British Expat Living in Spain - Interview with Maria

Published: 16 Feb at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Spain
Maria is a thirty something freelance graphic & web designer. She was born in the Philippines but raised in England from the age of 10. Having had enough of the rat race and being fortunate enough to have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, Maria and her family made the decision to move to Valencia in 2012.

When she's not working, Maria likes to take lots of photos and write about her experiences. Maria's expat blog is called Continental Fairy (see listing here)

A weekend getaway in Valencia
A weekend getaway in Valencia

Here's the interview with Maria...

Where are you originally from?
I was born in the Philippines and came to the UK with my parents at the age of 10.

In which country and city are you living now?
Valencia, Spain.

How long have you lived in Spain and how long are you planning to stay?
We have been living in Valencia for nearly three years. We are planning to stay indefinitely or until our youngest son has finished school.

Bull run in the streets of our town
Bull run in the streets of our town
Why did you move to Spain and what do you do?
My husband and I are both self-employed and own our own business, therefore we are fortunate enough to work anywhere we wanted.

We have considered many countries to relocate to, but after researching Valencia we decided that this is the best place for our family to settle in. It is also only 2 hours flight to the UK which makes it easier for family and friends to come and see us and vice versa.

Did you bring family with you?
We brought our boys age 12 and 5 years old (at the time) and our cat Hank.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The first year was the hardest, learning the language and getting the boys settled in school.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We really found it easy making friends and meeting new people. From the moment we moved in our new home, our neighbours were very welcoming.

As well as knowing a few British expats we also have some great Spanish friends, whom we have become very close to and spend a lot of time with specially during weekends and fiestas.

The kids at Fallas
The kids at Fallas
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The best thing about Valencia, is that there is always something to do and a lot of places to explore. We have young children so we love to take beach and mountain trips anything that involves being out in the open air.

Valencia is known to be a family friendly city. It's a great place to bring up kids. It's not as busy as Barcelona and Madrid, plus you are spoilt with the weather and long coast lines.

What do you enjoy most about living in Spain?
Valencia have a very relaxed way of life, the people are very welcoming and friendly, specially if you make the effort to get to know them.

We love the traditions,there are always things going on for everyone, whether it would be paella competitions during the summer, MotoGP or Fallas.

The weather is also one of the best things about living here, with almost 3,000 hours of sunshine every year and around eight hours of sunshine per day you would want to spend most of your time outdoors!

How does the cost of living in Spain compare to home?
Cost of living in Valencia is a little cheaper than the UK. But the difference varies depending on what you buy.

A lot of items are around about the same price, however, if you avoid the large supermarkets and do you normal food shop by going to the market you can save a lot money, and the best thing of all is that the produce are fresh and locally sourced.

Paella competition held every summer in many parts of Valencia
Paella competition held every summer in many parts of Valencia
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Spain?
The bureaucracy! To get anything sorted here, you will need to mentally prepare yourself and bring as much paperwork as you can. Even a renewal can take hours or even days if you dont have the correct paperwork or documents. Be polite, be prepared and count to ten! ;)

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Spain, what would it be?
Learn the language. You don't have to be fluent but it's very helpful if you know the basics. Immerse yourself, meet the people where you live.

There are also a lot Spaniards who want to improve their English. Most towns offer an intercambio course, where you can meet up with people(usually at a bar)with the same interest.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I wouldn't descibe it as the hardest, but more of an inconvenience. We miss the usual from home, our families, food and some shops that we don't have here.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I really can't see us going back to the UK anytime soon. If we did, I think I would really miss the weather, the people, the beaches... everything!!!

Kids enjoying most of their time outdoors
Kids enjoying most of their time outdoors
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Research, research, research! I cant stress this enough. Specially if you are relocating with young children, the education system is different here, and it will be specially hard for older kids.
  2. Learn the language! It wont happen over night but integrating with your local community helps a lot with speaking and confidence.

    I would also suggest joining an intercambio, these language exchanges are very helpful and you get to meet new friends too!
  3. Schools times depends on the type of school. My children attend a concertado school therefore their hours are longer, from 9:00 – 5:00. This was a big change for the boys because in the UK they usually finish at 3:20. Some public schools start a little earlier at 8:30-2:00 and an early finish time of 1:00 or 2:00 during the summer.

    Public primary school starts at 9:00-12:00 and 15:00-17:00, not forgetting the two and a half break for lunch and siesta. So if you have children at different ages, be prepared to do a lot of running (driving) around!
  4. It's better to run errands in the morning. The shops usually closes at 2:00pm and re-opens at 4:00pm, and during the summer it's far too hot to be walking around.

    Spaniards like to do things in the evening so shopping centres, leisure centres and main roads are far more busier during these times.
  5. I would advise to rent a property first before buying. I know of people who have made the mistake of buying straight away and found out they have numerous problems with theirwater, heating, internet etc...

    Spending a year getting to know the place is enough time to decide whether Valencia is the right place for you.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Continental Fairy started in 2008 as a family and mommy blog. Like many blogs out there, I started mine simply to jot down my thoughts and talk about what was happening at the time.

Since moving to Valencia, I have been concentrating on writing about our experiences and the places we go to. I also like to talk about new discoveries and other aspects of my life such as travel, lifestyle, food, and anything else in between.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can follow my blog Continental Fairy, where you will also find links to my social networks. I love getting emails from people who are also thinking about taking 'the big leap'! So if you have any questions or if you just want to chat get in touch.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMaria is a British expat living in Spain. Blog description: In 2012 we up sticks and transplanted ourselves in the campo surrounded by orange and olive groves. Ideal life right?. Sharing my notes, thoughts and observations from our familys point of view and what it is like living in Valencia. Spain.
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