After a decade in the UK I have reasoned through the pros and cons of staying in a Britain that doesn’t want to be part of the European Union or Europe for that matter. This is not about how I feel about Brexit or the British although; possibly, that may become the subject of my next novel… This is about; having already decided that my future cannot lie in the brave new Brexit Britain, where shall I go from here?
I am Spanish. I love my country. My heart belongs to Spain. I have never felt any other national loyalty. People may look at my Viking DNA influenced face and think “foreigner” or speak to me in English on the assumption I am a tourist, but Madrid is the only place I feel genuinely at home. Many people don’t realise I had to fight against the obstacles from parents, cousins and employers to ensure my Spanish passport. Perhaps because I had to fight to get it I value it more than others who have never thought about where they belong. Spain is the only place I can imagine being an old person, retired if I can ever afford it. Madrid is where I want to die, if not the coast while on a non-tacky beach holiday.
Despite my severe allergies to the Cyprus and Plane trees that have been planted willy nilly over the last decades by an irresponsible urban development team; Madrid is the only place where I breathe completely easy no matter what else may be happening. These streets are mine and I can recite the history of stores that have rotated through shop fronts over decades. The food a person gets here is the most reliably decent / healthy / tasty food at affordable price of any country I have been to (and that is a few…). The health care is leaps and bounds above what is available in the UK and probably some not small number of other countries. I grew up in Madrid. I tried damn hard to live independently in Spain.
But the impossibility of making a living drove me to leave Madrid 10 years ago, and I have been consistently rejected from employment selection processes for ??? never really been clear why unless it is that there is still a very strong bias against women of my age who are still single and without children. There is a clear bias against employing people who need to relocate – counter to the preference prevalent in most of the rest of Europe to take the best person not the one that is close by. The job market frankly was never ideal but certainly has not recovered despite what some political parties try to sell a self-loathing voting public. Self-Loathing because they consistently vote against their own interests … but I digress again. And actually I already wrote a full tome about how difficult it is to get a job in Madrid (Spanish ANGST), and there are many professional dissertations on the throw away contracts that exist and the poor quality of employment conditions in Spain; and it is the subject of ongoing unceasing political arguments.
And now I am faced with a very difficult choice. I know I am leaving the UK but where do I go to?
My entire being has been driving hard to get a job back home in Madrid for the majority of the time I have been living in England. The opportunities are generally limited to jobs that pay significantly less than what I make; for longer hours in environments that are usually much more openly sexist than in non-Mediterranean countries (and remember that women still make on average 20% less than men for the same jobs). The worst part is the fact that jobs are still very precarious. They are short term ephemeral things in the majority. Where they are not actually temporary positions on rotations the continuity is still highly uncertain due to consolidations, rationalizations, downsizings, all those things that make the profits and economy look good but mean no clear future for the work force. What do I do?
Do I take a job that offers me the same standard of living and similar job responsibilities in a new country where I will at some point have to learn the local language but where there is less than 5% unemployment so I should not have to worry about future continuity of employment? Where the weather is similar to what I’ve been living the last decade and there would be a short commute to work as well as a small yard for the dogs? A place where I would have a genuine friend nearby who already knows the ins and outs, and where I would always be near water and be able to keep up my horseback riding…
Do I hold out for a job in Madrid where I might be ok a year or two but it will never be clear longer term? Where I would make 25% less money despite the cost of living being about the same; meaning I would have to give up quite a lot. Where I have many friends around the city but none genuinely close by. Where I already understand how things work and what to expect and that includes being within reach of a person who cannot help but harass and degrade everyone around him.
It is certainly smarter to go where I might have a chance to save money so that eventually I might be able to feel I can retire, ideally in my own country.