An environmentally-friendly expat in Spain

  • Gracela in Grenada
Published last year

Originally from the Philippines, Gracela and her husband decided it wasn't the place for them due to the high level of air pollution, so they decided to discover the eco-friendly policies in the Spanish province of Granada. Currently in the process of learning Spanish and getting into the Spanish lifestyle, Gracela tells a bit about living in Granada.



I am learning Spanish

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what are you doing in Spain, and what were you doing before you arrived?

I am Gracela Einarson, 33 years old from Davao City in the Philippines. I am based in the coastal village of La Herradura on Costa Tropical, Granada with my Norwegian husband, Eldar. We are now on a three-month temporary visit in El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands to learn more about the green policy of the island. I graduated from the University of Southeastern Philippines in 2004 as a teacher. After that, I took a Real Estate Brokerage education. My last job was in the Housing Department of the Philippine Social Security System. I have also worked online as a freelance virtual assistant.

What brought you to Spain? How long have you been in the country?

Spain scenery

I met my husband in Davao early 2014 and we decided to live there. But my husband got a chronic irritated throat due to air pollution so we decided to move to Spain. My husband travelled in advance and found a nice flat for rent in a small coastal community one hour drive east of Málaga.   I travelled alone on a one-way ticket in June 2016. It was a thrilling experience because I was first denied to enter the plane in Hong Kong, and in Frankfurt I was denied to enter the Schengen area. But I managed to go through by fighting for my rights.

What is the process to move to Spain?

My husband is an EU/EEA citizen so he has the right to become a resident of Spain together with his spouse, regardless of her nationality. To become a resident here, you must have a monthly minimum income of 430€ per month for one person, 560€ per month for two, if married or being civil couple, and 130€ per month in addition for each child.

I obtained a Schengen visa valid for three months from the Spanish Consulate in Manila. When I arrived in Spain, I registered at the Local Police station and submitted the requirements for my residency, and was told to wait for a letter with a confirmation from the Foreign Affairs Office in Granada. After some months, I received a letter notifying that my Philippine Marriage Certificate was not approved and I was ordered to submit a correct one from Manila with a very short deadline. I had to act fast and managed to solve the problem.

What is your favourite thing about Spain, and what is your least favourite thing?

The whole concept of Spain. It’s so fascinating, diverse and with some effort you can find a very good place to live that fits your needs.  I can’t think of a least favourite thing here, but one thing that comes to my mind is; why do they speak so fast?

How would you describe Spain in one sentence?

I will have to use the slogan from my hometown Davao City: LIFE IS HERE.

What has surprised you the most about Spain?

The siesta times. I am not just used to establishments closing in the afternoon. Also, babies and small children out at late night with their parents in cafés and restaurants.

What are the features of today’s expat job market in Spain?

I am not working in Spain yet because I am still learning the language and doing some online trainings to add up to my skills as virtual assistant. Based on observation; language teaching and IT-based jobs recruit expats. Of course if you are a digital nomad, Spain is very attractive.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Spain, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

accommodation in Spain

There are many affordable rental options in Spain, and property sales abound. I think it is a good time to purchase properties because the prices are still low, however I see it increasing. My husband only used a few days to find a modern and fully furnished two-bedroom apartment with beddings, towels, beach equipment etc. for rent on a one year renewable contract close to the beach with all amenities in a very popular area for 450 euros a month. In El Hierro, we are paying 360 euros for a similar apartment.

What are the year’s biggest holidays in Spain? What is some essential etiquette in Spain?

For me, as a Catholic, I consider the Holy Week with the many fantastic processions as the most important one. Spain is famous for its many fiestas; the Spaniards love to have fun all year round. During carnival time in February, it explodes and the party goes on and on.

On the etiquette side; politeness and social niceties are very much observed here. Generally, Spanish people greet like you are already close pals, kissing you on both cheeks. I have gotten used to greeting everybody when entering a local bar and saying a firm goodbye upon leaving, in Spanish of course.

