Expat Voices: Vanessa Rocchetta on living in Alicante
Seven years on, British expat Vanessa now knows why vegetables are rarely served during meals and where to seek refuge in the heat of the summer.
Name: Vanessa Rocchetta
City of residence: Elche, Alicante
Date of birth: 08.04.1953
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Part-time teacher/ retired
Reason for moving to Spain: To start a new life
Lived in Spain since: 2001
What was your first impression of Spain?
We were at the Costa Blanca so there was a holiday atmosphere. I remember the markets with a huge range of fruit and vegetables, and the smell of orange blossoms. We stood on the wide sandy beach at Guardamar and thought: “Yes, we could live here.”
What do you think of Spanish food?
Spain is a large country with quite a variety of regional cuisine. Where we live, rice and paella is king. Most of the time, we eat menu Del Dia at lunchtime which is a cheap meal (between EUR 7 and EUR 15 for a 3-course meal with wine and water).
Brits always complain about a lack of vegetables. I was told that this originates from the time of Franco when meat was in short supply; it is considered bad form to give people more vegetables than meat. Ask for verduras ‘a la plancha’ if you want more vegetables.
What do you think of the shopping in Spain?
When I first came I felt starved of shops, especially department stores. There were only British shops where I could buy Branson pickle and mince pies at Christmas. The only department store was El Corte Ingles in Alicante.
Seven years later there is a wealth of shops selling British products; if you want you can get scones and clotted cream. El Corte Ingles is still the only department store (I don’t understand their monopoly) but now I have one in Elche. The many commercial centres are a great place to go to cool down for an hour or so in the summer.
What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
I live 15 minutes from the Urbanization which is mainly British; the same distance from Elche town centre which is definitely Spanish. I can dip my toes in both cultures. The other Brits are all my age and older and there is a terrific range of clubs and activities you can participate in - from aerobics to yachting.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
Before I moved to Spain I never appreciated the library. Although it is fairly easy to get novels here and we exchange books with other expats, non-fiction and classic books are hard to find.
Amazon is great and I am starting to discover e-books but nothing beats browsing through a few volumes in a secondhand book shop.
Oh yes, the slow pace of Spanish beaurocracy. We have been waiting a year for planning permission to come through for a pair of automatic gates for the drive.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I am friends with several Spanish women and they have visited us at home but I have never received an invitation to their homes – it appears you have to know them very well for this to happen.
I miss the variety of trees (here they are mainly pines and palms) and friends.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
The quality of life is good compared to the UK.
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
The mosquitoes, we live near a wetland and a canal; when they are bad they are the blight of my life.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Before buying, check out your situation as much as possible. We used a Spanish solicitor appointed by a British firm. It is impossible to know everything. We visited our property three times in October and November and the mosquitoes weren’t a problem.
Try and be patient in queues and shops. You are no longer in a hurry. Go with the flow.
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