Posted by: puebloman | November 17, 2013

An English immigrant in Spain – from tourist to ex-pat

The immigrant form

Living the dream

I seem to have turned into an immigrant here in the Axarquia.  I’m not sure how it happened. I have sort of evolved that way over the last decade without really making a decision or taking a step.

I’m not even sure if “immigrant” is technically correct, after all aren’t we all Europeans now? Haha!

Here in Spain I still can’t vote for the local MP, but I get to vote for the local Mayor and the regional MEP. I’m not yet a citizen of Spain,  but I do have “residencia” and carry an identity card. I live here more or less all the time (more than 183 days per year) so I pay all my taxes in Spain and submit an annual tax declaration. Had I moved to the UK I’d certainly be regarded as an immigrant. And yet only ten years ago I was a nothing but a simple tourist.

Of course tourists are dreamers , whereas immigrants had better be awake. I wonder when I woke up?

Worker on Donkey Almachar

Eleventh or twenty-first century?

When I was a tourist my holiday pleasure was all in the foreplay. I used to sit at work with a view of the Axarquia on my laptop so I could slope off on holiday several times a day without leaving the office, escaping into my own little world imagining me as an ideal version of myself and Andalucia an ideal version of itself. Perfect. Hardly worth actually going away because I’d already done the holiday in my head. In fact going was a bit of a risk – suppose the actual thing didn’t measure up to the dream?

No worries. When I arrived I just focussed on the stuff that fitted my fantasy and ignored the rest. If there was anything I didn’t understand I made it up. After all I didn’t have  to keep the illusion going for long. Take our first holiday to the Axarquia. We stayed for a week at a so called “Mill” complex just south of Frigilliana. My wife and I decided that our home had been a finca that in the olden days was visited at weekends by a solitary Andalucian peasant on a donkey, but was now not needed because the peasant’s great grandson now had a moped and could get to and from the land in thirty minutes and so had sold up and so on and so on . . . maybe the “Finca” was built on the site of an eighth century Moorish fort?  What did we care? We were only there for a week. As long as we didn’t come into contact with real life (which is messy) we could go back to London having visited some exotic place  inside ourselves as well as in the actual world.

Later we bought a holiday home and promoted ourselves from tourists to holiday homers. I can’t remember why. It was at a time when, if you weren’t a sub prime borrower your credit rating might suffer. So we borrowed some more on the mortgage. It took us all of a week to find the house. We didn’t have it surveyed. We paid cash. We were still a-dream and it was good-bye holidays, hello holiday home because we never ever went anywhere else on holiday again. There was always something to do on the house. People to see, bills to pay, work to organise. Yet we were still in dream time because when we left our place in London we also left behind the clutter and rubbish that accrues to middle aged existence. When we visited our Spanish house it was always pristine bright and shining just as when we’d left it. All the stuff that weighed us down physically and mentally remained at home in London and we lived for a while in a clean clear space containing nothing but what we needed.

We had already acquired some of the trappings of immigrancy, paradoxically by getting a  Número de Identificación de Extrajeros,  an Identification number for foreigners, the ubiquitous NIE.  You need an NIE here to buy a house, car, boat, get a doctor’s appointment, register at the town hall and for more or less any official or administrative action. Although it was more or less ignored in 2005 when we first came, these days you can hardly fart in Spain without having to give someone your NIE number. Once you get it you might as well get your residency and stop paying tax like a foreigner. And so on.

So we decided to sell up and live here. I can’t exactly recall how, or what the logic was.  In London we were both having a dark time in middle management. Both in our mid fifties we knew that if we were going to make a move we should do it while we still had strength to start again. We knew if we left our jobs we would have to start up on our own. People in their 50’s get sacked and replaced by cheaper 30 year olds, they don’t simply slide into new jobs. Reality was kicking in.

Normally we would have jolly well pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps and got on with it but . . .well, we had the house in Spain didn’t we? We also had a little two up two down house in London which, without us doing anything at all had  turned into a Regency cottage. We could sell that and set up a little holiday business. So we got the house valued. Five sixteen year old boys with gelled up hair turned up (late) from five different estate agents. There was a fifty thousand pound difference between the highest and lowest valuation – a testament to their forensic professionalism. To hell with it we said, we’ll put the house on the market for the top price and in a year or so we’ll have some idea what it’s actually worth.

Six weeks later the house was bought by a plumber with a heavily pregnant wife. He needed occupancy in a month. We desperately  needed somewhere to rent.

So we rented. Then we moved. And here we are. It all seems to be working out.

Evening view of Mount Maroma

Living the reality


  1. Sounds quite similar to our path to La Axarquía – including the first week near to Frigiliana 🙂


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