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Utilities in Spain

We are often asked about the utilities in Spain.  If you buy in a town you will almost certainly have mains water but if you have a villa on the edge of or outside the main town you may not have mains sewage but have a septic tank instead.  This surprises a lot of people but in parts of Spain this is normal.  If you buy a rural property you may not have mains water but use a private well or have water delivered by tanker to fill your huge storage tank.
Generally mains water is of drinkable quality these days, gone are the days when you had to buy it bottled.  To get around shortages of water there are now a number of desalination plants around the coast taking sea water and cleaning it up for local use.  There are also a number of reservoirs now that are also small hydro-electric plants.  Water supply in the Alicante region doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore.
Gas has until recently been bottled only in most areas but towns are slowly having mains gas installed.  Again this surprises many Brits looking to buy in Spain, and of course using bottles of gas for central heating is pretty expensive.  Using portable gas heaters is common practice and fairly economical too.  Modern air conditioning units have settings for cooling or heating and are sufficient for use in a bedroom, although not necessarily that cheap to run.
For many years Iberdrola were the only electricity company but in recent years de-regulation has allowed competition and there are now other options.  Also duel tariffs are available too now, so cheap electricity at night and in the morning with a slightly raised rate for the afternoon and evening means savings can be made.  Solar has come a long way too and with 320 days of sunshine a year in south Costa Blanca developers now include solar in their new build homes.
There are a few ‘anomalies’ that I have come across over the years.  For instance, where our house is located the water company are also responsible for collecting the rubbish so instead of the cost of rubbish collection being included in the local council tax it is added to your water bill instead!
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First time travelling alone with the children

First time travelling alone with the children
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In the early years we usually visited my parents as a family, but after the youngest was born I made my first trip with the children without Dave.  My Dad had to visit the UK for some reason so it was planned for me to travel back with him to Spain, but I had to do the return journey without help.  Travelling alone with children aged 7 & 6 years old plus an 8 month old baby was an experience!  I booked airport assistance for when I arrived back in the UK but the flight had been delayed, so my ‘assistance’ finally arrived after we had walked as far as the luggage collection area and consisted of a guy handing me a luggage trolley and disappearing to go and look after his next assignment!
I could see the pushchair and case on the carousel so asked a man who looked to be fit and healthy in his 30’s if he could please help by lifting them off for me as I was holding a baby, but he told me if I couldn’t do it myself I shouldn’t be travelling on my own with kids!
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 A bit stunned by his attitude an older gentleman approached and said he would help when the case and buggy came around again, and kindly removed both for me.  I strapped the baby into the buggy and found we were left standing alone with our trolley except for an elderly lady with walking sticks standing beside her case.  She too had booked assistance and she too had been let down due to the flight delay.  I lifted her bags onto my trolley and whilst the children pushed their brother in the buggy she held onto the trolley for support as I pushed it and we walked at a snail’s pace the rest of the way together.
Standing looking very anxious as we walked out through arrivals into the public area were two men, one was Dave and the other the elderly lady’s son.  They had thought we must have got lost, but in truth we had just been abandoned by airport assistance!

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Early Family Visits to Costa Blanca

Early family visits
 
With Mum and Dad living outside the town on a steep hill we had to use a car for getting anywhere.  The road was too steep to walk, I know as I tried several times!  I stopped trying after the youngest was born as after struggling to push the buggy up the hill I discovered it was positively terrifying trying to hold onto it on the way back down and stop him falling out whilst trying to stop two other children ending up rolling down!
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Dave learnt to drive in Spain without an issue the first time we visited Mum and Dad but I was very hesitant.  In fact it was many years before I was persuaded to drive in Spain.
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In the end it was necessity that made me learn, it being obvious that at some point in the not too distant future I might have to visit alone to see Mum and Dad due to Dad’s health issues.  I don’t know why I was so reluctant to do it, there was nothing to be scared about.  Mum and Dad had two cars so we used one of theirs when we visited.  We would have days out to visit local places but often stayed around the villa as the garden was plenty big enough and the children all loved the large pool.
Hidden among the fruit trees Dad had created a petanque court and he invested in a plastic set for the kids.  They became surprisingly good at it over the years.
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The children also loved to visit the ‘100 pesetas’ shops (this was well before the introduction of the Euro!) where they could buy cheap toys and treats, a sort of equivalent of the UK’s Poundland.  Later these became the 1 euros shops (which was if I remember correctly quite a lot more than 100 pesetas, so a hefty price rise!) but even those seem to have disappeared now.

