list when visitors ask if there is something they can bring.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I lived in Tasmania when Britain was having it tough in the 70s and that was exceptional. Spent years in a split Germany which was like the curate's egg – good in parts.
Generally speaking though I like the Mediterranean culture – sitting here on the border of Andalucia and Murcia (areas which probably have been the slowest to lose the impact of that influence) but are making enormous advances from the benefit of being part of the EU
I feel I am very comfortable with my surroundings compared to other places I have lived.
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
Probably simplifying bureaucracy which I think is probably the biggest headache for expats. But I don’t wish to be too presumptuous. Each country I have experienced has underlying not very nice sides to their functioning. Pot, kettle, black etc.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
It is said over and over again but it is to make some attempt to learn the language, to not adopt a they-and-us philosophy. Ask yourself what you can bring with you in the way of skills and attitude which are going to make living here a positive experience. Move outside your comfort zone and you will be rewarded again and again.
Would you like to add anything?
Pitfalls are burying head in the sand and not doing enough research with regard to legal matters, health, employment issues. Be careful about getting good advice, watch for vested interest and don’t just blindly do the same as your mate because it is the easiest option.
Remember Spain is a big country with infinite variation in language, culture, climate so don’t just mentally lump it all together.
The public fuente in Puerto Lumbreras where we get our drinking water.
12 May 2009
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