Friday, 27 February 2015

The 4 phases of expats in Andalucia

There are 2 kinds of people: those who don't live in Andalucia and those who do. 

One group has got watches, the other has time. 

This is such a big difference, implying so many things, rattling the doorknobs and windows of your usual self, that as an expat in Andalucia you usually go through 4 phases: 

Phase 1: you love it

You FLY through the whole first year. 

Forget about Xanax, forget about psychiatrists or self-help books: the fresh air, the views, the colours, the relaxed pace of life… you seem to feel alive up to the tiniest corners of your body and mind. 

All of a sudden you feel a rush of creativity, of ideas, hope, calm, being at peace with yourself: life is looking so bright you need shades, pairs of them, in all colours and shapes. 

Phase 2: you hate it

You start to get used to the permanent state of beauty, it wears off, your old self pops up again. You get stressed by that lack of stress. 

Your northern European internal watch foresaw 3 minutes and 15 seconds for buying bread… does it really have to take 20 minutes? You go to that shop for bread, not for padding a dozen toddlers on the head and an extensive overview of all the local news! 

And what's with that 'mañana'?!

Andalusians can tell you it's a prejudice, and still you hear that word left, right and centre. Your computer will arrive mañana, the boiler will be repaired mañana, and mañana the boss will be there - Mañana is such a gorgeous, mood-lifting day solving all the world's problems. You're going to dance like it's 1999. It's a carrot leading you through this day to that heaven of tomorrow. 

For sure there's also a very punctual, severe, austere, hard working, noble Andalucia, but somehow the one that you see merely seems to exist of cha cha cha, olé and mañana. 

Does time even exist??

"When does the procession start"? 
"O, in the afternoon". 
"What is that? 2 PM, 4 PM, 5 PM, 6 PM, 8 PM, 9 PM… what"? 
"Yes, something like that". 

Somehow, miraculously, everybody comes out at precisely the right time. Nobody knew at what time it would start, but then collective consciousness hits and everybody knows. What do you need the Internet for - if something happens in the village, you will feel it. 

That is: Andalusians do. 

We expats though are the only ones standing in the rain two hours in advance, thinking we must have got the dates wrong. Or we sit alone in that bar at 10 PM, with only a cat and 3 other expats, thinking that the evening has started. By the time we start to yawn, feeling that the night is over, the locals are only still planning their outfit for the night. 

Or other rules? 

So you walk down to the local fiesta, in jeans and sneakers, only to discover the rest of the town is dressed as though they need to present the Eurovision Song Contest. 

You remember that, dress up to the nines when attending a funeral - and everyone around you has got paint splotches and muddy shoes for coming straight from the construction plot. 

There just seems to be… no rule at all. You forever feel as though being pushed on a stage where everyone knows the lines, except you. Then it hits you: you are going to educate them. This town needs to be like yours, the one you grew up in and that is SO much better.  

Yip, you risk to forget the reason why you came to Andalusia in the first place. 

Phase 3: you live it

You 'see the light'.
You convert to Andalusia as to the Islam. 

Suddenly you realize what 'an other culture' actually is, where the habits are coming from and what they achieve - and just how amazingly well they fit you. 

You no longer study life, life is studying you. 

At 7 AM you sit in a local bar for a coffee and Pacharan, like normal people do. You speak of Andalucia, not Andalusia with an s. You go sit in the sun and then suddenly it seems to be 11 PM and you start wondering whether it wouldn't be a good idea to go out in a few hours. You meet up with 5000 of your most intimate friends. You say 'yes' which means 'maybe', and that headache question is for mañana. 

You go to a job interview in flip flops and open shirt, looking like a gypsy with a sunstroke, and promise you will be very punctual, if it doesn't rain. Or if the colleague of the mother-in-law of your third cousin doesn't need help that day. 

By the end of this year, you're calling relatives abroad to ask for money, because somehow, for some mystic reason, there seems to be a hole in the hole in your wallet. 

Phase 4: the new you

Just as any other Andalucian: you find your balance. 
Very slowly, step by step, you mold a piece of art: 

What you like and love of Andalucia sips into your system, while you mingle it with what you need and love of your personal background and customs. 

This phase comes with a risk: you are in serious danger of no longer being able to live anywhere else. 

All the advantages of that other place do not matter: Andalucia has enriched you, taken your personality, temperament and feel of well being to a next, higher level. You've become a better you, one that you like more. 

Some extraversion has been injected into your introversion, a too high stress level has learned how to let go from time to time, social obligations no longer feel like a strait-jacket, and after too much work stress there's always a view or encounter ironing out the creases. 

And you, where are you in the circle of Andalucian life?

1 comment:

  1. For three years now I have been living in Andalucia. I do not feel an expa because people received me with affection .I like their local customs. My girlfriend lives here and she is the best thing that happened in my life. I want to get married to live here definitely.