We live and work in Girona. The various pages on our website give tourists, visitors and expat residents our personal viewpoint on such matters as what to see and do.
Where to eat, the best beaches to visit, plus what life is like if you’re here for any length of time for work or pleasure. No other site about Girona gets updated as often as ours. Scroll down to read about living here and our thoughts on schools, red tape, work, renting an apartment, the health service and more.
This is our 2nd site, our first was called MyGironaSpain.com which we had to abandon. After a few years, we’re back with AboutGirona.com. For anyone who requires assistance in these matters we’re in the process of putting together a section on English speaking service providers.
Living in Girona
This information is for anyone who’s thinking of making the move here or just interested in knowing about how we live. Many comments below are based on our own personal experiences. Whilst I can’t possibly cover every topic, I hope it gives some general guidance and advice that’ll be useful.
Plus, over time the rules change and if you’re from outside the EU then check your own individual country’s Embassy regarding residency.
There are also many changes for UK nationals resident in Spain as a result of Brexit and the introduction of the new TIE document. It’s not always clear what the implications are for us Brits, as even local officials and bureaucrats interpret the law according to which side of the bed they got out of that morning!
There are also some thoughts about work, the education system and healthcare in Girona.
Life here is a bit different from what you may have expected of Spain. For a start, Spanish is the co-official language with Catalan. Don’t get me wrong if you only speak Spanish then you can live and work here without too many problems. But, knowing Catalan even at a basic level will win you some praise and admiration.
The Catalan language is certainly more dominant here in Girona and used extensively in shops, restaurants and within schools.
If you’re contemplating a move here it’s a good idea to make plans and do your research prior to your move. We toured the Catalonia area extensively many years ago, and then in 2005 decided to spend the whole summer based in Girona. We explored the surrounding towns and villages in order to get a feel for where we might like to settle when we made the final move in August 2006.
Officialdom. Sooner or later you’ll have to get to grips with all the paperwork if you want to be a citizen of Girona. When you have to go to register with doctors, government offices and their various agencies and you don’t feel your Spanish is up to it then do try to take someone with you who has a better grasp of the language or, better still speaks Catalan.
For a start it helps to make things easier and secondly, you need to get things right and not have to keep going back just because you’re missing some documents. You can of course hire a ‘Gestor’ for a small fee.
These people are a mix of bookkeeper, accountant and administration experts who know the local and state rules on many of the important things like tax. They can often get things done a lot easier and quicker. I’ve used them in the past for things like getting a replacement driving licence after mine was stolen.
If you intend to stay for a long time you should think about getting the ‘Empadronar’, which is being registered with the local town hall (Ajuntament, Placa de Vi). If you’re renting then take your rental contract as proof of an address or your house deeds (escritura) if you own a property. Also, take all your passports with you and a recent utility bill.
With this document you are then able to register for healthcare known as the ‘Cap Salut’ and, if you have children, get them into the state school system. The document is valid for 3 months but to my knowledge there’s no requirement to renew it. If you’re ever asked for an up to date Empadronar, it just means going back to the Girona ajuntament offices on the ground floor to ask for one again.
The Oficina d’Atencio Ciutadana (C/ de Joan Maragall) is where you can also go for advice on all the matters that relate to living here. I haven’t been there yet but if it’s like the town hall then no specific English speaking staff are available, as far as I know. (update Nov. 2020-due to Covid 19 restrictions only open by appointment).
Healthcare in Girona
Most people have either private health insurance through the various ‘Mutuas’ or rely on the state healthcare system (CAP Salut). It’s difficult to keep on top of all the forthcoming changes as a result of Brexit. There’s usually more current advice available on the British Embassy pages.
Sufficient to say that in my experience getting onto the state system is easier if you have a work contract. The elderly and those without a contract will need to think about private health insurance as the next best option. I’ve heard that it’s possible to pay into the state system via a monthly payment.
If you sign up to the state system you’ll get a plastic card by post in a few weeks. You should do this by going to the nearest Cap Salut (Health Centre) to where you live. It’s worth asking if they have any English speaking doctors that you can register with.
In our case (back in 2006) we were all entitled to a brief medical examination, and a full blood test. To see the family doctor here you need to make an appointment by phone, in person or online.
