4 testimonials from Flemings who moved to Spain last year

You want to move to sunny Spain? You are far from being the only one! We spoke with four Flemish couples who took the plunge in 2017.

Four generations, from young to old:

Brenda and Roel are young freelance translators living in Alicante

For Brenda and Roel (both 34), Spain was always an option. Logical too, the two are translator-interpreters of Spanish-Dutch. “When we graduated together, it didn’t prove simple for us to find permanent work. That’s why we both started as freelancers,” Roel says. “At the time that choice was difficult – the uncertainty gnawed – but now we kiss our two hands.” Brenda explains why: “In salaried employment, we would probably never have taken the step to Spain. For us, it doesn’t matter whether we work in Belgium or in Spain.” And so the couple now lives in an apartment in Alicante.

packed moving van

Ready to move or need another push?

“People sometimes ask us if that is financially feasible, buying a home in Spain,” Roel said. “But it was just the opposite: for us it was much easier to buy here than to build in Flanders. And life is also cheaper here. In fact, we combine the best of both worlds. By working for Flemish companies, we can scrape together a Belgian-level wage. But we do live in a cheaper country. A cappuccino costs one and a half euros here, half a liter of beer two euros and a dish of the day maximum 10 euros. Where else can you find that in Belgium?”

Those who do not dare will regret forever

“We love living in the city,” Brenda continued. “Alicante is just right for our size. And on weekends we take the streetcar to one of the coastal villages. Each time we stop one stop further. Then we explore there – a walk on the beach, at leisure somewhere to eat or drink. Every time we discover something new.”

“Take Benidorm, for example. They always say that that city is for old people, but we know a tapas bar there in a suburb where the tourists don’t come and where it’s lol. With every drink there, you get a piece of chorizo, some olives or a slice of ham. Simply, for free and for nothing. And all this while in Belgium you have to pay serious lumps of money to eat tapas. Here it is part of our weekly habits. It’s one of those little luxuries that we could never have afforded at home and that gives us energy to get back at it during the week.”

tapas bar

Small happiness is … a serving of tapas.

According to Roel, many of his friends envy him. “They say they would like to be so brave too,” he says, “But with courage it has little to do. You just have to take the step, dare to jump. On that front, I’m lucky that Brenda felt the same way. ‘Tis not that we cut the uterine cord with the homeland, eh. We have always said: if we don’t manage to settle in Spain, for whatever reason, we will sell our house and return to Belgium. You lose nothing with that. But if you don’t dare, you might regret it forever.”

Forty-somethings Carine and Frank divide their time between Antwerp and San Miguel de Salinas

“For now, we still have too many ties to Belgium to make the final crossing,” says Carine (46), “The intention is to move. We don’t want to put a deadline on it yet. In the meantime, we try to spend as many weekends and vacations here as possible.”

Carine and her husband Frank (44) are entrepreneurs of the purest pump water. In Antwerp, they operated several catering businesses. This is also the direction they want to go on the Costa Blanca. “I read about a tavern in Benidorm where expatriate Flemings had bollekes (De Koninck; tp) drinking and reading the Gazet van Antwerpen,” Carine says, “Then a whole bunch of lights went on for me. Because why keep our café open in Belgium when we could do the same in Spain? There the regulations are simpler and the weather is nicer.”

French fries, mussels and Belgian soccer

“Not that we dreamed of Benidorm, which is too touristy for us. Hence we settled in San Miguel de Salinas. We bought an apartment here and are now exploring the possibilities of opening a business. I can see it all before me: we will serve French fries with mussels, and show Belgian soccer on a big TV.”

Husband Frank is also enthusiastic. He has an additional reason for this. “Ever since I was young, I have been struggling with asthma,” he says. “But in this region, I suffer a lot less from that. The air here is so pure and healthy that I feel a lot better every time I arrive. This has a lot to do with the beneficial sea air and the neighboring salt lakes of Torrevieja. This is different from the smog in the city! Every time I have an asthma attack in Antwerp, I think to myself, “If only I were now on the Costa Blanca.”

pink salt lake Torrevieja

Torrevieja’s pink salt lake does wonders for Frank’s health.

