Moving Stories 2 – Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home

Welcome back to the second expat Moving Story!


Wherever I lay my hat is my home. Yes?

This time we head over to Spain to talk with British expat Sarah who moved there in 2002. The interesting thing about Sarah’s story is how well she has adapted to her new life, and what country she now considers home. For me, ever the Kiwi girl at heart, I find this fascinating.

How amazing it is  that we could find an alternate home to our homeland!

I wonder too whether the relatively short and accessible distance between her home of origin and her current home has something to do with it.

Do you think living in a country within a short plane flight’s distance from your homeland makes it easier to ‘lay your hat’ and ‘make your home’?

Let’s hear from Sarah who blogs at Que Sera Sarah

1)Why did you move to Spain, originally? 

sarahBasically it was on a whim of my then husband.  2001 was a horribly wet year in the UK, in the January we had a holiday in Florida and then in October we spent a week in Alicante, Spain with my mum and her husband who were here house hunting for a month.  The fact that we could spend so much time outside swayed him.  At Christmas time he was still talking about how we could move to Spain and how much nicer it would be for the girls (they were 1 and 3 at this time)  So in January we came over house hunting, found a house and by April 2002 we had moved in.
2) Can you recall the time before you left England  and what your concerns about moving were? 

My biggest concerns were the actual move itself, my inability to speak Spanish and what would happen if we didn’t like it.

3)What did you think you would miss most about England, apart from family?

To be quite honest, I’m a bit of a wherever I lay my hat that’s my home kind of girl.  I knew I’d miss my friends and the social life we had – but as I’m generally a home body, I wasn’t too worried about it.

4) Have you been surprised by what you really have missed about England?

OMG yes it’s turned out to be the “comfort foods” that I took for granted in the UK.  I must explain that I don’t live in what would be termed as an expat/holiday area – so although I can visit a British supermarket it is a 2 or 3 times a year experience for a stock up on a few things.  Also no one is allowed to come and visit without bringing a good supply of teabags as some habits are really hard to give up.

I also really missed books as I am an avid reader – but now I have my Kindle, not so much.

5) Do you see your old age in this country or in England, and was moving a ‘for life’ decision or ‘for a while’ decision?

At the time it was a ‘we’ll see if we like it’ decision.  But now, I see myself quite settled here.  My girls have had their education here and would find it very hard to adjust to life in the UK.

6) Aside from the weather, what positives about life in Spain can you tell us about and were the challenges the same as you envisaged or not?

Well, I don’t know if I just fell lucky or not, but I really love my life here.  The girls are thriving, I cannot fault the health care and education they are getting.  We do spend so much more time outside than we did in the UK.  The days seem to be so much longer – not in the ‘dear lord is it not bed time yet?’ sense – but in the – ‘flipping heck it’s 22:00 and we’ve not had dinner yet’ feeling!

9) When you think of home, which country comes to mind now?

My house is my home.  But if I’m visiting my Dad in the UK then yes I’m just popping home to visit.  If however, I had tickets to the Olympics, then I’d go “back” to the UK.

I think Spain is home for me now.

Thanks Sarah!

Do you think living close to your homeland makes a big difference in helping you to settle?

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Image:Flickr CC
CM Kleiner

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'Moving Stories 2 – Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home' has 16 comments

  1. May 25, 2012 @ 6:35 pm MidlifeSinglemum

    I definitely think it helps. My Australian friends in Israel who take 2 days or more to get ‘home’ feel far more cut off from their families, friends and childhood than I do. With the time difference I can have breakfast in Israel and lunch with my mother in her kitchen. The feeling that you can get on a plane and be back in a few hours makes it much easier, even though I only do that once a year.


    • May 25, 2012 @ 6:38 pm vegemitevix

      I wondered if that was the case. I know it will take me two days to get home and knowing that makes me feel more alone here. It’s even worse if I have to make that trip because a family member is unwell.


      • May 27, 2012 @ 8:54 am Sonriendo Sonriendo

        I’m inclined to agree to be honest. But, my sister has done the reverse of you Vickie and lives in NZ now. We’re obviously a family that likes to flee the nest!!!


  2. May 25, 2012 @ 9:45 pm Steve

    Tea seems to be something that is commonly missed by ex pats… surely there is a marketing opportunity going to waste here?


    • May 27, 2012 @ 8:52 am Sonriendo Sonriendo

      It IS available over here – but at a very high price!!


    • May 27, 2012 @ 9:13 pm vegemitevix

      It’s strange isn’t it. I mean you can get English Breakfast tea all over the world. Maybe it’s the water that’s different?


  3. May 26, 2012 @ 5:53 am Katriina

    Being able to get back “home” quickly if needed probably does make a difference. When we lived in Japan, my hometown was a night-flight away, and a couple of times I was able to get back within 12 hours of deciding to do so, because of family emergencies. Now, it would take me over a day, even using the quickest and most expensive route, and it does make me feel somewhat more isolated from family and old friends. Having said that, with Facebook and Skype and email, these days I probably keep in touch with people better than ever before.
    Sarah, I’m thrilled that you have found such a wonderful life in Spain. Did it take you long to learn Spanish, and was it easy to make friends locally? I think making friends helps immeasurably in turning a new place into home. In your case it also sounds as though the sunshine has had a big impact, and I really understand that. In Australia, I took sunshine for granted; here in Finland, where I live now, I have really come to understand how much the weather affects people, and how precious sunny days are!


    • May 27, 2012 @ 8:52 am Sonriendo Sonriendo

      It did take me a while to learn Spanish to a “non translating before I open my mouth level” But, I found the more effort I made the more the locals made an effort.

      Making friends was aided by having school age children I think – it’s so much easier to make friends at the school gate than most other places.


      • May 27, 2012 @ 9:12 pm vegemitevix

        Absolutely agree. It was easier when the kids were little, and when I moved here I missed that interaction at coffee groups and school gate.


    • May 27, 2012 @ 9:11 pm vegemitevix

      I’m really noticing that about the weather at the moment. Here in England we’re having a warm sunny spell and all of a sudden people are actually smiling at each other and stopping to chat at the shops. It feels like the entire country has been on holiday to Australia!


  4. May 26, 2012 @ 1:32 pm Cathy Powell

    I think it does help being able to get home quickly to be able to get settled. I have certainly felt the distance greatly between Australia and Italy. Trips back home help and hinder. You feel good to be in your home country, but then you can feel homesick immediately after you leave.


    • May 27, 2012 @ 9:10 pm vegemitevix

      There’s nothing quite like that feeling of desolation is there? When amidst the jet lag and the exhaustion you can’t see through that fog of dislocation.


  5. May 31, 2012 @ 10:22 am emsyjo

    I think the time it takes to get back to your famiy makes a huge difference. I’m just over four hour flight away from the UK which is not too bad but currently cannot afford the flight so I may as well be 2 days away and this makes me feel a bit trapped now.


    • May 31, 2012 @ 10:25 am vegemitevix

      I definately feel trapped here, being a two day flight away. It is only marginally better than the dark days of 2008 when my passport was held (for a year!) by the UKBA and I couldn’t leave at all, not even for my honeymoon. That was beyond awful.


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