As promised, we are continuing with our little investigation when comparing Valencia to California. This is the part II of the series and if you are interested you can also have a look at what we have unraveled in the part I.
Gloria and Aaron
They arrived in Valencia in late November back in 2018. Armed with positive attitude and high and sparkling energy they smoothly settled-in in no time. The young early-retired couple quickly managed their way around and they keep being very active and cheerful people.
When thinking about the City of Los Angeles (L.A.) which is the largest city of the US state of California and has an estimated population of nearly four million people, we were wondering what did bring them to so much smaller Spanish Mediterranean city. And we did get our answer.
“The lifestyles of Valencia and Los Angeles have some similarities. They both enjoy wonderful weather year round and a relaxed lifestyle. We enjoy the more laid back vibe of Valencia. People seem to interact more with one another…they say hello the their neighbors, grocery clerks talk to their customers and ask about their families etc. We love not needing a car and being able to walk, ride bikes and use the bus and metro services. In LA it’s hard to survive without a car as public transportation is not very efficient and the city itself is geographically large.” Gloria and Aaron begin.
When comparing the food quality and price performance, the couple share their thoughts:
“Dining out here has been great, lots of choices and half to a third of the cost of LA. In LA a glass of wine at a nice place will set you back 10 to 20 dollars here it’s more like 2 to 4! We are spoiled in LA with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and we’ve found that Valencia has the same abundance, except the cost is about half. One of the differences is not as many choices at the market, when in LA you would have a full aisle of just chips. At our local market there might be just 10 types, but that’s plenty for us!”
When coming from a different culture, Spanish ways sometimes might seem odd and before moving to Valencia most of people have thought about the things that would be difficult to adapt or cope with.
“One of the things I thought I would miss is having a clothes dryer, but hanging our laundry out has been easy to adjust to. The washers are smaller so we do laundry a little more often, but since it’s just the two of us it has been easy. I do miss a garbage disposal though!”
Location, location, location. Though there are so many neighborhoods to choose from, Valencia is relatively small, easily to access and move around. Gloria and Aaron did choose to live in Gran Vía – one of the most demanded neighborhoods due to its proximity to the downtown and the park, and it still allows to escape the crowds.
Gloria adds: “We live in Gran Via and we love the location. Next to the Turia Park, a 15 minute walk to the center and a 15 minute bike ride to the beach. We have a lot of great restaurants in our neighborhood and we are determined to try them all. We both enjoy working out… Aaron has joined a local Crossfit gym and I joined a new gym a block away. We are both happy with the cost and facilities. We are looking forward to trying some yoga in the park soon.”
We had dogs in Los Angeles and always envisioned our life in Valencia with dogs. A week before we were moved here our 13 year old dog Jayjay passed away. We waited almost a year until we were ready again to welcome new furry members to our family. We originally thought about adopting one dog and followed an Instagram page for dog adoptions in Valencia. I saw the post for a young brother and sister that were abandoned and we contacted the adoption agency. Now Oscar and Maddy have made our family complete here in Valencia. They love the Turia as much as we do!”
It is not only the city´s facilities that offer many different things to do in Valencia, but it is also the people who live here. Seems everyone is involved in an active entertainment and why not? What about you?
“We also joined a Hiking group on Meetup. Since we don’t have a car we wanted to enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds Valencia. The group has hikes almost every weekend and also provides transportation. Its a great mix of locals, expats and students so we get to practice our Spanish and meet new people. Using the train we have been able to visit some nearby towns like Xativa.” With the sparkle in their eyes for their new adventures to come, admit Aaron and Gloria.
In YES Valencia we strongly believe that the best way how to learn about Spanish culture, is to be open and accepting. We are proud to learn how the couple have made their way and created the cultural bridges. Not without a small daily struggle, of course. But wouldn´t it be too boring the other way?
“Locals have been welcoming with our not so great Spanish. We try to support our local small businesses and they have been very patient with us learning to speak Spanish. We have enrolled in classes to improve our language skills and we are trying to listening to podcasts, TV shows all in Spanish to really immerse ourselves. Our biggest expense was furnishing our apartment since we rented a 3 bedroom unfurnished and decided to not bring ship our furniture and household items. I shopped for most of our furniture online from Spanish and other European companies. The biggest challenge was getting phone calls from the delivery people and trying to decipher and speak Spanish lol.”, laugh Gloria and Aaron.
They seem always focusing to the bright side and let the life to take them for their adventures. Thank you!
