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Life After Spain – 10 Best Things About Being Home

Life After Spain – 10 Best Things About Being Home

Life After Spain, discovering the best bits about being home back in the UK and why we’re glad we returned.

Life after Spain, walking into the building society on a wet dreary morning to speak to an advisor we got the “Why did you come back? I know where I’d rather be!”. It’s funny how people have this idea of Spain being better in some way, like it’s some kind of better life over there, the sun, beaches, sangria… The reality is course something else, there is no ‘better’, there is just ‘different’ – very different.

Since our return back to the UK it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster sorting things out, applications, form filling, settling in and all that stuff but there are some things that we are glad to be part of again and many things that we’ve noticed that are so much more efficient, easier to deal with and up to date.

going back to england after living in spain
it’s good to be back home…

In this post I’ll be talking about what struck us as the most noticeable after such a long time away. It can be quite a controversial topic amongst expats so here is my no nonsense top 10 best parts about being back in the UK.

UK Customer service

It’s no secret that customer service in the UK is another level altogether, it’s a real surprise when you walk into anywhere and the staff are friendly, welcoming and cheery. Obviously it’s not like this everywhere but in the main, customer service is hands down not just better but far superior.

It is most noticeable in supermarkets as well as smaller independent businesses too but we’re not just talking about the retail sector here, organisations and even government departments all shine. It makes the world of difference and was something that took us a while to get used to.

Efficiency

Okay so you have to wait for paperwork, I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where you don’t, it’s just that in England it happens far quicker than we are used to. Nothing has been lost [so far] and in general the system is more efficient compared to Andalucia which seems to thrive on bureaucracy and a chaotic way of doing things.

I know my appointments are going to come through to see my GP and he won’t be sitting on his desk eating chewing gum when I do see him/her. Nothing shuts at 2.00pm, we have a whole three hours more in the day to get things done.

The list goes on.

The weather

The Great British weather. One of the most common complaints about the UK is the weather, yeah it’s wet, grey and cold but it’s also mixed across the year, you get variation which is a change from the climate in dusty Andalucia.

life after spain british weather
Frosty mornings in Northumberland

Us Brits have an obsession with the weather, even in Spain we talk about the British weather but don’t be too quick to complain. Heat gets boring, lovely at first yes but as the years roll by you become tired of its relentlessness in the summer, looking for an escape as the half naked holidaymakers turn a deeper shade of pink under the already applied layer of factor 20.

British weather is, well, very British and if it wasn’t what on earth would we start a conversation with?

Colours

The UK is full of colour and seasons are something that we missed during our time away. Rural Andalucia boast brown and green – that’s it, row after row of olives or almonds and pine woodland make up the colours of the ‘campo’. We returned back to the UK at the beginning of November and were immediatly struck by the colours of the British countryside.

Fourstones northumberland
Autumn leaves, Fourstones, Northumberland

It had been a long time since we’d walked down a country lane covered in Autumn leaves boasting yellows, deep reds and burn’t orange. It is not just the colours though it’s the smell of Autumn that accompanies them, that wet, damp smell you get as you walk past fallen chestnuts and frost covered grass.

Great British food

British food is just the best thing, I don’t care what anyone says but Spanish food is downright boring, bland and overrated. We were in the food industry for 12 years with our export business dealing with cured meats [serrano/iberico ham etc] as well as cheese, tapas, wine and all of those Spanish specialities… To be brutally honest it was hard work sometimes to create recipes and describe products which we published on our website and while we stood behind our products there is nothing in our old inventory or indeed day to day Spanish food that I will miss.

marmite great british food
love it or hate it…

Take the English sandwhich, you have a myriad of fillings to choose from, a selection of different breads and a million sauces to work with. Then there’s Marmite but that’s another story!

Roast beef, yorkshire puds, turnip, gravy, proper milk, fish and chips, mustard etc etc, the list goes on, the selection is huge when it comes to bread, drinks, savoury, sweets and confectionary then you have farm stores you can use, takeaways and more.

