Many people think the expat life in Spain must be fabulous - and they are right!
Okay, I am not talking about the British and German enclaves at the Costa del Sol, with white pensioner's legs in even whiter socks and sandals, and Irish pub's at every corner. Sure, the weather is fantastic, but I would rather boil in oil than living there.
But here, in the deep Spanish countryside, the Sierra de Cadiz, life IS good.
The cost of living are super low. I pay 2 Euro for a whole day at the gym! No membership needed, and if I would pay in advance, it would be even cheaper, like 20 Euro per month (I usually go 3 times a week). And the gym owner gives me a full personal training program.
Rents are super cheap. Of course, the people here often have no to very little income. My colleague from work and I rent a 3 bedroom flat with 2 bathrooms, balcony, lovely kitchen, and stunning roof terrace for 230 Euro! It is fully equipped, too. Every 3 months or so we get a water and electricity bill which is never really high either (around 25 Euro/month for electricity, and maybe 12 Euro/month for water if I remember it right).
Eating out (and drinking!) is cheap as chips, too (literally). Okay, the food consists mostly of chips with meat or fish, but there are several places in town that make super nice dishes (one also offers organic meats from their own farm, and generally, the meat you get is good quality, and most likely from the pigs that run around here in the countryside). A good meal usually doesn't cost more than 9 Euro (12 Euro for organic meat). And the drinks - heaven for alcoholics! Beer 1 Euro, Wine 1,50 Euro (and yes, it is really good wine! You are in Spain!). Gin Tonic used to cost 3 Euro in our favorite bar, but recently they upped the price to 3,50 Euro! Oh well, we're not complaining, especially since we get free tapas with every drink, and they usually pour the gin until we say stop.
And so it's no wonder that the Spanish's favorite past-time is sitting in one of the many bars of Prado del Rey, to have a cervezita (a little beer) with a tapita (a little snack) and to socialize and chat along.
Nothing is super serious. Shops can basically open whenever they like, or just take a break. The gym owner often is not even at the gym while people are training there - in Germany that would cause a riot - speaking of insurance and safety.
People help each other out. If you are my friend, I make you a good deal with whatever I can and vice versa.
You can walk home alone at night. I have the saying "nothing bad ever happens in Prado!" and I believe it. I just can't see any crimes happening here. Because everybody is on the same level, and basically everybody knows each other. Passing people on the street, one usually greets each other, even if you don't know the person. Which had been strange for me in the beginning but I got used to it, and think it is quite nice. Possible phrases can be "Hola" (Hello), "Buenas dias" (Good Morning), "Que tal" (How are you?) or "Que hay" (what's up?). Advanced speakers also say "Que pasa" (another version of What's up) or, my favourite, "Que dice el hombre/la mujer" (What does the man/woman say). Ah, Spanish conversation.
Yes for an introvert like me it is not always easy. Spanish people have a hard time understanding why I am so quiet and withdrawn. It is not only my lack of Spanish (which has improved quite a bit since living here) but just my personality. I am not very outgoing, but 99,9 % of the Spanish are absolutely extroverts, and they love their loud chatting.
Talking of loud. Yes, Spain is one of the loudest countries I believe. People don't talk, they shout at each other. Any scooter or motorbike needs to be reared up and driven up and down the road to show how much noise it can produce. The cars that deliver the gas bottles, bread and other goods, honk every five seconds to announce their coming. Which is charming though, like the cars that sell clothes or fruit and drive from village to village, marketing their latest products via the speakers - it always reminds me of Spanish or Italian villages in the 50's - it's so old fashioned.
I am proud to have lived here for almost 4 years now. Prado del Rey is such a special place on this planet that I was seriously considering getting it's coordinates as a tattoo. It is a magic little bubble where time still stands still a bit.
Prado del Rey is a little white town in the Sierra de Cadiz, the South West of Spain. It is about an hour away from Seville, Jerez de la Frontera and Cadiz, and pretty close to the National Park of Grazalema, with stunning mountains and lovely hiking treks.
Seriously, it is the most beautiful place I have ever lived.
This little town is also home of more bars per inhabitant than any other village around. The people of Prado del Rey love their fiestas. They are the most friendly, sweet and kind people. Almost every afternoon and evening you see them getting together in the little bars, drinking a wine or a beer and having a tapa, watching football games, or simply chatting loudly about God and the world. On Sundays everybody is dressed up for church, in the typical Spanish old-fashioned way.
Prado is surrounded by stunning views over rolling green hills, and olive groves. In May, tons of wild flowers cover the countryside with a carpet of colors. In June the wheat fields are golden, and the sunflower fields bright yellow.
I have lived here for 3,5 years now as I write this. The first 1,5 years I lived in the yoga center which is about 5 km away from the village. After that I moved to Prado del Rey. At first I had a little apartment in the old part, but 1 year ago I moved to a more modern apartment together with my kitchen colleague. We have a stunning view from our balcony, a huge roof terrace all for ourselves, a bright kitchen and living room,3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and everything for a price you could not even rent a room for in London.