JoJo is originally from the UK, she moved to Andalucia in Spain on the 4th of February 2008. She lives there with her husband and two children.
The winter nights are drawing in and most of us are swapping our flip-flops and summer cloths for slippers and duffel coats. The evenings are getting colder, it’s getting darker earlier and it’s that time of year where everyone wants a holiday. Not hard to understand then, how winter is a popular time for people to first get the idea to emigrate. Jojo is no different and mentions the cold weather as one of the reasons she wanted to move: ‘I had been dissatisfied with the UK for years, the cold, the greyness, the gloom, the overcrowded ness, the nanny state’. Crikey — that’s certainly more than enough reasons to think about moving and they are all issues that get the goat of most people in the UK. So, what’s the difference between Jojo and everyone else in the UK? ‘I’d wanted to move to Spain way back in 1988 when I divorced my first husband but didn’t have the guts to do it on my own,’ she explains. So, moving away certainly wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a few gripes about her home country, Jojo had been thinking about moving for a long time. But as with many people she was in a predicament where it wasn’t the right timing. And often it is family or children that are the biggest factor in not being able to emigrate. ‘The timing just never seemed right, children, parents, work….gradually everything that was in our way was no longer there. However, if we had of left it any longer I don’t think we would have done it because our youngest children were becoming too old to move’.
So, once the timing was right how did Jojo pick the country to emigrate to?
‘I wanted to move to France, I can speak French and have a friend who lives there and loves it. I love the country too and think the cultures amazing. But my husband didn’t think he would be able to work there, flights were expensive and he felt the French were less accommodating to ex-pats!!!’ Again, the next step of emigrating, dealing with the where, can be the tricky. Especially since it often involves satisfying everyone in the family’s priorities. Schools, weather, language, can all be factors that alter opinions. For Jojo it was all about a compromise once France was out of the picture. ‘I had some friends who lived in Spain and enjoyed it. My husband did some research and found that the flights were cheap and it was easy for work. In general the country is geared towards ex-pats and makes the move easier’. Jojo took a sensible choice. For many of us our dream destination may just not be achievable and so it may be far more sensible to aim for a compromise rather than aim for an unrealistic goal.
Once the destination was decided upon that still left a few obstacles to iron out. ‘The toughest decision involved was agreeing to leave my two grown up daughters in England whilst we moved to Spain. They both work in the UK and so now live in our house in England and pay all the bills. It’s good in a way because when we go back the family home is still there for all of us to enjoy — yet they get to have their space’. For a lot of people, having to leave family members at home might be interoperated as a sign that the timings not right and to wait. However, moving has to be a priority otherwise you may never do it. Obviously certain factors like being able to find employment and having children in school will dictate if you want to go but make sure you aren’t just using these elements as an excuse to put off all the hard work of emigrating. Not everything will tie up into a neat little bow but as Jojo proves if you’re resourceful and try to make it work, thinks might just turn out better than you expected.
Jojo is a trained and fully qualified nurse prescriber but had to give up her job for the move. Some people, depending on their profession will not easily be able to find employment in a new country especially if you are not fluent in the native tongue. However, Jojo’s husband is a businessman owning his own company and so found the move of his occupation easier. ‘Work for my husband was an ever present worry but we decided he’d keep his business in the UK and start a sister company in Spain. However, the recession then happened and so we are only just thinking about starting a company over here’. This just goes to show that despite the best and tightly conceived plans, there are various situations out of your control. A lot of immigrants moving before the recession felt the impact of it on their new life. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to have a back up plan if you are relying on your employment to make it in your new home. Ascertain another profession you may be able to do and definitely ensure you save a small nest egg you can use for unforeseen circumstances.
So, now that Jojo is in Spain, how is she finding her new life and were there any shocks to the system? ‘My first and biggest shock was the cold,’ she explains. ‘We moved to Spain in February and I really didn’t realise that Spain was cold. I’d thrown away all of our winter woollies and big coats, I thought at worst it would be like a cool spring day back in the UK. But no it was freezing’. This just goes to show that even the smallest things you take for granted about your new country may be different when you get there. That’s why research is so hugely important and why resources like the Expat Forum are so vital before you make the leap. They’ll be plenty of surprises or things you don’t know about the country your considering and as Jojo proves, it’s much better to find out about them before you go than when you get there.
