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El Oso y el Madroño is a symbol of Madrid

Over Christmas, we were in the car with Carlos’ uncle, who was talking to his daughter. Carlos’ uncle is Spanish, but he lived for many years in Mexico – in fact, he married a Mexican woman, they had 3 kids, and later the family left Mexico to live in Spain. All 3 kids are now adults, and all 3 live in the UK. The youngest, Carlos’ cousin, was now complaining about where she lives – Lincoln, and saying that she was thinking of leaving the UK altogether. Her father’s words of wisdom? El país de maravilla no existe – there is no perfect (marvellous) country. And of course, he’s right.

Why is this important?

On days like this -freezing dark January ones- I start to think my life would be so much better if only we lived in Spain. I start to feel dissatisfied with what I have, and I want to change it by moving away. Wanting to change your life isn’t a bad thing, and moving abroad can be an amazing opportunity (I have done it before) – but sometimes I get so caught up in the romance of the idea of Spain that I become blind to the advantages of the life I already have. It also means I don’t consider the downsides of relocating.

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The Scottish highlands are incredible

Reasons why the UK is great and not-so-great

  • The multicultural society we have in Britain makes the country so much more diverse and interesting (and it means that the eating options are as varied as they are delicious – even in my smallish town, we have authentic Indian, Japanese, Nepali, Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, and Chinese restaurants) – great!
  • Brexit, Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage – not so great
  • The unemployment rate is under 5%, meaning that most people are employed and there are (generally speaking) enough jobs to go around – great!
  • Springtime in Britain and the light nights of summer – when I returned from my year in the Caribbean, it was April in England and daffodils and other spring flowers were everywhere. I remember walking around feeling so happy and grateful to be here. You don’t get such a sense of the seasons shifting in hotter countries such as Spain. Also, in May and June it doesn’t get dark until so late – there’s still light in the sky at midnight if you’re as far north as Inverness. – great!
  • It gets dark at about 4pm in winter – not so great
  • London is an amazing world city with cultural, gastronomic, and historical attractions to rival any other place on earth. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly expensive to live there, inequality is rife, and city life is hard: a higher percentage of people live in poverty in London than anywhere else in the UK. Outside of London, life is easier but sometimes it can feel dull in comparison –not so great
  • Waitrose, traditional pubs, the Scottish highlands, the green countryside, Edinburgh, scones with clotted cream and jam, great vegetarian food available everywhere, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, York, regional accents and National Trust properties – great!

 

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Gijón in Asturias is a hidden gem

Reasons why Spain is great and not-so-great

  • Cultural life doesn’t begin and end in Madrid – even tiny villages have casas de cultura and regional towns and cities have impressive museums and musical and theatrical offerings –great!
  • Vegetarians have a hard time in Spain. You won’t starve with tasty, easy-to-find options such as tortilla de patata (and tapas can quite easily be vegetarian), but if you want something more than egg and chips in most ordinary restaurants, you’ll struggle. And I’ve never seen a veggie-friendly menú del día. – not so great
  • The weather. Spain is one of the sunniest countries in Europe. It’s the main reason over 300,000 British people live in Spain. You’ll never suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder – great!
  • The Spanish attitude to life which includes the whole family. Everyone gets together at someone’s house, or even at a bar – everyone from babies to great-grandparents, and not just for special occasions – great!
  • The Spanish economy. It’s getting much better but unemployment is still almost 20%, and for young people it’s much higher. It means that a lot of talented, highly-educated younger Spaniards such as Carlos leave Spain to look for better opportunities elsewhere – not so great
  • Corruption. Spain is ranked as an orange country by Transparency International – that is to say that it’s considered quite corrupt, and the negative effects of this are felt everyday by ordinary Spanish citizens –not so great
  • Fiestas, delicious food available almost everywhere, Asturias, flea markets, tapas, churros, San Sebastián, regional languages, Seville, abundant and cheap red wine, the Paradores, the Picos de Europa, gintonics served in fishbowl glasses, sweets made by nuns – great!

If you’re interested in a Spanish take, you can read all about what the Spanish love and hate about their own country on this cute blog I found, Tu vida en dos maletas (in Spanish).

El país de maravilla no existe.