Expat Interview: Costa Women
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
In our twice weekly #ExpatHour twitter chat, we bring together expats living all over the world and many of them share their story with Medibroker to inspire and help others moving overseas. This week we spoke to Ali Meehan, the creator of Costa Women, Spain's award winning expat network. She told us abut her life as a serial expat and subsequent move to Spain. The reason she began la vida española will melt your heart!
Where are you from and where have you lived?
Originally from Herne Bay in Kent, I started my expat journey in the 1990s in Australia. Coming back to the UK, I was fortunate enough to be headhunted for a job with an export wholesaler so began travelling the world in my 30s. My career also afforded me the opportunity to live in the Middle East for 5 years and then a spell living and working in Asia. Serial Expat? Yes maybe! Since Australia it's been Spain, Dubai and Thailand and now I am back (permanently) near Malaga in Andalucia, Spain.
Why did you choose to become an expat in Spain?
Love! My (now) husband was already living and working here. We originally both come from Herne Bay but didn’t know each other until a chance meeting at a friend's birthday party. The rest, as they say, is history! At the time I met him, I was working from home in Surrey and he was living and working in Spain, so I was able to move my “virtual” space to Spain. Previously, Spain never figured on the places to live map and I had very little knowledge of the area. However, it's been a brilliant choice and, in my opinion, the best place in Europe to live.
What was the biggest challenge when you were planning your move?
To Spain, it was very easy as I have a British passport and my partner had already been living here for two years. However, Dubai and Thailand were more of a challenge with Visa and requirements for work permits. If you are planning a move to a new country, research, research, research before you arrive! Nowhere will be the same as “home”; each country has its own unique requirements and its own unique way of dealing with bureaucracy. My advice - don’t spend time wishing it were like where you have come from; accept that its just different and part of the adventure!
What do you love about being an expat in Spain?
The Spanish are very welcoming and in Southern Spain we have a wonderful climate, festivals, ferias, flamenco, a healthy diet and way of life that would be hard to replicate somewhere else. If you make an effort to fit in, you will reap the rewards. If you want to just duplicate the life you had from your home country, I feel you are missing out on the whole experience and a chance to benefit from learning about a new culture, learn a new language and enjoy the richness of life in a new country as a foreigner.
How do you handle the language barrier?
With difficulty! Because of coming and going to Spain, I have only recently made a concerted effort to learn the language. It is very important and a mix of lessons and practicing with my (unsuspecting) Spanish friends in the gym, shopping and during daily life. I made an arrangement with my Spanish teacher to teach her English in exchange for conversational Spanish which seems to be working, although my accent needs some serious work!
What’s the Spanish healthcare system like for expats? Any experiences you can share?
Private and public healthcare in Spain is generally regarded as very good. I only have experiences of the private system and as they saved my life when I suffered a burst appendix, I think it's excellent! The rules have changed recently in Spain but the Department of Health in the UK provide useful, up to date information as to the requirements:
What has been your most memorable experience since moving?
So many! Each country has given me the opportunity to enjoy living with completely different cultures, working in different environments, making friends with locals, sharing food and life; all bringing a rich experience of life abroad and 1000's of memories. My decision to live in other countries fulfilled the desire to enjoy and share life as the country men and women have created it. It would be a real pity just to move overseas and not experience the “real” (in my case) Spain, or not make Spanish friends and learn from their way of looking at life.
Can you tell us a bit about Costa Women?
At the end of 2010, when we moved back to Spain, I decided it was important for me to have a network of friends and also I wanted to help connect, inspire, enable and support women during their lives in Spain. I created Costa Women as a free social and business networking site for Women living in Spain, or Women who want to move here. Since 2010 I have welcomed nearly 4,000 members to the website, costawomen.com. The website has over 90+ interest groups covering everything from writing books and blogging, gardening, women in business and healthy living, to geographically based groups as well as groups for Women from Spain, Finland, Russia, Germany etc. to connect with others from their home countries.
My proudest moments include Costa Women being awarded Best of British Social Club by The Telegraph and Expat Stars award from MyCurrencyTransfer. And when we were included in Top 101 Feisty, Fun And Fabulous Women Bloggers To Follow by Birds on the Blog; accolades we won’t have won without the support of the Costa Women themselves.
If you want to find out more about life in Spain and connect with Costa Women, you can register for free at costawomen.com, or find us on Facebook, either our main page, or one of the 16 groups based in different geographical, or business focussed groups and Twitter @costawomen
See you there?
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