When you have a hospital visit there’s no need to notify your arrival at reception. You simply scan your health card as you enter, then go to the waiting area. Girona’s main hospital is called Trueta and has an A&E dept.
Schools in Girona.
If you’re coming to live in Girona and have children of school age here’s some things that you might like to know. Please bear in mind that this was written a long time ago.
A very informative free guide (in Catalan) about all the schools in Girona is provided by the local council called ‘Girona, Ciutat Educadora. Centres Educatius Publics i Privats Concertats’. Try asking for this at the main Ajuntament reception. Produced annually, it gives a brief description with colour photos of each infant, primary and secondary school inside Girona city.
The ‘Privats Concertats’ schools are a combination of state and private, where parents have to make a monthly payment which varies according to which school you choose. The consensus amongst Catalans is that these have a better standard and are often over-subscribed. To get a deeper understanding of where the good schools are you’d need to speak to other Catalan parents that have children. Unlike in the UK we haven’t so far found any public records online or offline of school league tables.
Starting this process before you arrive will be difficult as you’ll need to have the ‘empadronamiento’ in place and to show some proof of an address eg. a rental contract or your house deeds. When in Girona you’ll need to go to the schools office, which is the ‘Oficina Municipal d’Escolaritzacio’ in Carrer dels Ciutadens, 3. The process of pre-registration starts around March time and you have to send your forms back between March 24th to April 4th.
The school your kids will be allocated depends on the area of Girona that you live in and you normally have a choice of three schools to choose from. But, this is not something you can do all in one visit. We had to wait a further two weeks for an appointment to be interviewed by a schools child psychologist. Why, when our kids couldn’t speak any Catalan or Spanish back then, so we took our Catalan neighbour for help in translation.
Our Catalan landlord also gave us some advice as to which schools to avoid and which were considered good that were in our catchment area. After this interview we had to wait a further 7-10 days before we were told which school we had been allocated.
In our case we wanted our two children to go to the same school which we knew would narrow down our eventual choices. Finally, by early October our kids were both offered a school place outside of our area which meant a bus ride as we didn’t have a car yet.
The school hours are different in state and concertat (semi-private) schools. In recent years many state schools have done away with their school lunch service in an effort to save money during the last economic crisis. Start time is 8am or 9am and finish by about 2pm. The concertats share the same start time (depending on age) and have a lunch break, typically between 1.30pm to 3pm and finish at 5pm. Also, some allow 3rd and 4th ESO (secondary) kids get to finish at 1.30pm Wednesdays and Fridays.
The school year is from about 12th September to 21st December, back on the 8th January after Three Kings . Easter break is in March or April and school ends on or about the 20th June. There are no half-term holidays like in the UK.
Other things we noticed. Parents are given a list of things by the school that each pupil needs, and you must buy all the different subject text books, exercise books, pens, pencils, practically everything they use on a daily basis at school. This can add up to about 200-300€ in total per child. There’s no provision for pupils to bring in and eat a packed lunch, kids can only eat a small snack or sandwich at morning break-time. You either eat the school lunch or go home for lunch. The typical cost per month, per pupil if they eat in the school dining room (menjador) can be about 175 euros per child.
It’s possible to get the monthly menu in advance so you can see what they’ll get to eat each day and there is an emphasis on healthy food. When any kids school trip needs to be paid for, you often have to pay via a designated banks ATM, and follow a long list of instructions which by the way are all in Catalan. I managed to stumble my way through this and kind of got there in the end.
You’ll find that kids take day trips during each school term and the summer ones may include being away for up to a week. During the summer months and other times like Easter many schools organize school camps (colonies) and activities called ‘Casals’ which need to be paid for, but keep the kids busy during the very long summer break.
International Schools in Girona.
St. Georges is a mixed school located in Fornells de la Selva just outside Girona and has a wide catchment area. Others include Montjuic-Girona International School and Montessori in Palau.
Renting Property in Girona
If you have no intention of buying a property in Girona, then renting is the other option. If you have time then it’s worth coming here prior to your move and exploring which parts of Girona appeal to you and visiting rental agents to check their inventory and inspect some apartments. Also they don’t seem to pay too much attention to you if you say you’re looking for flat in say, two months time. It seems things happen only when you have a few weeks to find somewhere.
