You can sort out the paperwork in advance, learn some Spanish at night school and carry out as much research as is humanly possible, but when you step off the plane at Tenerife Sur airport to start a new life in Tenerife, there are still going to be some things that you didn’t take into account.
For us, and I’m sure loads of other people, one of those things was the sobering realisation that any reputation we had built up over our long careers was also left behind in Blighty. When we stepped onto the tarmac, we did so with no reputation proceeding us to help open any doors.
In a small pond we weren’t tadpoles, hell we weren’t even amoebas…and that was quite a difficult situation to adjust to. Even worse, living in an area where a grasp of Spanish is essential to get things done, having only a basic knowledge of the language can make you appear positively dim to native speakers…well that’s how it felt anyway.
We weren’t completely naïve, we’d known that the jobs that we’d had in Britain didn’t exist here and probably never would, but we’d never intended to work in an occupational area that was exactly the same anyway. However, we did think that our skills and experience would count for something and we wouldn’t have too many problems in finding our way in Tenerife’s world. But that line of thought was naïve.
It didn’t matter that a month before we moved that I was writing proposals to bring millions of pounds of regeneration money to the North West of England, or the words I wrote in a government briefing on Monday might be spoken by Gordon Brown on Thursday, or that Andy was featured in the business section of The Times on Tuesday and writing bids for companies on Friday that would bring them a fortune in funding. Nobody was particularly interested in what we’d done before. And thinking back, in seven years here, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have asked.
To be honest I didn’t even realise that what I did was an important part of who I was, giving me confidence in all areas of life, until I gave it up. In many ways moving to Tenerife had a similar effect on self esteem as becoming unemployed – which of course in a way it was, even if self inflicted.
When you arrive in Tenerife everything starts from scratch again. It can be frightening, yet at the same time liberating. But it does come as a shock to realise that a large chunk of who you were for god knows how many years is suddenly consigned to the waste bin. It’s all part and parcel of making the move, even if the sudden loss of status can take some time to adjust to.
Everybody, but everybody knew more about Tenerife, or at least appeared to, than we did and that reinforced the feeling of having the knowledge of a new born baby entering a world where everything had to be learned from scratch.
A potential problem for people who make the move is in not being able to adjust to the fact that who they were and the value placed on them and their work in Britain might have no relevance here. Normally you won’t command the same wages if your work is confined to Tenerife’s shores. If you’re used to dealing with professional organisations, skilled in the ways of modern business practices, then Tenerife’s loosely structured and not exactly fast-moving ways may come as something of an eye-opener; so much so that even nearly seven years later it’s still something that can drive me screaming up the wall.
Unless you’re very lucky, there’s no quick fix for this aspect of moving to Tenerife; but most people do seem to find their own way of dealing with it and that can be the liberating part.
What’s that old saying – necessity is the mother of invention.