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Louwhan Hoffmann
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Spain: Life in a bull market

22 November 2010, 07:05  - Louwhan Hoffmann
I felt so inspired after reading Gerald's post about living in Germany that I had to share my experience of living in Spain with my fellow South Africans. I have been living in Spain (Valencia) for 11 years.

I met my Spanish wife in 1996 in London. It was love at first sight and we were together (and apart) for three years before I finally decided to give life in SA up and move to Spain.

My wife was on the verge of moving to South Africa. A month before her arrival, I had a very unfortunate, violent experience in Pretoria which was something I could live with but was not willing to risk her safety and security.

Now let’s make something very clear here, I sacrificed more than a lot to move there. Had a great job and future in SA, love my country, people and culture with everything. I am a Capetonian and an Afrikaner by heart, 11th generation to be exact. My entire family still lives in SA and I am sure they will be the last ones leaving. I lie, they will never leave.

When I first moved to Spain, I was part of the one percent foreigners living here. Now it’s about nine nine percent. The level of English has improved a lot here. From 10 natives speaking it to about 20, I learnt Spanish quite fast due to that reason and would say that I was pretty fluent after a year and a half.

I have a daughter aged eight and a son age five. Both understand Afrikaans fairly well (I spoke to them only in Afrikaans, still do mostly plus we have had Afrikaans au pairs here for the past five years). They also speak Spanish, English and have a fair knowledge of Valenciano (Catalan). My son is mad about Bok van Blerk (De la Rey especially) but they are not allowed to listen to DIE ANTWOORD yet.

Spain used to be cheap, before the Euro was introduced and like Portugal, Greece and Italy, Spain became very expensive. The quality of life is still quite high (meaning a large middle class) and there are a lot of expenses one has in SA that does not almost exist here (health care being the most important one).

Public transport is so-so but not on Northern European level.  Spain is a very diverse country and there is a large difference from Galicia, Basque country, Catalonia, Valencia, Andalucía etc. Massive. The difference can almost be described as different nations (with their own languages) in one. For bigger difference between the WP and Northern Transvaal for example.

The people are almost the opposite of Germans. Trying to cheat the system in a way and dodging tax is the national hobby (has become mine too). The national saying is after all: A ver si cuela – which means let’s see if we can get away with it.
I work in export and for a long time had South Africa as one of my markets. That meant that I used to go home every three to four months but now I am lucky if I go back twice a year. The highlight of life is to go back home, even if it is only for a week or two at a time. My children also love it there and they are the only kids here that sometimes go barefoot during summer.

I currently have a company with South Africans and needless to say still have very frequent contact with SA. I am on News24 at least two hours a day and I am probably more informed about what is happening in SA than in Spain. It is almost an obsession to keep track as it still feels like my home and will probably always be. I sometimes feel optimistic about the future of our great nation but unfortunately the crime is extremely high and violent, government seems a bit to very incompetent (Spanish government does not do much better at present) but still feel that the middle class have a pretty high quality of life in SA.

Boy did this country need good news after the third year of recession and how amazing was it not seeing the final with my wife in a hotel in Calpe (midsummer in Spain during the final) and seeing her team winning in my country with me in Spain. It was amazing.

Spain had a dictatorship from 1936 to 1976. This was very similar to the NP dictatorship. The left (ones that lost the civil war) was oppressed, church had a huge influence (like the NG kerk) and everything was censored like in SA. The civil war took place more than 70 years ago and is until today not a topic people really speak about. The Spaniards are also passionate, warm and generous people but they can also get their wires crossed like we do. I have been to all the EU countries, lived in some and I always say that Spain is the closest to home.

Spain went through a housing boom and from 1998 until 2006 some properties grew up to 400% in value. This was however a bubble. The consequences have been detrimental and Spain currently has an unemployment rate of about 20%. Things are tough now for most but due to the extremely strong family bonds and not the government, people are surviving. Finding work here could be easy for some professions like engineering, IT and other specialised fields but you need some knowledge of Spanish. I personally like the Mediterranean diet but it was a bit tough in the beginning not being able to eat my one kilogram of meat a day.

There are numerous up sides to Spain and it is one of the favourite destinations for Northern Europeans to retire. It is also the country in the world that receives most tourists per year (52 million people).

Unfortunately, the Mediterranean coast has suffered greatly due to the development the past few decades. The infrastructure of Spain has improved dramatically since it joined the EU. It currently has one of the best health care services in the world. Night life is amazing as some of you who have visited Spain well know.

It is of course very safe. Please be careful visiting small villages during summer because Pamplona is a kid’s party compared to the bull festivals in some of the small villages here. Collective madness and there is never an excuse for a party during the year either.

People tend to drink probably double the average night in SA because dinner is at 23:00, afterwards to a pub at 02:00 and then to night club at 04:00. Very easy to see the sunrise in Spain over weekends.

I will be happy to answer more questions or elaborate on sections of the article if asked to do so.

- Are you a South African living abroad interested in sharing your views? What is it like for a South African living in a foreign country or how do you view South Africa from a distance? Send us your columns to and you might get published in our new Beyond Borders section.

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Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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