Christine and Jean-Marie moved as soon as the children were out of the house and live in La Zenia

“We always proclaimed that we would move to Spain as soon as our children were on their own,” says Christine (54). “We told that to anyone who would listen – family, friends, neighbors. What started as a joke gradually became more serious. But when the time came, three years ago, we still began to have doubts. Were we really going to leave that have and good for an uncertain life in the stranger’s? We had saved well all our lives. So buying a house wasn’t the problem. But we did wonder how we would earn our living in Spain.”

Her husband Frank (55) came up with the solution: he would run his consulting business from La Zenia from now on. “Frank was planning to phase out anyway,” Christine believes, “He has been working at least 55 to 60 hours a week all his life, and the barrel was gradually running out. So he is slowly handing the business over to his younger partner. Every two months he returns to Belgium for two weeks. From La Zenia, he is in Murcia airport in 20 minutes. For the rest, he runs the business from Spain. With Internet, Skype, free roaming and all the other technology at hand, that’s no problem these days. And I deal with the administration.”

Better love life

“We live at a much calmer pace now. Frank no longer hangs on his phone 24/7 and is much more at ease. Strolling through the market on a Saturday, blocking our calendar for an afternoon and heading to Playa Flamanca together, having a glass of sangria on a terrace in the evening … These are pleasures we didn’t know before.” Christine chuckles. “And let’s just say our love life hasn’t deteriorated either.”

sangria

Sangria, one of the little pleasures previously unknown to Christine and Jean-Marie.

“Our three children notice that too. They also see that we have much more time and attention for each other. ‘You should have moved much earlier,’ they say. Of course – also for them it is ideal: they always have a bed on the Costa Blanca. At least once a month one of them is at the door for a short vacation.”

Josianne and Fred have been bitten by the Spain virus all their lives and live in La Vila Joiosa

“I was 21 when I first saw the Mediterranean,” Fred (73) recalls as if it were yesterday. “Mind you, that was exceptional at the time: most Flemish people didn’t have the money to go on vacation that far.” It’s love at first sight. Fred is enchanted by the sun, golden beaches, friendly people and swaying palm trees. Since then, he has returned there as often as he can afford – at first alone, but once married always in the company of his wife Josianne (66). And for a year he has been living with her in La Vila Joiosa.

“I never felt 100 percent at home in Flanders,” he says, “I have a hot-blooded character. I’ve never been that typical Flemish gray mouse. I like big gestures and noise, cozy crowds, life. Even my colleagues at The Post invariably called me ‘the Spaniard.'” By his own admission, Fred has personally tested all the Spanish Costa’s, but the Costa Blanca is the number one spot. “That’s been true from the beginning. I arrived here and knew: I’m home. This is where I should have been born.”

A day without sunshine, a day not lived

“I love the warmth of the people. Meanwhile, I speak fairly fluent Spanish, but it doesn’t really matter. In the beginning I had to get by with that Jommekes Spanish – you know: -os this and -os that – and even then the locals accepted me as one of them. Then we sat there drinking coffee and communicating in a kind of sign language.”

“Josianne and I are now members of the pensioners in La Vila Joiosa, with otherwise only Spaniards. Well, those people have welcomed us from the first minute as old friends, as if we have known each other for a thousand years. With them we do an activity every week. We go out on electric bikes, play petanque or just meet for a coffee. A few months ago I even went kayaking for the first time in my life. Great fun – I’ll definitely do that again! So you see, you’re never too old to discover something new.”

Never too old for something new: Fred learned to kayak in Spain at a blessed age.

Don’t return Fred and Josianne. “Fool!” Fred brushes off the suggestion. “There is nothing I miss about Belgium. Or it would have to be my grandchildren. But they fortunately visit regularly. You know, Josianne and I, we are sunbathers. For us, a day without sitting in the sun equals a day not lived. So we have nowhere better to sit. I worked damn hard enough for it. No, they don’t see me in Belgium anymore.”

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