Friday, 22 January 2016
Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Being able to converse in another language is an amazing achievement, and anyone who can do so fluently definitely deserve a huge round of applause in my humble opinion. You see, I'm never going to be fluent in Spanish. There were times when I thought I'd NEVER get to grips with the language, and just trying to comprehend the verbs is in itself another language!
But, it CAN be done.
I have a bit of a head start because my kids go to non English speaking schools and just have a couple of English classes a week. Helping them with homework has helped me learn new things too.
There are lots of words with more than one meaning. I know it's the same in English, but here's a couple to think about: somebody may be talking about a broken doll until you notice the plaster cast on their wrist. I also thought it unusual to call the marca blanca (own brand) in the local supermarket 'four stations', then I realised that estación also means season. Yes, four seasons sounds better. 'Cola' is another one, not only is it the popular fizzy drink down this way, it also means the following: are you ready? A queue of people, a tail (of a cat or a dog, for example) and glue, you know, what I would call 'gloopy' glue. And there's carrera, which is a race or a journey, and of course, there's the caña, which is, as we all know, a small beer, but it's also a fishing reel! Same words, VERY different meanings! My favourite things to say in Spanish are things like "Como se llama" and "que es la palabra yo busco" because even after all this time I STILL can't speak fluent Spanish. I say "OK" a lot instead of "vale" and "right" instead of "claro". I'm not even sure why I say these things. It's no secret that I'm one of the few foreigners on town. We watch English TV in the house and always speak in English to each other. The kids read stories from English books and make up stories to tell each other in English. My eldest has been to the doctor with my husband to translate before now!
Speaking Spanish fluently at a young age is such an achievement for my girls and I am so so proud of them both, but, English is also very important. My eldest insists she knows it all when of comes to learning English at school so doesn't really pay attention in class, but as I found out when I was studying English to teach as a second language, there is so much of it I take for granted and I tried explaining to her that actually English is complicated! As I mentioned earlier, I have the greatest of admiration for anybody who speaks more than one language, but sometimes the struggle is real. I say "hello" to the kiddies at the school gate, because I'm known as the 'English' lady. I love to speak in English and there are lots of people around these parts who are studying our beautiful language, for work etc, and I've said to all those that I know of, "si quieres hablar en inglés, puedes hablar conmigo"
Always happy to help!
Can anybody relate? Or is it just me?
Monday, 18 January 2016
Due to unforeseen circumstances in Spain, I have been forced to return home to the UK at short notice with my two young daughters. We are all British passport holders, I have registered with the local doctor and to vote with the council, my kids have already started school at the local academy, I've opened a UK bank account and have strong family ties in the local area. Naturally, my family are beyond happy that we have returned.
Now, this is how it REALLY is...
Recently, when the floods hit Cumbria, David Cameron boldly said something along the lines of "we must look after our own first" instead of send millions abroad in foreign aid. Except, of course, if you're a returning British expat.
I had to sit the Residential Habitual Test, which I was expecting. Of course, I had previously done some online research about this, and I found out that if I did all of the above, I may be able to have my "residency". Unfortunately, this was not to be, I failed simply because I have not been in the country long enough. This means that I am not entitled to ANY benefits for myself or my kids. As UK passport holders I feel that this is grossly unfair. I have had many phone calls with several departments and the Citizens' Advice Bureau and I have been informed that "ALL those entering the UK are treated the same". Not true. I feel I am being discriminated against because I am a British passport holder as are my children. I am NOT "entering" I am returning, and I believe that my rights should be slightly more than those who claim benefits and send money abroad and those who are already abroad and WRONGFULLY claiming for their children. I even used the word "discrimination"
I have been in touch with my local MP who kindly offered me food vouchers so I can feed my children at my parents' house and, grateful as I am, these food vouchers will not pay for public transport to attend meetings at the local job centre for advice on how to find work (I am not entitled to this OR any kind of child benefits for my kids) nor will food vouchers pay for school uniforms for my daughters. The eldest is 10 years old and is not entitled to school dinners, which I of course cannot pay for out of my non-existent income. I was told that after 12 weeks I will become eligible for all the benefits but three months is a very long time when you have no money.
I have had to register as homeless with the local council who will try to find us a home.
The flat I was renting in Spain is being sold and I have to return to sort out the paperwork on that, so I have had to call the job centre to cancel my "claim". That I am not entitled to. I am so confused, I have never had to deal with anything like this before.
I know I was lucky to find places at the local school, there are several who need to travel from all over town and I can walk it in 10 minutes. I am thankful for that. I am also thankful to my fantastic family and friends for keeping us going for the last few weeks
On my return do I have to resit the HRT? Will everything have to start all over again? Will I have to wait for ANOTHER 12 weeks with no money? I know nothing about any of this and I say to everybody I meet "talk to me like I am an idiot"
I think this policy needs a serious rethink, and the politicians should do more to help their own, and maybe, just maybe, Britain will one day be "great" again.
(THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND MAY NOT BE THE SAME FOR ALL RETURNING EXPATS).