Leaving loved ones behind when we move to a foreign land such as Spain may be one of the toughest parts of the “journey.” Sitting these people down and telling them of your big decision can be incredibly difficult.
But you MUST speak to those closest to you and speak to them soon. All too often people tell their friends first, but then leave it and leave it before telling parents, siblings etc – which only adds to your worries, when actually it often goes easier than you expect. But imagine if your family then find out friends knew a while before because you were dreading telling them – that could potentially upset them more than the actual news about moving.
When we told my parents of our plans they couldn’t wait to get rid of us! Okay I’m obviously joking – but they were so pleased for us, extremely supportive and encouraging, and said they wished they’d done it themselves. Alan’s Dad was equally supportive – and visits us twice a year to reassure himself that his little boy (ok… not so little or young anymore) is okay, and not living in a shack on the sand dunes.
In fact – this was often the reaction we received. Many assumed we were coming out to run a bar (absolutely the furthest thing from our minds) but that’s because that is what so many do when they move to sunnier climes. But everyone was either insanely jealous (in a good way), or extremely encouraging.
We also experienced disbelief from a couple of our closest friends. They thought that we were simply “thinking about it.” There were many tears from my closest female friends once they saw the tickets, and the house was being packed up. They hadn’t wanted to believe it until that point – despite our insistence that it was really going to happen. Those tears continued right up until we walked through passport control at Gatwick, because they came to see us off.
Throughout all of this though, everyone was behind us and looking forward to their own cheap holidays in Spain obviously!
Not always so smooth
This is not the case with all families and friend networks of course – every dynamic is different and only YOU can guess how they will react. So take a look at the following points to give you some food for thought.
Expect surprise, disbelief, and possibly even resentment. You may have been dangling the carrot of this for some time. But until they actually see proof of your move, they may not quite believe it. Some may even get angry, and feel that you are deserting them. Hey – it’s only natural. But don’t worry! This is completely natural. Place yourself in their shoes… and imagine your own reactions.
You may be anticipating your loved ones’ reactions with your own feelings of trepidation or possibly even dread. Try to understand how they are feeling… and react accordingly. Remember that your worries about the move may manifest itself in defensiveness or guilt. This is all completely natural too. Once again – don’t worry! Here’s a starter checklist to help you through what may or may not be a difficult time.
- Plus points. Point out the benefits to your loved ones. Remind them that you can now entertain them in the sunshine. You will get to spend more quality time with them now, as they come over especially to see you… rather than a few snatched moments over a cuppa.
- Expect the unexpected. We had one friend that we told, whose parents had recently emigrated to the Costa del Sol. Her boss too had taken the plunge and was on the move abroad. She and her husband had planned to move to Southern Spain too (albeit not for another 5 years or so) – and when she saw so many of her loved ones were off, it gave her and her husband that final bump needed to speed up their plans. Within one month, they had sold the house, packed up, taken in a short trip to the States, and moved everything to a gorgeous apartment in Malaga. Almost ten years later she’s still there – very happy.
- That brings us onto… you may be followed. When we told Alan’s teenage sons – their first question was “Will you have a pool?” Of course they knew us well enough to know that our home is always home to them too – no matter where we are in the world. After a couple of trips out to visit, one of them moved out to live with us permanently shortly after he left school, and still lives in Lanzarote even though we later moved to Almeria.
- Your starter for ten. Expect oodles of questions from your friends and family such as: Why are you leaving? What will you do for work in Spain? When will we see you again? How can I contact you in an emergency? Will you be safe? What happens if it doesn’t work out? Expect those, and many more, questions to come thick and fast.
- Be ready. Be prepared – and just tell people the truth – and of course encourage them to come and see your new home for themselves.
- Repeat. Expect the same questions over and over. You’ll almost end up sounding like a parrot (we did). But that’s because everyone will be so intrigued and what to know every little detail.
- Database building. Plan your communication methods. Make sure that you gain email addresses and telephone numbers for all those nearest and dearest to you. Just by ensuring that you have these contact details will reassure your loved ones that you’re not going to forget them once you’re a few extra miles away. Remind them that it’s only a short-haul flight. It’s not the South Pole after all!
- Shocks and surprises. Be prepared for some surprises, and possibly shocks, once you have moved. For us, some people didn’t keep in touch – some of whom surprised us. Others, who we thought would be an email once or twice a year have kept in much more frequent contact, and have enhanced the friendship and family relationships – even more than we shared back in the UK. You may find out who your friends really are. But the onus is also on you to keep in contact too! The internet is a wonderful thing when you can use social networks, forums and emails to keep in touch – oh and make new friends too of course!
- Hasta luego. There were some that we wanted to say a face to face goodbye to before we left. Not because we never thought we’d see them again – but because we knew ourselves well enough to strongly suspect high levels of emotion when we left. So we took a couple of weeks out before we left, to travel around the UK saying “Hasta luego” to as many friends and family members as possible. We did get a proper send off at the airport too. My three closest female pals (Fiona, Kate and Tina) were insistent that they drove us up there. We all sat in Gatwick drinking champagne out of plastic cups (very classy), taking hundreds of photographs (apologies to the ladies in the public toilets who wondered why four excited ladies were pulling faces and posing rather strangely for the camera).
- The day of departure. Remember that the day of your departure is only a tiny moment in the whole big plan. Yes, emotions will be running high – excitement, trepidation, even fear. Make sure you bring your tissues. It’s what happens after that, which will ensure your future. So don’t put so much pressure on yourself about that day in particular.
- Visiting time! As soon as you’re all settled in… make plans on when you will next see your loved ones. Maybe just book a short trip back at first (trust me, you’ll be missing your new home in Spain within a couple of days). You may not be able to do it straight away – but at least set the plans in motion.
- Nobody knows. No one can say how it will all go – all you can do is listen to other people’s experiences, and roll with your own. Just take it slow, go easy on yourselves emotionally, and don’t be too harsh with your loved ones if they get a little upset – it’s because they love you. Hey a whole new life beckons… and they can share this with you too!
The very best of luck to you in the next chapter of your life.
We’re very interested in hearing from people who have either recently made the move… or who are just about to and that would like to share their experiences – please do get in touch!
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Spain Web Design by Gandy-Draper.
Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.