From England to Salvador in the name of love

Expat of the month
  • young expat woman sitting on a swing
Published on 2021-11-05 at 10:00 by Veedushi
Originally from England, Kim had never heard of El Salvador before moving there. It is her love, met online, that led her miles away from her country. Today, they have three children and a cosy family life in Latin America. Kim talks to about her adventure.

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

I'm Kim from North England. I've lived in El Salvador for 11 years. After meeting my now husband online, I moved here to meet him and stayed - we have three kids together and try to travel whenever we can. I've tried a few different jobs since living here - trial and error of what jobs I can do without speaking Spanish. I've worked teaching English in schools and language academies and also in the call centre industry. I'm now working part-time teaching English online and also working on a series of English/Spanish bilingual children's books. 

What made you want to leave England?

I didn't ever have a plan to leave England and didn't even think about travelling growing up. I met my husband online (myspace) when I was 20, and I had never even heard of his country before I came. I just kind of jumped into life blindly to try and find some adventure and not stay stuck in my home town and in a dead-end job. 

Is this your first experience abroad?

I had some family holidays growing up - hotel resorts in Tenerife, trailer tent camping in France. But moving to El Salvador was my first experience of moving to another country to live and really experiencing how people live instead of just being a tourist. 

What brought you to El Salvador? For how long have you been there?

The short answer is love - if it wasn't for my husband, I probably would have never heard of the country, let alone come here. But also wanting to do something different with my life. I didn't want to be one of those people that just lives my life in my home town; doing what was unexpected and made me feel excited seemed like a much better idea. I first came to El Salvador 11 years ago - I've had times since then that we've looked at going back as a family, and we've tried, but now it's our long term plan to stay here in El Salvador. 

What were the main challenges you had to face on moving to El Salvador? How did you overcome them?

I was happy for a while at the start, so no big initial difficulties, but I did become very homesick over time (even if I didn't feel excited at home). If I hadn't tried to move back home, I think I wouldn't have ever gotten over the feeling of homesickness. Since I've tried it out, found out how difficult the process is for my husband and family to move there, seen how much my friends and family have changed, I learned to get over my feelings of missing home. Now I just miss the food I can't get over here in El Salvador from back home. 

Talk to us about your professional and social life as an expat in El Salvador. Were they affected by the pandemic?

Well, everyone was affected by the pandemic, I'm sure. I was working in a call centre when we went into lockdown, so I was working from home, and that suited me quite well. After a year, I lost that job but not because of the pandemic, just because of changes in the company I was working for. Social life wise - I've got some great friends here now, but after spending so many years being a bit isolated as an outsider here in El Salvador, I don't think I felt that different from being not having a social life during lockdowns - I think it was something I was more equipped for than most. My kids started virtual school, which they are still doing now. They miss their friends, but it suits their personalities quite well, being more naturally shy, and they have each other to play with. We moved this year to a bigger house further out of the city with a garden and more space to play, so that has helped them a lot not feeling so cooped up. 

Is it easy for an expat to build a career in El Salvador?

I've never built my own career here, but El Salvador has a great community of expats with a very active Facebook group that is very supportive of each other - gives great advice, and I know plenty of people that have thrived in their businesses here. It's helpful if you're a fluent Spanish speaker, of course. My Spanish is limited, but I have always had English-based jobs and have a husband who's fluent in English, so it has made me a bit too lazy in learning the language. 

What is the current situation in El Salvador regarding the pandemic? Are there any restrictions in place?

The numbers are still a bit all over the place. It was very easy for the people who wanted to get vaccinated, and there are certain places that only allow you in with a vaccine card. Schools are open (but it's a parents choice if they want their child to stay virtual as our family has chosen to), shops and restaurants are pretty much open as usual but with temperature checks, masks needed, and some tables blocked off. Basically, if you have your vaccine and wear a mask, you're welcome in most places right now. 

What does the daily life of an expat mom of three in El Salvador look like?

We are very lucky to be able to be at home together as a family the majority of the time. I work during the mornings while my kids have classes online - my husband watches over them to make sure they're paying attention. I only work a few hours each day which I know wouldn't be possible if I lived anywhere else - in England, the wages I get wouldn't go nearly as far as they do here. 

What do you like the most about El Salvador? Is it a country you would recommend to anyone who's looking for a change of life abroad?

Growing up in rainy, cold England, my favourite thing has to be the weather!! I honestly don't even spend that much time in the garden or outdoors because it's pretty hot here, but while everyone else is complaining about being too hot, I'm relishing in it. 

It depends on what type of lifestyle you are looking for, but I know El Salvador is popular for older people to retire to - near the beaches - which I completely understand. It's a much more relaxed lifestyle there, sunny weather, always someone new to meet (people like to go to the beaches here for surfing) and your money goes so much further. If a chilled life is what you're looking for, then avoid San Salvador (the capital) - the traffic is crazy, so it's not as relaxed (although the people are just as friendly). 

What do you miss the most from your home country?

The answer I feel obliged to give is my family - which is obvious, I love them and miss them. But my real answer is the food! I have a real weakness for snack foods - sweets and crisp. El Salvador food is lots of lemon, lots of spicy, lots of cheese - which if you like those things great. But I'm more of a ‘home-cooked Sunday dinner' kind of girl, so I miss my meal being covered in gravy and eating a good pastry from pie shops. 

Is there any advice you would like to give to anyone, especially expat moms, who would like to move abroad?

I didn't move as a Mum - I moved and became a Mum in another country, but I will still say that the hardest thing for me was feeling very alone - especially with parenting. My family would answer any time I message; the internet is full of great information and chat boards, but having people physically helping you is much different. I would say it's very important to try and find some local friends in similar situations - even if they aren't expats like you - just find a local Mum group to do playdates - it's vital for your sanity not to do it alone! 

Where do you see yourself in the coming years?

Here in El Salvador. I love that my kids have the chance to grow up here, learning two languages, having the chance to live a cheaper lifestyle that means we can also afford to travel more (when there isn't a pandemic stopping us).