Change is a process not an event

18 May 2016 0 Comments Category: Barbara de Swaan, Living in Spain

When we decided 16 years ago, to leave the Netherlands and start our lives in Spain, we had no idea for how long that would be. The intention was to go for an indefinite period, but at the same time we gave ourselves one year to try and settle down.  We were a couple already but not married yet and we went without having a job in Spain. We loved this feeling of adventure: everything was possible.

Luckily after some setbacks with jobs, changing houses 5 times in 4 years, learning the Spanish language properly, after that Catalan and making new friends, we finally settled in.  In 2001 we got married in Barcelona, a great experience, especially because we invited our Dutch families and friends to come over here, we rented a bus to transport all of them and the day after the wedding we met  everyone on the beach before they returned back home.

A couple of years later our first child was born and not much later our second: a boy and a girl, our family felt complete. Though both of them are blond with bright blue eyes, they are more Catalan than Dutch. Since they went to Kindergarten since they were 4 months old, their first language became Catalan. You guessed right, that this was the moment that we decided to start learning Catalan beside Spanish. We had a real communication problem at home in that period, so though being Dutch, we spoke Spanish among each other because we didn’t speak Catalan and our children didn’t speak Dutch. Weird isn’t it? Those are things you would never think of that can happen when you immigrate.

So here we are, 16 years later. We left the city of Barcelona for a small Catalan village directly on the beach, less than 30 minutes from the city. We’re married, we have to pre-adolescent children that speak and write 4 languages easily: Spanish, Catalan, Dutch and English. My husband works in Switzerland but is allowed to work from home in Spain a lot and I have my insurance business for foreigners who come to live in Spain.

Life still feels like one big adventure and although we’re very integrated with the locals, we’ll always be the foreigners.  Our children are the second generation and are much more adjusted to the local culture. We enjoy the best of both worlds and that isn’t a bad thing at all.

Life continues, we try to enjoy every single moment of it. We’ve never regretted a single day that we came to live here, we still love Spain, though we’ve learned that Cataluña isn’t really Spain, not only from a geographical point of view, nor political or language, but most of all from a cultural point of view. That is one thing we definitely weren’t aware of when we came here.

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