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One would be forgiven for thinking that life in Lanzarote is a bed of roses and indeed for some maybe it is, but most people find that eventually the thorns start poking through and when the “honeymoon period” is over the idea of endless days of sun, sea and sangria become just a dream. Everyday life kicks in.
So how does one learn to adapt to a different lifestyle and culture successfully? (Yes, it can be done!)
It´s only now, after three and a half years living here, that I can truly say that I´ve settled and have no desire to return to the UK – if you´d offered me the chance this time last year I´d have been on the first flight back! And do I have any regrets? No, none. If we had never taken the risk and never moved out here, I´d have been wondering all my life if we´d missed an opportunity.
So to all wannabe “conejeros” (the word means “rabbit catcher” and refers to natives of Lanzarote) here are the first two of my ten tips for successful relocation. (More will follow!)
This has to be my number one tip and although it is probably the most obvious, it´s surprising the number of expats who simply don´t bother and are quite content to get by with “hola”, “adios” and “dos cervezas por favor” together with a lot of hand waving and a little bit of Spanglish thrown in for good measure!
I regret not learning the lingo whilst in the UK when we were planning our move. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but one of the best things I did when we got here was to take an intensive course, one to one, with masses of homework to try and immerse myself in the language. That gave me a good foundation, which I´m constantly trying to build on and there is a wealth of fantastic courses on the internet (some free ones too!) BUT don´t neglect honing your listening and talking skills – it´s all very well knowing as much vocabulary as a dictionary, but sometimes the travelling time of words between brain and mouth takes what feels like forever and when the Spanish person you´re trying to impress replies, you can feel like an “imbécil” if you don´t understand a word of what they´ve just said.
Seriously, I can´t emphasise enough the need to learn the language – you will miss out on a lot of what´s best about Lanzarote if you don´t make the effort. My next door neighbour is Canarian and doesn´t speak English and yet we manage to have a very reasonable conversation and a lot of laughs (although I have managed to shock her once or twice by using words inappropriately!). We´ve even managed to combine cookery and Spanish lessons and I can now make “papas arrugadas and mojo” (a typical Canarian dish of salted potatoes and sauce) with the best of them.
We were in such a hurry to settle and find a home in Lanzarote, that we didn´t really do our research thoroughly. That, combined with the very real need to get out of the rural Finca we were staying in (no mains water or electricity and hot water from a gas bottle that had the habit of running out in the middle of a shower) created a sense of urgency to find our dream home. So I have to admit that we were rather naïve and bought almost the first thing we looked at in Playa Blanca. As I now work in the middle of the island it would make more sense to have a property in Puerto del Carmen, although now that we´ve made our house into a home I am very content there. We may well move, but at least now I´ve got the benefit of both my personal and work experience.Date Published: 14-12-2009