Deliveries on a Sunday?

When we first arrived back there were a few bits a pieces that we needed like cables and adapters to get the office back up and running. The friends who we were staying with ordered some bits and said the order would arrive ‘tommorrow’ which was a Sunday. The stuff arrived and I nearly fell off my chair.

Sunday deliveries or in fact Sunday anything in rural Spain is unheard of, deliveries were usually late held up by fiestas or being lost completely, left in the petrol station with no notification or thrown at the door and left so as you can imagine an Amazon delivery on a Sunday was impressive plus you didn’t have to give your NIE number to the driver.

post box fourstones hexham
no problem post

It was also nice to get back into the swing of things with some practices that had been long forgotten – like posting a letter in a good old fashioned post box and also having your post delivered through a letter box. These small, seemingly insignificant things that most of us take for granted are very noticeable after a long time away.

The people

Our friends live in rural Northumberland [my old stomping ground from back in the day] and one thing that we were really surprised about was how everyone spoke – especially when you’re out walking the dog or simply walking down the street. This isn’t to say that people didn’t speak in Spain because many did but back home you’re not a foreigner and there is a difference.

We were surprised how cheery people were too dispelling the myth that brits are miserable and complain all the time. We found people far more open minded with manners and general politeness which was a pleasant change from what he left behind in Granada.

The health service

I’ve spoken about the Spanish health service before following my stroke in 2022 and the aftercare is shockingly bad [at least where we were]. Indeed before we left yet another appointment was messed up so I was glad to get back and register with a UK doctor. I needed an MOT and to question the nine pills a day I’d been placed on after coming out hospital in Granada. [these had not been revised in 18 months despite repeatedly asking on numerous occasions]

Hexham hospital
Hexham hospital

Registering at the doctor was quick and easy, a week later our NHS numbers came through, we got hooked up to the app and my first appointment came around a week later. The service by comparison was mindblowing not just from the medical staff but all the way through reception too. Just different, more professional with a caring attitude and a world away from Andalucia.

Ie: after seeing my new GP I got a telephone number to ring, a follow up with the nurse and a flu jab all in the same day. Now I know it’s not like this everywhere as our local service has an enviable reputation, I suppose the main thing with regard to health is the ability to make yourself fully understood in your own language too.

Anonymity

I mentioned anonymity in my last post about the UK when we visited for a week. Living in a small village as an expat who stands out like an alien from the depths of outer space gets weary after a while. Even after nearly 20 years you still get stared at, it’s very blatant, rude and something I personaly found very irritating. This does not happen in the UK.

Nobody cares you are there and it’s great

There are far too many people going about there own business and not caring about yours to give you the time of day when you’re walking through a busy place, in the supermarket or similar. Nobody cares you are there and it’s great. Even in small villages, sure they will check you out and you’ll be the main source of conversation for a while but nobody will be gauping at you like you have two heads after 20 years.

whitby street photography
Anon

The feeling of anonymity is good, in a small Spanish village everyone knows your business so when something happens you can get reactions like this. The talk is dangerous, rapid and in most cases, misguided and simply innacurate so coming to a place where nobody knows you is very refreshing and offers the opportunity to start again if that is your intention.

Life after Spain – That home feeling

We often talked about what life after Spain would be like before we actually left the country but in truth you never really know until you make that leap and leave. There is no place like home and while much of what I’ve talked about in this post contributes to making it ‘home’, deep down it’s just a feeling that you get simply by being here.

As an expat abroad you are always the foreigner, being a foreigner, at least in rural Spain for us was hard work. You never truly get accepted no matter how hard you try and from that aspect it makes you feel like an outsider. By coming home that all goes away as soon as you step back on UK soil.

Life after Spain – enjoying the English countryside

In the past and before we left I never thought of home as being something to hold on to, to appreciate and understand better because there was nothing to compare it to. Fast forward 20 years and now I do it has made me understand how important home actually is, there really is no place like it.