Erin and Matt
More recently, in July of 2019, a family of four took a brave decision on the same day during their fact finding visit and the orientation tour with YES Valencia team to move to Valencia leaving they second choice – Alicante as a holiday destination. They seemed to be in the right place in the right time. They found their home on the same day.
Erin and Matt with their two children are practical and spontaneous. They are easy going and excited about their sabbatical year and they are keen on getting the most of it. And who can blame them.
Coming from Santa Barbara known by “American Riviera” because of its coastline which lies between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the couple has noticed some similarities:
“Santa Barbara (SB) California and Valencia Spain are both two of my favorite places in the world. Both have beautiful scenery and are ideally located by both mountains and the beach. They do have a lot of things in common but are distinct in numerous ways as well. SB and Valencia are both laid back, relaxed towns where life is pretty casual, but I definitely think Valencia has more style than SB – the athleisure wear that you see all day every day in SB is really only reserved for the beach or the actual gym,” starts Erin and they both continue:
“Speaking of which, there are a lot of people running every day in the Turia (park in Valencia here) and many people play a variety of sports, very similar to the active lifestyle of many in SB. Of course, the beautiful weather in both cities affords a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities. Even thought I’d still say SB weather has Valencia beat – as summers in Valencia can be really hot (need air conditioners!) and winters can also be cold – if you like more variety in temperature then Valencia, with lots of sunshine, is a great city for you.”
Being able to move around on feet or by bike is definitely the core value when living in Valencia. This fact hasn´t slipped out of no one’s mind. Erin doesn´t hesitate to bring that up:
“And the weather really is mild in both. One of the biggest differences from living in Valencia and Santa Barbara is that Valencia is a very live-able city without a car! It’s very easy to walk or bike everywhere in the city centre of Valencia, which I love.”
When mentioning the diversity of the local products and the different cuisines in this Mediterranean city, Matt and Erin know what they are talking about and they have become experts:
“You will definitely want to walk to the Central Market and visit many of the wonderful restaurants for a menu del día. The fresh fruit and produce are truly delicious and tops even the best farmers markets in Santa Barbara. The price of eating at restaurants in Valencia is at least half of that in SB, with glasses of wine costing approximately a third of the price. The cuisine in both SB and Valencia is full of variety. I have to say the eating times in Valencia have been somewhat challenging to adjust to coming from SB, especially with children. Lunch starts around 2:30 and dinner is often not until 9 or later, which for us is after our children are in bed. So, while we’ve pretty much kept with our American eating times for dinner for the kids at home we have had to make adjustments about when we eat out at restaurants. But that being said our children have really enjoyed the food, are much more adventurous eaters, and our son with multiple food allergies has found it much easier to navigate eating out at restaurants here. All restaurants have an allergen menu and since Spaniards usually cook with olive oil instead of butter his dairy-free diet is much easier to accommodate.”
Can it all be that perfect? “But we do miss authentic Mexican food and this definitely tops the lists of things we are looking forward to the most when we return to SB.”, admits Erin.
The family arrived in Valencia with two young children and school options was their top priority. Although children seem to adapt sometimes even easier than adults, every piece of advice is highly appreciated. Erin and Matt have one for the new families who plan to relocate to Valencia.
“As for the kids (ages 8 and 10), they have had a great experience and have integrated well within the school system here. Although finding a school was initially challenging (thank you YES Valencia!) and there seems to be a heavier emphasis on tests and lots of homework, the children and families have been very welcoming. We have only had positive experiences with local Valencianos here and very much feel like people are happy to have us visiting and learning about their culture and language.”
As mentioning the pieces of advice, there is one more thing to add: “Definitely don’t miss the opportunity to go into a new friend’s home for paella on a Sunday, a local weekly tradition.”
The finish line of our conversation with Erin and Matt is emotional:
“Valencia has absolutely fulfilled our expectations and we will certainly miss it when we return to Santa Barbara. But the wonderful thing about Santa Barbara is that you are never sad to come home as it truly is breathtakingly beautiful with abundant friends and family. If we had the choice, we would love to have two homes – one in SB and one in Valencia.”
We definitely wish the same for them as it is always hard to see our dear clients and friends to leave Valencia. We hope to meet up again with those who have left or plan to leave.
Meanwhile, we will remain here in Valencia to welcome the newcomers and make sure they have easy transition period and that they can focus more on wonderful experiences and start their journey pleasantly.