Moving to Tenerife Means Starting a New Life in More Ways Than One

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

  1. Seagull says:

    Obviously not a great writer either. I believe Macdonalds are looking for staff. Might be more up your street.

  2. Fida says:

    Excellent article. I only can confirm what you write. I moved to Canada in the ‘ripe age’ of 44 and had, like you said, developed a strong feeling of who I was through work. Even-though things didn’t work out as planned, I am so glad and happy I took that step. It brought me back to the person I was BEFORE I defined myself through the work I did, and actually I like that one much more 😉

    I have to say I am truly blessed and fortunate. I have friends who have to go through much difficulties because they can’t do the job here they had studied for at home. It’s so sad to see highly qualified doctors working as janitors just because they are not accepted into the program to receive the Canadian certificate needed to work here – and only because Canada doesn’t provide enough programs to do so, not because they don’t qualify.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks for the kind comments Fida. Like you I also feel very fortunate and now get great satisfaction from all sorts of simple little things from preparing the wood pile for the fire to making our own jam and chutney. Things that I would never have done back in the UK.

      The best piece of advice we were given when we moved was not to arrive with a set plan, but to take the time to get to know the island and the way it worked. Because of that we dumped our original plans and ended up going down a different route altogether…and I’m so pleased we did.

      It’s criminal that people like your friends, who have so much to offer society, have their skills and experience wasted because of bureaucracy. Same thing used to happen in Britain (the law might have changed since I left) – I knew a Swiss Radiologist who was forced to register as unemployed because her qualifications weren’t acknowledged. Crazy.

  3. Bard of Ely says:

    Excellent article that sums up much of my experience here too! As a musician I have said that all the bands and acts that think they have a hard time in the UK ought to try it over here and they would have to think again! Often there is no logical reason for why things are so difficult to do here but you get used to it after a while or pack up and quit! For me though I can’t think of wanting to live anywhere else and have had offers and turned them down!

  4. dragojac says:

    Thanks Bard. Interesting to know that it applies across all sorts of professions.
    I think you’re right about having to get used to it or pack up and quit – some days it’s a close call : )

    Seriously though, like you I can’t think of wanting to live anywhere else…despite the occasional moans on my blog.

  5. DAVID BURGESS says:

    I’m profoundly deaf 70s y/o so I should like live there because new start life there why I do like different way than england so I’VE A PACEMAKER AND Diabetic TY2 so good health and lots look after myself so I must tell you I’m gay and very clean person really
    hope any can help me relocate to tenerife in future but I rather my own apartment but try can cheapert rentals for good if possiblely so try have to discuss for my future new lives so I’ve DSS,DLA,REMPOLY PENSION ,but what happen the british grovernment will be cut any benfit perhaps I’ll worried about this so eill not help me more better way so wait & see so hope please help mr relocate to tenerife in future as one day to be lucky if possible hope one day lovely new look there I loved

  6. jed says:

    My inlaws live in Tenerife and have done most there married life my wife was brought up on the Ireland ..They were bar and restaurant owners in the days when the island was rife , and money was no object. Now years later the island is on its backside they wouldn’t want to be anywere else , so much to the fact my wife and I are considering the move with our young family ..yes the benefit my wife is fluent .but we be leaving a comfy life style behind to start from scratch .finding work were we can when we can . But I think we would much rather this and live on paradise island were we can grow and bond as a family than stay any longer under the corrupt government that we do ..For me the move cannot come soon enough .

  7. Mark says:

    Wow, you sound really important !

  8. tracy says:

    Returning to the island after more than 15 years and must admit a little nervous as we have a baby, house and good jobs in the Uk. I’m a qualified sign language interpreter for the deaf and my partner still is a professiomal singer musician/producer and college lecturer in guitar/music production and Tai Chi.

    When we lived on the island years ago we worked as a duo in the Sax Bar for about 4 years on and off and left the island after an opportunity arose for a big event for MTV in Vienna so we left and never went back. we then performed in japan, Dubai south Korea and the cruise ships for around 15 years before returning to the uk and doing degrees in our now professions. We recently had a big life change by having a baby and Tenerife seems to be luring us back. I know the powerful element that the island can have upon you but we are now more mature, educated and not young crazy party people anymore and will have to make things work.

    My partner luckily does a music production company where is earns royalties from music but will still have to gig. He is also a tai chi instructor for the last 10 years at a very deep level and has all his instructor qualifications so I think he will be fine and he a cool nice guy. I on the other hand will have to adapt and take what’s going that suits until I find my way. But despite my /our worries you only live once and if you feel you can live an adjusted life I say go for it and don’t let anyone talk you out of what you feel like doing as its your life and who know what might happen or what you might enjoy on your next chapter in life and enjoy the nice weather.

    • londonguy86 says:

      Hey, I’m 31 and thinking about possibly relocating later this year or early next year. I work from home making music for advertising and media too and do some other online marketing type stuff on the side for extra income. Initially I’m thinking of coming for a few months to see how I settle so it’d be more of a long working holiday but the idea is to see if it’s for me longer term.

      If anybody knows if there’s a good music and recording scene let me know! I think that’d be a great way to meet similar people. I’m thinking of going to Santa Cruz de Tenerife but am still looking at the South Coast as an option too.


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