Rules of Expat Life

(With apologies to /acknowledgements to a certain Mr W Gates)

I recently gave a presentation about 11 things they did not and will not teach would-be expats. I talked about how feel-good, commission-hungry estate agents created a generation of expats with no concept of reality and how this “dream” set them up for failure when reality kicked in. I guess I could say the same about most countries where expats dream to live.

Rule 1: Expat life is not fair – get used to it! (All other rules are irrelevant, if you don’t accept this!)

Rule 2 : Fellow expats and Spaniards alike will not care about your previous life. They will expect you to accomplish something in expatshire BEFORE you are respected. Able seamen become admirals, DIY enthusiasts become Master Builders and shelf-stackers become supermarket magnates. Nobody cares – get used to it. They will, however, expect you to pay your round here.

Rule 3 : You will NOT make 60,000 euros a year as you come straight off the plane. You won’t be employed and you won’t get a contract until you earn both.

Rule 4 : If you think the UK is tough, wait till you try Spain. You WILL stand in queues (above!)

Rule 5 : Villa cleaning is not beneath your dignity. A previous generation of expats had a different word for villa cleaning; they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your neighbours’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you arrived, the traffic police weren’t as tough as they are now. They got that way from dealing with expats with no paperwork, no health insurance, no ITV and listening to you bang on about how you thought you were in the right. So before you abuse another officer to his face or on a forum, try getting your UK car registered here. Just because you have not done it for 7 years does not make it legal.

Rule 8: The UK may have done away with winners and losers, but Spain HAS NOT. In the UK, they have a welfare state that supports people when they fall. They’ll give to you as MANY TIMES as you want to – housing benefit, disability allowances, single-parent allowances, job-seeker allowances, free dental care and a NHS service that has got itself on its knees with more administrators than surgeons. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in Spain.

Rule 9: Expat life is not divided into seasons. You don’t get summers off from paying bills and very few landlords or mortgage lenders are interested in helping you “FIND YOURSELF IN SPAIN”. Do that on your own time. Do that with your own money.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the bar and go to look for work. The prices on “A Place in the Sun” are pre the introduction of the euro ….and it rains!

Rule 11: Be nice to Spaniards. Chances are that you’ll end up needing one to help you and LEARN SPANISH……………………………… will never integrate nor prosper only speaking English.

(Of the 11 rules, numbers 1 and 11 are the two that really matter!)