Yeh, why not?
A year in a similar yet different culture
Sitting in my - what I call - “lounge trailer“ in our garden, I let my eyes wander over the hills, fields, town and beach with all the kite surfers. With the ocean and Morocco in the background I start to think: I never set out to live here and I never thought I would. Not because I don’t like it but simply because I didn't know this place existed. As if by chance, after I finished my final studies last year, I ended up here in this amazing place with beautiful nature, 2km away from a huge beach, just outside of a small but unbelievably lively town and only 15km away from another continent. I can see Africa from my garden! So how did this happen? Well, for sure I was lucky in a way but I was also curious and open to massive changes in my life which made me decide to enter the unknown even without researching everything before. Some might say it’s reckless but I don’t see it like that. I’d call it daring! I came here because my boyfriend had already decided to move here when we got to know each other. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and into a new relationship in a new country with a language I don’t speak and a culture, while not too different from my own, was different enough to teach me something new about myself. Living with someone who doesn’t speak German (he’s English), has a chronic illness and also getting two puppies made my challenge complete. This year in Andalusia, the most southern tip of Spain, is definitely the most exciting one of my life so far. I’m glad I was brave enough to tell myself: "Yeh, why not? Just go with it!" Because that's what I did.
So here I am, living just outside of Tarifa, in a mountain area and natural park where all kinds of animals (cows, pigs, goats, donkeys…) roam freely and where nearly all the houses built are technically illegal, just kind of tolerated and mainly owned by local families (The local term for this is “Alegal” – describing kind of a grey area). The range goes from massive villas with pools and tropical gardens to container houses, caravans and old shabby cottages. We live in something in the middle of that range, solid but basic, in a typical little Spanish finca with bricks in the walls, no heating (but a fire) and a big garden in which all our waste water ends up… You’d think maybe there’s special filtration system to keep chemicals from polluting the ground water but no, the Spanish don’t seem to care too much about pollution in the country side. You can’t even get biodegradable cleaner in the supermarkets. However basic, we have good internet which really has become a must have facility nowadays no matter where you are!
Spain in general is quite “chilled“ in many ways which can be a challenge for a German who’s used to strict schedules, quality and precision. The words “mañana, mañana“ (=tomorrow) and a siesta from 2-5pm where shops and even coworking spaces are closed, describe Spanish timing perfectly. The other characteristic I discovered after a while is that everything is patched together for a temporary fix at best. Use what you have in reach and leave it as long as it “works” (meaning, as long as it works SOMETIMES, it works!;-). Improvised solutions sometimes live a long life, I’m sure everyone has experienced this probably more than once in their life. There’s the naked bulb without a lamp shade after moving in a new apartment which is still there when moving out after 3 years. There’s the mirror leaning against the wall that you wanted to hang up properly but hey, I can see myself in it, so... it works. A designer’s eye probably can’t stand looking at such patchworks and meant-to-be-temporary solutions but they are a reality in many places, for many people. We are lazy and sometimes, when we get new things or when we need to fix something, we aren’t patient at all. We just want to use it. Right now, with no preparation or installation. That’s one of the reasons why designers always have to keep things simple – easy is appealing.
On the one hand the lack of appreciation and consciousness about (product) quality here in Spain is annoying me a little bit. On the other hand all these patches make me smile because it is so human. For me, being in an other country means you should try to see things from a different angle. Don’t get annoyed about the Spanish people who stop their car randomly on the street just to open the window and chat to someone walking along, regardless of the other cars held up behind them. Ask yourself “Yeh, why not?“ In a country where punctuality isn’t really a thing, you don’t need to rush from one appointment to another - or even keep them at all sometimes! Us Germans, we might not be used to this because being late can have consequences. But in a country with different (unwritten) rules you don’t need to stress. That’s nice! But therefore you also have to tolerate the fact that many things won’t get done straight away. The Spanish (meaning outside the metropolis) just choose to live “slower“, nothing’s really wrong with it. Nevertheless, I must admit that I realised how much I appreciate the quality of buildings, products and services in Germany. I was not aware of how well things work in my country until I got out of it.
Leaving home is exciting but coming back home with new experiences is just as great.