Getting by with a little help from my friends

I THINK I have finally cracked it. The reason many of us expats love life on foreign shores cannot entirely be explained by the sun and sangria; I believe it is also about the community spirit and support.

Something which once was strong in towns and villages back in our home countries, but has withered with time and circumstances. My family moved from Sweden to North Yorkshire, UK, when I was in my early teens. Back then everyone was ‘love’ or ‘duck’ and people seemed to look out for one another; the community was strong and supportive.

Vandals and thugs were not tolerated and dealt with expediently. The streets were generally safe for children to venture out without parents or body guards. Small acts of kindness on a daily basis made life just that little bit better. 

Then things changed; slowly but surely over the years people no longer had the time or inclination to pop into the elderly lady next door, or stop to help someone who had broken down by the side of the road. 

The courts and schools became stoically ‘politically correct’ at a great cost to victims of crime and children. Fear got a foothold and the community faded. I know this is a generalisation, there are no doubt some quiet villages where Utopia still reigns, but, alas, I miss the country that England once was. 

Fast forward to present days, and I realise that this community spirit is alive and well and can be found right here in Spain. Recently, my husband raised nearly €4,000 for three local charities, from friends and businesses, in Portals Nous and some in Palma, some were local and many expat run. No questions asked, they were happy to support him and the causes, helping deaf children, children with Aspergers’ syndrome and children living in poverty. Because it was about more than business: it was a question of supporting each other. In fact, the list of corporate sponsors reads like our favoured go-to guide in the area, should you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods. (For details of the event and sponsors go to http://pledgie.com/campaigns/20062)

Poignantly, the experience reminded me of how things once were. Perhaps because our families and many friends are far away, we rally around more when times are difficult and someone needs help. Much like a surrogate family. There is an amazing generosity and goodwill here, I know of two cases in recent times where communities donated money to help one child go to the US for a life saving operation and, separately, repatriating one woman for cancer treatment. 

Even the day to day life is less anonymous. People generally know you by name, grocery shopping comes with a chat and a smile (assuming you stay away from the larger chain superstores), and it can take the longest time to walk even a hundred yards, greeting friends along the way.

I have yet to test whether someone would stop to help should my car break down, but a kind local did get me out of a tight spot once, when it became wedged in one of those minuscule car parks so common here.  

So for now, I am sold on expat life. Because a life where you live among people you can call on to share a problem or a laugh is surely a life worth living. How is it in your community: one for all or all for one?

I would love to hear your views on [email protected]

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