Fuente del Conde
Six weeks into moving full-time into a Spanish farmhouse in Fuente del Conde, Marijke shares her latest experiences of settling in to el campo. This is the third part of our interview series with Marijke, where we get to hear how her experiences unfold over different stages of the buying and relocating process. Tune in to hear more about finding your feet, joining local clubs and dealing with Spanish administration.
- [1:47] Dealing with Spanish administration
- [4:55] Has the relocation been worth it?
- [8:05] The experience of settling in to the home full-time
- [9:28] Integrating with both the local and expat community
- [11:20] Marijke’s experience of learning Spanish and attending classes
- [14:12] Why a move like Marijke’s is not for everyone
- [17:01] What’s happened to her previous home back in England
- Welcome to the Kyero.com Spanish Property podcast, where we interview people who recently purchased their dream home in Spain.
- They tell us what worked, what didn’t and what they’d do differently next time.
- I’m Beth Davison and today I’m catching up with Marijke for the final instalment of her story. If you have not yet listened to parts one and two, I advise you to go back and catch up on Marijke’s adventure so far.
- She’s a blogger, from Holland, who purchased her dream home in Fuente del Conde, along with her husband Hillary. Their plan was to relocate for a whole year and we’ve been with them every step of the way.
- In this episode Marijke is a few months into her big adventure and reflects on what life is like in Spain.
- Check out the show notes at kyero.com/podcast to find links and resources mentioned in this episode.
Body of Transcript
Marijke: Hello, my name is Marijke. I’m a Dutch national married to a Brit, and we bought a house, in Andalusia, about five years ago. It was last year that we decided to move to Andalusia more permanently, but just to try it out for one year. Our house is in the campo, in the campo, right in the middle of nowhere and I’ve been writing a blog about what it’s like to live among Spanish people in the middle of the Spanish countryside.
Beth: And what is lovely is that we get to hear your journey as it is unfolding and as it happens. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me once again. Now, how long have you been in your house? We’re talking about six weeks is it, a month?
Marijke: No, it’s more like two months now.
Beth: Two months, OK, eight weeks.
Marijke: I think we arrived on the thirteen of September so a good two month, actually, yes.
Beth: And how has it been?
Marijke: We’re very experienced, now, at understanding Spanish administration.
Marijke: Actually, it wasn’t a big surprise. We knew that it was going to come, but it is quite tortuous, the stuff that you have to go through to register yourself in various places.
So, to give you an example, residency was fine. We had a gestor which is really someone like a manager who helps you with administration. So, she really helped us with the residency application. So, that was fine, which means that we now legally are residents in Spain, no problem.
Then, we had to go to some Health Centre, or an admin office, to register ourselves for hospitals and doctors and all of that. We had all the paperwork and wherever you go in Spain you need to bring about an inch of paperwork with you, including your original marriage certificate, your original passport, and your original everything that you could ever think of, birth certificates, whatever.
So, going to this office, it was fine. We had to wait for about an hour and that’s fine. We came to see the man, who was pleasant, and everything seemed to be very straightforward. He looks at all of our originals, he took copies of everything. “Yeah,”, he said, “We’ll get back to you by post. You’ll get your medical cards by post within some weeks.” It was vague, some weeks.
That’s been about six weeks ago, now. Last week we went again and, again, this is a weird thing, it’s so funny. You go into the office and there’s nobody there apart from a man sitting there, nobody else. But you cannot go and see him. You have to go to a little machine, put in your NIE number, which is quite complicated because there’s different types of numbers. Your NIE number is your registration number within Spain.
So, finally we managed to put it in and it said that the first appointment was two hours later. But actually, there was nobody there. So, we went to the desk and he said, “No no, you have to wait two hours.”
Beth: OK, painful bureaucratic system.
Marijke: A painful bureaucratic system, and then we talked to him and he said, "Yes, we've been short staffed, it will come." That's all we knew. So, you can see that all stuff like that, it's a bit cumbersome and it took more time than we expected - all this stuff.
