TALLULAH, 36, is an English expat whose been living in Galicia, Spain with her husband and three children, for four years.
For those of you thinking of moving abroad the stack of questions, agendas and to do lists can make you feel like your dream destination is more than a million miles away. However, for Tallulah, her move from South-East England to Galicia in Spain is a lesson in just how perfect and easy the transition can be.
Tallulah had a bit of a head start on most of us with her love of foreign countries starting early. ‘A love of languages was instilled in me from an early age – my parents took in foreign exchange students when I was a child,’ she explains. ‘That followed into a great interest in studying languages and going on foreign exchanges at school’. With a job involving languages it was on the cards that Tallulah might be able to move abroad one day but that wasn’t the driving force behind her emigration.
‘My husband is Spanish by birth and although he spent most of his life in England his roots were firmly in Spain’. ‘He moved here speaking virtually no English and made a new life for himself’. This proved to Tallulah that it was possible to up sticks and call somewhere else home. So, when Tallulah realised life at home was too fast paced and stressful she wondered about moving abroad. ‘We’d been coming to Galicia on holiday for 15 years. Every year it got harder and harder to leave the place, face the journey back to the UK, and drive through built up developments and traffic. Existing rather than living’.
But unlike many, Tallulah’s final decision was an easy one to make. ‘Things just seemed to fall into place – financial events, the kids school breaks, the ability to work from home via the internet, whilst dealing with the transition of moving and integrating’. The decision to move was relatively straightforward, they picked the area Tallulah’s husband grew up in where there would be a ready made supportive family. However, most people assume it’s the move that is the hardest part of emigrating. Tallulah found that sometimes paradise can take a little getting used to.
After selling their house Tallulah, her husband and three children had to move into their mother in laws for three years whilst they waited for their house to be built. ‘Don’t get me wrong, my mother-in-law is a great person, it was just incredibly difficult not to be the mistress of my own house. I had none of the things around me that made it, well, home’.
Although it seems like she may have had some tough times, Tallulah is pretty resolute that she wouldn’t have done anything differently. ‘We did it at absolutely the right time for us,’ she says happily. It seems, because of the factors working in her favour, one of the main things that aided Tallulah’s move to Spain was her attitude.
Rather than worry about ‘burning her bridges,’ Tallulah told herself that they would never move back to the UK and Spain would be there home. She believes keeping too strong a link to the UK ‘can have a negative effect on making a go of it’ in your new country. Her attitude seems to have been to jump in, wholeheartedly embracing her new life. ‘Some people just treat their emigration like a long holiday, keeping their tax residency as their birth country. Little things like that would make it easy to chuck in your new life and move back home. What you need is a fresh new start and to be committed to the move, that way, if your having a bad week, you’ll persevere rather than pack it all in’. Would she ever go back to the UK? ‘No,’ she says simply.
Once the family persevered and moved into their home, the dream of their life in Spain became a reality. But sometimes it seems, enthusiasm to embrace your new life can result in just the opposite. Tallulah started teaching English to Spanish teenagers from her children’s school. ‘Word of mouth is a dangerous thing,’ she jokes. ‘Soon all my afternoons were taken up with teaching and even the local pharmacist wanted lessons!’. This all proved to much for Tallulah and she soon found saying yes to everything may be a good way to meet friends but can lead to you burning yourself out and not being able to enjoy your new found home! Many people, like Tallulah will also find, that they can still do some work for companies based in the UK. Thanks to the use of computers, there are lots of opportunities to work on a part-time or an ad hoc basis. But again, there is a risk of taking on too much, especially if you are trying to make up for costs you may have incurred from the move. ‘I’m trying to restrict my work to part-time but it could easily keep building up,’ Tallulah explains. But it’s important not to take on too much. After all, if you’re constantly working how can you enjoy the new country you moved to?
‘Changing our ‘chip’ was the biggest obstacle. Things weren’t going to happen tomorrow, everything takes longer over here, we had to get a multitude of a licenses from a multitude of people’. The other realisation was that the amount of services Tallulah had come to rely on at home were far more rare or accessible. ‘There’s a lack of everything around the corner and everything is closed on a Sunday!’.
But the plus points far outweigh the downsides and it sounds like the move has completely enhanced life for everyone in the family. ‘I get to see my husband much more now, he’s actually enjoying life and getting to see the kids grow up! My children are able to enjoy their childhood here – instead of being forced to grow up too soon by their peers. And there’s a sense of community that was missing from England. Not to mention the fact that within a few months the kids were fluent in Spanish’.
