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Sad Expat

Posted by The Cheat

Its San Jordi this week, and that means that there ought to be a lot of roses, chocolates and indiscreet thinking flying around.  The Spanish don’t really celebrate this holiday, but like so many other things, they have adopted this excuse to party, drink, and sell indulgences.  I am not going to blather on about the romantic gushings of the Expat unwashed this week though.  No, I am going to talk about what happens to us foreign-set when matters of the heart go wrong, so far away from home.

A surprising number of expats in many countries become expats specifically because of love.  Or rather, come and settle into a new life abroad because they found lovers of different nationality.  Here in Spain I guess this happens a lot, if I consider how many of my expat friends came here for someone, to leave someone, or came for a short visit then met their dream partner and never left.  The sheer number of tourists both European and otherwise who come down here for a little R&R and inadvertently end up finding love, much to their consternation, must be staggering. 

Its all so romantic: getting swept off your feet by a mysterious stranger in a foreign land; discovering a truly magic bottle of Rioja together; then being tragically torn apart as you go home, only to miss them so much you proceed to exchange 600 text messages a week, 3 daily emails, and the occasional weekend flight over.  Yes, I have been there, and so too have many others.  It’s great when one or both of you compromise so much to join up and share a new life together in the most beautiful country in Europe. 

Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t work out.  And equally unfortunately, I have been there too.  Splitting a relationship is always hard no matter where you live, but what is it like when your partner, with whom you have shared the Spanish experience is gone?  It’s crap, I can tell you.  Having set up here together then building up a life as a team means that once 50% of that team is out of the picture, many expats-exes discover that considerably more than 50% of your life has vapourized with them.  Why?  Initiating a new life in Spain takes a lot of courage and effort that non-expats can’t appreciate, so sharing the experience with your partner becomes a big part of the support structure to lean on when things go bad.  That being gone, many find that living here becomes unbearably alien, as if all the differences are now totally unfathomable, now that the communal and intimate shared reference point is missing.  As if you didn’t hurt enough already.

In normal conditions, a person has sympathetic friends and family they’ve known forever, plus the reassurance of familiar surroundings to turn to under break-up circumstances.  The expat-ex typically does not.  Sure you’ve made some good friends here, and Spain is definitely a great venue for partying away sadness, but often that isn’t enough.  I have been Sad Expat, and so have most of my friends.  Going home for a holiday is a good temporary measure, but it’s cheap escapism and too many expats I know came here just to get away from some failed love in the first place.  If you are serious about continued life abroad as an expat ex then it’s going to take more effort.  If stopping to smell the roses and remembering that Spain is a romantic country full of gorgeous people doesn’t work just remember the Spanish cure for all that ails the heart.  Two words: Ibiza weekend.  See you by the pool.

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Ron Hunter said:

Well, perhaps on a different end of the spectrum, I just today found this site and joined up. I am NOT an expat (yet), but my wife and I plan to retire next year and move into our little "fisherman's piso" in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country). That being said sad expat, it's good to know some of the pitfalls and feelings of alienation (literally and figuratively) associated with moving to a new country. My situation again is different as my wife has dual citizenship, although she was born in the US. She was able to obtain citizenship and her DNI card as a result of the 2007 "Memorial History Law" passed in Spanish Parliament to re-patriate the offspring of those who fled the country under the repressive Franco regime (the Euskualdunak aligned on the losing side of the civil war). My wife is fluent in euskera, and is competent in Spanish; however, my greatest fear of my own isolation is being able to master (or at least effectively communicate) in castellano, and to refine the curse words I have learned in euskera. Embarking on learning a new language at 62 (with somewhat degraded hearing), I don't think is highly recommended, but a few well swigged glasses of Crianza may help to allay some of the intimidation factor and, at the very least, provide the locals with an endless source of entertainment. Learning euskera (a Neanderthal-based language, I think) does not at all appeal to this well-worn, and frequently alcohol punctuated mass of gray matter. For our first year at least, we will keep a lifeline to the States (sell no property in our lovely, but horribly congested SF Bay Area), but depending, we may just take the ultimate plunge! Good luck in love and en expatria, my dear sad expat!

Healthplan_Spain said:

I have never read an article that swims so close to the truth as far as expat relationships are concerned.

After toiling blood sweat and tears on a House reformation in the upper echelons of the Sierra Nieves. Gaining a very respectable job (outside my career as an online marketing genius!) in Gibraltar that this was the cream on the cake. Until I realised that my ex partner had secretly been filling her own boots (and agenda) behind my back.

My Ex even tried to get us to buy a family home so that she could kick me out leaving me with nothing.(This was very close to the breakup)She eventually gave up on that thankfully.

The worst 11 years of my life.

A friend of mine from Cork suggested I read a book called "The Secret". Im sure alot of readers out there have heard of this book and would probably poo poo the very thought of delving into this publication.

Well, I have to tell you all that it certainly worked for me. Im now in a relationship with my true soulmate. Im also out the other side as far as getting my online Health Insurance business back from the clutches of the witches of Chelmsford (heads up...beware of cheap online imitations!) Its been a very tough year but I have learnt so much since.

I wish you all a very successful romantic and prosperous New year! (see you in Ibiza!!)

CL2010 said:

A rollercoaster ride of emotions, I need a swim.

Olly Strous said:

ITV1 are making the second series of ‘No Place Like Home?’ about British Ex-Pats who are considering moving back to the UK.

We’re keen to hear from Brits who are living abroad, but who are now thinking about returning permanently to Britain.

Perhaps you miss your family and friends, maybe schooling is a problem for your kids, or you simply yearn for a bit of British culture.

You’ll be flown back to the UK and given the opportunity to ‘test-run’ the reality of living in the UK. We’ll give you the information & experience to make an informed decision on whether to remain an expat or come home for good

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