Yvonne moved to Spain in July 2016 with her husband and three cats
1) How did you feel on 24 th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
My worst fears had been realised. I had stayed up most of the night checking the results as they came in. I felt sickened, anxious, depressed, angry and a deep sense of loss.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
Health, UK weather, a stressful job working long hours in the NHS, a deep discontentment with the social and political landscape of UK over the last 10 years (culminating in Brexit). Also we both love travelling and we needed an adventure/ change of lifestyle
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
It was a country that we had not visited much in the past, hence it would be interesting to discover. Spain is a really friendly, welcoming place .There is a relaxed, sociable lifestyle here, great climate, healthy cuisine, inexpensive and part of EU. It is also not too far from UK for our friends to come out and visit us too.
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
Unfortunately not, we have temporary residency permits, which hopefully when we have been here one year longer can be converted to permanent residency. However nobody knows if or how this would change, once transition period of Brexit ends at the end of this year.
I would love dual nationality to become possible in the future, or individual EU membership to be created. Otherwise when we have been here 10 years, I hope to take the citizen and language exams to obtain a Spanish passport. Of course UK may have re-joined EU by then with any luck!
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
No, not unless something really drastic happened here and in the UK politically or we weren’t allowed to stay here after Brexit. We really love living here, made many friends, teaching English here in an academy, have lots of hobbies, look after several cat colonies, and we are learning Spanish too. We have been surprised how quickly we felt at home here, and UK seems an alien, stressful and depressing place when we have visited there recently.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest challenge you faced in moving?
Leaving behind our many friends in UK and adapting the house to cope with full time modern life (communications/water supply/electrics/plumbing etc!)
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
Potable mains water supply/drainage system, unlimited broadband internet and Indian food
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
The open genuinely friendly people here, the government, cheaper cost of living, amazing weather, delicious home grown fruit/veg, great seafood and organic wines. There is less inequality in society here, few homeless, a fantastic state health service and people are not obsessed with making money. Hence people here feel better connected with each other and nature.
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what that does that mean to you?
I have always felt like a “creature of the whole world” and never liked nationalism in general. The more I have travelled has reinforced this opinion that we are all fundamentally the same throughout the world. The differences that do exist, just make us more interesting. I have loved being part of the EU for the vast majority of my life, and I refuse to let Brexit take that away from me! EU to me embodies free movement, peace, uniting nations, supporting environmental, animal and human rights. It is a great safeguard against tyrannical governments.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
I identify as a Londoner more than being British! My humour, taste in music, and love of animals could be considered typically British! However the aspects of UK which I liked the most, such as multi culturalism, liberal ideals, tolerance and creativeness, seemed to have disappeared now. UK has changed due to an elitist and ultra- right wing government, and 10 years of austerity being imposed on it. The whole place is broken and corrupt now. I certainly would not want to now live in such an uncaring country, without the protection of the EU either.
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
It has obviously stopped us travelling abroad or exploring Spain. It will now be difficult for us to visit our friends in UK in future and vice versa. However we are so much better off here than in UK, I would have been financially forced to keep working full time in a front line job in pharmacy! I am at risk health wise too, so working as a pharmacist would have been risky/dangerous, especially with no PPE. Luckily here I can work teaching online, and we can afford to not work if necessary, due to the lower cost of living in Spain. We have got much better at cooking and gardening and DIY too!
Our main worry is for our friends in UK and USA during this pandemic.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the uk government/media?
Spain was taken a bit by surprise by how quickly the pandemic spread from Italy to Spain, and it is a country know for big fiestas, family gatherings and living close together in apartments. Despite this, our government here, realised the seriousness and collaborated with WHO and experts in China/Italy to rapidly put in place a total lockdown. Throughout there has been a proper plan, communication, financial help for society to cope with the economic ramifications, and sensible decisions made. Pedro Sanchez is so different from Boris, he is intelligent, fluent in 3 languages, caring and honest. The health service has coped fantastically, 10 percent mortality rate here compared with 15 percent in UK. Many of my friends here work on the frontline, and they have proper PPE, safety procedures, plenty of staff and equipment. There is a detailed gradual exit plan now too, and testing has been carried out at a far higher rate than in UK.
The strange thing is that despite how abysmally the UK government has been in its Covid response, the media and opposition has hardly said anything critical!