Sam Ritchie, Huercal-Overa

Who are you?

My name is Sam Ritchie. I have been writing blogs on and off for seven years. I am also a contributor to the international best selling book 365 Life Shifts. I am the proud director and shareholder of a company that allows normal people to buy gold bullion from as little as one gram.I live with my husband, two teenage daughters, three rescued dogs, who are all rather mad and the boss, Charlie the cat. In my spare time, I am writing a novel and love to read. Mainly I write about my personal experiences because so many weird and wonderful things have happened during my life.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved to a small rural village in southern Spain in 2008. There were several reasons for our move, the main one being that our eldest daughter was struggling at school. The system of all children having to fit into the same box just did not suit her. Also, we were working all the hours god sent to just get by, we wanted something better for our children.

The weather was also a factor because I suffer from psoriasis which is greatly improved by the sun. We lived in the village for five years until moving to just outside Huercal Overa, a larger town, giving our daughters great opportunities, more after-school activities and a choice of secondary schools.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The main challenge we had was finding somewhere to live. We had been over many times looking for a property to buy, with very little success. We found one that we liked, offered and then flew over to do the paperwork only to find that the deeds were for an outbuilding, not the house.

My husband drove over in a van and stayed with friends, the girls and I came over two weeks later. My husband had found a rental property for us but it was in no way ideal, it was full of the landlady’s belongings, was very very dirty and in need of decorating. It was also in the middle of the village and the only access was by foot.

We also faced challenges getting our NIE numbers, mainly because we took advice from the wrong people. It would end up taking us four trips to different government buildings before we finally succeeded in getting the paperwork correctly completed.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We had friends in the area, who had offered my husband a job, so that decided the area for us. They also knew someone who wanted to rent their house out, so that was how we found the first property.

After that we rented through contacts of our Spanish friends; we moved seven times in the first five years, until finally, we found a property to buy.

We found our forever home by accident, we decided we wanted to move from the village but had no idea where to go. An English friend suggested an estate agent in Hurcal Overa and area we did not know and then we were chatting to a Spanish lottery seller and he was telling us about what a wonderful area it was, we did not know him and had not mentioned anything about moving, it felt like a sign.

Are there many other expats in your area?

In the first place, there were only about ten expats that lived in or around the area. In Huercal Overa there are a lot more, although it is a wider area. It even has an English supermarket and cafe.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

We have always had a brilliant relationship with the locals, to begin with it was difficult because of the language but they were patient and helped me a huge amount.

We enjoy the company of the locals in the small village bar close to our home and I am often found dancing with them when we have only popped in for a quiet drink. They love to party and dance and need no excuse. If they are dancing they always invite me to join in and I always do.

I have found the Spanish people to be generous, kind and fun-loving. They will do anything for anyone, as long as you try to communicate. We are often given gifts of fruit, veg, olive oil and homemade wine.

What do you like about life where you are?

I love the people here, the pace of life is slower than the UK and the weather is amazing. We live on a rambler and I love the fact that we have so much space and wildlife around us.

The Spanish way of life is all about family, friends and working to live, rather than living to work.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I struggle with the backstabbing that goes on in the expat community and I dislike how some people even after living here for twenty years are unable to speak even basic Spanish.

The paperwork can be frustrating but I have found if you smile and thank everyone for their help, even if they haven’t helped you, things go much smoother.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Here it is all about family and enjoying life, it is not about how much money you have or haven’t got. Life here is about parties.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

When we first arrived 12 years ago food was a real struggle for me as a vegetarian. Back then it wasn’t understood by the Spanish and I would have to ask for a salad without meat, fish or tuna. If I didn’t say without tuna it would appear in front of me with tuna on, as I was told on more than one occasion that tuna was not fish!

Nowadays the situation has changed and even if they don’t have any vegetarian food on the menu most places bend over backwards to make me something else. Gone are the days when it was tortilla and cheese every time we went out to eat.

Having said that, I love both tortilla and cheese. I also love a veggie paella and our local bar makes a very good one. I also enjoy a glass of cava on occasion and the fact you can buy a nice wine at a responsible price.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Know that things don’t work the same in the UK but that’s ok. Leave yourself loads of time whenever doing anything official or going to the doctor or bank.

Get involved with the Spanish community and learn the language to some degree.

Things will not always be easy but they will always be worth it.

Learn to go with the flow and not to rush things, the Spanish do not like to rush or be rushed.

Enjoy every exciting moment, good and bad.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to finish the renovating our home, which although we are a long way in, we still have a long way to go.

I am also planning to turn my blog into a book and write a novel.

Most of all I am going to enjoy every day I have in this wonderful country and dance a lot!

You can keep up to date with Sam's adventures on her blog, Green Lemons Are Limes.

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