‘Apart from that, I find it irritating that shops are closed on a Sunday, unlike in the UK. It is very different to the UK, the scenery, the climate and atmosphere are all very different but that’s the appeal’. Once again, it proves that the grass isn’t always greener, your new country may have it’s own negative points you’ll have to endure. For example, in this case, less amenities and less availability. The question of course is, do the good points outweigh the bad? And in Jojo’s case she certainly seems to still be living the dream.
‘The best thing about moving here is the climate and the scenery. The feeling of freedom, the open spaces, the narrow Mediterranean streets, and the people I’ve met. Above all is my children’s happiness at their new life, at living in a house with a pool and masses of open space to play in’. But don’t let that fool you, the circumstances and area may be different but Jojo’s domestic life still has similarities to when she was in the UK. ‘I still spend the weekends washing, cleaning, shopping and nagging the kids, just like I used to do at home. Of course, now we have a swimming pool in the garden and more land for the kids to play in. At the weekends I usually pick my husband up from the airport because he commutes to work, we got out and eat a meal together on Saturday or Sunday. We spend our spare time going to the beach or sightseeing. Life’s pretty much the same but I suppose it’s the feeling that’s different’.
When it comes to money, most people thinking of emigrating try and pick a country where their money will stretch further. However, these countries are becoming less and less common, especially for Brits trying to escape the recession. Spain is a perfect example of this and thanks to the huge amounts of expats in the country the economy is thriving and so can be around the same as English prices. Jojo points this out: ‘It’s really not as cheap here as I thought it would be but it’s still not quite as expensive as living in the UK’. Jojo just goes to show that it’s really important to research the exact prices of things in the country your moving to, especially if you’re going to be on a shoestring budget.
Jojo has some other advice for people thinking of copying her steps. ‘Don’t just follow the dream, make sure you have a definite plan and that you have a strong and reliable source of income. Spain may be beautiful as a holiday destination or even on a ‘place in the sun,’ television program. But when reality kicks in life has to go on and nowhere is beautiful without money’. Jojo certainly seems to see economic stability as one of the most crucial characteristics before moving. This is probably very indicative of the difficult economic times we live — the number one rule then, when it comes to money and moving to another country is always have a back up plan.
So, with all her advice and wisdom from emigrating would Jojo do anything different about her move if she could go back in time? ‘Yes……I’d have gone years before I did! We really shouldn’t have let the hurdles get in our way’. Great advice and hopefully it will help push anyone who is still umming and ahhing to make the move now, after all, Jojo’s quality of life has improved greatly by moving to Spain.
It all sounds like such a success story to Jojo but like all ex-pats there are certain things from home that are difficult to leave and easy to miss. Like most people Jojo misses her girls that chose to stay behind. However, there are also practical things she has had to get used to which can prove challenging. ‘I miss being able to chat to people ad lib in the supermarket, at the checkout and when I’m out and about’. The practicalities of moving to a country where you are not fluent in the language are certainly challenging. Although, a lot of people manage the transition, as Jojo points out, it can be very isolating to not speak in the native tongue and may prevent you interacting with locals and fitting in with the area. These are both huge obstacles that could decide whether you’re move to another country is a success or a failure. So, be realistic about how long it will take you to learn a language, will you have time? Can you fit it in between work and the kids? If you can take language lessons before a move then do, it’ll be easier to make friends when you first move to the area then a couple of months later when you’ve learnt the lingo.
Jojo’s other home comforts she misses are a little more personal, the little things that make us feel at home. ‘I miss carpets and central heating in the winter — I just really don’t like being cold’.
So, would the things Jojo misses ever be enough to make her leave home? Would she consider moving back to the UK?
‘Not if I can help it’.