Alternatively, if you’ve found some properties being advertised directly by owners via the internet then you could possibly line up some places to view this way. The Catalan for renting is lloguer, alquiler in Spanish. Many property agents offer rentals but there are a few websites where agents and private owners advertise rental property in Girona. Here’s a list of some Spanish language free-ads sites, just use the search criteria to narrow it down to Girona. This way you can compare prices and locations.
www.idealista.com Very large Spanish property search engine site.
If you’re in Girona check the local daily newspapers like Diari de Girona. Flats or apartments are called pisos (Spanish), pis (Catalan) and are offered either as furnished (amueblado in Spanish, amb mobles in Catalan) or unfurnished (sense mobles in Catalan) and slightly cheaper. In our case we rented a furnished apartment as we had arrived by plane and this was more convenient for us.
When you sign a rental contract you should get a copy to keep as you need to show this when obtaining a school place, opening a bank account and for obtaining the town hall registration (empadronamiento). Rental contracts will of course be written in Catalan and the duration can vary according to whether you rented through an agent or a private owner. Our current contract is for 5 years as we found it via an agent, but our previous rental was through a private owner and ran for only one year.
It’s normal to have to pay at least two months rent as a deposit. When dealing through agents, in addition to the two months deposit they’ll also charge you a fee plus VAT, called IVA in Spain, equivalent to one month rental. So you could end up forking out four months rent including the first months rent in advance, before you’ve set foot inside.
Working in Girona and the Costa Brava
If you’re not retired or that that flush, and you still need to work to pay the bills the thorny question of work may well determine your chances of staying here or going back.
Moving to a foreign country and trying to find work are probably two of the toughest challenges you’ll have. I can see why many Brits that have a trade, head to those parts of coastal Spain where many ex-pats live. It makes sense that they are potentially your customer base and speak the same language. However, what if you don’t have a trade and you desire a more authentic experience where you integrate into the local community.
Mastering the language even at a basic level is important, whether it’s before you travel or when you arrive (better to start before if you can). Your holiday Spanish may be fine to begin with but will limit your chances as potential employers will almost certainly need someone who speaks Spanish fluently.
Two of the biggest employment sectors that stand out as potential for finding work are teaching English and tourism. Personally I chose the teaching English route as there are so many language academies here that finding work was easy enough. It eventually led to us starting our own academy and obtaining teaching contracts in local schools. You can also supplement this with private English classes for kids and adults. Although schools here teach English as part of their curriculum, up to 3 times-a-week, many parents also send their kids to the private academies once or twice a week.
The tourist sector has many work opportunities but may require a degree of fluency in Spanish and or Catalan. Bar and restaurant work, or on the many camping sites is very seasonal, and the tourist season seems to be getting shorter. You’re also competing with the local labour pool or students looking for summer work, many of whom have a good working grasp of English.
If you’re thinking of starting your own business or being self-employed (autonomo) think again, as the costs are pretty high. A friend who’s in his 50’s was paying almost 300 euros per month in national insurance payments. That’s quite steep compared to the UK. Maybe that explains why so few people here choose to be self-employed.
If that’s your choice you’d also need to consider getting a Gestor who can navigate the myriad rules and regulations surrounding employment, tax and so on. That’s an extra monthly payment too. In recent years in an effort to stimulate the economy, the Spanish government has introduced a series of tapering discounts. These only apply to someone who hasn’t been self-employed in the past. The holy grail of jobs seems to be a corporate job or better still a civil servant position, with a permanent contract (Contrato Trabajo Indefinido). Well paid or secure jobs here are like gold dust.
If I had to add my two cents worth here I’d say that Spain has never been an easy place to find work, at the best of times. Outdated working practices, the proliferation of temporary work contracts and one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the EU zone. On top of that wage rates are so much less here compared to the UK, and Girona is not a cheap place to live in.
If I had the brains and could speak the lingo Id be a dentist or pharmacist. Walk past any of these two and they’re always busy and well paid too.
Working as an English Teacher
If you plan to work here then teaching English is one of the best and most obvious options open to you. The details given below are purely my own experiences and reflect on just Girona city and not elsewhere in Spain.
