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Ex-pats and why we are friends and why we shoud not be – maybe

You went to Spain for a dream
You went to Spain for a dream”

So I was in Spain, trying to fulfill a dream like everyone else, being drawn in more and more in many ways, not least of all financially.  I was trying to learn the lingo, many of us were.  We smiled at the locals in the local shops, and they smiled at us too.  We thought we were doing well. But somewhere along the line comes the time when YOU NEED TO HAVE A REAL CONVERSTATION.  And that my friend is why you start to hang out with other ex-pats.  You all have similar problems and are there for not too wildly different reasons.  You can rattle on without thinking about verb declensions and it is so much easier.  Suddenly you become … drinking buddies.

"We are best friends, right?"
“We are best friends, right?”

The problem is you are more buddies with “some” than with “others”.  And as you realize that “some” are not actually buddies, you become buddies with the “others”.  It is repeated like this across Spain, Bali, France, anywhere that expats go in search of paradise non-existent.  Us expats are not bad.  It is human nature and totally understandable.

And that is how I got myself in the caca.  Because what happens when you need to talk to someone who speaks the same language, is you drink and talk too much.  And invariably it boomerangs back on you.  Especially when interpreted through a drunken haze.

So while I was angsting over my masia and its progression and finalization, I was talking to expats who were thinking, you fucking rich bitch, how can you talk about your roof when all I have is a self-composting toilet that does not even compost.  They would not have been thinking this if they were cosy and hunky dory with their own situations, but the fact is not many of us had experienced our dream like we had hoped.

gathering clouds
gathering clouds

It was a recipe for disaster.

I now “almost” regret that I ever spoke to one English exile.  They are not more or less  “nasty”  than I am, any more than in any country or society more or less).  But our insecurities, mine included,  make for a very potent molotov cocktail and I am afraid I did not withstand the blast.  With each detonation a segment of my dream was shattered.  We did not come to sunny Spain to deal with coronation street dramas, nor school day style cliques.  But it seemed this is what happened, to me, to them, to us all.

Shall I give you the details? Yes, maybe, but not now. I leave that to your imagination. Suffice to say that while I was dealing with the problems of building something practically unimaginable for a solitary untrained person (and a woman no less!) in the back of beyond, I also became the object of much speculation, downright lies spiked with inebriety.  I guess you could call it bullying for grown-ups.  At least, being a grown-up I was more able to deal with it. That is I did not contemplate slitting my wrists. But it did at times make me feel pretty miserable.

Actually, I’ll be honest.   At one point I started to question my sanity, my purpose for being there.  I passed some very dark days.   For a while the pool of ex-pats sitting outside Almendros next to the supermarket every Saturday and Tuesday filled me with dread.  They  watched, drank endlessly, were ever ready to criticise. This was not why I had come to Spain.

drinking buddies
  “we are drinking buddies from all nations”


  1. Colin
    February 23, 2021

    I read this blog a while ago but I was binge reading and never gave it the time it deserved.
    Aren’t us humans horrible. We have a similar situation where we stay. Genuinely unhappy people critiquing constantly rather than celebrating and supporting.
    You’ve made your way through this experience and now it’s but a memory.
    You have the people around you that add to your life. well done Stephanie

    • stephanie de leng
      February 24, 2021

      Thank you Colin. I did not mean this blog to hurt people but it turned the ex-pat community against me. Locally that is. What they hated the most was that I even dared do a blog. Internationally I had a mass of people emailing me directly with their own experiences.

      The thing is I tried to make it balanced and put myself in the same boat, but that was not seen. Which I guess illustrates the point of the blog. Why be nice when there is an alternative? That was then and now, during Covid, the English have formed a core group that support and celebrate their friendships. A lot more have left, and even more have sadly died.

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