We’ve paid a heavy price for being away so long, hindsight is a wonderful thing though and at the time you think you are doing the right thing. Looking back we should have returned home earlier but for now we need to look forward, get ourselves back on track discover what else is out there – this time on our home turf.

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Mac

K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.

Mac
3 Comments
  • Hi, gosh I stumbled across your blogs after googling “return to UK” and your words just resonate with my husband and I. We have been living in Mazarrón for 5 years but really want to return to UK.

    I send you my sincere condolences on the loss of your son. This makes heartbreaking reading and my heart goes out to you. Living in Spain is challenging indeed without your loss.

    I especially am enjoying reading the things you are appreciating being back. We do travel back 2 or 3 times a year and I never personally want to come back to Spain which says it all really. The racism, culture differences, hatred from a specialist at hospital..the list is endless.

    Thank you for blogging and I am so happy you have returned knowing it’s the right decision for you.

    2024 is our leap back year I am sure. I am excited and terrified at the same time. We have been priced out of our home town unless we downsize considerably so relocation within the UK could be an option.

    Thanks again and I wish you every happiness in your new life 😊👍

    • Hi Rebecca and thank you, yes Spain is tough enough before life throws something at you too. We had been thinking about returning for quite a few years but finances were always the issue, looking back now we should have just moved home and made it work no matter how tough it may have been at the time. My only advice would be to go with what your gut is telling you. Spain is not what many people think and ‘home’ has many advantages. Good luck with 2024 and if you have any questions drop us a line.

  • Hi Rebecca,

    Firstly, my deepest condolences for your loss.

    My partner and I (Mexican and Brit, early 30s, no kids yet) are currently doing a tour of Spain. We met in Mexico and lived there together for 5 years but wanted to move somewhere safer, and closer to my family in the UK.

    After spending 5 years in an ‘idyllic beach town’ I am no stranger to how one’s feelings can change as time goes by. But we have been spoilt by sun all year round. Not just my mental health suffers in long, dark winters, but my skin and bones too!

    So, in searching for a ‘neutral’ place (and with a mild winter in mind) for us we decided to leave México earlier this year and explore Spain. We spent a month in Valencia, a month in Granada (central) and now a month in Malaga city. We like the Malaga region the most of the three (mainly the warmth of the people and the climate).

    Now here is the thing. We are trying to find this magical place that:

    1) Has houses and more space.
    2) Has at least a small expat community but not an expat retiree retrato.
    3) Isn’t too quiet. Or if it is, is close enough to a large town or city.

    Strangely I (the Brit) am missing the Mexican culture. The sense of humour is something like inbetween the US and UK (is it me or do the Spanish not laugh or be silly much?). And of course, the food. The Spanish do not know what a chile is.

    I am very apprehensive of inadvertently carving out a life for ourselves in Spain that we will live to regret. During these 3 months we havent really had many lasting conversations with locals (we both speak Spanish). I have tried talking to a few people around various towns and in the gym, but it feels a little desperate. I had a good (small) group of friends in México but mostly English-speaking foreigners. I am concerned we will struggle to make real friendships here. So far the best conversation we had was with 2 Velezuelan bar tenders in Valencia.

    Did you ever consider leaving for a larger town or outskirts of a city? Do you think you would of enjoyed your time more if you had more expats around?

    I feel incredibly confused and conflicted. I am a Brit through and through but I am not the kind to sit in front of a TV every evening for 6 months of bad weather. I work from home so I like to be outside whenever possible.

    Spain hasn’t ‘grabbed’ me yet. Is it the slow pace? The lack of ambition/drive? My lack of friends (or a friend)? Or the feeling that I will forever be an outside. I never had the feeling of being an outsider in México (after a few years admittedly). Perhaps because my partner is Mexican and I consider myself part of her family. Or perhaps because of how we are viewed in Spain. I am just another idiot Brit here. They have little interest in my culture.

    I worry we are choosing a place neither of us really want…

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