Home Behind the Scenes On the last leg of our journey to Spain

On the last leg of our journey to Spain

by Silke Elzner

We are ready. The boxes are packed, the suitcases filled. We have moved out and moved on and are just waiting for our plane to depart Sydney in a couple of weeks. As I am writing this I am sitting with my legs up on the rooftop terrace of our serviced apartment while the kids learn Spanish with an iPad app. This is an update on our journey to relocate from Australia to Spain.

Many things have happened since our last update. You may have noticed that our blog got pretty quiet over the last two weeks. Since then we have registered ourselves with Spain authorities. We have also finalised everything that needs to be done with our worldly goods. Plus, we have sold one of our two cars. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The NIE Number

As soon as my husband had had his last day at work we headed off to the city to pay a visit to the Spanish consulate. There was something that we needed to do urgently and we just couldn’t relax without getting it sorted as soon as possible. In Spain, if you are an alien, you need to apply for an Número de Identidad de Extranjero, or short a NIE number. This number is like your ID in the country. It is required for pretty much everything that you need to do if you want to set up residency in Spain: import your household goods, purchase cars, sign rental leases, and lots more.

Luckily, we are EU citizens which means that we do not also need to apply for visas. As EU citizens we can live and work in any of the member states without pre-approval, which is such a relief. However, we did need to get this NIE number organised. And since we found a lot of conflicting information on the web we started to get a little bit anxious about the process. We are planning to work online and don’t have signed employment contracts to show for, so what if for some reason Spain would not grant us access? What if we had to prove our financial situation or our motivation to come to Spain?

It didn’t help that the Spanish consulate in Sydney was not answering our emails and not picking up the phone. Total silence at their end. Bureaucracy of the worst kind. Welcome to Spain.

A visit to the Spanish consulate in Sydney

Without any further information we took the bus into the city to visit the Spanish consulate in person. It is a very unassuming consulate, hidden in an office in one of these ugly towers from the 1970s. A small reception room, six chairs for waiting customers. One counter with a screen for privacy, another two for general enquiries.

The waiting room was filled with elderly Spanish people. Oddly, they all seemed to know each other. They chatted vividly in Spanish, and we didn’t understand a single thing. We did feel like outsiders in this moment. Maybe we were all making a big mistake.

In the end, however, it all worked out. We filled out the forms (with a slight mistake, but the consular official helped us getting this sorted before the paperwork was sent off to Spain), paid a handful of dollars, and done.

When we left the office tower via the revolving door we couldn’t help but giggle. The laughter just bubbled out of us uncontrollably. Unmatched relief. We had just sorted out the most worrisome part of our relocation.

Our household in one room

Our house clearance

Over the next couple of days after visiting the consulate we were busy with clearing our household. And, as with so many other things over the following couple of days, we were in luck. One of the people that had shown interest in a piece of furniture mentioned that she was looking at buying a lot more things for the big house she was just about to move into.

And so we struck a deal with her. She purchased all our leftover furniture in bulk, and at a good price too: double beds and sofas, cupboards, rugs, the washer and so on. And the massive advantage was this: We could hold onto this furniture until our very last day in the apartment.

With this in mind we now knew exactly what we wanted to take with us to Spain and what we would leave behind. In strategic circles we cruised around the apartment. We secured each piece of memorabilia, each book, each toy. One bedroom was set aside to hold these items. The piles grew and grew. At one stage we called the overseas removalists to confirm that we may indeed need to go over our limit. Apparently, for OSS this was not a problem, so we slept a bit better in the knowledge that we were able to take everything with us. It was just a matter of cost at this stage.

In the end we made some tough choices with our kitchen stuff. We gave away all our plates and our cutlery, utensils and pots and pans. They were due for an update anyway. And besides, with the shipment taking months to arrive in Spain we will need to purchase many of these things earlier anyway.

Our car sale

One of the easiest things on the list was our car sale. One of my husband’s colleagues was in the markt for a new car, and we had an instant match. Since we trusted that person and he trusted us, the whole transaction was dead easy.

Our second car, a brand-new Honda, poses more of a problem. Since it has only 1,500km on the odometer, it is still essential a new car. But in truth it is not. It’s a used car in brand-new condition. It is really hard to find a buyer for that kind of car, in particular because of the stamp duty. However, we have also spoken to the professional retailer who had sold us the car. They are willing to take it back in for a price that is painful but still acceptable.

At least this gives us the freedom to drive the car until the very end, because the retailer doesn’t put a date to the moment of handover. This saves us money on car rental.

Moving out

Two days before OSS came to pick up our household items, we packed our four big suitcases and two smaller suitcases and moved one block down the road and into a serviced apartment. Again, we are lucky. The serviced apartment is in the neighbourhood of our old home, less than 50 metres away. This means that the kids can continue to use the school bus and we are not far from everything that we know and love. Also, wrapping up the lease of our apartment is much easier this way.

The serviced apartment is in good condition and modern. Although it does lack some kitchen utensils and some things are broken. We enjoy that we have an indoor pool and a gym in the complex, plus the apartment is serviced weekly which is great!

To our dismay, the excruciatingly hot summer weather that we had to endure over the last couple of months is followed by rain, rain and rain. If it wasn’t for that rain we could make full use of our beachfront balcony and rooftop terrace. But we must remind ourselves that we are not on holidays. We are on a trip of a lifetime.

And now we sit and wait

As it turned out, our estimate for the shipment container seemed to have been quite appropriate. Our household of four will set off on a journey with a volume of just 7.5m³. Only the most needed possessions will eventually find their way to Spain.

And so we enjoy our very last days in Australia. Of course, it would be nice if the rain stopped so that we can explore the city and surrounds a bit more before we leave. But by the looks of it we may not be as lucky in this respect.

Our date of departure is 8 April.

Views from the balcony of our serviced apartment