The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate is about the minimum teacher qualification that it’s possible to get. This was an online course I’d started before we left the U.K. There’s an assigned tutor who checks each completed module as you progress. There are generous time limits so you can fit it in around other things. I’d spent a bit extra and did an additional weekend course in Cambridge which helped, as it was more activity based than textbook stuff, and you got to meet other like-minded people.
When I knew we were going to live here in Girona I guess I began to wonder what I could do to earn some money, my wife kept encouraging me to start the course and asked the stark question “well what else are you going to do out there”? I suppose she was right in a way.
The ironic part of it all was that when we arrived here my wife was the person to find teaching English work first. By chance there was a new school about to open in the same street as we lived in and a well-timed call to the owner paid dividends. In her case she didn’t have the TEFL but had experience running kids playgroups.
I’d also met a young Catalan guy for language exchange (intercambio) who worked at a language school in Girona. From a casual remark by him that the owner might be needing some additional teachers, I quickly found a few hours of work. Over the following months this grew steadily more. and I also got additional work teaching private students.
We’d arrived in August 2006 just before the academic year started in September so we got a chance to start looking for work, and canvassed local language schools. Rather than hide behind an email, it’s better to search out these places online and go to a few every day, leaving a copy of your CV. Better still try to speak to someone that matters, not just the girl at reception. If the schools are shut in August as many are, just see when they re-open and make a note.
The upside with teaching English to private students is that the pay is better but you never know for how long. They often cancel lessons for any reason, so this is not a totally reliable way to earn a living. It helps if you speak some Spanish, when potential students call you, even though they may be able to converse adequately in English they will prefer to speak in Spanish. So, while the language schools pay less per hour, the work is more steady and reliable.
I’d been fortunate to be offered work in Girona before I had finished my online TEFL course. Both schools didn’t have much of an interview process, no reference checking, background checks etc which routinely happens back in the UK, but I can’t say it’s the norm elsewhere.
I do think that female English teachers stand a better chance of finding work. Many English academies teach kids as young as 3 and prefer females, plus if you’re a native speaker it makes a big difference.
If you find yourself in Girona looking for teaching English work privately these are the best places where you can advertise your teaching services, which have worked for me.
The Girona Official Language School (EOI-Escola Oficial de Idiomas) is state run and most big cities in Catalonia will have one. It has wall space inside where you can pin an advert. Casa de Cultura. Walk in, turn right or left and you’ll see a long, wide table full of pamphlets, leaflets on cultural events and offers. Just leave your card or leaflet here and hope for the best.
The cheapest method often used here is to print your own ad on a home printer and have a ‘strip’ of contact details, pre-cut at right angles to your text. Tape it to a lamppost somewhere prominent. Potential clients can tear off a strip if they’re interested.
The demand for English teaching will always be there in schools, from private individuals and businesses. Plus, new government initiatives have meant that teachers in state run schools will be required to teach certain school subjects in English
You can easily find current English language schools within Girona through some online searches. The recent Covid and resulting lockdowns in 2020 has seen a few close for good. There’s always been plenty to choose from and some like Kensington, Up idiomas and Eica have been around for ages. It’s rare to find one school that gives you enough hours per week to survive on, so working at two or more schools is common. Working conditions, work contracts and pay rates have always been a talking point. Check a Facebook group called Girona English Teachers as teaching jobs are often posted there. If you want to run your own English language school like we did for ten years, that’s something we can advise on.
Trying to learn Spanish or Catalan.
Once you’re here it should be fairly easy to find a local private language school that offers Spanish (they tend to say Castillano) or Catalan courses. Or, better still try one offered by the local state run education places. Girona has an Escola Oficial de Idiomas (The Official School of Languages) that offers Spanish, Catalan as well as other major European languages, at various levels including beginner. www.eoigirona.com
I’ve done their Spanish level 3 course and the level 1 course in Catalan. Course prices are much more reasonable than the private sector, the downside being that class sizes are usually bigger.
Another good, fun way of improving your language skills is by finding a language exchange partner, or ‘intercambio’. The above, escola oficial is a good place to find such a person or pin a notice on their community board inside. The idea is quite simple, you spend 30 minutes speaking only in Spanish and the remaining half an hour speaking only in English. Both parties get to practice and it’s all done for free over a coffee in a local bar or cafe.
