When we moved to Spain many years ago, we thought we had considered all the pitfalls. In our mind, we had them pretty much covered, lack of work, distance from home, lack of support were the main ones.
We arrived, bedded in, made friends hence we had a support network and we found work. Boxes ticked, nothing to see here, we had the expat thing sewn up.
Fast forward two years, one of our friends invited us round to their place to tell us they were leaving, going back for family, and the kids education. From that moment on, we dreaded the dinner invite, and they came in thick and fast. The signs were usually there, sudden lack of commitment for next summers plans, more hints dropped about how much they missed home, then the bombshell.
The first family was a sad goodbye, then we got used to it, or we thought we had. Then a really close friend left, and suddenly it rocks your boat completely. Before we knew it, out of about 12 families, only 3 remained. For a while, I panicked about every comment that was made, got defensive about Spain, and rattled on about how crap the UK was. Just trying to do everything to get people to think twice about leaving us. That is how it felt, people were leaving us, not Spain, but us, it felt personal.
Finally we were down to two families, it was shit. I now had more friends in the UK, but I wanted people here and I wanted people I liked. That continued for about 4 years, until one day I thought I can´t do this anymore.
I went back to the beginning and started joining groups, but this time I was armed with new information and I was selective. There were trigger words I would look out for, like ¨we are giving it a year and see how it works out¨, ¨we like to go back ot the UK every few months¨ or ¨ I think the English education system is the best¨. It was like bingo, any one of these phrases said, and you´re fired! I have since met friends, who will not be friends with people unless they own a home here, or have been here more than 5 years. That way people are invested, you may lose a few, but in general, over 5 years and a homeowner, and you are staying.
We still lose a few people every now and again, but it is easier, our network is larger and the kids are older. Telling a 5 year old that when they return to school they will be 3 friends down is never easy.
Most of the kid´s friends now are Spanish, although they have found that Spanish parents are reluctant to mix with English kids for the same reason, they all leave.
So in the words are the great Sam Smith, if you fancy a life in Spain, weigh up all the pitfalls and more sure you´re good at goodbyes. As I always say, living in Spain is worth it, but beware of what living the dream comes with.