Is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?

chrysolite By chrysolite, 5th May 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>Spain>Valencia & Murcia

Being the "typical" Aries, I had to go and find out. Born and raised in Munich (that's Europe/Germany/Bavaria/Oktoberfest for our oversea's readers), I thought sailing around Europe would be a good wheeze to find out which country might be the "green-est".

Germany is very green, except for the "red tape"

For a start, bad tongues whispered that I got thrown out of Germany, because I had a sense of humour. This may be part of the truth, but actually, after 25 years of living in Germany, I was bored stiff. To this day they are still playing the same old tunes in the radio. Nothing, absolutely nothing changes in Germany. Beats me how they pulled it off to introduce the Internet there! Well, back then, I thought the grass was very green here, living in Bavaria is good, cosy, safe, unadventurous.

The emerald green hills of Devon and Kent, the garden of England

Jetted twice to England to finally getting married to the Best Husband in the World (BHW). I did like living in Devon and Kent very much. The lush English country side, the seaside never far away, the English humour, fish & chips, custard and buttered cream crackers with "ripe" Cheddar, lovely tea with lots of sugar and milk, preserved steam railways, spas, shopping in London, friendly co-workers and neighbours are lovingly preserved as sweet memories.

Politics and DEFRA - enough is enough ...

England is a very cosy country as long as you don't switch on tv to watch politics. I guess, it does help if a top politician is a good looking guy, which is what got Tony Blair into his party in the first place (true, read up on it!). 2 salaries, no kids, we got to know exactly and precisely what his "stealth taxes" meant. Almost went broke over them!

Then a serious "show-down" with DEFRA over the legal import of a few Satin Angora Rabbits from Switzerland, which nearly got me 2 years in Her Majesty's. Miraculously I was "saved" from that. Don't know why. The final straw: The DEFRA vet accidentally killed one of my mini-pigs intending to take a blood sample that wasn't even required. There is definitely no end of cruelty to animals that DEFRA dishes out and the RSPCA seems on their side.

... we are off to Spain

Nerves wrecked, we decided to sell up and continue our little self-sufficiency farm in a lonely mountain valley at the Costa Blanca in Spain. Why here? Easy, you get a small-holding by just paying €1 to €3 per square meter, a little stone hut and a well included. Then you pay all the fees applicable (quite a lot considering, but bearable), then you register as being "agricultural" (not even as a business) and then you never again pay tax or bills of any sort unless you want to.

No green grass here in the south of Spain. Well, at least in the beginning. Fields are sprayed with herbicides to make harvesting almond and olive trees easy. But after a few years of "doing nothing" and following some organic principles, the rains brought back the green grass to our piece of land and it's just as lush here now as it was in England.

Living in Spain is easy. Learn a bit of Spanish and you get invited. Always "fiesta" here and all you need to be able to do is eat and drink as much as you can and then complement the cook. You can eat like a sparrow at home, but NOT at a "fiesta"! With a final glass of 70% "orujo" you state loudly your solution to the world's problems and "roll" home.

Be a good "botcher"

If you have some technical knowledge, especially if you know how to do a good (i.e. free) botch, you'll soon be a valued member of the community. And finally you learn to barter and exchange goods and services and stop to wonder how those Spaniards have got everything they need without spending a lot of money. As my neighbour once stated: "If you are poor, you need a lot of friends." Helping each other, yes, that's a great thing and I guess it would be wise to learn that again. And strangely enough, the Spaniards have a very good memory about who helped with what and the "value" of it and then they see to it that it "comes back" to you.

Essential politics

Politics are hotly discussed in Spain, but it seems that nobody is really interested in the subject. So I asked one of our Spanish friends about his political "philosophy". The answer came promptly and was delivered with pride: "Madrid is far away, my wife rules at home and I do what I want."

How do they get away with it? Unemployment is just under 5 million and expected to reach this figure soon, many don't even get unemployment benefit or help anymore and yet, they all live. How? Black economy. Everybody knows it, it can't be stopped and the government ignores it and pays minimum unemployment benefits and pensions. It works. Nobody (except the always rich ones) got money, but everybody has what he/she needs.

Recycling bins

You've read in the papers that people are scrounging through bins of supermarkets and even "normal" bins? No mistake, it happens! But as a young "Rasta" friend told me: "We are recycling. Most of the foods that supermarkets throw out haven't even reached their "sell by date". The delivery truck comes on a certain day and then shelves have to be emptied. We are just helping to avoid such waste."

In Germany this food is delivered to "soup kitchens" and recycled that way. In England, I remember that Tesco had a special shelf where those products were sold way under price. In Spain, each day enough food is thrown out daily (supermarkets and households alike) to feed the poor in Africa. But to get organised is not something that comes easy here. And now that the government is advertising on radio and tv for more awareness in recycling, bin-recycling will become even more fashionable.

You get a commission

One of my neighbours, a sweet old soul, regularly brings me oranges and lemons. He wants to sell his "finca", quite a big place actually. When he realised that I'm working on the Internet, he asked me if I could promote or even sell his "finca". The internet seems some sort of "miracle" thing to him that makes all things possible. Well, I thought, I could try, but I know him. Yeah, I will get a "commission" for selling, no doubt, in form of an endless, enormous, regular and life-long supply of oranges and lemons!

Yes, I guess, the grass is greener in Spain. I think it's because personal freedom is not just an empty word. But freedom also comes with responsibility and it's sort of satisfying to live and experience that it IS actually possible to live a free, happy and healthy lifestyle here. You want to know how it's done? - I'll tell you, will exchange this knowledge for a good milk-goat! ;)

More expat experiences:

"Abre facil" = Open here

Thanks for calling in!


Almonds, Expats, Fiesta, Finca, Freedom, Happy, Healthy, Lemons, Lifestyle, Olives, Oranges, Organic, Politics, Recycling, Self-Sufficiency, Spain, The Good Life

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author avatar Retired
27th Jul 2011 (#)

Hi great article. I agree that living in Spain is so different. Life can be simple if you want it to be.

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author avatar chrysolite
27th Jul 2011 (#)

Exactly my sentiments, Gina-gee! We really do live simple and love it! And where do you live? Also in Spain? If so, where? Any chance to meet up?

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author avatar Rose*
8th Dec 2013 (#)

What a fascinating article. I guess the Spanish have got used to organising things without the help of government.

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author avatar chrysolite
8th Dec 2013 (#)

Thank you, Rose, for your comment and yes, I can confirm that most people here in Spain have got used to organising their own life, especially here where I live in the mountains. It's really all about taking your freedom back and be responsible again for your own life. I personally think it's great!

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