There are always tons more students looking to improve their English, plus it’s a good way of meeting people and making new friends in the process. Social media has also helped to fill these gaps and sites like MeetUp have groups too.
Elderly residents can also have a look at https://u3acostabrava.org/ There’s also a group of English speakers who meet for a weekly chat and coffee in central Girona www.gironagrapevine.es
Telephone, TV and Internet. If you rent an apartment the chances are that it’ll already be hooked up to one of the cable Co’s like Movistar which we use. They’re a big public company in Spain and have stores in many Girona locations. The package we have is called Fusion and includes telephone, internet, TV channels and mobile phone for about 55€/month.
Getting a bank account. After one failed attempt at opening a new account with the BBVA bank because of misunderstandings, endless waiting etc we found the Deutsche bank (C/ Marques de Camps) more approachable, and with a staff member that spoke English. You will need to provide some id and you can also arrange to access your account online. When we asked about having an overdraft we got a blank look, no, nothing like that exists here. Many banks also have different opening times in winter and summer, and close earlier on Fridays.
Supermarkets and Shops. Well, forget about doing any supermarket shopping on a Sunday in Girona as all the big names are closed. However, some in the coastal towns do open. As someone from the UK that’s something I couldn’t get used to for a long while. Bakeries, Rostisserias and Pastisseries are open Sundays until mid-afternoon. In recent years there’s been an increasing number of small Asian run grocery stores which means you can still get a few basics if you need to. They’re also handy for ingredients used in Indian cooking but check the sell-by dates. Girona old town has one or two small supermarkets in Carrer dels Ciutadans that stay open on weekends.
Many neighbourhoods (bari) have a local rostisseria open Sundays till about 3pm where you can get a roast chicken and other freshly prepared dishes and salads. It’s advisable to call ahead to reserve as they get fairly busy. If you happen to get invited to a Catalan house the usual custom is to take a nice cake or pastries. The posh looking Pastisseries here doing a roaring trade in these shockingly expensive items, nicely wrapped and presented. A lot of the time they don’t even have a price ticket.
Public Holidays. National and regional and even city only public holidays, they do love a day off. The ‘Pont’ (Bridge) day. A rather nice arrangement that I got used to very quickly. When a public holiday falls on a Thursday, most working people take the Friday off also, making it a nice extended weekend.
Below is a transcript of an interview my wife did for an online magazine over ten years ago about our move to Girona. I’ve deleted some personal details.
What is your name, age and where do you live?
My name is xxxxx, I’m 48 years old and I live with my family in La Devesa in the elegant city of Girona.
What nationality are you and your partner?
We have British passports. We were both born, raised & educated in London where we also later worked. After we married we moved to bring up our young family in the Suffolk countryside for about nine years before we came to live in Cataluyna.
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
We have two children aged 8 and 10 years.
Do you work and if so what to you do?
Every day, in the afternoons, I teach English to little ones from about 15 months up to around 10 years old for a private academy. I am also a qualified complementary therapist and want to start doing this in Girona as it is a very alternative city (perhaps, initially from home). I had a very successful little practice back in England. Following a posting I saw on the Mum Abroad forum, I have also recently got involved with Usborne English books for children as I think there is a real need for this here. Not just for English speaking children but also all my little English language learners. I am interested in lots of different things and always seem to have one project or another on the go. Plus, of course, I’m a busy wife, mummy and home maker!
What was your experience of having a baby in Spain? (if relevant)
Both our kids were born in the UK.
What was your experience of relocating to Spain with children? (if relevant)
Our experience of totally relocating our whole family lock, stock and barrel to another country? A complete breeze! No, of course it wasn’t! Not at all!! It was exhausting, stressful and bewildering. Plus all the initial red-tape and necessary procedures to become residents was extremely frustrating. Nevertheless, I remember how positive and excited we were looking forward to our new life. I also recall the lovely experience of buying a one-way ticket and sitting on the plane with all those holiday makers, very smugly, knowing we would not be making a return trip for some time.