Even though Spain is a haven for tourists, you should not forget your good manners. Beachwear is only for the beach!

How do you find the lifestyle in Spain?

Relaxed, just like taking a stroll on a pleasant day. There are always cafés or restaurants nearby, often outdoors.

the market in Spain

How is the transportation system in Spain?

The transportation system in Spain is developed, convenient and comfortable. Buses and trains are modern. There are many options for domestic air travel, and taxis are fairly affordable. We usually move around by bus or rented cars.

Have you been able to adapt to Spain and the society?

I don’t think I have the proper amount of exposure yet to say that I have fully adapted to the culture. However, certain aspects make it easier for me because the Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than 300 years. Spanish customs and traditions have been ingrained in us more or less. I’m now back in the motherland of the Philippines, so to speak, and understand more of my own origin.

How is the everyday life for you in Spain?

A relaxed routine with room for improvisation. We get up at dawn and start the day with a long walk. After breakfast, I normally work or study all day with a small lunchbreak at one o’clock. After that, back to my tasks. Then, a late dinner at home or out mingling with friends or just the two of us; it depends on the mood. A very simple but pleasant life.

What do you do in your free time?

My husband and I improvise something depending on the location we are on. This winter, we are spending three months on the smallest of the Canary Islands, El Hierro. The nature is fantastic here so we are walking a lot and we also spend time at a natural pool perfect for swimming. Back in La Herradura, it will be a more urban kind of life, but still by the sea.

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife?

The dawn in Spain

Of course, but not on a place like El Hierro or other remote places.  The largest night club in the world is located in Ibiza. It’s not only sun and beaches, but also a pulsing night life that has made Spain a leading tourist destination.

What new habits have you developed in Spain and what old habits have you quit?

The habit of greeting strangers and always saying, por favor (please) and gracias (thanks). I have stopped eating too much unhealthy food.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Spain?

The cost of living is among the most affordable in Western Europe.

What is something that you would like to do in Spain, but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

So far, the seawater has been too cold for me. This summer, I will learn to swim. I would also like to do some caving.

Share your most memorable experience in Spain.

My most memorable experience is arriving in Málaga after a pounding journey and seeing my husband again.

If you could do the move to Spain, over, what would you do differently?

Checking and double checking that all the requirements for my residency application are in perfect order.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

Spanish cuisine

Spain is a huge country and every province has their own cuisine. At the sub-tropical coast of Granada the cuisine is Mediterranean, one of the healthiest in the world with excellent olive oil, fishes, veggies and fruits. The Spanish version of risotto, Paella, is among my favourites. The small dishes called tapas served for free in some parts of Spain when you order a drink is an amazing tradition, sometimes developed into a culinary art form.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

My family, relatives and friends. The chaotic noise of my home town and of course, my favourite Filipino dishes and familiar places.

Have you had a moment that you almost felt like leaving from Spain?

I guess it was a homesickness episode. I overcame it by concentrating on learning Spanish and immersing more in the culture.

What has motivated you to write your blog "Mindanao Advice"?

It is a venue for me to practice writing while informing and entertaining others. I’m now also including environmental topics after experiencing the quality of life here in Spain. It’s now clearer to me that we all have a responsibility to make the world better by taking eco-friendly decisions.

Give us some useful tips that soon-to-expatriates in Spain will benefit from.

Do a good research and avoid the tourist ghettos if you want the genuine Spain. Try to learn some Spanish. Be open, curious and polite. Be patient with local customs and the bureaucracy. Hire lawyers for complicated matters, but make sure that they have the necessary knowledge regarding your case. My husband used a lawyer that informed wrongly about the verification/apostille of our marriage certificate and that created a month’s delay and extra expenses regarding my residency.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to explore more of Spain to find the perfect place to live. Spain has so much to offer and it will take some time to investigate. I will continue my language learning and start to work online again.

What is one thing that you will take with you from Spain?

Good memories and for sure, a healthier lifestyle.