Life in Spain through South African eyes

South African flag in Spain

One of the greatest things I’ve experienced living in Torrevieja is the diverse people I’ve met over the years. For this reason I created Life in Spain through people’s eyes.

Today I’m going to share Wendy’s story with you and what she has found in Spain.

Wendy is the only South African client I’ve had so far. But, before we go into her experience, I am going to continue with the tradition of my blog and tell you something else first 😉



Overall, I tend to think that there are opportunities everywhere, as long as you open your mind.

Throughout the five years I spent in Peoria, Illinois, many times I heard people complaining about the city (a common one was “there’s nothing in Peoria”).

Greetings from Peoria Illinois

(Old greetings card from Peoria, IL)

However, I was able to:

Learn English

Go to college (and graduate)

Learn how to play the piano (for three years)

Buy a violin (and have a few lessons)

Buy my first acoustic guitar

Learn how to weld (four years working in a workshop in Chillicothe, Illinois)

Go to classical music concerts on a regular basis

Train at a boxing club (for two years)

Meet people from many different cultures

Learn how it feels being foreigner and be grateful about the new opportunities that the foreign country gave me

I know I’m missing many more, but that’s the general picture.


(River Front area – Peoria, Illinois)

So, why did people complain so much about Peoria? Maybe it was me, a foreigner dazzled by my new environment?

I don’t think so. All that (and much more) was available in Peoria for everybody.



Since I was a little kid I knew that Torrevieja existed, but did not know where it was on a map, as I had only been here a few times, never even a full day.

A number of events (including coming back from Peoria for good in December, 2005) brought me to Torrevieja in early 2010.


(Right after an unusual storm – Torrevieja)

By this time you may know I was a computer programmer and I was made redundant in June 2010. This situation, along with the fact that I was already living in Torrevieja allowed me to (amongst many other things):

• Start up Torrevieja Translation, my own interpreting / translating business.

• Live off of my own resources, without having an employer looking over my shoulder.

• Attend the Official School of Languages for three years to learn German.

• Visit Germany in 2010 and 2012.

• Visit Portugal in 2012

• Visit Denmark and Sweden in 2013.

• Learn some Norwegian.

• Discover northern European cultures.


(Sunset – Torrevieja)

Same story. Lots of people (Spanish mainly) have asked me “what are you doing in Torrevieja?”… you know, adapting a “are you crazy?” tone. Other people I’ve met over the last four years truly love living in Torrevieja.



All right… all of this has made me think. I’m doing some maths right now.

1) I lived in Peoria, Illinois from 2001 ‘til late 2005 (5 years)

2) I worked programming software for various companies from 2005 to 2010.

3) I’ve been doing translations and living in Torrevieja since 2010 (now it’s 2014… 4 years).


(“La Bella Lola”, waiting, as always…)

If I take into account that I finished my National Service in 1997, and moved to the US in 2001 (another 5 years), I can figure out that there is something going on in my life with 5 year cycles.

Does it mean that in next year I should do something different? (Pssssst gonna tell you a little secret, there’s already something cooking… and this project is the first one 😉 )

Never mind, let’s move onto Wendy’s story.



My husband and I left South Africa to live in the UK at the end of 1995 for family reasons. I was born in South Africa and my husband spent over 25 years there. We settled in West Wales to be near ageing family.

Having watched property programmes on the TV (didn’t we all?) we decided to investigate buying a property in Spain to escape the British winter (and in West Wales a lot of the so-called summer too!).

We subsequently bought an apartment near Torrevieja where we intended spending six months in UK and six months in Spain. This gradually, over a seven year period became longer in Spain each time we returned. Once our obligation to family ended we decided to sell up in the UK and move to Spain permanently.


(Playa del Acequión at night – Torrevieja)

We love Spain as it is very like South Africa in many ways (the plants and insects for instance) without the crime and inherent danger of day-to-day living. We have no intention of returning there.

The Spanish folk are really friendly and helpful and have made us feel really welcome here. With what some of them have to endure with rudeness from “outsiders” it is amazing that they still tolerate us all even if we are contributing to the economy. We have heard some very confrontational and, mostly, unnecessary verbal abuse in shops over the years.

I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and the care and treatment I have had here has been second to none. We took out Residency when we moved here permanently and the Spanish Health System has been incredible.

I had many months of intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy and everyone I was in contact with, from the most senior professionals to the lowly ward cleaners, were so caring and kind. I am now in remission but am still being monitored on a regular basis by these wonderful people.


(Plaza de la Constitución – Torrevieja)

We do not speak fluent Spanish (shame on us) but know enough to manage on a daily basis. It is so annoying to hear an ex-pat say “and they only speak Spanish”. This is Spain.

Why do so many ex-pats want to turn Spain into the UK? Surely we live here because it isn’t the UK. Life is certainly less expensive here – no TV licence, much lower road tax, etc. Great weather and loads to do.

We have since bought a villa having decided to stay in Spain and love every minute of it. This is where we will be, hopefully, for the rest of our days… near Torrevieja on the Costa Blanca.

Wendy Hutchings


I’m sure (if you haven’t done so already) you have your own Spanish experiences to reveal.

Would you like to publish your Spanish adventure on my website? Send me an email and we can discuss it further, I love to hear people’s own experience in Spain.

Stay tuned, I have more stories from the “Life in Spain through people’s eyes” series coming soon!

All the best,


Credit image: Damien, Derrick B., Douglas C., Mike Y., Ayto. Torrevieja, Stephanie B. , Jaime P.


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  1. Jess says


    Once again you have a very interesting article, Thank you for doing the one on wills, maybe it should have said “We should check with our solicitors or Abaco to check if our wills need updating” if a will was written recently I presume the correct wording would be written into the will)
    I also enjoy the articles by different nationalities, have you noticed we all love living here in Spain,whatever our nationality? even in this heat.
    Looking forward to your next article.

    • David Ruiz says

      Hi Jess,

      So far, about 95% of my clients seem to be doing very well in Spain… even in this heat!

      Thanks for reading my article 😉