DATELINE VALENCIA – In the last 36 hours, I have hired a lawyer, a Personal Assistant, opened a bank account, secured a second round of insurance that covers pre-existing conditions – because the first one didn’t, and toured 7 apartments. I’m a little bushed. But I have learned a lot about how things work. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to dance. And not the Flamenco. There is a cadence to how things work here and I am starting to appreciate the pace and elegance of it. But it requires stamina.
ME: ‘I need a xyz – elephant, rental car, health insurance. Can you help me get any of these things?’
OTHER GUY: ‘No No No – this is impossible. There is no way we can do that. No way.’
ME: I look dismayed but am undaunted. I need this guy.
We talk a little. I explain who I am and that I have kids – this is real grease in Spain. I found this to be true in Greece and Lebanon too – so I pulled it out and used it liberally. I asked about his children or grand children, and thanked him profusely for even agreeing to meet me; expressing how sad I am that I won’t be able to do business with them. But I appreciate him taking the time.
THE OTHER GUY: ‘Well, maybe we could do something – but I don’t know.’
ME: ‘No, I don’t want to put you out. I totally understand you don’t want to take the risk with Americans. Even though we must prove financial stability to get a visa to live here, but of course, you have to protect yourself and your family.’
THE OTHER GUY: ‘No, I think I know someone who can help you. He has a xyz- elephant, rents cars and sells health insurance. I will call him.’
He gets on the phone. I recognize some of the words ‘Elefante’ and ‘coche’. Lots of rapid long conversation. He hangs up.
THE OTHER GUY: ‘He can’t come for 3 hours. Can you wait?’
ME: ‘Of course I can wait. You’re doing me a huge favor in helping me. I’ll stand right here. I won’t move.’
THE OTHER GUY: He frowns and sighs heavily. ‘Let me call him again.’
More rapid Spanish. Some walking around while gesturing. He hangs up.
THE OTHER GUY: ‘He is coming now.’
OK, maybe I don’t need to rent a car, and the elephant is a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Everything in the world is done based on relationships. But I have never lived anywhere that is as important as it is in Spain. Building a network, not just of other expats, but of Spaniards from every walk of life, will be key to living here and being happy. Good thing I like to dance.