Life in Spain – Interview with Liu.

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Welcome to today’s show. We have Liu with us. Thank you very much for joining us today, Liu.


Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be part of this.


You’re now in Spain, but can you tell us a little bit about what your life was like before you moved to Spain? And what was the reason that you decided to relocate and move here?


Yeah. So I’m originally from Russia; I was born in the south of Russia, in very hot weather. I’m used to sunshine and that good weather. When I was 13, I moved to England to the north of England. So complete change of weather, complete change of lifestyle, and I’ve lived there for 11 years.

When I started working on cruise ships, I started working in the Caribbean, in Florida, also in Australia and New Zealand through the summer season. So I remembered what it was like to be in the sunshine, to be, you know, in that warm weather. And when I came back home to England, I was like, and I cannot do this.

I cannot deal with the rain. I don’t deal with the darkness. I cannot deal with the cold. One day my parents said to me, we’re moving to Spain and you can come. I’m like, of course, yes. I can’t say no to that, for sure. So I definitely agreed, and I just kind of tagged along. It’s probably been the best decision that we’ve made altogether.


How long have you been in Spain?


I’ve been almost seven months. So we moved just at the end of June. As soon as the borders have opened up, we’ve had everything prepared for quite a long time, but because of the pandemic and we actually have delayed the process of moving because the borders were closed.

We were literally waiting for the spencer saying, okay, it’s a green light. You can go. And we, as soon as we could withdraw straight away, straight away to Spain.


Have you been here before to Spain before moving?

No. I blindly just trusted my family. You know, they’ve been here many, many times. They would go to the boathouse here, and they’ve traveled before as well. I just trusted what they told me about it. As soon as they said, you know, there’s some shine here almost all year. That’s good enough for me. I’m moving. I’m joining you.


I don’t blame you. I’m from Canada. We do get sunshine, and summer is beautiful here, but winter it’s so cold. I don’t enjoy it.


Yeah, I know. My best friend who was in England, she’s from Canada as well. So I know what it’s like. So she told me all about it.


What area of Spain are you living in?


So I live in Alberic in the Valencia area. It’s, uh, I’m right between Xativa and Alzira. It’s quite a small town, but it’s great. We live in a beautiful organization.


You said that you came with your parents. So now what are you doing in Spain? Are you working or are you studying?


I’m not studying. I did all my studies back in England. I actually have two different qualifications with travel and tourism and beauty therapy. I know complete two different things, but I decided that why not? When I got here, I decided to start my own business. I have a little beauty room at home, so I see clients for beauty treatments at home.

And I also have a little booth in Xativa as well. So, I’ve got a little place, and I traveled to my clients as well. It includes everything, nails, manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, high lashes, waxing, anything like that. I’m the person. Of course, I have a lot of English-speaking people that come to me because it’s easier for them to explain when it comes to what treatment they would like and what results they want as well.


How did you find the opening of a business in Spain? Was it difficult? Was there a lot of red tape you had to go through or tell us a little bit about that experience?


I kind of thought to myself, I must be brave or crazy to start a business during a pandemic and plus in a different country as well. You know, the world has challenges along the way. Of course, it was a little bit easy for me because I’ve had a lot of equipment already because I’m a beauty therapist. My mom’s also a beauty therapist. So we always like to do treatments on each other. So that was quite an easy thing. I haven’t had much to purchase for the business.

However, when it came to the paperwork of registering the self-employed since I’ve made a mistake of not learning the language because it’s been a bit tougher for me because I already have two languages in my head, my brain just refuses to accept Spanish for some reason. That’s the only kind of struggle that I had is actually communicating with the tax office, trying to register self-employed. And I’m doing different things. So that’s the only kind of obstacle I had really, but everything else has been, has been actually pretty straightforward.


That’s great, and timing and everything; I think that’s very bold to be starting up a new business in a new country, in the middle of a pandemic. I know some people, with the pandemic, it’s been really, really hard for them understandably, but then there’s been others that have been just thriving. It’s a really interesting situation, but I’m glad it’s worked out for you so far. So for you, what has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome to move here?


I think as I’ve mentioned a bit earlier. It’s the language. I wish I would have done something a bit earlier about it. I’ve had opportunities, for example, on cruise ships, they do free language sessions for people because you work with people all around the world. There are loads of Spanish-speaking people on there, from other South American countries or Europe. I think that’s my number one obstacle that I had to overcome during the move and after coming here as well.

But everything else, I think being with a family has been a great thing because you have that support of them, you know, you’re not doing it alone.


