3 Years in Spain: Embracing Change

Indeed, today is a special day, exactly 3 years ago we arrived in Spain, eager to start a better life. One of the main reasons for leaving Belgium was to be as far away as possible from the toxic people in my life. The people who had made my life a living hell were my parents aka my principal mental abusers who liked to remind all the time that I was “stupid, fat and ugly”. But after some months, I realized that I felt safer, and more relaxed, yet I wasn’t fully enjoying myself, but why not? Why wasn’t I happy? Even when we moved to Iznalloz, something was lacking. Wouldn’t you feel happy if you lived in a cozy apartment with 2 bedrooms, a spacious kitchen and a huge terrace with a killer view, all this for less than half of the rent we used to pay in Brussels for a 1-bedroom apartment with a kitchen designed for Lilliputians?

Relaxing Viking and chocolate milk while I am writing outside, because this Belgian girl still needs chocolate!

A view to die for, the swimming pool we share with our neighbors!

Seriously, why wasn’t I happy? A certain virus gave me more than enough time to ponder this question. Wasn’t it about time that I accepted myself as I was? Wasn’t it about time that I put the hurtful words of my parents behind me, once and for all? Moreover, when we left Belgium, it was merely weeks after having received my diagnosis as an aspie. And then it dawned on me: as long as I did not accept that diagnosis, I would and could never be completely happy. I became a member of a group of aspies on Facebook (I highly recommend this in case you are a struggling aspie yourself), I also started reading scientific articles about my disorder, especially about the positive traits (I will devote an article on this), and last but not least I started following channels about autism on YouTube (ask me in the comments if you want to know which ones I recommend). All of these made me fully accept Ingrid Dendievel with the quirky brain. And once I did that, I reached happiness. I now fully realize how lucky – and happy! – Lars and I am.

Some other big changes

When we had just arrived in Torrox, I felt restless because there were no trams or metro like in Brussels. In the meantime we have realized that living in a small town like Iznalloz is better for us, we have everything we need, the locals are super friendly and whenever we have a bad day, we can seek refuge in the surrounding mountains, where we have a canine friend, a Pyrenean mountain dog called Floof. When I meet him, he comes to greet me and then pees on our car, I think in his own way he has accepted us. And we have become friends with some locals here. All this contributes to our happiness.

I think it’s safe to say that we have become obsessed with the local tapas! I actually come from a family with the worst cooks ever, and I sincerely can’t tell you who was the worst, my mother or my grandmother. My grandmother, who raised me, because my own mother didn’t have the time for this, managed to cook a whole dinner in barely 5 minutes. They both were masters of turning pork into something abominable, a gray mass that smelt, felt and tasted like rubber. Even when I was an adult, I still disliked pork so much that the mere sight of it could make me vomit. Guess what? I have come to love it, thanks to the tapas culture! Not so long ago, I prepared pork tenderloin with a wine sauce for the very first time in my life. Last summer, The Viking almost fell off his chair, when I ate grilled pork fat with garlic as a tapa. I actually felt a bit guilty the other day when I saw a truck full of pigs on its way to the slaughterhouse, but the Viking crushed that feeling by telling me that pigs could behave like cannibals. By the way, I taught myself to cook and the very first dish I prepared was … paella! Actually, the Viking is spoiled with food here!

Happiness can come in small portions. My favorite moment of the day is the evening, when I can hear a lot of neighborhood dogs barking. It always makes me think of “101 dalmatians” (the animated movie, not the one with Glen Close), where dogs far and close bark to spread the message that Pongo’s and Perdita’s puppies have disappeared. This moment of the day always puts a smile on my face.

Anyway, up to many years of happiness in Iznalloz!

What about you? Would you be able to move to another country and to live happily ever after there?


Lessons Learned after 2 Years in Spain

Last Saturday, we celebrated our second anniversary in Spain. But what exactly have we learned in these 2 years? Moreover, do we have any regrets?

Those Cute Little Houses in Torrox Have a Serious Problem…

Remember this? I have to admit, it was kinda romantic living in one of those white houses. Especially with a roof terrace like this…

Too bad that many of these houses on the coast suffer from big humidity problems! That was a lesson that we learned way too late. Easy solution: we moved inland, which has actually proven to be very advantageous… But more about that in another post.

We All Have to Deal with the Same Nightmare

I follow a Facebook group of expats in Granada and regularly, there are expats complaining about the administrative nightmares they have to undergo…

Correction: everybody suffers from that same nightmare. Yes, even the Spanish themselves… Just mention the word “administracion” to any local person and you will see them rolling their eyes and hear them sigh. Just take it easy and follow all the necessary steps when you apply for your NIE or “residencial” or whatever. Becoming angry will certainly not help you, it could actually turn against you! Have a look here to see what you have to do – on an administrative level – if you want to live in Spain.

