1) Be sure.
You may have visited Mallorca on a family holiday or a weekend bender with your friends. You may have been in Magaluf or Pollensa when the sun was beating down on you and the sand on the beach was too hot to walk on with bare feet. You may have thought you had found paradise but you may not realise that you could be wrong: until you have experienced Mallorca in its dampest of days then you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.
The island of Mallorca is surrounded by water, indeed it is engulfed in water: this gives us overwhelming humidity in the summer and extreme dampness in the winter. However you will not be able to drink the tap water because it tastes like salty chlorine (it IS salty chlorine: recycled and treated seawater). You will feel wet and cold to your bones in the winter, but not the dry, cosy cold that you can bear because there is central heating and carpets when you get into your house. No, this is the damp, stone, draughty cold that only Mallorca can really make you appreciate. You will not believe it until you have lived in it so do a recce in the winter (I recommend January for full effect). You can’t understand this now, but the two most essential and loved items in your house will become your electric fan and your electric blanket. My daughter would not exist without my electric blanket because until my husband and I were given one for Christmas during our first winter in Mallorca neither of us had been warm enough to get into bed with less than three layers of clothing, socks, hats and gloves on.
On the upside the surprising weather conditions in Mallorca always give British expats something to talk about. The Mallorcans and the British share a love of commenting on the weather, so you will have an opening gambit for a conversation. Practise saying: “Qué Frío” or “Qué Calor” depending on the six months of the year that you are in.
2) Be prepared.
These days it is very easy to get to know other British people who are residents in Mallorca. A great proportion of them are on Facebook and it’s a key method of communication on the island. You can get to know a lot of people and find good information in preparation for “The Great Move”. If you are moving to a specific part of the island then seek out local advice and tips from the people already living there. Google, and Facebook, and these days even Twitter, are your friends. Ask for recommendations for “Gestors” (pronounced “hestors” for the Brits). Get yourself a good one; you will need one of these people to help you get your paperwork done which is a long winded and frustrating experience. Have very low expectations about how many pieces of paper you can accrue in one day, and don’t underestimate how many different bits you will eventually have). Ask about schools, local services, mobile phone companies, in fact whatever you want to know just ask. The good expat people of Mallorca: via blogs and social media, love to help. These people will become your life support system, you will rely on them for your business, your social life, your day to day survival and they will become your beautiful and complex extended family, and this takes me on neatly to 3).
3) Don’t be fooled.
Birds of a feather flock together. We all feel more comfortable with people that come from an area we are familiar with: we share common speech patterns, terminology, possibly even mannerisms and senses of humour. We’re one of a kind but that can make us vulnerable to unscrupulous people. As much as it is important to make new friends and develop a social circle make sure that you don’t buy into any Ponzi schemes/ give away your house/ sell your children/ enter a cult, just because you’ve met a conman who comes from the same area as you. Don’t laugh; it’s happened, several times. For example: there is currently a British man staying at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in the UK who stole millions of pounds from unwitting British pensioners and expats in Mallorca.
But you will make lifelong friends. Expats are cut from the same cloth. There is a touch of the pioneer in every one of us. Every person who has moved from one country to another has that shared experience: you just got free life membership.
4) Don’t fool yourself.
Mallorca is tiny. If you act like a prat, rip someone off, turn out to be unreliable or bad at your job then it won’t take long for the island telegraph to get beating. You arrive on the island with your reputation intact: your actions and how you present yourself will determine whether it remains that way. Behave nicely and with integrity at all times. It gets you a long way.
5) Step into the time machine.
Living in Mallorca is like living in Britain in the Seventies, without the flares (although give it time and fashions come round again apparently). You can still pay a deposit on drink bottles and get the money back when you return them; depending on where you live on the island you will receive your cooking gas in bottles which are delivered to your door, and shops even close for half days. Sundays are sacred and nothing happens on them except family and leisure activities, it’s fabulous. There’s also a brilliant community spirit, outdoor events and fiestas and the Mallorcan version of Morris Dancers which are “Dimonis” (locals dressed up as devils who play with fire and fireworks, the proverbial Health and Safety nightmare). You must commit yourself wholeheartedly to the new culture that you are moving into: get Spanish telly, listen to Spanish radio, read Spanish newspapers. Take every opportunity you can to integrate. Get over any shyness you may have about making mistakes with the language. Start talking as soon as possible, and don’t stop. Better still, fall in love with a local who speaks no English at all, pillow talk is the best teacher.
6) Forget who you used to be, no one else cares.
Whoever you were in the UK, you aren’t that person anymore. When you step off the boat you are starting from scratch. Whatever “Grande Queso” position or status you had in the old country means absolutely nada in Mallorca. So, best get over it: right NOW. In the same breath, don’t reimagine yourself as a plumber or a brain surgeon when you haven’t done the training. People will figure it out, see 4).
7) Don’t live in a property with more bedrooms than you need.
Unless you like being visited by people you barely know who fancy a free holiday. Just saying 🙂 Also: reverse cycle air conditioning is a con; it won’t heat up your cold house, see 1).
8) Work for yourself.
It’s a scary moment when you step off the contracted ledge of employment into the gaping chasm of self-employment, but working for yourself can mean you have work all year round. Try to get some skills under your belt before you make your move, and take advantage of any night school classes or cheap education in the UK. Mallorca is a seasonal island which depends on tourism for the majority of its income and employment. The tourists only tend to come from May to October, but unfortunately landlords like to have rent paid all year round, so you will have to figure out what you are going to do for money during the other six months of the year. You will work harder 52 weeks round for less money than you earned back from where you came from, but you will get to live in a place where everyone else saves their money for 50 weeks of the year in order to visit for a fortnight.
9) Learn one of the languages.
Yes. That’s in the plural. You need to get your head around Castellan Spanish or Catalan (if your kids go to state school then they will be taught in Catalan first and Castellan Spanish second, and then English third, but that’s a whole other blog post). In some areas of Mallorca it may be better to speak German and English for employment. If you are living in the middle you may even find yourself having to get your head around Mallorquin. Do your homework and work it out. See 2).
10) Don’t buy a bar.
Unless you want to become a penniless alcoholic. Ask yourself, why would someone be selling a business which was making a profit? Don’t buy a fantasy. Don’t assume you have the knowledge to run a bar on the island even if you were born in a pub back in the UK. You won’t get familiar locals coming in every night, the taxes are insane and the police are always looking to lay a fine on you. They say to make a small fortune in Mallorca you have to arrive with a large one.
Just don’t do it, and don’t make me say I told you so.
11) Don’t burn your bridges.
Always have an exit plan. Even if you don’t ever plan on using it.
12) Prepare to fall in love.
Mallorca is a bit like a hot Wales: same amount of sheep, lots of incredible mountains, and a passionate race of bilingual people. Even after living on the island for years you will still go “WOW” every time you see a sunset / beach / mountain / village view. You will enjoy telling visitors and newbies about your favourite bar/restaurant/walk/fiesta/shop. You will love writing a “Guide to Expats” blog post for a competition. You will wait for your plane at Gatwick and get to proudly correct a fellow traveller: no, you aren’t going on holiday, you’re going home.
This article was originally written for the Expat Blog competition and was posted here:http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/883/the-12-mallorca-expat-commandments
It was by far the most commented on and voted for entry in the competition, and that is a great source of pride for me, thank you to the amazing expat and online communities that I am privileged to be part of.
Family Matters lead Spain to win the Top Country Award and took home first place, the Gold Medal.