Some of my followers on Facebook have already heard the news: I am relocating to Valencia, Spain! Having lived twelve and a half years in Scotland, my family and I are preparing to emigrate to sunnier climates. Although this is not the first time I am swapping countries (after all, I moved to Scotland from the Netherlands when I was in my mid twenties), I am a bit overwhelmed by everything that comes with moving house, let alone moving to another country! Back then, all I was moving was my granny’s old cupboard, four vintage dining room chairs, some clothes and six boxes of books on one small pallet. Twelve years later it’s a family of four and the contents of a four-bedroom house.
I moved to Scotland in 2005 to be with my husband, who was working in the oil industry. I had never heard of Aberdeen before meeting him in a Dutch pub on a Friday night in The Hague, and certainly never thought I’d be making it my home. But I did, for far more years than I had ever imagined. Living in the North east of Scotland was a learning curve. English was not my first language and the local tongue Doric was like Chinese to me (my first job here was in an office, regularly answering the phone – you get the picture!). I had to start from scratch in my career, in finding friends, in building a new life. Getting to know a new city, a new country, with all its foreign rules and quirks. Being an expat can be hard work!
Aberdeen was a bit of a bleak contrast to the colourful, cultural Dutch cities I was used to back home. No, it certainly wasn’t love at first sight! But you either sink or you swim, so you adapt, you carve out a life and find the things you love when you open your ears and eyes – and you make new friends anywhere if you try. I feel living here has made me more resilient, more flexible and more confident in my ability to adapt in new situations while staying close to myself. Although I still feel very Dutch at times, even if it’s only because I am taller than most Scots, I no longer feel like an expat in Scotland. I made it my second home. I love the stunning beauty of country, the honesty and down-to-earth-ness of its people, the traditions, the music, its pride in Scottish culture. I had my children here, I started my business here, I have matured here. Scotland will be in my heart forever. I even understand Doric now. Kind of.
Why are we moving then? Brexit? Well, no, that’s not the reason, although it certainly made the choice easier for me as a EU citizen. On a night out a long time ago, long before we got married and had our boys, my husband and I wrote our dreams for our future on a napkin. One of the agreements was that we “would go and live in the sun at least once in our lives”. Because well, yes, Aberdeen is pretty cold and miserable most of the year. Of course, life and bills got in the way and we ended up spending the next ten years working very hard, buying a house and staying put. Then around three years ago, when the oil price dropped and jobs were at risk, we remembered that napkin. We even found it back in an old notebook. What if a redundancy meant we could actually make that life change? Would we? Could we? And where would we go?
In 2016, it was as if fate struck. Redundancy became a fact for my husband, which despite our wish for change, still came as a shock. Then within months, my shop burnt down to the ground. From having very busy lives, we were all of a sudden both sitting at home with our head in our hands, wondering what to do next. We decided to pack our kids and camping gear in the car and drove off to the continent for six weeks. With no jobs to go to and school closed for the summer, we went on a big road trip to clear the cob webs and get ideas for our future. We drove through France, thinking that could be our new home perhaps, but fell in love with Spain after accidentally ending up in San Sebastian and traveling through the Spanish Pyrenees. Still, what location to pick? Where could we see ourselves settling? The choice is endless. Then at Christmas we got a request for a home swap in Valencia.
Spending two weeks holiday in Valencia in August, while living in a homely flat in a residential neighbourhood rather than a hotel, made us decide to go for it. We met some lovely expats who had made the jump before us and all seemed a lot more doable. The idea of bringing up our kids in the sun, enjoying the good weather, the food, the culture and meeting new people made us feel excited for the future again.
Back home we did the sums (spreadsheets galore!) and started the process. We went back to select a school for our boys and are now hunting for a rental home to move into. It’s all getting very real! What will we be doing in Valencia? It’s the one question we get asked all the time. Live! We will live, bring up our children, learn Spanish, get healthy, get out of the rat race, meet new people, see new things. Be an expat all over again, with all the challenges that come with it. I will work as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant (check out my other website Copy Por Favor). I will also continue Nina’s Apartment in Spain, blogging and offering design services where possible (E design can be done everywhere!). Who knows, I may even be opening another vintage shop in the future? And I’m sure we’ll come back to Scotland for our holidays, to see old friends and to cool off in the height of Spanish summer.
First things first though, a house move, which means packing up, selling stuff, decluttering (you don’t need five warm winter coats in Spain, do you?). One way flights have been booked at the end of February. Better get going.