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Wednesday October 2, 2013

Do expats know best? I'm sorry, I haven't a clue!

On average I receive about 200 enquiries each month from holidaymakers and wannabe expats asking for advice about visiting or moving to Majorca. It’s a mixed bag mostly generated by Britons although a fair few Germans, Scandinavians and Americans are in regular touch now. Most of the questions are fairly straightforward seeking my views as an expat and writer on appealing areas in which to live, how to rent or buy properties, find a lawyer or architect and about the island’s best hotels, shops and restaurants. But then there are the curious, challenging and downright bizarre questions that stop me in my tracks and either have me guffawing and tutting or in extreme cases reaching for the bottle.

Apparently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also gets asked a lot of strange questions from the British public some of which have included how to: get compensation when struck by a stone inadvertently caused by a monkey, translate a tattoo message into Italian, and help a wife to motivate her husband to get fit. It is also asked for sightseeing tips and for help with booking hotels and paying bills. Of course the majority of enquiries that the FCO receives are about lost or stolen passports, 28,783 last year, and on a gloomy front 6,193 deaths abroad trigger many enquiries for assistance from expats and holidaymakers as do health issues in general. According to Columbus Direct, a travel insurance specialist, recent research showed that 48 per cent of Britons didn’t know that they could be liable for medical bills abroad. Many Britons call the FCO for medical advice but without travel insurance in place, it is often powerless to assist.

But back to the sort of off-the-wall questions that cross my desk. Recently a man enquired as to how he might ‘live off the land’ in Deia village, hanging out in a camper van and eating fruit and vegetables from local orchards, all for nowt. I told him that he’d obviously not heard that Deia was the new Chelsea-on-Sea where the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Pierce Brosnan and Leonardo DiCaprio stayed. A woman relocating to Majorca contacted me about the prevalence of dangerous bears, wolves, foxes and snakes on the island and whether her cats would be at risk. Oh and there was the Cougar lady who wanted to know about dating sites for older women to meet young Majorcan men, and a charming older gentleman who asked for addresses of nurseries where he could buy supplies of marijuana plants.
Despite two left feet, I’m apparently an authority on line dancing and salsa classes in Magaluf, know where to buy best English bacon, white sauce and frozen Yorkshire puddings and can offer good advice on the planting of rhubarb and Brussels sprouts. I’ve been quizzed about ski slopes, ice rinks and Polo Clubs and best places to get married underwater in the company of sharks. Human or fishy ones? An endearingly witless couple asked if it was necessary to speak any other language but English and whether they’d still need to pay taxes if they moved to Majorca.

Much as I believe that if someone makes the effort to ask a question, it’s courteous to offer a reply, I do worry at the lack of basic research carried out by some Britons contemplating relocation to another country. It’s of course good to ask an expat in a particular zone for advice, but a little advance homework is called for too. As they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Please feel free to comment on this article. All comments are moderated, so it will appear after I have checked it. Thanks!

  1. Hello Anna, I was absolutely amazed at your latest piece. I have spent many hours on the internet reading up about what is involved in moving to Spain/Mallorca and I believe thinking about pretty well every aspect and investigating the local areas. How on earth would some of these folk you mention manage anywhere away from their present abode? My mind boggles. It must be difficult to reply with any degree of helpfulness as one surely cannot help many of these people.
    Best wishes

    * by Philippa Coates | Oct 3, 05:57 pm

  2. Hi Philippa, ha ha…well it certainly helps to have a sense of humour, I can tell you! A:-)

    * by anna nicholas | Nov 8, 05:13 pm