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If you are looking to find your dream home on the Costa Blanca or Costa Calida then we are here to help you and walk with you through all the stages of finding and buying your dream property. And we are happy to help with information on settling into your new home or setting up a holiday rental to turn your second home into an income Have a look at a short video on how we can help you

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PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant

PART 40 An Ex-pat, not an immigrant!

time for thinking

The British way to get yourself understood abroad seems to try first in normal English, when that fails we try speaking very loudly and slowly, but still in English. For reasons beyond normal rationality we figure that will work. Why? Is it because we are rude and arrogant or is it because learning another language in school in the UK is not prioritised or valued enough? The Scandinavians almost grow up bi-lingual, learning English alongside their native tongue from kindergarten age, and many, as a result, seem adept at learning other languages too. My multi-lingual friends and acquaintances all grew up bi-lingual whereas here in the UK it often high school before learning a foreign language is taken seriously in education.

The hypercritical way some Brits abroad defiantly, almost triumphantly, live in Spain for many years without bothering to learn more than café con leche or cerveza, or speak only their own ‘Spanglish’, never ceases to amaze and dismay me. They are the first to criticise the immigrants in the UK who don’t speak English within three weeks of arriving; but an Englishman abroad is not an immigrant, an Englishman abroad is an ex-pat!

However after years in Spain, having lived in their ex-pat (immigrant) community, drinking and eating in bars with only English speaking or ex-pat (immigrant) staff, and dipping into the odd Spanish fiesta or parade only when attending with a group of other ex-pats (immigrants), they can come unstuck. It’s when the difficult things in life happen, like illness, that they realise they are actually living in a foreign country (they are an immigrant!) and the nurses don’t all speak English and you have to pay for an interpreter or rely on ex-pat volunteers who did learn the language (immigrants who have integrated better!) to come to your rescue. One day, if you live in Spain, you will wish you had bothered with Spanish, so why wait? You may even find you enjoy living the dream a lot more through being able to live a fuller and more integrated life in the sun.

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My family abroad:Early Comunications Phone what Phone

Early Comunications

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We were in a time that was pre-internet, pre-mobile phones and there was no landline in the valley at that time.  Our contact was a phone call every Thursday evening at 7pm UK time initially made by Mum and Dad from the international phone box in town.  Later we rang the house phone of friend’s they had made instead, again every Thursday evening at 7pm, as soon as we returned from our children’s swimming lesson.   It is hard to imagine in this day and age of instant contact that this was only 25 years ago.  Today I am in contact with my children and grandchildren most days, we send each other pictures just seconds after the photo was taken and it doesn’t matter if we are not in same country, it is still instant.   We use texts, emails, ‘whats ap’ and facebook; I can even send a message via my phone to the little ones’ cuddly toys to be played to them; sometimes we even talk on the phone!

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Despite there being a telegraph pole positioned right outside their house, it would be nearly two years before Mum and Dad had their own landline phone.  One day workmen turned up, erected new poles in the valley, one just a few yards down the road from the villa.  A few days later the phone lines were hung on the poles, missing out the original pole outside the villa.  When shown the old pole the workman shrugged and as the lower part was encircled by the front wall they just cut the pole down at wall height and carried it away, leaving the bottom meter still in the wall.  To my knowledge it is still there.

Mum later described those early days as seeming like a great adventure into the unknown.  It was exciting and brave heading off to a foreign country with a different language, different culture and different food.  She says that today’s technology has robbed the younger generation of the chance to experience that feeling, that today it is so normal to move around and so easy to keep in touch and the cultural differences with our continental neighbours have blurred and merged as we eat the same foods and drink the same wines and the world is smaller.  Maybe she is right.

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