Justin Aldrige is living the dream. He decided to beat the system, bring his family down to the Spanish coast, work for himself and learn a little about what life is supposed to be like.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Gibraltar, but I also lived in the UK for a number of years.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: In the village of Manilva in Malaga province.
Q: How long you have you lived here?
A: Just coming up to six years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A: Yes, wife and two kids (twins), aged two at the time.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I wanted to do something different, work for myself and give my kids a great life.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A: I love the relaxed nature of the area. The beach is two minutes down the road and the wonderful mountains are just a ten-minute drive in the opposite direction. Everything we need is here and the locals are generally very friendly.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Yes, the postal service is rubbish. We’ve had lots of problems with the town hall in getting things sorted in our street and urbanisation. Dogs fouling the pavements is also a big problem here, I just don’t understand why owners don’t clean up after their dogs. We don’t really miss many things from back home but we don’t hate the UK like others do. I think the UK has so many positives too and it wouldn’t be the end of my world if we were to go back.
Q: Is the city safe?
A: Yes although in the more secluded urbanisations there are quite a few burglaries. The village in which we are in is generally quite safe and peaceful. I’m quite happy that not a lot happens here!
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: Living in the actual village as we do is where to go for the more authentic Spanish feel and lifestyle. Down the road in Sabinillas it’s still quite Spanish but has a very different feel. Many expats chose to live in urbanisations around the post of Duquesa, but that’s not for me.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A: We own a townhouse and an apartment here. Most of the properties are apartments and some can be quite small. Many of the newer ones were built in a hurry and can suffer from many problems. There is a wide choice though so everyone should be able to find something that suits.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: It used to be cheap but prices have really gone up over the past three or four years. We find that supermarkets in the UK tend to be more competitive. Restaurants here are now quite expensive too. This is no longer the place to go if you want to live a cheap life.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A:The locals are generally friendly, but the Spanish are very family orientated and so they tend to stick with their immediate family. This fact can mean that making proper Spanish friends is difficult, even for those who are fluent in Spanish. That being said, there are many other expats in the area and yes, we do know and hang around with many of them.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Yes, generally expats are always trying to make friends here, especially the new ones.
Family and children in Spain
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: Yes, it was tough for her. She wasn’t working and having to raise kids in an area where we didn’t know anyone, and having left a lovely house in England, it took her a good two years to settle in.
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: Yeah, no problem.
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A:The local schools use a curriculum that centres around the idea that children should lean primarily through memorisation. It’s an old fashioned way and doesn’t suit all kids.
Our kids love their school. Many expats try to put their kids in the local schools without knowing any Spanish, which is crazy, especially when they are older than five or six. Expats moving here need to factor in the cost of international schools to their budget if they have older kids that don’t speak Spanish. Many expat kids go drop-out or stop putting in any effort at school in their teens if they’re in a system where they can’t understand the language and have no support. Parents...you have been warned.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Be sure to bring plenty of money, moving is an expensive process. Consider your kids’ education properly and understand that there are no jobs here, so you will need to work for yourself. Many expats have to return to the UK having blown all their money and not planned accordingly.
~ Interviewed June 2010