Beth: Yeah, I think on top of moving house it is stressful. You expect some paperwork but I think that is something for people to bear in mind is that it's a big undertaking. You're not just moving house, you're moving countries and there's a lot of things to think about.
So, I suppose, my question then is, right now, does it feel like it has been worth it?
Marijke: Yes, definitely, it is an amazing country to live in. We are still finding our feet. Very specifically because, in a strange way, most people find it very odd, I do miss work: my interaction with people every day and lots of it. I miss just communication with people a lot because in the campo that is not what you get. So, that is why I am finding my feet. I'm trying to work out what I can do with my limited Spanish in a location that is a little bit cut off, and how I can use my skills.
Beth: Yeah, totally.
Marijke: So, I'm working on that. That's a work in progress and if there's another podcast I'll tell you more about it. But also there are things that you can do. It took me a long time, like a month, to find a Pilates class, a Spanish Pilates class. Now, there's no websites in Spain, or very few in our campo. So, the only way we find out about something is by talking with people.
Beth: Yeah, word of mouth, which is lovely, in a way. It's a community and it is smaller, but it's very different and it's going to be a big adjustment for you.
Marijke: But now I have some regular commitments, I guess. I go to Pilates twice a week, I joined a badminton club, which is a British badminton club here in the neighbourhood. And I'm working to see what I'm going to do in terms of work. So, bit by bit I'm beginning to piece together what my life here will really be like.
Beth: Yeah, I'm sure, actually, that's probably going to take another few months until you feel really settled.
Marijke: I suspect so, yes, yeah. But it is an amazing place. Sometimes I wake up and the sun shines and weI look out and look at a mountains. Wow, I live here, how lucky am I. Other times, like this morning, it was pouring with rain. The rain is forecast all day long. We're going to have torrential rain and terrible storms and I think, today is for sitting indoors. Then the electricity goes because you have to many fires on at once and you think, "Oh, OK, I just need to readjust. This is life in Spain as well."
Yeah, and it's definitely going to broaden your skill set, really. I think it's going to be an amazing experience and you'll learn what you like and what you don't like, but also almost a different priority list. You're not worrying about work in the way that you were before, you're worrying about heating and practicalities of life in the countryside.
Marijke: Very much so, yes.
Beth: Incredible. How has the property been, itself? So, you got the keys and I think you had the keys last time we spoke and you were in, but what has it been like to unpack and settle? Has anything cropped up that you weren't expecting?
Marijke: Well, of course, we've had the house for five years, as a holiday home, so there was nothing very immediate that we didn't know about. But, for instance, when we first arrived this time around, we realised (by the state of a little rug that we had) that we must have mouse somewhere.
We found out where the mouse was coming in and, clearly, the doors aren't meeting properly and need draft excluders and someone to fill the gaps and we needed a carpenter. We found two dead birds. They came in through the chimney. So, it's stuff like that. That's life in the campo.
You won't get it in cities, you won't get that in more villa type houses, but this is the house that we chose, and it's lovely and there's little things that you just deal with. It's quite interesting. As you say, I don't think it's a new skill set for me to try and trap a mouse. But it is quite a new thing for me to experience.
Beth: Yeah, absolutely. The community there, you've been going there for five years, as you say, but have you made new friends? Do you feel settled in the community in a different way?
Marijke: Increasingly so, actually. There's a little group of houses nearby with some Swedish people, some English people, and some Spanish people. We get on extremely well together. We look for each other's company. The nice thing about it is that you could imagine that everything would just be an English title, English speaking community, but actually, the Spanish people who have lived here all their lives are very much a part of that group. They're lovely.
So, from a big family celebration to birthdays, you just come along and you're accepted however rubbish your Spanish may be. People want to talk to you and it's just incredibly good fun.
So that second group of houses, yes. And then a long dirt tract we've got a few people that we know reasonably well but not to go to each other's houses, if you like. But what we decided to do, in December, is for our whole tract, for all the Spanish people who live along it, to invite them for Christmas drinks.
Beth: Oh, that's lovely.
