Work Life Balance in Valencia

Drum rolls please. Inspirational stuff with images of waterfalls and sunrises coming up...

"What if I told you that you can maybe have it all? What if I told you that something else is possible? That you could live in or near a great city without feeling overwhelmed where people still put their own family and leisure time first and you don't have to stay in the office to impress the boss on pain of losing your job and your health insurance. What if I just talked to you about living in Spain and more precisely, living in Valencia? And finally what if I told you that everyone can have it?"

I'd be talking total rubbish of course.

A simple move to live in another place is not going to perform miracles for anyone, never mind everyone. However, another life is possible and Valencia is one of those places where your work life balance just may become much more manageable.

What we increasingly find from our clients is that they are looking to get off the hamster wheel of working to survive and needing to maximise income at all times in order to merely exist. Our American clients talk about the pressure to be working even when not at work and jobs that don't allow you to have any sort of home life or leisure time away from work. You're always on call and that just eats away at everything else.

Why work for "the Man" when "the Man" is never content with what you give?

So many times we hear stories of burnout, pointless jobs, frustration and looking for a way out or a different way of life. That's one of the main reasons why people move. They move to escape and to experience something different. Living a life of quiet desperation in the past was something people did. These days people don't want to settle.

This has been brought into sharp focus recently by the cost of living crisis in many places meaning that the feeling that you need to constantly be on has become even more wide ranging. When prices are going up and wages aren't keeping pace then the fear of that wage being taken away becomes greater and the temptation to work a little extra to impress the boss is strong. It's wrong but strong.

If I told you that in Spain there is still a thick line placed between what you do in work and what you do outside work and that one shouldn't affect the other then I wouldn't be talking such rubbish. It's creeping in of course. The Americanisation of work culture gets everywhere and the Protestant or Puritan work ethic is imposed on the organisational culture in many work places. However Spain is much more laissez-faire still and for those of us who work for ourselves this can be a good thing, but only if we allow it to be.

Work in Valencia

Remember here that we are talking about people working from Valencia or in Valencia but not necessarily getting a job in Valencia itself and having to work Valencian hours for Valencian wages.

As 9-5 recedes into the background in most countries, you have to consider that 9-5 has never really been a thing in Spain. The siesta culture and climate factors always meant that there was a break in the middle of the day and then people went back to work in the afternoon/evening. Typically people work from 10-2 and then from 5-8 with a bit of time either side for getting set up and closing things down. Obviously there are exceptions such as schoolteachers, a typical job done by foreigners in the international school system here, but most jobs still use the typically Spanish hours.

In fact, most of Valencia still runs on this timetable though you will find certain places opening earlier, usually cafes and markets or supermarkets to catch those on their way to work, and you may find places opening later up to 10pm, such as hypermarkets to allow those working until 8 to do their shopping.The government has recently proposed a blanket ban on the big shops opening after 9pm to give the staff there a chance at a little more work life balance by not getting home between 10-11 in the evening and therefore getting to see more of their children for example.

Most of the new arrivals in Valencia don't come here because they are offered a job here, they bring their job (or rather what they do) with them and just perform the duties from here. People from the UK can do this relatively easily (as long as they qualify for one of the visas) as the tiemtables coincide more or less and they finish work by 5 or 6 pm. Those from the USA and Canada have to work more often in the afternoons or evenings due to the time difference, if they are required to clock in, but for those lucky enough to work on projects and with goals they often have their work done before the US wakes up and then they can enjoy the rest of the day in Valencia.

For most people working in Valencia once the working day is over, you cut the cord. No keeping the work mobile on, no staying behind to finish something off, no thinking about projects and doing some work on it at home. One of the things that surprises many who come here, especially those from the US and UK, is that leisure time doesn't involve the workplace or the people you know at work either in many cases.

