Expat Tales: Learning to live like locals in Valencia

The Fernandez family have made a home in Valencia, Spain, still learning from the locals even after 12 years.

In Valencia, the weather's always warm, it´s perfectly acceptable to have a glass of wine with your morning tea and sleeping for a couple of hours in the afternoon is encouraged.

What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?

Adventure and sunshine along with the opportunity of joining a family business. We moved here with 30 boxes and a 6-month-old in 2003.

What do you do there?

I volunteer helping Spanish people improve their English. It´s immensely rewarding observing their progress and enthusiasm to learn. My husband has an apartment rental business and has clients from all around the world.

What are the greatest advantages of living there?

Because of the warm climate you simply feel better and more relaxed. The ability to be outdoors a lot is a massive advantage and it´s a great cultural experience. Also it´s perfectly acceptable to have a glass of wine with your morning tea and sleeping for a couple of hours in the afternoon is encouraged.

Disadvantages?

The red tape and bureaucracy. It´s difficult to express yourself and interact with people. Like when we arrived at the vet announcing we were there to spend our holidays rather than to get the cat vaccinated.

How expensive is it compared to NZ? How much is a beer?

Wages and salaries are much lower. Although the cost of living was lower a few years ago the recession has meant that this has increased somewhat. The average wage is around €1700. A beer costs about €1.80.

What do you do in your spare time?

I try to improve my Spanish. I have recently taken up running. The Mediterranean Coast provides a wonderful backdrop. At the weekend we usually amble through Valencia City finding different and interesting things to do.

What´s the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?

I recommend paella de marisco or paella Valenciana. Locally grown rice mixed with vegetables, seafood or chicken.

Easiest way to get around?

On foot, bicycle or motorbike is the easiest due to congestion and parking problems, although there is good public transport including buses, trains, taxis and the underground.

What´s the shopping like?

You can find an array of shops ranging from indoor and outdoor markets, bodegas, pedestrianised shopping areas with gorgeous boutiques to the bigger shopping centres with the usual chain stores. Craft industries are a big business, particularly colourful ceramics.

Best after-dark activity?

Valencia is famous for its night life. Valencians usually start the evenings around midnight, then moving onto clubs until 6 or 7 in the morning. However, a couple of beers in one of the outdoor bars and a walk along the seafront is equally as fun.

Best time of year to visit?

If you want to avoid the masses the best months are May and June. The weather is perfect and there are a lot of cultural events on. In July and August the temperatures and the number of tourists raise significantly, but there are plenty of beaches to chill out at.

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?

Valencia´s Central Food Market – full of colour and smells where you get a taste of the true Valencian vibe. The beach is a great place to watch the sunrise or sit at a beach bar sipping on a mojito. The City of Arts and Sciences – a group of futuristic buildings which house a 3D panoramic cinema, museums, an opera house and the largest aquarium in Europe.

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

Pies! You can´t beat a homemade chicken or steak pie.

How easy is it for you to get back to NZ?

It´s expensive and there aren´t any direct flights, but Madrid and Barcelona airports offer a fairly good route through Dubai or Singapore.

For Kiwi´s looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?

The unemployment rate is 25 per cent and you need to be able to speak a bit of Spanish. More and more young Spaniards want to learn English to improve their job prospects abroad, therefore there are always schools looking for English teachers.

Published http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/kiwi-traveller/67877542/Expat-Tales-Learning-to-live-like-locals-in-Valencia

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