My Ten Top Tips for Surviving Relocation
One would be forgiven for thinking that life in Lanzarote is a bed of roses and indeed for some maybe it is, but most people find that eventually the thorns start poking through and when the “honeymoon period” is over the idea of endless days of sun, sea and sangria become just a dream. Everyday life kicks in.
So how does one learn to adapt to a different lifestyle and culture successfully? (Yes, it can be done!)
It´s only now, after three and a half years living here, that I can truly say that I´ve settled and have no desire to return to the UK – if you´d offered me the chance this time last year I´d have been on the first flight back! When we first came here my friends and family in the UK would ask “Are you happy?” and my reply would be non-commital, “Well, uuhm…… you know…..”. But now I can honestly say that I am very content here. And do I have any regrets? No, none. If we had never taken the risk and never moved out here, I´d have been wondering all my life if we´d missed an opportunity.
So to all wannabe “conojeros” (the word means “rabbit catcher” and refers to natives of Lanzarote) here are my proven top tips Silencil for adapting to life out here (which probably apply to many other places too):
1. Learn Spanish
This has to be my number one tip and although it is probably the most obvious, it´s surprising the number of expats who simply don´t bother and are quite content to get by with “hola”, “adios” and “dos cervezas por favor” together with a lot of hand waving and a little bit of Spanglish thrown in for good measure!
I regret not learning the lingo whilst in the UK when we were planning our move. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but one of the best things I did when we got here was to take an intensive course, one to one, with masses of homework to try and immerse myself in the language. That gave me a good foundation, which I´m constantly trying to build on and there is a wealth of fantastic courses on the internet (some free ones too!) BUT don´t neglect honing your listening and talking skills – it´s all very well knowing as much vocabulary as a dictionary, but sometimes the travelling time of words between brain and mouth takes what feels like forever and when the Spanish person you´re trying to impress replies, you can feel like an “imbécil” if you don´t understand a word of what they´ve just said.
“Intercambio” is a great idea (language exchange between two people) and it´s free! Seriously, I can´t emphasise enough the need to learn the language – you will miss out on a lot of what´s best about Lanzarote if you don´t make the effort. My next door neighbour is Canarian and doesn´t speak English and yet we manage to have a very reasonable conversation and a lot of laughs (although I did manage to shock her once when I accidentally used a swear word!). We´ve even managed to combine cookery and Spanish lessons and I can now make “papas arrugadas and mojo” (a typical Canarian dish of salted potatoes and sauce) with the best of them.
2. Have transferable skills
Obviously this only applies to people who need to work, and if you don´t have transferable skills (hairdressing, nursing, teaching etc.) be prepared to do ANYTHING. I left behind a good management position when we moved and there is no call here for the work I did in the UK. Again, good knowledge of the language helps your prospects, but if you can´t or don´t want to speak the language then you will probably find work in bars, shops or restaurants or cleaning holiday villas (there´s a lot of call for that out here!) I taught English to Spanish speakers when I first moved here and I enjoyed that, but the work is spasmodic unless you live near the main schools in Arrecife or Puerto del Carmen. The work factor was a critical one for me in settling here; I´m not content staying at home. I like the stimulation of work, being with people and taking on new challenges. I´m one of the lucky ones – I´ve found I job I love and it has been one of the biggest factors in adjusting to life here.