I am a semi-retired security specialist living in Alaior, Menorca. We lived in Menorca some years ago where we ran the Bar Nelson in Son Vitamina. What little business I conduct now is entirely over the internet so I can live anywhere as long as I ...
Where are you from, Mike, and what are you doing nowadays?
I'm originally from Ealing, West London although for most of my adult life I've lived in the sunny South West and for the past 10 years or so in the beautiful City of Wells, Somerset. I joined the security industry in 1970 and retired on my 70th birthday as Sales & Marketing Director for a company based in Bristol.
Why did you decide to move to Spain?
Over twenty years ago, frustrated and in the midst of an ongoing mid-life crisis, my partner suggested we move to Menorca where I could live my dream of making a living as an artist. However, it turned out to be a pretty mean living so when we were asked if we would like to run a bar and restaurant, we said yes, having no idea what we were letting ourselves in for.
We were quite successful and it became very popular but a couple of years later we were totally exhausted and decided to move back to the UK where I could pick up where I left off in the security industry. Sadly we had to leave behind a son at college in Mahon. He made his life there and eventually started a family. So we always planned to return to the island one day and two years ago, the opportunity suddenly presented itself. We grabbed it, and here we are.
As a British national, what were the procedures you had to follow to move there?
Moving was no less difficult or stressful than any major move would have been in the UK - just more expensive. We arrived in Menorca 24 hours before the removal van. It was mid-April but the weather was unseasonably hot and very humid so unpacking was a bit of a nightmare.
Once we moved in, we quickly learned that we could do nothing until we had a NIE (Numero de Identificacion Extranjero) - we couldn't even open a bank account, buy a car or get a phone line. They were immediately applied for and once we had these tiny, insignificant slips of green paper, everything suddenly became possible and more importantly, we could apply to register with a doctor at the local medical centre and eventually receive our Tarjeta Sanitaria.
The treatment we have received from the local medical centre has been extremely good. Menorca's population is relatively small so there's no waiting for routine x-rays and blood tests although it can take quite a while to see some specialist consultants. We have both had need of the local hospital in the past couple of years and we are both impressed by the quality of service we received.
Having lived here before, albeit over 20 years ago, we were reasonably familiar with the way things work in Spain and knew that much patience is required, so there were no bureaucratic surprises. Soon we had opened a Spanish bank account, bought a suitable car, installed a TV and eventually had a phone line installed.
What has attracted you to Spain/Menorca?
We always loved Spain and the Spanish people in particular and adored Menorca for its tranquillity and friendliness. As we had lived here before, some 20+ years ago, and had regularly taken holidays here ever since, we were very used to the Menorcan way of life, so for us it was just like coming home.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
Several months earlier, we had been on an annual holiday in Menorca when we ran into friends who owned the small house our son had lived in for some years. We had taken a look at a few properties but had not seen anything that we felt would suit us. Our friends told us that this very familiar house was available if we were interested. We were, and made an instant decision. In effect, the house found us rather than the other way round, but generally there is no shortage of rental properties or properties for sale in Menorca but with the recent Brexit vote and volatile value of sterling, it is probably not a good time to buy right now.
What does your every day life look like in Menorca?
The annual Fiesta de San Juan has just taken place and we were invited to join a large Menorcan family as they celebrated the saint's day of three family members. We all sat at a very long table set under shady pine trees. The food was exceptional, the wine flowed generously and hours passed at a leisurely pace. Eventually, as day turned to evening, a guitar was passed around and the more musical family members played and sang with delightful harmonies. It was magical and this is how I will always remember summer days in Menorca.
Unfortunately, the winters can be pretty boring as all the holiday resorts are completely boarded up like ghost towns and there's very little to do. Our first winter here was the coldest for 47 years and we spent much of our time huddled over a wood burning stove. Mercifully, the winters are usually fairly brief, the sun soon returns and once again the roads are full of British holidaymakers driving rented cars and finding novel ways to go round roundabouts.
Your favorite local dishes?
Generally speaking, everyday restaurant food in Menorca can be good but not very varied, so we often say that you come to Menorca for sun, sand and the sea and unless you can afford fine dining, don't expect to be excited by the food. However, these days there are very few things you can't find in the shops if you look hard enough; baked beans, Marmite, Weetabix, PG Tips are all common place these days. I am a vegetarian so this adds another dimension to eating out, but there's always tortilla as a last resort. However, rather than die of tortilla boredom, I have begun to eat fish and I guess my favourite is grilled lemon sole with Pernod dressing.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
What to we miss? Apart from friends and family there's not much we pine for in our old life.
Following the vote for the leave for Brexit, how did you react to the results? Which impact do you think it may have on your expat life?
We had a postal vote for the referendum and were mildly optimistic but, like many, we were stunned by the result. Brexit has already taken its toll as we immediately saw our pensions shrink as the pound weakened. No doubt there will be many longer-term problems along the way but we are resolved to stay here. This is where we belong and where our friends are, so we will face every day as it comes, always feeling privileged to live on this beautiful island.