Chapter 14: Locals Only

Uncle Jimmy!

I gotta ask, and sorry for the indelicacy, but … you did go “up”, right? The family wasn’t sure.

Hey, when you lived abroad, did you feel like you truly belonged, wherever you were? Back in 2017, when we first arrived in Barcelona, we thought we were locals. Living as we did, in a rented apartment in the middle of where the locals resided, it often made us feel like we were indeed the same as they. But we weren’t. Not really. Sure, we could shop, eat, and act like Spaniards, but we simply couldn’t have the same investment into the place that they did, right?

Skip to the other morning. I was chatting with some folks at the next table over at a restaurant, when they asked if we lived in Barcelona. Without thinking, I answered yes. Nikki mentioned it later, wondering why I responded so. And since then I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel more like a local now, knowing I wasn’t when this started two years ago. I still have no real answer, other than perhaps it’s not because of where you are, rather it’s what you are. And where your heart lies.

Now, having said all that, we have indeed “localized” in several ways, including during that first trip. For instance, we have properly adjusted our circadian rhythms to match that of the residents. Over here in Spain, dinner is usually around 9pm. Oftentimes later, never earlier. And it’s usually a lighter meal. Lunch is around 2pm, and is the substantial one. And breakfast really isn’t. Maybe some coffee and a croissant. So we follow those time-lines just as if we were Barcelonian.

Remember the nickname you gave me as a teenager? The Night Stalker? Well, I still am, and it truly fits here. When you dine at 9pm, and linger afterwards like a good Spaniard always does, you’re getting up from the table close to midnight. And then probably walking somewhere.

Activities that start in the late evening hours are normal, even during weekdays. Afternoon siestas usually help offset any shortcomings in sleep. And we have truly embraced that cultural aspect fully as well. So, I’m happy to report that, at last, I have finally found and embraced my people!

Hmmm, I just realized that I have yet to tell you all about how I’m able to finance this expedition. Which is important, right? Well, I’m still employed, eight hours a day, by my same company.

For the past 11-years-and-some-months, I’ve worked for a major cosmetics company doing software development. And the funny thing is, I have yet to physically meet my client. They’re based in New York and I’ve never seen a face in person. I “work from home”, so basically wherever I am, it’s also my office. It works out really well, and obviously offers me the opportunity to move my home around.

Now Barcelona is usually six hours in the future from New York, so some accommodations had to be made. But my client has been more than wonderful in this regard. Basically, I work Monday through Friday from Noon until 8pm, my time. That equates to 6am to 2pm, their time. But since we’re a global company, there are also people on the team from all over the US, from India and Romania, South America, and other far-flung places. All meetings are done online, and we thus use the small window when everyone is available. The rest of the time is for doing actual work. So everyone is happy.

So, how does this all relate to my “locals” subject, you are quite right in asking. Well, actually there is a connection. Should I decide to live here permanently and become a real ‘local’, I will need a real visa as well. Which boils down to work. Because as a “tourist”, people can only stay three months out of every six.

If I wanted to live here semi-permanently, I would need to gain certain privileges, which can only be attained by acquiring a longer visa. And those can be pretty difficult to get. I’m not a student, so that’s out. Students aren’t supposed to work anyway. An actual ‘work’ visa is extremely hard to acquire, as the Spanish economy is still rebounding and they’re very protective about their open jobs. And besides, with that piece of paperwork I would also need to pay Spanish taxes.

But there is a visa called “Non-Lucrative” which fits me like an absolute glove. Basically, anyone who can be self-reliant, won’t work in-country for a Spanish firm, who also won’t be a burden on the country’s infrastructure, can apply. It’s usually for those who want to retire here and live on savings. But, there is a caveat for those that work remotely. Which is me. It’s a semi-gray area, but a lot of tele-workers have used it. It’s for a year, and can be renewed for two years at a time after. And there is a possibility that after five years it can be turned into a permanent resident visa.

Now, that’s getting a little ahead of myself, but it’s an option I’m seriously looking into. The paperwork is almost prohibitive, but the Spanish bureaucracy must have its offerings and sacrifice before one can have reap its benefits.

Well, I guess that wraps up my excessive brain-purge of all things local. And because I honestly haven’t done anything else since the last letter that is paragraph-worthy, I need to wrap this one up here.

More real adventures soon! Love, Rick

LETTERS TO A DEAD UNCLE

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