Settling in to a new culture
This page will be dedicated to changing views of my new home, my adopted Country, culture, its residents and those, who have like me chosen Spain as their new place of residence, their abode of choice! I will add to this page as often as I can, as my views change, over time!
Like most people, I had my own views of this Country I now call home, and to be honest they were probably very similar to most English people's. Preconceived opinions of another European Country, its inhabitants, opportunities and its future.
The British seem to have built a pastime around judging other people, who are different to them, and I was no exception. Some of my views, were indeed realised, others, far from the truth and the jury is out on many more!
Sun, sea and sand, those are the three ´s´ that immediately spring to mind when one talks about Spain. This was the view I had and this is also the reality. I do not spend even one day a week in doors now, where in The UK, living at Gay Capri, I seemed to never leave the house. I really did not want too! A combination of the weather, lifestyle and expense always seemed to get in the way of living a more outdoor life! The reality here on The Costa Blanca, is very different. The weather, even now, in February is truly energizing and warm and whilst waiting for the new car, we are walking everywhere. I have given up smoking and yes, I feel fitter than ever!
The lifestyle here also has a large expat influence. Although relatively small, the community here are close knit and know everyone by name. They are a great bunch of people who will always do what they can to help you, no matter what the circumstances. Coming from a large City, this kind of interaction can be a bit of a culture shock, especially for a gay couple. Sexuality has not been an issue and we all have been welcomed with open arms. Everyone has been wonderful and warm.
I was always unsure about the role expats should play in the relocation of us and our new life, but today, I can safely say, they have played the most important role. They have encouraged us and always given positive sentiments about our endeavours. They are a wonderfully resourceful and creative bunch, who all have been where we are now and have worked hard to overcome their fears and problems.
The British lifestyle still exists here in Spain, yes it does, but it is very different to what we have been used too. It is a lifestyle based around ideals long since lost in The UK, and I truly like and embrace it!
So what exactly does one have to do to obtain residency status. Well this is probably the most difficult process one needs to go through in order to finalise the legalities that are required to even gain access to a Doctor let alone any other form of medical treatment or benefits offered by the Spanish Government.
This is the number you will need to have, in order to obtain employment here. It is rather like a National Insurance card, though the process of obtaining one can be difficult. In our area only twelve numbers are issued each day, through the front door if you will. They are obtained from the local Police Station and you have to meet a strict criteria in order to apply.
As an EU National, I had no problem at all, neither did Jamie. For Darrell, this was a bit more difficult. He was entitled to a number as my spouse, but because Spain had not stamped his passport on entry, there was a fear he would have to leave the Country and return, obtaining one on re-entry. Luckily, we employed an agent to obtain a NIE number for us, and with a small amount of documentation, proving he was in France and Spain on the dates provided, he was granted his number.
The number is needed to work, buy a home or car and for all fiscal paperwork required in Spain. It is extremely important to get one as soon as possible.
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
This is the most important number to have. Anyone who is working here in Spain is entitled to a number. This can be applied for by the individual or by the employer. You can not get a number, without first having an NIE number. This is the point you can then obtain free health care and not before!
In the interim we can use our EHIC for the period we are not resident, after this it is up to us to either have obtained the relevant number, show proof of income or pay for private health insurance! There are many top up schemes for health care here too!
The employment market here in Spain is seasonal in nature. Unemployment is extremely high in Spain, traditionally between 22 and 25%. ¿So why is it so high? Well It all boils down to too much construction, too much regulation, and not enough growth. Spain´s employment laws, make it very difficult to fire people, so when times are rocky, Spanish companies become very scared about hiring people and sadly this does extend to the good times as well! Because of this situation Companies tend to hire on a temporary basis, coupled with the seasonal nature of employment, you can see where the problems lie! Until the Spanish Government tackle these basic problems, things are likely to stay exactly as they are!
In 2008, when the global economy collapsed, Spain like every other industrialised nation suffered. An economy like Spain´s built around construction and property sales lost more than most. Even now in 2016, 8 years later things have yet to return to what they were back before the crash!
Immigration has also been a major problem for Spain. When Spain´s economy began to expand, migrant workers were lured to this land of milk and honey, from 900,000 in 1992 to a staggering 5.7 million in 2012. This was the largest increase of any European Country in the shortest space of time. It is only now, after 2012, that immigrants have began to return to their Countries of origin, in significant numbers to help ease the unemployment situation here in Spain!
So far our experience of looking for jobs here on The Costa Blanca, has been what we expected. It is about getting your CV out there, around local businesses and shops, just before the season starts at Easter. That we have done.
I was extremely lucky to find, at least the prospect of long term employment and am under no illusions as to the problems involved in sustaining a career here in Spain. In reality, I do not care about advancement or careers anymore, I am happy to do any form of work that fits into a new lifestyle and reduces the stress and anxiety of working and living in The UK. My priorities are very different now, to what they were ten years ago. Quality of life is the number one factor and incentive! Money comes at the bottom of the list. I have learnt much over the last year, changed dramatically and have grown enormously and all for the better!
Spain has many laws, that I personally find hard to reconcile. The laws on drugs in Spain, seem to be particularly alien to me. Hash or weed, whatever you want to call the stuff, is legal, in nearly every sense of the word.
You can grow your own crop yourself, as much as you want, so long as it is kept away from public view. Of course like this and many other drugs, dealing is completely a different matter.
I have many strong views on drugs, as many of my readers of this and other blogs will know. I personally, do not smoke weed and dislike the feeling intensely. My personal views, are just that, personal. I believe that this particular drug, is what's known as a gateway drug, and as such, is responsible for a lot of the addiction problems, we see, not only in Spain and The UK, but all over the World.
No one drug is worse or better than any other and as such, I truly believe that all drugs must be treated the same. All drugs are addictive and Cannabis has been proven to be the catalyst to harder more dangerous drugs. For this reason alone, I believe Spain's policy is wrong.
I was speaking to a Spanish friend of mine over the last few days, about this very subject and they were quick to voice their views on the subject. Their concerns lie in the work ethic and high unemployment in Spain , with groups of young people constantly stoned 'off their heads', unable or unwilling to work. As she put it, a lost generation, because of drugs and corruption. Whether or not this is true, it has to be said, that unemployment is extremely high in Spain, with youth unemployment rising faster than any other group!
Other people have justified the use of cannabis, their own production and the numerous 'Grow Shops' in Spain, on medical grounds. Isn't that what they all say? There is of course a need for cannabis on some medical grounds and that should be legislated for accordingly. Sadly I have a feeling that´s Spain's lost generation, will just keep getting lost, with a drug's policy, that allows cultivation and consumption to continue, legally!