Two and a half years ago my partner and I became ex patriots when we moved to Spain. At that time I hadn’t considered what makes an expat. What do they expect from their new home? Why do they become foreigners abroad?
When we moved to Spain we wanted to integrate. We’d toured the country extensively in the past and knew we wanted to live in Spain. We wanted to live in what we call the ‘real’ Spain. We wanted to live in a Spanish community, immersing ourselves in their way of life and culture.
Our home is a two hundred year old farmhouse in a small rural community. Our culinary table is very Spanish. We grow our own vegetables as our neighbours do, shop where they do and go to the local fiestas. Our neighbours are very sociable and imitations for coffee are ten a penny. Great for making new friends and practicing the language. We’re learning the language as we go along, making many mistakes as we do. Our efforts in communicating earn us compliments, another cup of coffee and more friends.
Close to us are two other English couples live in our vicinity. They too have chosen to become expats. The difference is they don’t ‘live’ here; they exist! They live in isolation. Not only are they living in houses where their nearest neighbours aren’t that near. They don’t socialise. OK; so we aren’t all the same. Some people like to be alone. But living alone, not even venturing to the nearest village or bar they might just as well be living on an anonymous desert island. One neighbour is no longer referred to the pharmacist who speaks English. Rightly so. In the four and a half years they have been living in Spain they can hardly muster anything other than a ‘si’, ‘no’ and gracias. Another neighbour relies on a Spaniard who speaks English to do her translating, despite the fact she has two lessons a week. If both these women made the effort to get out and socialise, they’d have no trouble trying to speak the language. They aren’t here for the weather. Our northern climes are the same as those in the good ol’ UK. So what are they here for? They are living lives around their house; just going to the supermarket where they can put their wants in their trolley without uttering a word. They don’t have to even speak when they pay. They can do just that in Liverpool, London, Westward Ho! or Hunstanton and a thousand other English towns.
I find myself wondering just why they became expats. Why are they here? That leads me to wonder if they have something to hide; now there’s a thought!