A legal alien

One question I am often asked is whether I miss England. People are often surprised to learn that I have lived more of my life outside the UK than in it! Although I’ve been living in Spain for 15 years, I’ve also lived in France, Tunisia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, India and Japan (I know I don’t look old enough!) and each of them has left its mark on me in one way or another. Some have been much easier to adjust to than others, not only because of communication issues but also because of the different way of life.

Generally when you move to a new country, there’s a honeymoon period where everything is new and exciting, but it’s often followed by a period of frustration. I probably noticed these different stages of adaptation more in Japan than anywhere else I’ve lived. The culture is so different from what I’d been used to in Europe and not always what you would expect from a foreigner’s perspective. My whole first apartment there was smaller than my living room here in Spain. We tend to have the idea that Japan is full of the latest gadgets and technology and in some ways it is, but I was really shocked to find that my washing machine, although quite new, was a twin tub like my grandma used when I was little! I also had to remember to take cash out before the weekend as you could only use an ATM when the bank was open!

After 3 years in Japan, I moved to Spain and in many ways, life here felt much more familiar to me. However, there were some things I had to get used to! Spain, like Japan, is a noisy place to live. Whereas in Japan, the noise is caused by adverts blaring out from every shop or business you walk past, or every worker shouting welcome to you when you enter a business, here in Spain it’s generally people talking! In Valencia, where I now call home, people love to spend time on the terraces of bars and cafes, seemingly all talking at once and, especially in the city centre, this seems to create a constant background noise.

Meal times are something else I had to adapt to. Even after 15 years here, I cannot get used to eating so late. I don’t have my dinner at 6pm like many people in the UK, but on the other hand I don’t have my dinner at 10pm like many people here in Spain, and I still have three meals a day instead of five! And a glass of milk and a few Maria biscuits is not breakfast, but nor was fish, salad or pork chops that I was given in Japan!

To go back to the original question, there are some things I miss. I miss a pint in a cosy pub in winter, I miss British humour and comedy and of course I miss my family and friends. But equally I miss ramen bars and karaoke from Japan, the 24km long stretch of beach by my flat in Goa, the bustling medinas in Tunisia… I am very lucky to have lived in all of the places that I have, and will definitely continue to travel, but it’s nice to come home, wherever home may be.

Jon Iveson

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