He discovered Valencia and fell in love with it. He moved away from London and found his new home in sunny Mediterranean Spanish city. He also works from here. Why Valencia is the best place to live today we asked the writer, blogger and world explorer Jimmy Mulvihill.
How long have you lived in Valencia?
I have lived here since February 2015, having also spent 6 weeks here in June and July of 2013, and 4 weeks in January 2014.
Why did you choose Valencia?
I first came here when I was travelling around Europe in 2012 – 2013.
I visited about 40 different cities in Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, the UK, Belguim and Holland, staying for at least a week in each city.
I met some people in Barcelona, where I had spent 5 weeks, and they recommended that I come to Valencia, and when I arrived here I instantly felt at home.
Up until the age of 29 I had lived my life in London and had become accustomed to the benefits of a big city, such as the public transportation, the choice of different districts to explore, sports teams, music venues, an airport with direct flights and a wide range of things to keep me occupied. I was keen to retain as many of these as possible, and Valencia was able to offer me all of them. However, Valencia was the first place that I found that also avoided many of the pitfalls that larger cities have, such as the expensive costs, the traffic and noise, the long journeys, the impersonality, the transient nature, the lack of community and the stress of hectic living. In short, it offered me everything that I wanted here without any of the downsides.
There were also extra benefits that I had craved whilst in London, such as a beach, being located very near many other towns that I could explore on my days off, an art scene which I think is second to none in Europe, picturesque and calm nature, and cultural festivals. Valencia had the best balance between for the lifestyle that I felt that I needed, and the opportunities needed to earn money, and still now, having visited over 50 different Spanish cities and towns, I still think that it offers the most out of any city.
What difficulties did you face in a relocation process?
Thankfully as I am still working for a UK company it meant that I did not need to obtain an NIE number, and as I have simple needs and am able to rent spare bedrooms from services such as AirBNB, it has meant that I have been able to sidestep many of the challenges that many people have, such as finding work, setting up a bank account, etc.
However, there have been challenges such as learning the language and being disciplined enough to persevere with the lessons. At the moment I am undertaking 10 hours of lessons per week, with plenty more time being dedicated to practising it outside of the classroom, and (ironically enough) the biggest challenge in that respect is that Spain is very accommodating to people who are learning the language, in many cases too accommodating!! I have found that as speaking English is such a big factor in Valencian people finding employment, and as I am a native English speaker, many of the people that I have lived and socialised with have asked if I am able to converse in English as much as possible, and as I had such a high workload over the last year there were many times that I took the easy and lazy option and was happy to speak in English. It’s been a great comfort to me to have one less thing to worry about, but it has slowed my progress. However over the last 2 months I have been more disciplined in trying to converse in Spanish as much as possible.
What would you describe as “it can happen only in Valencia”?
We are currently in the middle of the annual Fallas Festival, which is only held in Valencia, and I think it’s the best festival in the whole country. Every day for 3 weeks there are fireworks and huge public gatherings, it has a great party atmosphere and the whole city gets involved. I have also noticed, (and this is only my observation), that Valencia is united as a city on many aspects, without being as divided as many other Spanish cities are.
For example, in other cities there is a huge rivalry between the football teams, with there being a strong cultural undercurrent between teams that goes further than the football match itself. In Sevilla you have Real Betis FC, a traditional working class team, being rivals to the middle class Sevilla FC. In Barcelona city, Barcelona represent the Catalan desire for independence, whereas Espanyol represent the part of the city that wants to remain a part of Spain, and in Madrid Real Madrid were backed by Franco, and were therefore seen as “The Establishment” whereas Atletico Madrid were seen as the rebellious team. In these cities the team that you chose took on more meaning than simply following a football team, it also represented a culture and a part of society, which in many cases created division betweens people. The football is simply one way to represent the divisions that still exist 80 years after the civil war.
By comparison in Valencia there is much less evidence of this division between the people, which is symbolised by the two teams based here, Valencia CF and Levante UD. I have seen the two sets of supporters happily share a bar, and whilst there will be words exchanged between them, from what I have seen it always seems to be with at least a large portion of good spirit between them. It is symbolic of a city that has less of a division than I have recognised in other parts of Spain, although this is only my personal observation and others may have a different experience. To me the city seems much more integrated as a whole, with more fluidity between the different demographics, age groups and cultures that live here.
Many of the traditional bars will also offer craft beers and cosmopolitan cuisine that is much more difficult to find in other cities, and the shops will have a mix between traditional Spanish and international cutting edge fashion, which I feel gives a balance that some other Spanish cities lack. It has a perfect mix between offering the best of what other countries in the world offer, and catering to people who crave a typical Spanish experience. It is easily the most balanced European city that I have been based in.
Do you know many British expats living in Valencia?
Whilst I have many friends that are from Spain, and particularly from Valencia, I would estimate that there are also about 80-90 people that I know here that come from the UK and Ireland that I meet up with in group events at least once per month.
In which social activities do you participate in Valencia?
I attend many meet up groups, both through the website MeetUp.com and Internations.org, with activities including nature walks, going to the cinema, attending La Liga Football games, socialising, learning about local history and going to see live music. Within the next week I will also be joining a football team and I am looking into the possibility of joining a cricket and a Gaelic football team as well. I try to attend as many intercambio meetings as possible, where I can help a Spanish person practice their English while they help me practice my Spanish. There is a huge choice of intercambio meet ups to choose from, at least 40 per week. I am also happy to act as a tour guide for my friends when they come over from the UK to visit, which has happened on about 7 occasions in the last year alone, with most of them staying for a week at a time.
What was your position in the UK and what do you do now?
Whilst I was in London I worked in a Music Recording and Rehearsal Studio Complex that I founded in 2005, called Bally Studios. I used to record bands, provide rehearsal studios for them to practice in, as well as both helping the smaller bands to promote themselves, while promoting concerts of the bigger bands myself. I used to liaise with record labels to help create business plans to determine how much investment each band would need, how best to use that investment, and help the bands make the leap from music being a hobby to a full time profession.
The reason that I wanted to move to the Mediterranean was that a publisher was keen for me to write books to teach bands on how to do this themselves. I was given a lump sum of money to achieve this goal, and I saw that in Spain (and particularly in Valencia) it was much easier for me to make the money last as long as possible, and so this is now my full time job, to both write and test business plans that bands can use themselves to become as self sufficient as possible, and also to write books to educate them on as many different aspects of the music industry as possible. It involves many hours sitting at a desk typing, and being able to walk to the beach in a break and having such a great night life scene here gives me ample opportunity to relax in my time off.
What is your opinion on Valencian people?
I honestly think that the Valencian people are the most welcoming and accommodating people within Spain, and it is a large part of the reason why I settled here. I personally find that the Valencian accent is easier to understand than in many other regions of Spain, which makes it easier to build up a relationship with them, and they are also very accommodating while you are still at a basic level of Spanish, being very patient on the whole which makes it much easier to learn the language.
They have a great balance between wanting to retain their Spanish heritage and tradition, as is shown from the Fallas Festival and the extensive amounts of museums dedicated to their history, while also being forward thinking, for example in how they have embraced the City of Arts and Science and the multinational University Complexes that are throughout the city. I found many other regions of Spain want to preserve their heritage to the point where they find it hard to stray from it, respectfully, but Valencia manages to both retain their proud tradition, while incorporating a 21st century twist in many aspects of it. They are also as passionate as you would imagine from a Mediterranean city, especially at sporting and musical events and at bars.