The 10 commandments for expats in Spain

Thinking of a move to sunny Spain and wondering where to start? Once you have all the travel arrangements and new home sorted out, and finally unpacked, you should then find out how best to fit in. Confused? Then follow some simple rules, and feel more at home in Spain. After a decade here in the Alpujarra region of southern Spain, we have fallen foul of at least a few of these ‘rules’ – so be prepared!

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Commandment 1.

Thou shalt give blood, sweat, tears – and another Xerox copy.

When you go to finalise paperwork (a bit of an oxymoron as there is always more, and never a ‘final’ ream of paper to get through) always remember to bring many, many copies of absolutely everything that pertains to the subject at hand. A vial of blood may also be handy. Add approx one ton of patience and you’re almost there.

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Commandment 2.

Thou shalt punish the liver – an evil organ.

Party etiquette. Your child  – settled in school and lisping like a local – has been invited to a friend’s birthday. Yay – a couple of free hours. Wrong. Forget pinning the tail on the mulo, or birthday games of any sort. You will also be expected to attend. The kids will be kicked into the street to play (whatever the weather) while the adults eat Russian Salad and get completely sloshed on home-made wine. There will be many of these – prepare your liver now.

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Commandment 3.

Thou shalt not poison thy neighbour’s wife.

Foreign food. Never bring a non-Spanish dish to a party. It may as well be labelled ‘radioactive polonium’. Everyone will ask you to explain what it is, what’s in it, how did you make it – but NO-ONE will eat it. You’ll be encouraged to bring it home again, where it can sit in the fridge looking reproachfully at you for 3 days before being slung in the bin. As for curry – ha.

spices in bowls: curry, pink and black pepper, paprika powder

Commandment 4.

Thou shalt not get frustrated.

Never assume a free morning is the ideal time for popping to the bank, the doctor and the Town Hall. One thing at a time. Always. Listen to everyone’s aches and pains in line at the bank, their marital troubles in the doctor’s, and be prepare to be surprised at the Town Hall – Ayuntamiento – where you’ll be presented with another bill or ten you hadn’t known about.

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Commandment 5.

Thou shalt not arrange anything in August.

Never attempt to get anything at all done in August. Spain is closed. The roofer, gynaecologist and lawyer you desperately need to speak with are all at the beach.

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Commandment 6.

Thou shalt stay pale and interesting.

Oh no. Never go to the beach in August. In addition to it being packed out with all of the above  – see Commandment 5 – you’ll feel hopelessly, pathetically under qualified when you take out your sandwiches. Mama and extended familia next to you will have salad, wood fire cooked Paella and cold beers, coffee and cakes, and a tablecloth on a table to seat 20.

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Commandment 7.

Thou shalt be assertive.

STOP being so polite. Please and Thank You gets you nowhere. If you want another drink, bang your glass hard on the counter. Shout louder, harder, stronger.

No, we still can’t do it either.

©carolmbyrne.com

©carolmbyrne.com

Commandment 8.

Thou shalt become a supergrass.

Be prepared to tell everyone in a room how much you earn, how much you owe to the bank, how much you weigh, and the details of your sex life. In detail. Ya Está…

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Commandment 9.

Thou shalt honour the little people.

Never expect to find somewhere to eat a quiet, romantic meal, with all kids tucked up in bed. Noooo, kids stay up as late as everyone else, and are happily ignored as they scream and run in close proximity to your prawn cocktail. Grin and bear it. Tell one off at your peril. That might be a hanging offence, I’ll have to check…

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Commandment 10.

Thou shalt remain smug.

Enjoy yourself, turn your face to the sun, and your back on stress and worry. Never worriedly say “but what if…” instead wait until it might happen. Have a healthy respect for football and local fiestas, take the generous gifts of fruit and vegetables with gratitude, and you’ll soon settle into your new life in Spain.

Good choice, by the way 😉

relax in hammock, lazy vacations

 

 

Photographs author’s own, Google free images and from Pixabay.

 

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Spanish Food – The Pigs of the Sea

The Almadraba.  Do you know about it?

It’s the very controversial method of tuna fishing that is still practised in the south western corner of Spain. It normally involves herding tuna, and encircling a shoal in nets in order to hook the majestic fish.

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Tuna can reach up to a few metres long and can weigh up to 500 pounds.  A little more than that little round tin in your pantry!

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Although now strictly controlled, and practised by only a handful of fishermen,  the history of the Amadraba stretches back as far as 3000 years.

The name  – although Arabic –  (meaning circle or enclosure and also signifies to strike or to hit) dates to the time when only the intrepid would venture into the unknown seas past the Pillars of Hercules, and head into the wild ocean full of dread and mythical sea monsters.

The ancient Phoenician fishermen called Tuna ‘Horse Mackerel’, or more often ‘Pigs of the Sea’.

Why?

Naturally, fanciful ideas and legends grew up around these mythical creatures, and one I particularly like is this one which comes from the Greek historian Polybius.

Then again, old Polybius was a politician, so it might not be the truth!

Close to the coastline around the Pillars of Hercules grew small stunted acorn trees, that not only flourished on the land where herds of pigs devoured the fallen crops, but were also planted deep in the sea.

Here the crop would swell and produce very large fruit. The migrating Tuna would greedily feed on the tasty acorns and therefore grow to an enormous size.

And so, this was how they became known as the ‘Pigs of the Sea’.

What’s for lunch?

Images Wiki Commons