Has anyone here got any experience of settling in a new country where you don’t speak the language and are not sure how to fit in?
I am thinking of buying a 2nd home – which I will spend about 6 months of the year in. I know that sounds extravagant but it’s more like the opposite in my case – in the city where I work (about 6 months of the year) it will be impossible for me to ever have a house, even a small one, with a garden and I’ve decided to make some changes as life up to now has been super-stressful, to the point that it’s made me ill at times. I have been looking abroad for some years and finally found a town in a country that I fell in love with. The town is quite non-touristy, has about 2,500 inhabitants, and a simplicity that I crave.However, I want to be sensible and would like some advice please, from anyone with any experience, or even input from those who have not.In terms of location, the house I found is not a typical ‘second home’ – most people buying 2nd home in this country would be looking for a farmhouse type building with land. Mine is like a townhouse, directly on the street, but with a huge terrace at the back and a nice sized (but not big) garden. I like it very much. But my concern is it is about a 3 minute drive out of the town. It’s set in hills / mountains in an area that is really lovely. It has local buses regularly running through it. To walk into the town would take about 50 minutes, down a steep hillside road. This is the only thing I’m worried about, in case it means I never really connect with the locals because I’m at a little distance from them.Also, it is a characterful house, but it is on a ‘main’ road. I’d never usually buy a house on a main road but, with that said, the road is quiet, with houses down one side and trees and seating areas down the other, with the most glorious views over the mountains. The village the house is in is quite “through” in the sense that there isn’t a village ‘centre’ as such, just one restaurant, a church, and a few houses. But the house has enough space for me to make my own studio (I’m an artist) and the most amazing terrace at the back, with views over mountains. It will take about a year of renovation work to make habitable; I already negotiated the price and found an architect / builder to do the work for me and I have loads of experience in renovating properties. So, one concern is that, if I am not positioned right in the town itself, I will not make new friends easily. But I would probably go to the town each day, nevertheless, eg. for morning coffee and shopping. However, if I go directly to the town, properties are much more expensive and the town is low down, so I will not get the amazing views or space for a studio.Another concern is that I am really worried about fitting in. I love this town already, so much, and really want to contribute only good things to it, but I don’t (yet) speak the language and I don’t know how to contribute. I’d happily do some voluntary work, but I won’t be living there permanently, so I’m no sure what kind of voluntary organisation would want me. Also, I’m going there partly to escape the art world – I’ve realised I still want to make art, but I have no interest in city art scenes as I know exactly how backstabbing they are. So, whilst this town is connected to nearby cities with very commercial art scenes, that’s not what I want to get involved in. I am aware I’d be moving alone, at 51, as a woman, and that I may well be met with suspicion even on that basis alone, but especially if I start using what the locals consider to be a normal house as my studio, making art works that I don’t want to sell and don’t particularly want to exhibit.Friends in the city where I live and work completely understand this need to be partly reclusive, but I’m not sure the locals will. Is it possible to be a semi-reclusive artist and still contribute something of value to the local town? Do you think they will accept me if I am living a 3 minute drive outside? I don’t really know where to start, but everyone I’ve encountered over there has been so friendly, kind, welcoming. I want things to get off on the right tracks and I’m afraid if I get it wrong it will set a pattern that I won’t be able to change. I Don’t want to stand out or be considered ‘special’ in any way, just to blend in and live with mutual respect and kindness.Another slight issue is I look much younger – around 41 friends say – and I am not particularly interested in meeting a man at this stage. I’m aware I still get ‘looks’ and, to be honest, it’s nice but I really don’t want any more of that kind of attention. It has caused me so many problems in the past. I just want to blend in, not stand out at all if I can help it, including because men may think I’m attractive and alone, so presume I’m available.I’m not religious, but the country is, so I’m wondering if that will cause a problem.Any input at all really appreciated.
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A female reader, Honeypie + ♥, writes (22 December 2018):
I’d say MAKE an effort to learn the language. You wouldn’t be the first artist to settle in a smaller town, though a town of 2,500 is tiny.Will EVERYONE accept you? Probably not. Nor do they need to. you might put their town on the map (in a smaller or larger scale) so there ARE benefits for the town.As for what MEN around there will presume… I think you are getting ahead of yourself. Because really WHO cares what they think? They can ASK you out, it might happen but you are fully allowed to say no. Just as they are “allowed” to ask.I don’t think there is a right and wrong way to go about it, other then YOU being respectful of the people who live there. I really don’t see what you can do “wrong” that will ruin this for you and the town. Seriously.My uncle is an artist (though a VERY social one) but he lives way out in the country on a pretty large farm, that is where his main workshop is, he has a smaller shared one in the nearest larger city. All his neighbors know he is a tad eccentric and it’s all fine.My biggest concern, if I were you, would be the “years of renovations”. Is that really doable for a place you want to call your escape? And if you end up not feeling at home or welcome, who on Earth of the locals would buy a house that is renovated to suit an artists needs? And who could afford buying it?
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