“So how did you choose Valencia?” other Spanish expats ask me.
“We looked all over the country,” I explain. “Made a spreadsheet with at least forty places on it. Then we eliminated any place where they speak a different language.” At this point, I usually get a nod as this is something many expats here in Spain considered before choosing their destination. For those of you that don’t know, the Spanish spoken most widely here is Castilian Spanish or Castellano. But in certain regions, other languages are recognized as “co-official.”
I’m not a history or language buff, but it’s been explained to me in this way: When Franco took over, he wanted everyone to speak Castillian Spanish. So the local languages went “underground.” Once his dictatorship was over, regions started bringing back their respective local languages. And no, I don’t mean dialects. Most of these are actually different languages.
- In Catalonia (where Barcelona is located), many people speak Catalan. And those considering bringing children here should know that “state education in Catalonia is in Catalan, with Spanish taught as a foreign language.”
- In the Basque region (northeast Spain–where San Sebastian is located), they speak Euskara (aka Basque). I’ve seen it written when I walk the Camino in that area. It looks nothing like Spanish.
- In Andalucia (home to Granada, Seville and Malaga) the dialect is Andalúz. Words are cut short.(More than one person said that learning Spanish is this region would be akin to learning English deep in Georgia–not impossible, but not easy.)
- You can hear Gallego in Galicia (where Santiago de Compostela is located). But I’m told that out-and-about, I would hear Castillian. Families may speak Gallego to each other, but unless I’m in a smaller town, I was told I’d be able to hear and converse in Castillian. But then there’s the weather up there to consider. . .
As we narrowed our search and focused in on Valencia, we learned that it, too, has its own language: Valenciano. Our research showed, however, that though natives know it and learn it in school, it’s not like in Barcelona where they look down on you and don’t want to talk to you if you don’t speak the local language. That said, we certainly see Valenciano all over the city: museum displays are in both languages; signage at government offices shows both; roads are labeled both calle (“street” in Castilian) and carrer (in Valenciano).
“In addition to language, we also considered weather,” I continue. “We didn’t want a rainy, cold winter. So northern Spain was out. And we didn’t want super hot in the summer. Or anything that was too big. So Madrid was out.” Michael also wanted to be close to a beach. Not on a beach necessarily, but able to get to one in a reasonable amount of time.
In other words, we did lots of Googling, watched lots of YouTube videos, had tons of discussions. . . Did we want to be close to a Camino route? An airport? A high-speed train? On and on. . . you know, something to keep us entertained while we waited on all the paperwork we needed for our visa.
Usually, my conversation partner can’t help but interrupt me by this point, if not sooner.
“You made the right choice. We love it here.”
Seriously. Every expat we meet here loves it here.
But me? More on that tomorrow. . .