The children were very prepared and aware of what was happening for at least a couple of years before we moved. I used to play Spanish CDs and videos for them in the UK and us parents had been trying to learn Spanish for some years.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
Well, because we had done our research and came out on reconnaissance a few times we had made a few friends and contacts who were able to help smooth the process when we eventually arrived. We actually went to live in the same apartment we had previously rented as a holiday let, so the children were familiar with their new home and neighbourhood. We have sinced moved to an another place, nearby, that has more space for us all.
Because I teach in the same area in which we live, many of the parents and children are my neighbours and we have got to know them well. It is rare occasion when I step out of my door and don’t exchange a quick chat, friendly wave across the street or a simple smile of recognition. It’s nice to be part of the community and sometimes I actually feel like a local so it seems so much like home to us already.
The kindness we have been shown (initially, mostly by the Catalans) has been both heart-warming and generous. In my opinion and I guess I could be accused of generalizing, Catalans are quite reserved, private people and different in their attitudes to the rest of Spain. But a good Catalan friend is steadfast, supportive and genuine.
The children initially had trouble connecting with their school friends because they were unable to speak Catalan (although they do not have the same inhibitions about not speaking the same language as us grown-ups!). However, they converse fluently and confidently now. We also have our ever-expanding international network of English speaking families who live here.
What language do you speak to your children?
We speak English at home despite my attempts to get the children to teach me Catalan!
What is your impression of childcare and education where you live?
Apart from a little help from our canguro (child-minder) and occasional baby-sitters my husband and I share the child care between us and we all tend to do most things together. My girls are now used to socialising politely and sitting nicely in restaurants (well, most of the time, anyway!).
As far as my impressions of education go, well, I naturally can’t help making comparisons to primary schools in the Britain. I now realise how privileged and fortunate parents are in the UK where kids can turn up at the school gate without even a pencil! Here it is very different. Everything your child needs to use in school has to be paid for by the parents. Text books etc. are not generally recycled and have to be bought, sometimes new ones every term.
We have even been charged for the photocopies the teacher has given the children! Generally, the teachers are kind, helpful, committed and very good. It appears very academically based. music and languages are begun earlier here. Subjects such as active science (where the children participate in simple experiments), practical art and international history/geography are not a big part of the curriculum in primary education. I notice far more men teach in primary schools than they do in the UK.
In my experience, I think the teachers here could do with more resources and updated equipment (such as interactive whiteboards and state of the art IT for instance) than is currently available to them. Some school buildings look more like office blocks than educational establishments for the young and the playgrounds facilities could be improved.
As one of my children commented when we went to look at one school ”…it looks as welcoming as a prison”.
They don’t seem to be into fund-raising here to buy the equipment they need and volunteer parent helpers (to assist with reading and other activities etc.) is unheard of and unwelcomed. AMPA (sort of PTA) don’t seem to have much influence.
What school do your children go to?
A small Privat Concertat (means part-pay) which are very popular here in Girona. However, the state schools are superb, often better sometimes.
Why did you choose this school and are you happy with your choice?
We send our children there simply because my husband got a job teaching English part-time at the school and we thought it would be a nice way to ease and settle them into a new school system. They wanted to be near their Daddy!
It’s not my school of choice and I have my reasons but on balance it’s working out as there are other factors which remain positive. The class sizes are small which is important. My children have, albeit temporarily, special needs due to the fact their first tongue is not Catalan or Spanish.
As they are still relatively the new kids on the block there is a danger they could get left behind/overlooked in a larger class. It’s a little faraway from our home but at least I get to wave them all off in the morning then go and have a blissfully peaceful cup of tea! It makes a nice change from all those years on school-run duty!
Where you live, how good are the facilities for children (shops, restaurants, activities etc)?
Girona is a relatively safe, quiet and beautiful place to live – very family orientated with most of the facilities you could wish for. It does not have the cool, groovy appeal of Barcelona and most young adults want to leave town to go and live there eventually. I do envy the choice of opportunities there are in Barcelona but Girona is a small city, more like a village really.
There are lots of activities for kids and its just a case of making sure you monitor what events are coming up, where and when. Sometimes these things start too late even if they are geared towards children. There are great walks, museums and cycling is easy. Outdoor swimming pools in the summer and an ice rink around Christmas time. It’s really neat to be able to set off for the beach late in the afternoon and know you will still have a few hours of sun, sea and sand or head for the hills to ski for a great day out in the winter.
