Get all your ducks in a row!
‘Get all your ducks in a row. Prepare in advance.’ That’s the advice from Gladys Brooks who moved to Spain permanently in 2012.
Gladys and her husband, Adrian, bought a property on their very first visit to Spain in 2002, intending initially to spend holidays there. She had just finished a master’s degree and was still working in the UK although her daughter had already expressed a desire to retire to Spain – ‘with you living next door in Portugal, mum!’
An estate agent’s brochure picked up in the airport led to a meeting with the estate agent, a viewing of a property that was on their books, and the rest is history. Gladys now lives in the campo just inland from Valencia.
For the next ten years the house was used every month for holidays by either Gladys and her husband or her daughter. In 2011, Adrian took early retirement and went to live in the house, with Gladys following the next year.
Asked about the challenges they faced, Gladys sums it up – without hesitation - in one word. ‘Bureaucracy!’
‘We applied for residencia in 2013 because we wanted to do everything properly and not be under the radar in any way. Negotiating with government departments was a challenge, not difficult, but challenging. Documents were important. We brought two copies of everything, stapled and unstapled. As well as presenting the documents in the right order, not having the language was an issue.’
How did they get round that?
‘By cheating!’ says Gladys. ‘We brought an interpreter.’
Twice – once when applying for the S1 and then when applying for permanent residency – officials just sent them away. On both occasions, the presence of their interpreters, who were outraged, secured early appointments to move the process forward.
‘My advice to people moving to Spain or applying for residencia is to get your ducks in a row, prepare in advance. Do things in the right order and follow the process.
‘If there’s one thing I’d have done differently, it would be to have learned Spanish at a younger age. Or any language because it’s easier to move to another if you have one already. And easier to learn when you’re younger. ‘
But despite the bureaucracy, Gladys, who fell in love with Spain at first sight, is full of praise for the way of life.
‘On a one-to-one basis, the Spanish people are delightful, really friendly. And willing to help. Only the bureaucrats are a problem. The weather is mostly good, the food is good and prices – until now – have been good. The general atmosphere is great. I wouldn’t go back to the UK.’ Gladys added that emphatically.
Asked about integrating with the local community, she said that she and her husband weren’t natural mixers, and living in the campo you don’t have the same opportunities to meet lots of people, so she didn’t see this as an issue. But they know plenty of local people who will stop and speak to them and they have a FIGS group – Friendship and Information Group – which is very sociable. And Gladys herself set up an Intercambio group which has met every Wednesday for the past seven years. That brings Spanish, British, and Dutch people together to talk about anything at all – from politics to the weather and what’s happening locally. What began as an opportunity for Spanish and English conversation is now a group of friends.
And as a footnote: Gladys’s daughter lives just a mile away, and nobody has had to move to Portugal!