Family, friends and activities in clubs, neighbourhoods, social groupings and even church groups are much more usual than meeting up with your workmates for a drink after work. This could be something to do with the traditional extended day with the siesta gap in the middle and it could be to do with the role of the family as the centre of your social circle, but whatever the reason it persists. This of course means that for some immigrants coming here they may find it difficult to make new friends and social connections outside of work as it can be difficult to break into those social groups. More of that later.

Leisure in Valencia

As many digital nomads and immigrants into Spain find out pretty quickly, the weekend is sacred here. We have written about why you cannot see properties at the weekend before and this holds true still.

Much of the week for Valencians is spent planning the weekend, the family events, the sports that they will participate in, the meals they will go to, who will be cooking the paella, the books they will read, the mountains they will climb on foot or dressed head to toe in lycra on their bikes, the cafes they will visit for a coffee and chat with friends or even the Netflix series that they will binge watch and chill to with their significant other.

Leisure is taken seriously in Valencia and Spain as a whole. Leisure activities are essential to decompress from the week and to make sure that people feel that, however boring or repetitive their job is, if it pays then they have something to look forward to. Yes, there are boring repetitive jobs that people hate here, of course there are, they are everywhere, however they are seen as a means to an end in many cases not as something through which people identify themselves. It is not uncommon for friends for years to not know what the other does for a living because it's just not seen as important in many cases.

"What do you do?" "I'm a civil servant".

That's often the end of a conversation about work. Not whether you are a teacher, an administrator, whether you work in a museum or as a bus driver. They quickly move onto more esoteric and important things to chat about like putting the world to rights, criticising politicians or talking about how Valencia football club is a mess. And everybody knows how all of those things can be solved of course, we are very opinionated here.

Social circles are reinforced every weekend therefore as people participate in activities that bring people together even if it is just the Paseo on a Sunday evening in cities. Traditionally people got dressed up to impress and just walk around the centre of their town or city to see or to be seen and to chat with those they meet who they may know (or use their dogs or even children as a conversation starter with others).

Achieving Work Life Balance in Valencia

Achieving this work life balance for immigrants coming into Valencia is not as easy as it sounds though. These soical relationships have been around for years, decades or even longer, think about the men only cookery clubs in the Basque country, the Fallas associations in Valencia and even the Gaita bands in Asturias and Galicia (Bagpipes). It can be difficult to get in and become a part of these associations.

You need to find your own crowd and the temptation might be that as it is difficult you won't bother, you can gain the edge by continuing to work even when others are playing. You can't. You'll be seen as an outsider and if your work requires interaction then forget it, everyone else is out "playing".

You need to draw your own boundaries between your work and your play. And it's difficult. The easy route is to not get out there, to not socialise as it requires work. People won't gravitate to you just because you are you, however brilliant that "you" is. You need to integrate and one of the ways you can do this of course is by talking to people. Learning the language is important therefore to make sure that you don't become ghettoised by putting up your own walls consciously or sub-consciously. It's also a good way to get to know others in the same boat. Spanish classes are important but even more so are intercambios and getting out into the city to use your new language skills.

Intercambios happen in pubs and cafes normally where Spanish people go to speak English and English speakers go to speak Spanish, Half an hour or an hour in each language with others willing to learn and then the reciprocity in the other language. These meetings often go on into the night and you get to speak with many people some of whom may become lifelong friends.

Those of us who are self employed can trick ourselves into thinking that working more and more and more is the way forward as it earns us more and therefore makes life easier. It doesn't. We have to draw lines. Becoming more Valencian by making the weekends more sacred is one of the ways to make sure that you have a better chance of fitting in. Join clubs that interest you, start a new interest and join in doing it. Even buy a bike and a load of tight fitting lycra and find your local cycling club. Lots of conversations can be had in the saddle and you quickly learn the Spanish for puncture (pinchazo) and huge long sandwich (bocadillo) as well as much more equally useful language and getting to see some pretty amazing places.

