The Grass Is Always Greener

In response to recent articles listing reasons for working or living in this or that country, I had all the intentions of writing a not-so-humorous article about all the reasons why Spain would be a ridiculous choice to make in the present day. We could start with the fact that it most likely won’t be an option at all, since jobs are a scarce luxury lately, although that may be different if you are working for a large international company or as an English teacher, for example.

But even if you do manage to have a job, the salary will probably be much lower than it would be in other countries. Some people might answer to this that the cost of living is also cheaper, but it is not the case if you live in a big city like Barcelona or Madrid.

Statistically speaking, Spain is at the same time one of the countries in the EU:

  • Where people work more hours
  • With one of the lowest minimum wages
  • With one of the lowest average salaries

Not to mention that working conditions are getting worse for workers due to recent labour reforms.

All of this -and many other factors, has resulted in a massive number of people leaving the country during the past few years. And how are we viewed in the rest of Europe? Most fellow Europeans see us as party-loving and loud, lazy, but also friendly and cheerful.

I was recently discussing with some other expat friends where each one of us would like to move to in the long term. Many of them picked a country different than their own; I said Spain. While I love travelling and living in different places and cultures, and I don’t know where life will take me, I appreciate the place I come from and I don’t consider it a hellhole despite its flaws.

Funnily enough, I have found the Spaniards who like to criticise their country the most to be those who have barely ever stepped foot outside of it. They are the same who idealize stereotypes such as “German efficiency” or equivalents for other countries, again, without ever having experienced any of it. The opposite is the crowd of expatriates who think somehow life has cheated them because in Northern Europe the weather is colder and greyer or that the host country’s natives are too distant and weird, among a range of complaints.

There is plenty to hate in any place; from the garbage-filled streets of Brussels on certain days of the week, to the tasteless decadence of Reeperbahn in Hamburg. But black-and-white thinking never helped anybody. Every country could learn a few things from their neighbours, and as it happens on an individual level, we all have different things to offer to each other.

Whenever we are away from home and feel alienated it is easy to fall into the trap of negativity and hate. And it is easy to state that everything is perfect anywhere else whenever we feel stuck in our troubled homeland. To that I suggest, always try to look at the grey side of things and find the balance.


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