With a Spanish husband and dozens of family members on hand, Spanish life has possibly been easier for Tallulah to settle into than those who move to Spain alone. But by the sounds of it a little hard work would be worth it. ‘I love it here. I have more freedom, I don’t have to be here or there at a certain time. Life’s just more laid back. No more spending hours doing 30 trying to get out of central London’. You can see her point, especially when rather than seeing roads and building sites Tallulah is surrounded by mountains, lakes, beaches and unspoilt countryside. However, Tallulah makes it clear that just because your holidays to Spain are relaxing doesn’t mean your life will be. ‘I often say we thought moving here would be a more relaxed lifestyle. Sure, pressure of the corporate life has gone but I wouldn’t say we’re any less busy’. Tallulah reckons that what makes it more relaxing is the environment their busy in.
Typical weekends and in fact the whole week seems to be completely different for this now incredibly sociable family. Although much of the working week is taken up with jobs, kids and chores, it’s the leisure time that most people move to a new country for. And Tallulah’s has certainly completely changed: ‘In the UK we, like everyone else, would the week and the weekends at home, recovering from the weeks work and rushing around trying to sort things out at the weekend. There was very little time leftover for our family. In fact, the only time we seemed to spend with our extended family was at annual weddings or funerals! Like everyone else we would get home, shut the door and watch the soaps’. It sounds like such a different life from the one Tallulah is living now. ‘Spain is much more about mixing with people, it’s very sociable here, even if it’s just popping round to a neighbours for a game of cards or a BBQ’. ‘It all harks back to history. Generations ago families would live near each other, so spent more time together. Which in turn means there’s always an excuse for a big get together! And it doesn’t seem to just be the people that have improved their social life. The surroundings they are in probably helps them get outside, after all countryside and mountains is far more appealing than traffic jams and skyscrapers. ‘We now have a very outdoors lifestyle – which is great for the kids’. And it seems they’re spoilt for choice with the amount of festivals, fiesta’s and gatherings going on every weekend.
So, does this relaxed, enjoyable haven come at a price? Or is Tallulah actually saving money compared to when she lived in England? For this lucky lady it seems to be the latter. ‘I simply can’t understand it when people say Spain costs as much as England. We find that if we’re trying to have a cheap month there is just so much more on offer to us here than would be at home. Eating out is cheaper anyway but here we can go for walks or visit the cultural landmarks. At home it used to cost a fortune to take the family out’. It seems a lot of differences have a little to do with the weather. Think of your family in the summer, if it’s hot you’ll spend more time outside and away from expensive inside activities. It’s exactly the same with utilities apparently. ‘Food shopping is definitely cheaper. The lack of massive monthly bills and the bargains we seem to get when we have to call someone out are much lower than the UK. At home, I used to hate those nasty surprises, when the plumber comes out and it costs you £250. Now 100 euros goes such a long way. In fact, our central heating matinence system is less than that every year. That’s a third of what we paid in the UK for a similar deal over four years ago. Electricity is 25% cheaper, water is 20% of what we paid at home – were saving on everything!’
The only thing missing is family and friends from home, missing them tends to be one of the hardest things for people who emigrate. But with a home in an interesting new country you’ll constantly have visitors, ‘flights are cheap and we always have guests at ‘Hotel Tallulah!’.
But this Paradise comes with work and Tallulah has some strong advice for those thinking of doing the same thing. ‘Do your homework! And in particular your sums! If you’re thinking of moving somewhere then go and rent there for a few months, don’t just pop over with your holiday head on. Experience the day-to-day life – there are still the school runs, shopping, bills, cleaning and cooking. Secondly, be realistic. Make sure the finances add up before you emigrate and make sure you stick to your plans. Don’t buy a villa with a pool if you can’t afford it. And unless money isn’t a concern, sell your home – that money will go along way to building a happy new life for you. Lastly, don’t plan to make three of four trips back home when you move. If you don’t normally take this amount of holidays a year then you won’t have the income to do it’.
So, with all that advice and all that has changed for her, would Tallulah ever consider moving home? ‘I consider this to be my home and I never want to leave it. This is where the difference is, we have emigrated where as many people just come on extended holidays. This is my home and this is where I’ll stay!’