Are you an expat living in Spain? Have you changed in since being here? It’s hard to live in a country and not be influenced by the culture, people, and bizarre customs. Nine years living in Spain has definitely had a massive impact on my lifestyle and outlook on life, but why?
This might be taking the whole ‘mañana mañana’ approach to the extreme, but I’ve learnt how to be more patient since living in Spain. That doesn’t mean that I’ve become lazy like the stereotype states. In fact, I find the majority of Spanish people to be quiet hard working (when they have a job, of course) apart from builders, who always seem to be on a break while scoffing their sandwiches wrapped up in foil, and anyone who works on Sevilla’s metro system, which is taking years to finish.
I often have to fight with my inner British voice, pushing me to get everything done as if the world is about to end; always in a rush, always a million things to do. But I’ve learnt to chill the hell out now and then, only now and then mind.
Having patience is hard to achieve, but worth it. Now that I’m living in Spain I try to take my time while eating – the more you chew the less you need to eat, while writing – you cannot rush a novel or it will be shit, while teaching English – sometimes students just need more time to actually understand our bizarre language, and while making life plans – if we cannot buy a house yet then why worry about it. I’ve come to realise that ‘stress’ catches up with you in the end, so why fight this wicked world that we live in? Have patience.
You only need to have a look at my podgy face when I lived in England to see that I’m healthier and trimmer than I used to be. I lost a lot of weight while I was travelling round the world, walking for miles and living on ends meet, but the general lifestyle in Spain keeps me in shape.
When I first arrived I couldn’t get used to the meal times here. I used to have breakfast at 7am, lunch at 12pm, and my evening meal at about 5pm. I couldn’t dream of eating at 10pm after work. Constant freakish looks from my house mates, and lecturing from my wife that I was not eating properly, made me give in and adopt the Spanish way. I still hate eating late, sometimes I don’t tuck into my dinner until 11pm, but I’ve realised that you’re better off having a slightly bigger, and healthier, lunch and a lighter meal in the evenings.
I know what some of you are thinking, Spanish food is not always good for you. If you go into your average Sevilla restaurant at least 80% of the tapas are fried, sometimes cooked in oil which has probably been used for deep frying churros the previous morning. It’s hard to find veggies on the menu as well. The cakes and biscuits here are bloody amazing too, so you have to fight temptation.
I’ve changed my way to the Mediterranean diet. When we go on our weekly shop we normally have to get two baskets, one of which is full of fruit and vegetables, the other of white meats, fish, and nappies.
In Sevilla it’s sunny about 300 days of the year, which is great for doing exercise outside. I run three times a week down by the river and through the shaded parks. It can get a bit much when temperatures reach 40 or 50 degrees, but at least I have a good sweat and try to fight off the belly.
I don’t binge drink like I used to either, partly because I can’t hack the hangovers any more. Also I’ve grown out of getting bombed out of my head every weekend, there is the small matter of my son to look after as well.
Realised what’s important in life
I began to realise this when I was travelling alone. I was in Thailand the year the Tsunami hit and could have been down where it all happened had my holidays not been cancelled (for the whole story read my book). It made me see the importance of family.
Living in Spain has strengthened this theory. Spanish families are close, sometimes intensely so (that’s for another blog). Sons and daughters speak to their parents two or three times a day and a lot of Spanish people who decide to live abroad always seem to come back home, mainly because they miss their mummy’s cooking.
They are a lot more affectionate than us British folk. The whole ‘kissing on the cheek’ thing took me a while to get used to, especially to other men. The first time my father-in-law went to kiss me on the cheek I ducked out the way thinking he was going to nut me. It’s also weird to say that I kiss him and my brother-in-laws every time I see them. My mates from home thought I was a right pansy when they saw me kissing all the Spanish men at my wedding (that does sound a bit weird though, doesn’t it?), but they were at it by the end of the night too.
I’ve been welcomed into the family here and my mother and father-in-law both see me as an extra son, albeit with a funny Spanish accent. You can’t beat your own though and not a day goes by that I don’t miss my crazy lot back home. It’s lucky that we have ‘Skype’ and ‘What’s up’ now so we’re always in contact. It’s not the same as being there, but that’s part of my punishment for deciding to fall in love with a Spanish lady.
I’ve got my own family to look after now though. My son is lucky because he’ll grow up bilingual and will be influenced by both British and Spanish cultures. I’ve already got him an England and Spain shirt ready for the World Cup, poor lad. At least one of them should do well.
What about you? Has living in Spain changed the way you look at life, for the better or for the worse?