One of the first things that people recognise when they move over here is the lack of support services. This impression is partly incorrect as the Spanish do now have an impressive array of services but most are geared at the Spanish people, most are only advertised in Spanish and there are often no direct equivalents to their UK counterparts. It is likely therefore that as a newly arrived visitor you will need to acquaint yourselves with the ex-pat organisations. Here too, there is an enormous difference between area to area. Obviously on the Costas and to a lesser extent the big cities of Madrid and Barcelona there is a wide range of government, NGO, social and charity associations. The further you move from these areas the more you will have to fend for yourselves.

Age Concern is an organisation familiar to most of us from the UK. They are active in most of the main ex-pat areas of Spain and are an excellent point of contact. If you call their local office, I am sure that you will find that even if they do not know the answer to any query, they will be pleased to find somebody who does. Tel/Fax: 971 77 71 79 / 971 23 15 20

Alcohol abuse is a very real danger in the ex-pat community. A combination of long opening hours, a multitude of bars, more free time and a more social lifestyle lead to problems for many international residents. Fortunately, Alcoholics Anonymous offer support in English in most areas. Tel: 91 309 19 47.

Hospice care is rare in Spain and generally the family expects to look after their members who cannot look after themselves. A.E.C.C. 96 571 6679 and Caring Together 96 589 4240 / both offer excellent levels of support when times are hard.

The Royal British Legion also has branches throughout Spain and those eligible to join are urged to contact 96 575 5192 as soon as they arrive in Spain. You will be made most welcome and will be advised what services are available.

Don’t forget there are many clubs, charities and associations active in most ex-pat areas where you can enjoy friendship, advice and support. They normally advertise in the local ex-pat newspapers. If in doubt the local Age Concern branch will normally have lists. Finally, if things get too much there are many professional bereavement and relationship counsellors in the international communities. Violet King has been kind enough to write a few words.

Moving to Spain and living in Spain on a permanent basis is nowhere like coming here for holidays. It can be better, because you never quite lose the feeling that you are on a never ending vacation, but it can be worse because we find ourselves adrift in an area perhaps we don’t know, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, a system we don’t understand and a language we cannot speak!’¦.apart from that it is all plain sailing of course!! Having good contacts and recommendations are very valuable, there are so many ways to have bad experiences by not knowing how things work over here and what the procedures are. On the bright side there are some pretty reliable people who are working over here who will steer you in the right direction.

As a relationship counsellor from the U.K., I am all too often made aware of the fact that the stresses and strains of coping with a whole new lifestyle can sometimes have a negative affect on relationships’¦..if you let them! So many of us came over here to retire, only used to going to work ourselves, or having our partners going out each day to the work place. NOW we are together 24/7, and although that was probably the perfect idea when we first got together, it is HARD to make the adjustment sometimes, and we have no idea why we get so irritable when we are constantly having to agree with each other’s ideas, plans and lifestyles. Alcohol, so cheap over here, is sometimes abused, and that in itself causes problems, and then there are always situations when under the influence of alcohol that would entice some to go astray. Life could be a minefield of dramatic events if allowed.

The brilliant side of things is not only the weather, but the amazing difference in the cost of living, and how the standard of life is so much higher over here, for so much less! The life style can be as busy or relaxed as you want it to be’¦’¦.that is hard to get used to sometimes, doing just what you want to do seems almost strange after being on one of life’s treadmills in the U.K.

Joining Clubs and Societies over here is a lifeline as far as getting to know people is concerned. The non smoking club that we are involved with is full of people who have made really great friendships since joining. There are ways of contacting all the experts in the area, cutting your telephone bills dramatically, travelling the countryside, having wonderful social evenings and days, and lots more to make life fascinating and worthwhile. If I can help anyone with anything I have mentioned here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Violet King.

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