My Work Life Balance

Do what I say not what I do :-)


Escaping in Valencia

Valencia empties at the weekend. People escape to the countryside, their pueblos or the coast. This isn't as big a thing as it used to be with traffic jams leaving the city on a Friday evening and coming back into the city on a Sunday evening but it still happens. Escaping the confines of the city is important, getting out into nature, back to the village where your family came from or, for us immigrants, the place we have found that we love visiting regularly, is important. Again it's a thing about those social ties, those habits that are important to maintain, that society that it's important to appreciate and keep.

However you don't need a car. As mentioned previously many people escape on bikes into the countryside, the local bus and train service will take you to many lovely villages and towns around from where you can explore and there are organised events through many groups online and offline that you can join to get to know others and other places. You just have to look.

Exploring the city itself can also be satisfying where you escape your usual routes and take a guided tour around the lesser known parts of the city to get to know more about where you now live. You might find something you didn't know existed. And then there are the fiestas, oh yes, I hadn't mentioned them yet.

Fiestas abound in Spain and Valencia is no exception. You can most likely find a fiesta somewhere in the Valencian community every weekend and it's a way to get to know where you live and what the people get up to. Suffice to say it usually involves huge paellas, copious quantities of alcohol, some music and Djs and quite often bulls running around. Some fiestas are small and just one day, some are huge and can last a week. That's how people really escape.

Getting to Know The Neighbours

When you move to Valencia and start living here it's best to be open and yes, I know it's difficult. Getting to know the people around you is always a daunting experience but will largely be hugely rewarding. As a foreigner coming into Valencia being seen to make an effort to speak to people, to speak in Spanish and to be friendly and helpful is a sure fire way of finding your first few friends among your neighbours. People are naturally curious about what brought you here and why you chose Valencia. And when you tell them about how great their city and region is they will like you even more.

But your neighbours are more than just the people living in your building or next door. They are the people that make up your community, those who go for a coffee every day in the same cafe, those that organise the community in your building, those who are involved with the local Fallas fiestas and spend all year fundraising for the blowout in March, those who are looking for a partner to play tennis, go cycling or walking or just to sit down for a chinwag. Just like you, people want community, especially in our increasingly atomised online world.

Building Up Your Network

It's at this point that we move into that atomised, virtual world. You can build up your network online. There are so many ways of getting to know others in real life starting in the virtual world. Meetup groups, Facebook groups and webpages for your particular interests run by people who love what you too love.

You can be virtually guaranteed that you'll be able to find your people online and what you need to do of course is to move that initial online contact into the real world by going to events, organising outings or meetups and more. The more active you are the more connections you'll get but by active I don't mean active online, I mean active in taking action to bring those connections into the real world.

You'll find that the people in Spain are very responsive to going to events and meetups, after all that's what they spend all week planning. However make sure it doesn't coincide with family events, Fallas festivals throughout the year, Valencia/Levante home matches (Delete as applicable), annual holidays, Easter, Xmas etc... Yeah people keep themselves busy here, just don't expect them to be working overtime as an excuse.

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News From Spain

There's only one bit of news that matters this week in Spain and that is the Spanish women's team winning the World Cup... Wait what? Oh yeah that has been totally overshadowed and if you haven't read about it then you mustn't have the internet so you are not reading this. As I write Rubiales continues in his position and the scandal gets worse by the day. FFS. Oh and now he has been suspended by FIFA, and now the txeam's support staff have resigned en masse. The plot thickens.

Property of the Week

Not much to choose from this week as we have only uploaded one property. So here we go with a poem dedicated to the heat.

August in Valencia
And its impossible to see properties
Because owners are away
At the beach
Or in the mountains
And the streets are almost empty
The only thing that moves
Is an agent
Sweat trickling down back
Arriving home with precious information
Of an affordable apartment
Less than 200k with pool and balcony, parking and convenient to the city and airport
Not a trick of the heat
There are photos
AC by ducts, parking space and concierge
The agent finishes the listing
Then brings down the shutters and sits in the dark
Sweating and waiting
Waiting for September

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