Life In Spain With Carlien Interview

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On today’s podcast, we have Carlien. Carlien is a midlife coach, she works with women in midlife, specifically for those women in a midlife update. You can contact Carlien at: and

If you prefer to listen to the podcast you can find it on our podcast page here.

Welcome to the podcast today. I’m very happy that you could join us.

Thank you for inviting me to join you and your podcast. I’m really happy to be here.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how life was like before you moved to Spain?

Yes, I am a South African by birth. And we lived I lived in South Africa until I was thirty-five. Then 2007 we moved to Vienna, Austria for the first time for my husband’s job and we lived there for about eight years. I have three boys and life was interesting, exciting, like a roller coaster after we came to Europe. In 2015 we moved to Barcelona.


OK, and moving to Barcelona, was it your first time in Spain or had you been here before?

That was my first time in Spain.


Are you still living in Barcelona or have you moved somewhere else?

No, we are still in Barcelona after five and a half years.


Excellent, did you moved here with your husband and your kids?

Yes. I mean, my boys are older now. The oldest son said I’ll just stay in Austria. The middle one is working on the yachts and the youngest is actually finishing up grade 12 now.


How was that transition for him with moving and a new school? Did you find it difficult to find a good school for him or was it pretty easy and simple?

To be honest, it was challenging coming from South Africa. We are all native and our mother tongue is Afrikaans and then English. So, when we moved to Austria, they were in a German school from the get-go. Then halfway through that, we’ve decided that if there’s a possibility for us to move, we will. It’s better to put them into an English or international school to come to Barcelona. We kind of ignorantly or naively thought that a second language like German wouldn’t be a problem to be incorporated in school. When we started investigating the schools, we found out that they don’t really offer German as a foreign language and that most of the schools are 40% Catalan, 30% Spanish, and then 20% or 10% in English. He is already with someone that has multiple languages. Being an expat, it was really, really challenging to find the right school for him. It was also at a difficult age because he was 14 already at that stage. And that’s really if I can recommend it’s not a good time to move when your children are in that puberty stage of life, it’s really difficult and to move.


Yes, I know. I moved from Canada to Costa Rica when my daughter was 13. At the time I thought it would be OK. I know that they spoke Spanish, even though we didn’t, I thought we would just learn it. But for her, it truly was the worst time to uproot her from a big city and move her to another country where they speak another language, and English we got by with but it was not the same. It was a regret that I had later that unfortunately, it wasn’t the best decision that I made.


So, what did bring you to Spain?

My husband’s job. It was an opportunity for him to gain more experience and we kind of weighed it up between where we were and we thought at that stage or at that time that Barcelona would be a good fit in that respect. But if I could just mention exactly what you said in hindsight, if I have to do it all over again, I will wait five years, although I love Barcelona. But because the move was really difficult for my youngest, I would really rather stay late and finish school and make the move right.


Yes, I think it needs to be done either before they get out of elementary school, around 10 years old, or right after they are finished school.


What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome when you decided to move to Spain?

Language and it’s not the Spanish, it is the Catalan and Spanish and the complexity between the two. And I really I did not fathom and really didn’t know really how difficult it would be.


It is tough sometimes and maybe a lot of our listeners don’t know that here in Spain, there’s there is Spanish, which is one of the languages. Here in the Catalonia region, Catalan is the other first language that they speak here, and a lot of things are in Catalan. In other parts of Spain like Basque country, they also speak Basque and Spanish. So, people who are looking to relocate, depending upon the area, maybe the different language is something that they need to learn some of.


What was one of the biggest surprises that you’ve had since moving to Spain?

I’m not sure if I can call it a surprise, but I mean, I did not really understand the whole kind of or thought how I would experience the siesta, as they call it, the closing of the shops and the whole mindset shift that I had to make in the way I plan, in the way I do things.

Growing up in South Africa, we get up at 7:00, you go to school at 7:30 or close to 8:00, actually in the school, start at 7:30 so you get up early, you go to school early, you get out 2:00, you do your sports at 4:00 or 5:00 pm. Shops closed in the evening. It’s family time.

Then obviously the time we eat meals here as well. So that whole shift in when you eat. You eat at 3:00 or 4:00 and then at 9:00 in the evening. You can go to the doctor at eight o’clock in the evening, and I’m not used to that. That is that shift was really kind of challenging in the beginning.


For me, too, especially the closing of the shops in the afternoon. I get up very early, do some work, do some stuff, and then in the afternoon is when I like to take a bit of a break, go do some shopping, groceries or banking, whatever I need to do. Then I come back and do some more work in the evening. But so many times I went to do that and every time I go out, everything was closed. So, I’ve had to reschedule my day. From about 1:30 in the afternoon till about 4:30, everything is closed. I either have to do stuff first thing in the morning or in the evening. And like you said, you can go to the doctor at eight o’clock at night. And that’s not possible in Canada. It was something for me also to adjust to. It was quite surprising, even though we hear about the siestas until you’re actually part of it, it’s a bit to adjust to.


