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Interview with Gabriella – a South African expat living in Spain

Updated 10 Nov 2020

Gabriella Liversage is a photographer, content creator, social media manager and a self-love and body-confidence advocate. The job title she has created for herself is Creative Entrepreneur. Check out her Youtube channel and GabriellaKimStore, and keep up to date with Gabriella by following her on Instagram. She talks to us about life in Spain, in the city of Huesca, and how it differs to her home country of South Africa.

For more on expat life here, read our Expat Arrivals guide, Moving to Spain.

About Gabriella LiversageGabriella

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Cape Town, South Africa

Q: Where are you currently living?
A: Huesca, Aragon, Spain

Q: When did you move here?
A: September 2019

Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: Yes

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: Alone

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I wanted to au pair while travelling the world. 

Living in Huesca

Q: What do you enjoy most about Huesca? How would you rate the quality of life compared to South Africa?
A: Definitely the people and the food. I have fallen in love with the culture in Spain. I love that everyone is so happy and they don’t take life so seriously. They love partying, eating good food and drinking good wine. And to me that’s what life should be about: just being happy. 

Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: None that I can say. The only difficulty is the language barrier, but I consider myself a fast learner especially when it comes to languages, so that’s not a big issue. The only thing that I really miss is my family. 

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: The biggest adjustment would be going to bed later. I’m normally an early bird who goes to bed around 9pm, but here in Spain, that’s usually dinner time. So, in the beginning, I found I was rather tired, but I adjusted quickly.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to South Africa? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Spain?
A: It is definitely a lot more expensive than home. When I spend money, I need to remind myself that these are the normal prices for Spain and that I’m now earning euros, so I shouldn’t convert what it would be in rand (South Africa’s currency).

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Huesca and Spain? 
A: 10/10. The public transport is reliable, safe and affordable. Back in Cape Town, our public transport is horrendous. If you’re lucky you might see a train once every hour or two. Most of the time they’re extremely delayed or altogether cancelled. So, coming to Spain where there’s a train every few minutes was fantastic. 

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Huesca? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? 
A: I haven’t needed to go to the doctor or hospital, so I can’t really say. Although, whenever I've had to visit the pharmacy, I've found that the staff are very helpful.

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Huesca or Spain? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Pickpocketing in Spain is quite bad, especially in big cities such as Barcelona or Madrid. It’s common for a cellphone or watch to be stolen from you without you even noticing. I would say keep your valuables out of sight and don't carry your passport or too much money on you. Other than that the safety is good, I never felt unsafe walking around late at night or by myself. 

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Huesca? What different options are available for expats?
A: The style of living in Spain, in general, is very different from Cape Town, and it was quite a big adjustment for me. In Cape Town, most people live in houses with a garden. Whereas in Spain, everyone lives in an apartment. There are very few houses available. Fortunately, I am staying in a house, but because it is a small farm town there is more land available. 

Q: What are your favourite areas or cities in Spain?
A: I love Huesca, although it is a tiny city. I also fell in love with Girona when I visited.

Meeting people and making friends

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Huesca?
A: Some people are impatient or don’t want much to do with you. Others quickly pick up that you’re a tourist and try and sell you something. But I found that most people who I interacted with were friendly and welcoming. 

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: Yes, it was easy. As an au pair, I was fortunate to be in a town where there were many other au pairs. And because the town was small, everyone knew everyone. A WhatsApp group was created which all the foreign au pairs were added into. I have definitely made friends for life.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals? 
A: I have a few local friends here, but mainly expats. The only reason why I’m not friends with many locals is because of the language barrier. To new expats looking to make friends, I’d say enrol in a Spanish language class, visit restaurants and bars or concerts and try to meet people there.

Q: What are your favourite things to see and do in Huesca?
A: My favourite attractions and activities in Huesca are all the parks as well as the concerts and markets.

Working in Huesca

Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I applied for a visa myself. It was fairly easy, though it took a long time – about a month and a half.

Q: What is the economic climate in Huesca like? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: I think applying to be an au pair or an English teacher is your ticket into finding a job. You can always do that for a few months while you’re trying to find something else. Spain is in need of English teachers and many Spanish families look for au pairs mainly to teach their children English. 

Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Spain?
A: There is a very organised structure to the workplace in Spain. I’d say that there is also a high work standard while being relaxed too. 

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Huesca or Spain?
A: Be adventurous and try new things, you’ll make the best memories of your life when you’re out of your comfort zone.

►Interviewed November 2020

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