Expat Interview With Anna Nicholas - British Expat in Mallorca

Published: 13 Oct at 5 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Spain
Anna Nicholas is a British author and journalist living in Mallorca in the Spanish Balearic islands. She has been living there for more than a decade with her Scottish husband Alan and son, Ollie, 15. She has written five books about rural life on the island and writes a regular blog about her experiences for Telegraph Expat. Anna has contributed to various other websites including majorca.co.uk, holidayblog.easyjet.com and expatarrivals.com. She also writes for her author website (see listing here).

Anna Nicholas

Here's the interview with Anna...

Where are you originally from?
London, UK although my family are a mad Celtic mix-Irish, Scottish and Welsh!

In which country and city are you living now?
I’m now living in Soller, a mountain town in the rugged north west of Mallorca in the Balearic islands. Mallorca is the largest of these four Mediterranean islands.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve been here for 11 years and it really is my home. If fortune continues to smile on me, I’d like to stay here for good.

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband and I were working in the PR industry in Mayfair, London and living very frenetic and stressful lives even though we loved our work. When our son, Ollie was born, we began to think about changing the way we lived and so on a complete whim during a wonderful holiday in Mallorca, we bought a run down old finca, a country house, and decided to move. It took us a few years to refurbish the house and make it livable –it needed a roof, electricity and water- and finally took the plunge to live here in 2001.

Having run my own PR agency, I was lucky enough to merge it with another London agency a few years after I arrived in Mallorca. During that transitional period I commuted regularly so it was wonderful when I no longer had so much travel. Now I’m lucky to divide my time between journalism and book writing. I wrote a humorous travel book six years ago, entitled, A Lizard in my Luggage, and it did well, so the publishers have commissioned me to write one nearly every year since.

Did you bring family with you and if so, how did they cope?
My husband is from Perthshire in Scotland and so loves the countryside. To be living in a house with views over the spectacular Tramuntana mountains-now a UNESCO heritage site-with citrus fruits and olive trees in the garden, and the sea ten minutes away by car, was a dream for him. Our son, Ollie, now 15, joined the town’s football club and attended a local Spanish school until last year when he returned to the English educational system, so made many friends and now speaks fluent Spanish and Catalan.

Anna Nicholas InterviewHow did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
To be honest it was fairly effortless. My sister had a wonderful Mallorcan au-pair in the UK named Sari, who was the reason that we started holidaying in the Soller area of Mallorca in the first place. She kept an eye on us and introduced us to locals and Soller tradesmen which meant we met many Mallorcans early on. The transition was particularly easy because we adore the history and culture, food, relaxed lifestyle, beautiful landscape, temperate weather and above all, the Mallorcan people.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
You have to work at making friends when you first arrive in a new place. I find that an open mind, friendly attitude and curiosity are all important factors in meeting new people. We never fell into the typical expat stereotypical trap of only hanging out with other expats and not bothering to engage with the local community. We have many Mallorcan friends, and expat friends of different nationalities.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Mallorca has a rich history –among others the Romans and Moors settled here for hundreds of years leaving us their wonderful legacies so there are many historical sites and in the countryside the terracing of olive groves is a wonderful site and a throwback to Moorish times. The island combines beautiful flawless beaches with craggy mountains and orchards brimming with citrus and olive trees and yet has a hugely sophisticated and vibrant city in its Capital, Palma. Here there is the famous Gothic Le Seu Cathedral, the Roman Baths, Es Baluard, the contemporary art museum set in the historic city walls, and Bellver Castle. In Soller in the northwest, we have the Balearic Natural History Museum, the wonderful house cum museum of celebrated English poet Robert Graves and Can Prunera art museum in Soller town. In very English zones outside of Palma there are lots of family attractions, theme and water parks and shows as well as pop venues for older teenagers.

Anna Nicholas ExpatWhat do you enjoy most about living here?
Most of all the relaxed way of life and the healthy Mediterranean diet. I love the al fresco lifestyle and the friendly ‘work to live’ attitude of the Mallorcan people. There is so much to explore on the island and the all year round fiestas mean that there is always life and activity going on even in the smallest villages.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
In truth since the euro arrived, the cost of living has risen and although less expensive than the UK, Mallorca is no longer a cheap place to live.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Some people complain of ‘islanditis’ and feel the need to escape for a few days to experience a shot of adenalin from a big city. In the winter it can get cold and life is quieter than at other times of the year. Some people find that difficult although I rather like the peace and there are far fewer tourists!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Make sure you experience Mallorca in all seasons and on that basis choose a location which has life and good facilities all year round.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
In the early days I found Spanish bureaucracy a bit of a drag until I learnt to have a more ´mañana’ attitude. The Mallorcans have a handy little expression which is ‘poc a poc’ in other words, little by little. It’s true that things get done in time even if you have to be patient and wait!

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
- Visit as much of the island as possible before choosing where you want to live
- Make sure you have a job or stream of income. If you are thinking of starting a business over here, sort out the paperwork in advance
- Check out schools and healthcare options
- Enroll in Spanish classes
- Be open minded

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I have been writing a Mallorca expat blog for some years now. I like to write about whatever interests me that is topical. Sometimes it’s snippets in the Spanish national news, other times it’s about funny things that happen in Mallorca or quirks of the country. It’s also good to offer discursive and controversial blogs that make people think and react. I get about 300 or more direct e-mails every month from readers, many asking for information or advice and I do my best to help whenever I can.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Contact e-mail: anna{at}anna-nicholas{dot}com

Anna runs her own author website http://www.anna-nicholas.com which is a well worth a read. Anna's expat blog listing at ExpatsBlog.com can be found here which lists her latest 5 entries written for the Telegraph Expat.
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