I understand because my Spanish is horrendous, it’s just terrible. But I’m taking some Spanish classes here pretty soon to get back in the swing of things. I understand more than I speak, but ironically, though I tutor English, I just started working with a new company that tutors both English and Spanish. So I guess that where I’ll be helping people with English and then others will be helping me with my Spanish.

What is or has been the biggest surprise you’ve had since moving here, like something that you just didn’t expect?


I think I’m surprised the most about just Spanish people being fairly chilled. You know, the whole siesta things they do in the day and you know, things are closing down during the day when you live somewhere for so long, you are so used to the things, the way that things are over there.

So for example, when you were in England, you used to things opening eight, nine o’clock in the morning and they’re staying open until evening. But then here, when things, certain things closed down because they have a little rest. Well, it’s quite a shock at first, then you’re like, oh my gosh, I have to get to certain things and certain places because they close for the afternoon.

But yeah, they like their rest. They like to relax and which I think a lot of people should take more time, to relax and take the time to rest. But yeah, I think that was kind of like the biggest shock for me. I was like, oh gosh, things are not open during the day.


It is a bit strange, and that was a big adjustment for me. Obviously, in the touristy areas of the big cities, things are open all day, but when you get more outside of the tourist areas and more residential, things are closed, and I’ve had to adjust too. Usually, I would get up, do some work, go out and do what I need to do during the afternoon, the nicest time of the day and I liked the sunshine. Every time I’d go, everything was closed. So it took me a while to realize I need to rearrange my schedule.


Yeah, exactly. It’s tough.


Because you keep forgetting, and then you make the same mistake over and over again. And you’re like, oh yeah, I need to remember by now. And it’s also another thing to remember is that things are closed on Sunday.


That’s another thing for me that I also was kind of shocked. At least in England, you have reduced hours, you know, it’s either from ten till four or eleven till five. But here it is completely closed, and you have to plan.

Things are closed on Sundays, so I need to do things before Sunday. So yeah, that also was quite interesting as well to find out.


The Sundays were an adjustment for me too. In Canada, pretty much everything is open on Sundays, even the bank is open on Sundays. Well, I mean, it’s a little bit different right now with a pandemic. More things are closed, of course, but they were open shortened hours, but seven days a week.

So what are a few things that you wished you knew before you moved here? Because you kind of came in blind almost as some people could say, never been here before, and other than thankfully trusting your parents, but you’d not even visited. You’ve never been to Spain.


I think the travels from the different cruise ships and traveling all around the world, you kind of get to learn to have that sense of adventure and just kind of go for it.

I wish I would’ve known before moving here is obviously how things work paperwork-wise. I think that it’s quite an important thing to know because things can be a bit tough sometimes, you know, the way that the communication is here and obviously how to do things. Because a lot of things, for example, in England, you can do online.

Whereas here, you do have to go into the offices to do things, or you can go to places to get your Empadronamiento or anything like that. Or digital certificates. Digital certificates have been a great thing. I think that’s what Spanish people have come up with a fantastic idea about digital certificates. I think I just wish kind of knew how things worked and, shops wise as well, where to find things and everything. But basically, I think that just the standard things when you move to a new country it’s just how things are done here. It just might’ve made it a little bit easier at the beginning.


Is there anything that frustrates you about living either where you’re at or in Spain in general?


Spanish people driving. I think that frustrates me the most. I think that just when I drive, I get a bit of road rage. I mean, I’m sorry, I’m a nice person usually, but I get frustrated with their driving because I sometimes look at it, and I literally questioned it. I’m like, how did you get your driver’s license if you are driving like that. You know, because of the way that people behave on motorways, and I think roundabouts are a very hot topic here, because of the way that they drive around the roundabout, nobody uses the inside lane. I mean, because I don’t trust Spanish people driving, I started using the outside lane as well. Because I just don’t want to end up in it in a car accident. But I think, yeah, driving is, I just, I question it sometimes for sure.


Okay. Well, there’s always something that can be very frustrating for everyone. So is there anything that you miss from back home?


I think it’s my friends. I think I would just wish, you know, I wish I had it. It’s kind of a similar situation that I’ve been when I moved to England from Russia, you know, I’ve got so many, so much family and friends in Russia. And I wish when I lived in England that they were there with me.

And now it’s the same that I miss my friends from England as well. Because I mentioned, my Canadian best friend just had a baby in November, and he’s her first baby that she’s been wanting for a really, really long time. And I just, I wish I was there actually to see him and visit her as well.

Because I know that she needs help right now more than ever. I think it’s my friends that I miss the most and people that I used to work with in different jobs as well. That starts the number one thing I miss.