Are there a few things that you wished you knew before moving to Spain?

Definitely. The complexity between the two languages, Spanish and Catalan, and also, how little English people spoke, actually. If you think about it, I’m not referring to living in an expat community that’s different. In the locals, if you go to the shops, if you want to get the Internet or a cell phone or anything, it’s really, really difficult to communicate.

It’s not to talk negatively about the customer service, but I’m so sorry. I mean, the customer service is like really bad, like really, really bad. And I’m not sure if it’s just because of cultural differences and language barriers. It could be just that, but it could also just be personality. So, I mean, these different elements that can contribute to bad customer service. But I kind of hope that the customer service would be better.


I know exactly how you feel, and I joke with my friends and it’s not to be rude, but we always say what customer service? And it’s one of the few places that I’ve been to that you can sit in a restaurant or at a bar with an empty glass for two hours. And unless you sometimes specifically ask, they think it’s fine. I guess it’s a different type of perspective, which in a way I can kind of understand because I think it’s if you want something, you’re going to ask for it. That’s kind of how they see it. But for me, where I come from, that customer service as a server, it’s we’re always asking because we’re there to serve you. So, if you have a little bit of your drink left, I want to know if you’re going to want another one because our thought from Canada basically is you should never have an empty drink. But here they think, well, if you want a drink, you’ll just ask for one.


I worked in retail in South Africa was actually for some time a customer service manager and one of our quotes that vilify is the customer is queen or the customer is always right. That is exactly what you say. It’s like you kind of have to anticipate what the customer needs before they even know they need it. Whereas here, is it not like that?


Yes, it is it definitely is quite different.


What else what has been one thing that just frustrates you about Spain? Either living in Spain or in Barcelona. Is there something that you just think, oh, it is just so frustrating?

There are actually two things. The one is the opening hours of the banks and keep frustrates me because it is limiting compared to what we are used to, that it’s all day and even on Saturdays in some countries or in most countries, I assume I’m only making an assumption. But anyway, everywhere we have lived, the banks were open normal hours.

The other one is, it’s not such a good thing to maybe say on air, that it’s dog poop.


Now, I completely understand both of those. I understand with the dogs, they need to go out for walks. They need to go to the bathroom, of course, and there’s limited green spaces in a lot of areas of the city. But that’s no excuse for people not to clean it up.


That’s the biggest thing is I love animals. I am an advocate for animals. But it’s not animals, It’s the owners. There are bags of freely available and it’s so small you can always keep it in your pocket. Why don’t you pick it up?


There’s a garbage bin almost on every corner, exactly every set of lights there’s a garbage. So, I don’t understand.


Is there something that you miss from either South Africa or for the time that you spent in Vienna that you think about? If only I had …. or I really miss…..?

I would always go back to the food. There’s always that specific food item from your home country that you love that you just can’t get in a new country necessarily. There is definitely different food items from South Africa and different food items from Austria that I do miss and even if you try to make it here, if it’s something in South Africa, I find it just doesn’t taste the same. You need that specific brand or that specific spice or chutney. There is only Mrs. Bowles chutney. You can make your own Chutney but doesn’t taste like Mrs. Bowles just right.


That’s right. What do you like most about now, living in Barcelona?

I love the slow pace to a certain extent, that it feels like this always time. So, what you can’t do today, there is time for tomorrow. So there’s always that kind of slow, peaceful pace in Barcelona. And then obviously the weather, because it’s very similar to South Africa in a way that allows the weather, but not the August month, not that month.


That’s what a lot of people say. One of my favorite things here, too, is the weather and the outdoor lifestyle. Coming from Canada, it’s a very short time that you can sit outside on a terrace or a patio to have lunch, a drink, or coffee. Here, it’s done year-round. To me, it still gets cold. I mean, it’s not cold like Canada, but with the heater and the blankets on the chairs, I think it’s great that you can always sit outside.


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

I would say that it is good to ask questions on a social media platform. But to take into account that we all have different backgrounds, we are all from different cultures, and that when you state your question, it can be answered in so many different ways, so don’t always take the answers as it is. Do your homework, double-check make hundred percent sure that what person A, B, and C said corresponds with your values, with your background, with your experience. I think the biggest thing, is what your needs are at that moment. So, for me, to just make sure about the information that you gather, you can never have too much, you could never have too much information.


Right, and I agree that some of the social media forms and platforms can be great for information, but sometimes I go through and read them and people are saying completely opposite things. Partial it is because, as you said, experience and expectations. For me, a lot of that is perspective. Everybody’s perspective is different. So, you need to take that into consideration. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to talk to a few people and as you said, get more of a well-rounded perspective of an answer for the question.

Do you have any regrets about moving to Spain?

Just the timing of it with my son. That’s the best of it.


Thank you very much for your time and for talking with me today. You gave some great information for some people who are considering moving to Spain.

Thank you. I really enjoyed it.


Carlien is a midlife coach, she works with women in midlife, specifically for those women in midlife update. You can contact Carlien at: and 


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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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