The move to utopia

Spain is such a transient country unless you are Spanish.  When we moved here in 2005, the expat community welcomed us with open arms.  We were invited out to dinner by everyone and our circle of friends expanded quickly.

Many people think that moving to a holiday destination is like finding utopia, but that ideal is dashed quite quickly.  People are people wherever you go and there are the same ups and downs because life always brings it’s challenges. We too thought that we had moved to paradise, but were soon confronted with evidence to the contrary.

My daughter was taken into hospital within a few days of us moving out and having to deal with doctors, nurses and medical jargon in a different language was trying, to say the least.  It hurried us to Spanish lessons and the realisation that it wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought to learn.  We now “get by” but are by no means fluent.

My greatest trial though is when friends announce they are moving away.  We all develop friendships.  Some are closer than others and in your home country there are more people to chose from.  Still, we tend to gel with people with similar outlooks and interests.  As an expat, you develop friendships with people that you wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to otherwise, but you are thrown together by circumstance.  Maybe the friendships are more intense because of our need to belong.  We are, after all, a pack animal and being away from our family herd, makes us rely on the people around us for support.

Expats come from different parts of the Uk and all walks of life.  My northern accent is probably stronger now than when I lived in the south because I know so many more northern people here.  I have friends from Scotland, Wales, the West Country, Norfolk, Liverpool, Birmingham, in fact I know a much greater diversity of people here than anywhere I have lived before.

So when someone announces their imminent departure, not only does your friendship group lessen, but you also know that it will be a permanent loss because they will probably be going to an area of the Uk that you will have no cause to go.  When we travel back to our home country, it is usually to spend time with our families.  We race from one home to another, trying to see everyone and making sure no one is left out.  Visits to friends are not even considered in the race to pacify relatives, so the removal of these people from our lives is a great loss.

We have shared fantastic memories, cajoled, supported, cried with and cried on, laughed and truly shared our lives with these people.  I feel their loss deeply and I don’t want them to go or I want to follow them back.

I know I am blessed to have the experience of their company and to have walked beside them, but the absence of their presence leaves a hole and with each departure, our lives become more insular.  To invite more people in also invites the possibility that if they leave, the cycle of making and losing friends carries on.  Maybe it’s tougher to stay in paradise than to leave it.

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