Better Learn the Language

Especially when you move inland! And even in tourist areas, there are lots of locals who don’t know a word of English. Yes, you can go to a language school, but immersion will cost you nothing. Sure, it’s (more) difficult, but it’s also more fun! I have Spanish friends who help me with the local language and in return, I teach them English or French. I promise you: learn the language and get to know the local culture and you have friends for life.

Besides, you can practice in fun circumstances:

  • in the tapas bar. Remember this? Free food!
  • at the local market. You would be surprised at how much money you will save as well!
  • in local shops.

And so much more!

Get Used to Informality

They are pretty straightforward people, the Spanish. And informal. No beating about the bush. It takes some getting used to. For example: you don’t need to reconfirm appointments like we do: just agree on a place, date and time and show up. That’s it.

Other keywords. Respect. Politeness. Cleanliness. I am an extremely messy person and I notice that my Spanish friends find that awkward.

Any Regrets?


Why You Should Consider Moving to Spain

Or not…

6 June 2018. That is the day that Lars and I moved to Spain, to Torrox. Today, we share what the good and the bad sides are of life as an expat in Spain.

The Pros

There is obviously the climate. Let’s be honest: I think it’s one of the main reasons why people move to Spain. Granted, in spring the weather can be quite unstable and temperatures are around 38 degrees Celsius in summer, but I don’t really mind that. There is simply so much more sunshine here, especially in winter. Then the sun sets around 5.30pm. That means no more winter blues or, even worse, seasonal depressions.

The cheaper way of life is another advantage. Three examples and we start with the rent. We now live to the north of Granada in an apartment with two bedrooms, a huge terrace, and access to a communal swimming pool. All this for 360 euros. Yes, you read that right. And for grocery shopping, we spend 30 to 50% less than in Belgium. Getting a haircut is at least 3 times cheaper.

Now that we are talking about money, what about free healthcare? Yes, that’s right, when you go to a doctor or have to spend some time in a hospital, you pay nothing. Zero. Nada. Sure, there is a certain administrative procedure you need to follow, but what an advantage. And buying medication will only cost you a couple of euros.

Food, glorious food! Read our piece about the art of tapas and you will understand why we have fallen in love with this aspect of Spanish gastronomy. It’s so cheap and you can taste a bit of everything. And from what I have learned from local friends, different regions and even different cities have their own tapas culture. To be explored after the lockdown. 

As a photographer, I have fallen in love with the huge variety of landscapes. I don’t know how familiar you are with Belgian and Danish geography, but let’s face it: both our home countries are rather flat. Here it’s not only a joy to practice photography, but it’s also a joy to sit on our terrace and see – and admire – mountains!

And last but not least, the attitude of the people. We tend to believe that they like to postpone things, but that is a myth. They have deadlines to respect at work just as much as we do. But in general, the local people have a more relaxed attitude. 

The Cons

Yes, this is not a paradise. Here are some disadvantages.

Most things are notably a lot cheaper, except for water and electricity. On a monthly basis, we pay about 30 euros for water and between 50 and 100 euros for electricity. There is only one thing to do: be aware of what you consume!

Our biggest nightmare is without any doubt the Spanish banks… First of all, they are more expensive. You have to pay a couple of euros for example when you get money from an ATM. Moreover, they all encourage electronic payments, whereas in reality in more than enough shops, bars, and restaurants, you can only pay cash, especially in smaller towns and villages.

The biggest complaint we have however is service and especially customer support. Sabadell is okay, but they rank amongst the most expensive banks and you can only find them in places where a lot of expats live. Santander, on the other hand, is cheaper, but when it comes to service, there is only one word to describe it: horrible! In October last year, Lars accidentally blocked his bank card, and both the local bank and the helpdesk refused to help us, which led to a lot of trouble. Our advice: digital banks like N26. You still have a Spanish bank account and way better service.

Last but not least: employment. Spain has a high unemployment rate. Make sure you have a thorough knowledge of Spanish or you won’t find any job. It gets even tougher when you are older than 40. There are solutions though. Lots of expats open their own business such as a B&B or a bar. You can teach a language or work online. 

I would be impolite if I didn’t say thank you to a fellow blogger who promoted my website earlier this week. Be kind and visit his blog.

By the way, I took the photos featured in this post in Torrox Costa.

And before I hit “Publish”, on Friday, we pay another visit to Germany.

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