Marijke: So, we give them some eats, sausage rolls maybe, whatever we can find, that's very British or Dutch, maybe. Then we invite them over and say, "Hey, you are welcome here and we'd like to talk to you more and have a celebration of Christmas."
Beth: Oh, that will be great, and you'll get to meet, probably, more people or chat with people that you haven't seen in a little while. Wow, that will be perfect. How is your Spanish doing? Are you envisaging that by the end of this year you will have improved your Spanish dramatically, or are you going to keep it at the level that it's at and make it work for you?
Marijke: There's a difference between reality and dreams. OK, let me start with my dream, my dream is to, in a year's time, I really am able to have a friendship with someone in Spain in Spanish. That will be my dream.
Reality is I have lessons once a week. I read a Spanish book. We watch Spanish TV: a series with Spanish subtitles. My goodness they speak fast, the Spanish. Unbelievable, even the subtitles just whiz past sometimes. There are some times where you don't even see the sub titles because they are spoken too fast.
The reality is that it's slow, slow progress. There's definitely progress. My listening skills are reasonable, my reading skills are good, it's just speaking that I really need to improve on. So, I need to practice. But, that's actually quite hard because if you see someone in the lane here you just talk about the weather and maybe the olive harvest, but it's not a deeper conversation. So, you really need to work at that. So, having, for instance, my Pilates lesson in Spanish (it's a Spanish class) you learn different words.
Beth: Yeah, I was going to say, a really varied vocabulary from doing that.
Marijke: I have to say, quite often the teach has a bit of banter with some of the other students and I haven't got a clue what they're talking about.
Beth: (laughter) Just smile, just smile and nod.
Marijke: But other times you think, "Oh yes." So, for instance, she will say, "Ten repetitions of a particular movement." I know ten is diez but she doesn't say diez because she's Andalusian.
Beth: Ah, yeah, OK.
Marijke: So, it took two lessons to realise, "Ah, OK, that is what it was." So, bit by bit I think I will get closer to my dream, but achieve my dream, I don't know.
Beth: Ah, well, I have complete faith. It all sounds like you need a lot of confidence and you need to persevere with things to keep your spirits up and to not be intimated by the Spanish, or not be intimidated by the new lifestyle and the change of pace.
We've spoken a few times, and I know that you're the personality type to take on this challenge, but do you think, for some people, that would be more difficult?
Marijke: I suspect so. It's not for everyone. I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, who lives on the coast, and her husband just doesn't take to learning. She does, she's pretty good, but he has lessons and he is at a basic level and she said that he will always be a basic learner because that is not his strength. It is not is forte.
He's a very lovely person and, in most places, there are international or British communities. So, if you do think it's going to be an issue for you to learn Spanish and communicate there are other ways. So when I go the badminton club, the English run badminton club, it's quite a relief actually. I've got an hour and half of being able to be myself 100% and just chat with people easily without any effort.
So, there has to be a balance and you can go one way or you can go the other way. My husband, he only really wants to totally integrate with the Spanish way of life. So, he doesn't want to be part of the British community and get sucked into more a expat lifestyle, and that's not what he wants. So, I think everyone is different.
Beth: You kind of get to pick and choose and play to your strengths which is lovely. You guys have so much freedom in choosing the kind of life you want to build out there, which is such an amazing thing to be able to do.
Marijke: Yes, yes, we are very lucky.
Beth: I know you've had a few visitors from the last time we spoke. Have you got more plans for more people from the UK to visit or from Holland?
Marijke: You know, family enough, Beth, from November, so March we have absolutely no visitors planned at all because people aren't stupid. They realise that between November and March the weather actually isn't that great here, or it can be but you are taking more of a risk.
Next week we're going to have some days of 18 degrees C, how lovely is that? But equally we've just had two weeks of really, really cold weather. So, we take more of a risk. So, they've be very sensible and said, "No we are not coming, can we come in March? Can we come in April? Can we come in May?" So, we're kind of booked for March, April, May. Finally, I've got some friends to come in February, which is great. But between now and then we also go to the Netherlands for Christmas and to see my family there. So, we do other things.
