Living is not like one long holiday
However, falling in love with a place and plenty of space is not enough in the long term! To ensure that those initial positive feelings turn into a happy reality, you will need to make sure you do the following two things:
Create a new social network and find a meaningful job or fun ways to spend your days. As an expat you often leave a high-tech culture that enabled you to go far as long as you had the right qualifications.
Another advantage people have in their country of birth is that they are familiar with the job application process and being able to communicate in their native language.
In Andalucía it is more about who you know. Once you know the right people, more opportunities will present themselves to you. Job applications via email or post are often ignored as they are seen as somewhat impersonal.
An informal network of acquaintances, family and friends are used instead of our relatively impersonal employment agencies or Flemish Services for Employment and Vocational Training. Fact is that these informal networks, by contacting the right people, will yield good results in the long run.
Of course, as far as the type of work is concerned, Andalucía cannot be compared to here. But you do have a choice! Alongside the Spanish job market there is a kind of sub employment market for expats or the better-off Spaniard. You can get quite far here if you have the right commercial skills and computer or language skills.
The property, commercial and tourism sectors are obvious examples of this. The opportunities on the Spanish market are a lot more limited: wages are generally quite low and the better-paid jobs tend to be given to Spanish people.
Networking is key
Networking is essential, both in Spanish circles as amongst expats. The ability to speak Spanish is therefore extremely important. Spanish people really appreciate you trying to speak their language and you are often rewarded for your efforts!
Do not underestimate what it is like to leave your family and friends behind. Couples who move abroad together tend to be very dependent on each other, particularly at first.
Andalusians are very family oriented and focused on their own Spanish culture. The dictatorial Franco-regime (1939-1975) and their geographic isolation from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees as well as the proximity of Africa (Moorish rule: 711-1492) have left their mark on the Andalusian culture.
Many Andalusians speak Spanish only and even well-educated people such as solicitors, engineers, etc. cannot be relied upon to speak English. In addition to this, ‘Andaluz’ or Andalusian Spanish is a dialect where a lot of vowels and consonants are not pronounced. It may help to try talking ‘con una patata caliente en tu boca’ .
Unlike many Northern-European people, Andalusians are very spontaneous, open and hospitable. It is a nice experience when people spontaneously start talking to you in the bank, on the street or in a bar.
It is important to be able to speak the language so you can extend your social network and not continuously feel like a tourist. On the other hand, you need to be realistic and although you may very well become fluent in Spanish, it is important to stay true to yourself. There are limits to every assimilation: a Belgian remains a Belgian and a Dutch person will always be Dutch, but I think that being open to the good aspects of both worlds (the Spanish one and the world of expats) is very important to ensure that your emigration and EMO-gration (remember those gut feelings!?) is successful.