Okay. So going to the opposite then is what do you like the most about living there?


I have, of course, my number one thing here is the weather. You know, it’s such a great thing because for me, when it comes to the weather, it does, if it’s bad weather, it affects me mentally. So I don’t want to do anything. I kind of shut down, and I just want to spend time sitting on the sofa under the blanket and just refuse to do anything.

And I don’t like doing that. I want to be as productive as possible. So when something is shutting me down like this, I really don’t like it. So, I’m really happy to wake up every morning and see the sunshine coming through the window. I’m like, yes, another sunny day, and I’m all of a sudden full of energy.

I want to go and do things. That’s my number one thing. Here the weather is just fantastic. And food, the quality of food is, I can’t pick on anything. It’s also really great for the health as well.


I agree the weather is fantastic. I love the sunshine too. You’ve only been here for seven months, and everything is still fairly new. Is there a city or an area that you’ve discovered so far that you love, or maybe one that’s your list of places once everything gets back to normal, and we can travel more again?


I would love to, and I know it is still open right now because it’s part of a Valencia community. I would love to go down more towards the Alicante area and explore more because I have seen how beautiful it is. I am very lucky where I am right now. What I am surrounded by is just absolutely gorgeous. You know, you have Xativa, which is only about 15 minutes on the A-7. And do you have the beautiful Xativa Castle that you have loads of different mountains?

If you go to Albufera, you have a beautiful place for hiking called LaMotta, which is just breathtaking. I mean, what I love too, I have a beautiful lake that is only about five or ten minutes’ drive from where I live. So I’m surrounded by such gorgeous places already. I’m quite happy where I am, but I would just love just to take it a little bit further and see what else is out there as well. So I think Alicante areas want to explore too.


Yes, there is a lot of beautiful places to see in Spain. The cities are great as well. I loved that you can live in a city surrounded by so many beautiful things to do in nature. I’ve seen countless pictures from friends that have traveled to different parts of the country, and there’s just so much to see.

What tips or advice would you give somebody who was thinking about moving to Spain?


Definitely the language. You know, people will be surprised how such a small amount of people here can speak English in Spain. So I definitely would get at least some basics out of the way. So, you can explain your way around the shop. You can ask for certain things if you go to a restaurant you can ask for a drink. Because that’s kind of like where my Spanish is right now, at least I can freely go to shops or restaurants and kind of explain things to people as well. I definitely would recommend you to get basic Spanish.

Also, the other thing to recommend for people depends on where the moving, but please don’t throw away your winter clothes. You don’t realize it can get cold during winter because people think, oh, you know, sunny Spain. I’m sad to say right now, I’ve got like three, four layers on, and I’m still cold because houses without central heating or apartments can get quite cold inside. It’s warmer outside than it is inside the house. So definitely don’t throw away any of your winter clothing. Just keep at least something, maybe a few coats and some jumpers as well. Because it can get a bit chilly, especially if it’s raining, everything else is just, prepare to enjoy yourself in this country, because it’s great.


That’s one thing for me too that I was not expecting how cold it can get to during the winter. And, and it’s humid, so it’s a damp cold. You’re right too, a lot of the places are old, and they don’t have central heating that we’re used to. Some of them will have heat, but those little space heaters and air conditioning heaters don’t truly warm up the place.

So, yes, it is essential to keep some warm clothing, and some areas get snow. A lot of people don’t realize that there are parts of the country that get snow every year. And so you want to be prepared for the winter. Thankfully it’s only a short three months.


Generally, winter is not long, but I was surprised too. I think that kind of recently shocked me because we have a lot of mountains around where I am. And when I saw snow so close to me, I was like, no, in Spain, nobody ever told me that. It might take some people back.

It’s like many people have been shocked about Madrid getting so much snow this year, you know, like how deep the snow got. That is one thing that will surprise you about this country, but definitely keep you on clothing with you. It also depends on what people like, maybe even invest in an electric blanket because that’s been something that has saved me every single night. Before I get ready for bed, I always pop it on. It’s just so nice to get it into a nice toasty, warm bed because my feet can get a little bit cold during the night because of the time of the year. Right now, a lot of people don’t know about the cold.


Great tips. Thank you very much for joining us today, Liu. I’m sure listeners appreciate all your suggestions and advice for them.

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By Sally Pederson

Sally is a semi-nomadic traveler. She is the owner of Luxurious Lifestyles – an award winning blog and resource for luxury travelers. Additionally, she is also the owner of Jet Setter Pet Sitter - a blog and resource for independent travelers that love pets.

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