The tale of a French woman’s adventure in Spain

When last August it was confirmed that we will become expatriates in Spain we thought that everything will be very simple for us. We already lived in England for 2 years and my husband is a bilingual speaker (French and Spanish) : no matter the problems we will have to face ! However we should have known that being an expatriate is a new adventure in itself and we should have been aware of the fact  that Spanish Civil Service (as well as in France) could sometimes be a nightmare…

Step 1: the NIE number


This “assault course” started with my 2 days “discovery journey”. We had to go and get our « NIE number”, which is compulsory for any foreign citizen  living in Spain and which enables to get any other official paper. « Just another paper “ would you tell me .. yes,  of course , but such an adventure !!

Just imagine a former prison( !!) entirely refitted and repainted in yellow and blue…(I was aware of the fact that Spanish people were very fond of Gaudi and modern art… but really not that much…) The first challenge was to find this former prison since we only got street name but no number…and streets in Madrid can be kilometers long. We had been looking for it  for hours, when we suddenly noticed the yellow and blue colors in the distance… In the courtyard hundreds of people were queuing up,.. most of them were from south American countries, some were young, some were old, (some very old…). There were young mummies waiting with their very young children in their arms and they all seem being waiting for hours (some of them had even brought sandwiches..). It was so hot and so sunny in this courtyard and the atmosphere was rather heavy. Fortunately, the company my husband belongs to, managed to get an appointment with one of the policemen so that we avoided the queue... but I must admit I really did not feel very comfortable with this “privilege”. We also realized that we should have come with our two children in order to get their NIE : thanks to this “special favour” we could get their NIE without them being present. Some friends of us did not get that chance : they had to queue for hours.. and to come back another time with their kids…

Step 2: discovering the health system



This assault course carried on with taking all the necessary steps with health services. Although Spain is further than France from the United Kingdom, Spanish and British  health services are quite the same. On one side, health services which are state –controlled : entirely free, with long waiting period, with quality problems and where you cannot choose your doctor. On the other side private health services : you can choose your doctor but it is sometimes extremely expensive : for example 165 euros to get your son’s wart removed by a dermatologist…

 

Thanks to this “awful little wart” , I discovered that Madrilenian Civil Services could be a nightmare…I refused, indeed, to pay 165 euros for a wart and I chose the state-controlled health services. Before getting an appointment with a dermatologist, you first need to get your “Padron” which is an official document which proves that you live in Madrid. In order to get that document you must bring a telephone or electricity invoice… that you cannot provide since you moved less than a month ago… You can’t help asking yourself : is it the “Candid camera” ? Unfortunately not … that’s reality.. “Back to square one ! » (with a smile, please) since any other document is useless.. even the NIE document  you have waited for during hours in the sunny and heavy atmosphere of a blue and yellow former prison… Once you get that « Padron », you can then go and get your social security card, which enables you to get registered in the health center of your area, in order to finally get an appointment with a GP, who wil,l perhaps, eventually send you to see a specialist…Are you still  with me ?

I must admit that I Iost my temper sometimes… The result is that my son will still keep his wart for a while .. I finally took it philosophically…

Step 3: other troubles

I will not tell you any more about the problems we had to face with telephone companies .. or the repairman for the shutters (we had to live for a while in a house totally in the dark like in a cave… ) because you would think it’s a bit too much !! 

 Even so, Madrid is really a charming city and the Madrilenians are very friendly with foreigners. Madrid is a beautiful city and its legendary “azul” sky really keeps its promise.

Madrilenians ‘kindness and patience really make up for it.  And I definitely strongly believe that being an expatriate is a wonderful adventure!!  I am sure that we will have a good laugh over all this, someday…

However being helped and supported in taking all those necessary steps, would certainly have allowed things to run  smoothly…so let’s think about it…

 

Nathalie Dumur

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