Thoughts on Integration

Expats have a bad reputation in Spain for not integrating into the local communities. It’s no wonder we’re sometimes labeled lazy and ignorant when a lot of us a living largely in an expat community.

I hear the phrase ‘you know what the Spanish are like…’ a lot. And every time I hear, it surprises me. This ‘what the Spanish are like’ is often half the reason why we moved here in the first place.

This phrase is for one, nearly always used with negative connotation and secondly, and most importantly, a complete generalisation of a nation we all personally know a tiny corner of.  Since when was it OK to judge people by their nationality? Aren’t we all individuals with different up-bringings, interests and hobbies?

Why do we discriminate when, at the end of day, we are all just people that can learn from each other’s backgrounds and values? Isn’t this what enriches our lives?

We live in such a beautiful part of the world. It’s a rare combination of some of the freshest air in Europe, the most relaxing and healthy attitude towards life, rolling hills, dramatic peaks, warm weather, ocean breezes and rich culture. As immigrants here, we should appreciate Málaga for all it’s beauty and that includes its people. Being part of the social fabric of a region not only means that you will get so much more out of your experience here but will also help disbar some of the expat stereotypes.

This keeping alive of the negative stereotypes of locals is exactly what feeds the negative stereotyping of us.

Moving abroad to a country that speaks another language rather than our mother tongue is a challenge, especially for adults. Children adapt quickly and are language sponges. I know children that have immigrated to the area and been fluent within six months. That’s a skill they’ll have forever.

I think at a certain point in learning Spanish we reach a barrier, where we know just enough to get by. Is that enough though? Shouldn’t we be constantly striving to better ourselves and further our integration into this rich and vibrant lifestyle?

We as a nation living abroad must break the stereotype. Even if it’s just picking up a phrase a book, listening to some Spanish radio stations or having a conversation with your local butcher.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to break the mould, be the exception.

Laura Wood

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