Beth: Yeah, lovely. I know you were in your home in the UK for twenty-four years before you made this leap. Are you in touch with the people renting that, are you in touch with the agency who is in charge of that? How are you feeling about the property that's in England?
Marijke: The interesting thing is that I thought I might miss it enormously, but I'm not. I'm not sitting here, looking at photographs of my house and thinking, "Oh it was so lovely, I wish I were there." I just don't do that. I find that surprising but I'm not missing it. We are in touch with the agent, in particular, because you should always, always go through the agents because they're the ones who are the managing agents, so, if there's an issue with the house, the tenant should go to the agent and the agents come to us. So, the agents are the honest broker in the middle. Because, if you don't do that then the tenants might start doing things between us and them and without the agents and it becomes very murky. So, yes we've been in touch with the agents a lot. We have an old house in the UK and there's always stuff that goes wrong with it. Sometimes it's very small stuff. They've had a mouse, as well, by the way.
Beth: Oh no, it's the time of year.
Marijke: So, it's not just here in Spain (laughter). There's been a problem with the shower, and there's been a little problem with a radiator. But because it's managing agents they say, OK, this is the cost. And we say "How much can you get another quote, can you get another quote and then we'll decide." That's how it works. So, we pay for the repairs, obviously, because it's our house unless it's something that the tenants have done that they need to repair.
Beth: Yeah, totally. Well, fantastic, that system seems to be working really well. We haven't touched on Hillary. How's he getting on with all of it? How's he finding the move. Because I think, originally, was he the kind of driving force behind this? Am I remembering that correctly?
Marijke: Hillary has always loved Spain, for whatever reason, I don't know. He's learned Spanish for thirty years and it wasn't as if he'd always thought, "I'm going to buy a house in Spain." But he just loves the country and he loves the people. So, he's been a driving force in finding a house. He's been the driving force about spending a lot of time here.
He wasn't the main driving force in coming here to spend a year here. I think he never thought I would want that. So, when I suggested it he was over the moon. He absolutely loves it. He has a big man cave, if I can call it that, a workshop. It's beautiful. It's got big cupboards with tools and stuff and screws and paints and, I don't know, lots of stuff. And as a huge amount of work that needs to be done here. So, he is improving his skills in that, and he loves gardening.
We've got a really lovely garden here that does need some attention. So, he's very, very busy with all of that. I see the difference between him and I is that he is more of an introvert, and I am more of an extravert. I need people more.
Beth: Yeah, you need the connections, but you're doing all the right things, all the clubs that you're joining and all the plans that you have. It sounds like it's going to be a very exciting year ahead for you guys. I'm so glad that it has gone well.
My final question is, you have been there a few months, permanently. What is your favourite thing about the lifestyle in Spain, so far, could you pick one?
Marijke: Goodness, that is a difficult question. I think, just looking out over the hills from the sitting room window, here, it's that sense of peace and the sense of freedom as well. You can shape your life, and although it's work, that gives you such a very tight structure especially if you work full time and have a difficult job and you spend a lot of waking hours, but also sleeping hours thinking about that the job. That falls away so you have a much greater sense of peace and being part of nature as well.
Beth: Ah, it sounds idyllic. I can completely understand the adjustment and I hope that continues for you over the next few months, because I think it will and then you'll be completely settled.
Thank you so much, once again for talking to me. It's given a really great insight into this big move. And I'm sure there are people out there listening who are thinking about doing the same thing and your blog and these interviews, I just think, have provided so much information. So, thank you, Marijke.
Marijke: You're very welcome, it was a pleasure.
Beth: Have a lovely time for the rest of your year.
Marijke: Thank you very much, Beth.
Beth: Cheers, bye.
Marijke: Bye bye.
- Thank you for listening and thanks to Marijke for all three parts to her story.
- Remember, if you'd like to keep up with this story Marijke's blog can be found online through Kyero.com. Just click the resources and advice tab and select Finding Our Sunshine. While you're there, you can search all of our agents properties.
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