Every week I talk to a Belgian who moved abroad and built a new life there. This week Thierry tells us about moving to Spain.
1. Hi, Thierry! Please quickly introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, where you’re from, where you moved to and when/why you moved.
Hi! I was born and raised in Ghent. Physically I’m 45 years old, I have no children but I do have a girlfriend now and then.
When I got the opportunity, nine years ago, to leave Belgium I didn’t doubt for a second. The dream had always been there but had been hard to achieve because I had my own business.
I first resided in Monaco for six years (and every now and then I go back) and now it has been three years that I have been living in Moraira (Costa Blanca) and working in Romania, Cluj-Napoca. I have to commute between those two places but I spend most of my time in Cluj-Napoca.
2. What did you expect from life there before moving? Did those expectations hold up?
Both Spain and Romania were an impulsive decision. I chose Spain because of the climate and Romania because of the low labor costs. I had visited neither of those places before I made my decision, though.
Purely based on those aspects, both countries met my expectations.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in Spain/Romania and life in Belgium?
The profitability and work ethic of the locals in both countries are a lot lower than in Belgium (in other words: the local people have less work stress, which means I have more).
In school, we used to learn that Belgians were praised for their high productivity and while you’re working in Belgium, you’ll find this attitude rather normal. This productivity is, however, significantly lower both in Spain and in Romania. The delivered quality here is a lot lower than what you get in Belgium as well.
The biggest source of irritation, however, is the bureaucracy and paperwork in Romania. You need contracts, stamps – and so on – for everything here. The government isn’t really focused on accommodating the population (although we do pay taxes) and instead makes people go crazy because of all the laws and regulations which are used and especially abused constantly. I don’t get the feeling one gets a lot of legal security in Romania.
4. What’s the best part about living in Spain/Romania?
I love almost everything about Moraira. The Costa Blanca is all too often associated with Benidorm, but there’s a lot more than just that.
Of course, we have a great climate here with mild winters and our summers are not too hot. There are a lot of known and a bit less known places that have something to offer for everybody. Besides that, most people who are living or visiting here breathe vacation.
Moraira has an excellent cuisine as well. Here you’ll not only find delicious Spanish dishes but international ones too.
Every time I stroll through Moraira – even after three whole years – I still feel like I’m walking through the playground. I feel really lucky when I think of all the people that have to put aside a lot of money each year to be able to spend just twee weeks here.
I’m a bit less enthusiastic about Romania however. After three years I still can’t name any nice aspects of the country. The entirely lacking tourism infrastructure will certainly have something to do with that. Oddly enough, a lot of Romanians find Cluj-Napoca very ‘wow!’, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
5. What do you like least about living in Spain/Romania?
The ‘mañana culture’ in Spain can be annoying sometimes, especially when you have something that needs to be done. Fortunately, there are a lot of expatriate residents living on the Costa Blanca whom you can draw upon.
I find Romania a rather unpleasant country to live in. As an entrepreneur, I constantly have the feeling that I could be sent to jail at any possible time. Everything is arranged through stamps, signatures, and laws which mainly warrant one-way traffic. I don’t get the impression that this policy is only directed toward foreigners and luckily I can always count the days till I get to go back to Moraira.
6. What do you miss most about Belgium?
Of course – and this is a very traditional answer, I suppose – I miss my mother, my friends, and the Burgundian lifestyle 😉
The proximity of several fun cities and places ensures that you’ll always find something to do, whether it’s sunny or raining.
7. Is there something about Belgium that you don’t miss at all?
Another very traditional answer: the traffic jams and the bad weather. Traffic jams are non-existent both on the Costa Blanca and in Cluj-Napoca.
And to name one thing I like about Romania: we do have a very long and warm summer here and winters are cold but they’re not as gloomy as they are in Belgium.
8. Do you think you’ll stay in Spain/Romania? Or is there a chance you’ll move abroad again someday?
There’s no doubt about Spain, Moraira is my new home and by far the best place I have lived in so far. But never say never.
There’s not much doubt about Romania either, I already planned a move to Moldavia within a free trade area to avoid the bureaucracy. During my stay there I’ll opt for Chisinau, I hope living in the capital will suit me better.
9. Do you have any tips or advice for other Belgians who consider moving to Spain?
Don’t think too much, just do it 🙂 I very often notice that people are just overthinking it, which usually ends up in nothing at all.
10. What are some tips you would give to people who are traveling to your region/city? Things they should visit or eat?
When people are planning a city trip to Spain, they’ll usually choose the popular Barcelona or the capital Madrid. Valencia is equally as beautiful, but you do have to take your time and don’t just follow the travel guide.
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This interview was done by Paloma García Miranda, a talented Master’s Student of Business Communication who’s helping Sofie out here on WonderfulWanderings.com.