Like the rest of the country, children are generally welcome in the numerous bars/ restaurants/shops/etc. The tolerance, respect and patience shown to young families is outstanding and what attracted us in the first place. English speaking events are centred around get togethers with other English speaking families.
What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community in your town?
The main advantage is feeling you have given your children a wonderful lifestyle and the chances that you never had yourself. You are bringing them up as Children of Europe. They will grow with an understanding of cultural diversity and be at least fluently tri-lingual in English, Catalan and Spanish. Even if my kids never go to university, growing up here means they already have a unique niche carved out for them and all the opportunities it affords.
Disadvantages seem petty in comparison but I have a few. One is not being able to help much with homework. Also, being unable to chat fluently with other mummies and people we come across. There are a lot of interesting folks out there who I would love to get to know better but my language skills defeat me. My employment opportunities are also limited until I can master either Spanish or Catalan.
I’ve finally bitten the bullet and have started taking Catalan lessons. After all, in a few years time, my children will be making arrangements with their boyfriends on the telephone and I want to be able to listen in and understand what is going on!
There are many other advantages and disadvantages but then you wouldn’t have the space for me to whittle on in this interview.
Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives?
Seriously, I believe shorter schools days and less homework. I don’t think the long school days are beneficial. No one in the world comments on just how intelligent/smart/spectacularly academic Spanish children are so why is it so unnecessarily stressful? The system as it stands now, with all it’s pressure on the children just does not work. I think finishing at 5pm is too late for primary school age.
There seems to be tons of homework to be completed every night. We pay a lovely, Catalan student who comes to help us as Mummy and Daddy can’t cope with all the Catalan! We will do this until we feel the girls are up to speed with writing and reading the language. I see a lot of children being whizzed around straight after school for activities such as sports, music, dance and English lessons and I wonder how they also get time to fit in supper, homework and relaxing with their families before bedtime.
My kids will tell you their life would improve by being allowed to have packed lunches even though the school dinners are yummy! Perhaps we ought to interview the older children on their experiences and opinions!
What advice would you give for anyone having a baby or thinking of relocating to Costa Brava with children?
Firstly, brace yourself, tighten your seatbelts/resolve and be prepared for a rocky ride. It’s not easy no matter how positive and determined you feel.
The health services are wonderful. I speak from well-qualified experience as I’m a trained nurse and have also been a patient here so I can tell you, with hesitation, that the medical services are absolutely excellent and superior to what I have experienced in my own country. My friends who have had their babies here have nothing but positive reports to tell me. So, if you having your baby here be comfortably reassured.
Regarding relocation, obviously do your research and more research. Talk to your children about all the positive reasons why you are moving. Point out all the lovely things there are for them to do when they come here. Come many times before you make the move.
Reach out to people (it’s so easy here if you have kids), talk to them, make contacts and try to help your children make friends in your chosen destination. Even a small piece of advice can go a long way or a gentle jolt in the right direction.
Outside of Barcelona, Catalan is the language of communication. If you come to live in Girona or thereabouts, somehow, someway try and find out more about the Catalan language (which is difficult in the UK). Exposing your kids to the sounds of the language may help them acclimatize.
How ignorant were we when we first came here on holiday in 2001 (when the spell was cast) and thought that the only reason we couldn’t understand anyone was because our Spanish was not good enough, when actually they were speaking Catalan!
I went home to England and told everyone that that the Catalans were under the impression that we were French because they said ‘Merci’ to us all the time! We do get by with our very functional Spanish and I still think you need to speak it here as well.
Where you live what couldn´t you live without?
An income, thankfully we have one but we both work very hard and it’s a juggling act sometimes making ends meet. It’s not a cheap place to live.
Where you live what could you live without?
Silly things really…
Having to get used to driving left-hand cars on the other side of the road!
Getting flustered when I answer the ‘phone and at other times because I can’t understand what they are saying !
The sheer effort of dealing with bureaucracy.
Finally, a comment I would like to make and think all us international parents should consider. This all sounds very noble but when you think about it, we have brought our precious, beautiful children to this wonderful country, they are our gift and its future.