The Brain Drain in Spain 3: Flight of the Party Girls
An article was making the rounds on Facebook the other day entitled Pues yo me voy de España. In it, an Italian journalist describes her reasons for leaving Spain after living in Madrid for 15 years.
As a long-timer myself, I feel sort of strongly about these things.
Her main reason for leaving? Apparently, it’s just not fun anymore.
She describes coming to Spain in 1998 and eventually getting a job in Telemadrid, where her proudest moment was, apparently, dressing up as a chulapa for La Paloma, one of the local festivals.
A true inspiration.
She also describes her love of the typical domingo de cañas and her admiration for Spaniards’ ability to stay up all night partying and still manage to go to work the next day.
She even describes how she fell in love with the old-man bars with olive pits and dirty napkins blanketing the floor, and how some famous guy once tried to pick her up in Barrio Salamanca. (When I say famous, I mean Spanish famous, of course.)
But when Telemadrid had to cut their budget, Ms Saccone found herself out of a job – one thing led to another, and now she’s writing to let us all know that she’s leaving.
She’s moving on to where the pastures are greener and the fun is more hilarious. She’s going to the happiest country in the world: Brazil.
Goodbye (and good riddance)
Of course, she’s right about some things.
The bank bailout seems to have been nothing but a sadistic plan to distribute wealth to those who least needed it, and it’s certainly not a lot of fun for those who lost their houses.
The political corruption and the Swiss bank accounts of members of the government is certainly a problem, but then again, she’s from Naples. She should be used to that sort of thing.
All across the board, the level of fun is lower than it was a few years ago.
We’ve all noticed it.
But who’s going to go to a disco to pay 8 euros for a Heineken when their unemployment subsidy is 500 euros and running out in a month?
Fun (usually) costs money, and money is in short supply.
However, there are some other aspects of the article that are puzzling. She really thinks that Spanish bureaucracy is efficient?
Maybe the part for people from the EU.
Of course, she hasn’t been in touch with the part of the bureaucracy they reserve for other foreigners. The part that I know all too much about.
She also thinks (correctly) that Spanish infrastructure is a great accomplishment – but apparently she isn’t falling for the official story that during the boom everybody was living beyond their means.
Maybe I’m just an ignorant weekend warrior of a blogger, but it seems to me that that’s exactly what was happening.
The Spanish credit crisis continues
Everybody from the Ministries on down to the waiters at Museo del Jamón was spending money they didn’t have, and now they’re going to spend decades paying down their debts.
It’s a basic credit-fueled boom followed by massive credit crunch scenario. Duh.
Maybe she doesn’t know anybody who took out a 300,000 euro mortgage on a house that’s now worth half that, but I certainly do.
I also know somebody who still has to pay more than 30,000 euros on a house they were evicted from two years ago – the now-famous dación de pago.
It wasn’t just the government that was spending money they didn’t have, it was all kinds of misguided people who had bought into the real-estate bubble and who thought their salaries would just go up indefinitely.
So now, having spent too much in the early part of the new century, we’re in the credit crunch. The EU cohesion funds are going to other countries, so Spain is closing airports and having to maintain high-speed rail networks that are basically going to lose money forever.
And since the banks aren’t giving credit anymore, people are actually having to (gasp!) live within the limits of their meager Spanish salaries.
Anyway, is it time to pack our bags and leave? Not for me!
In my mind, there’s more to do now than ever. Teachers (like me) and journalists (like her) are just as necessary as always. Of course, everyone is free to do as they choose, and I won’t be seeking funner pastures anytime soon.
Maybe I’m just a bitter old Puritan, but fun, in my world, is sort of overrated. Making a valuable contribution to society, however, is priceless.
I’ve seen how my students have gone from wanting to move up in their companies to planning their escape to England or Germany. And as a teacher I’m able to help them with that. Sure, it isn’t as fun as it was back in the años de la bonanza. But I feel just as useful now as I ever did then.
Leaving now would be missing the point.
Good luck in Brazil, Ms. Saccone. I’m sure it’s a lot of fun now, but let’s see what happens after the World Cup and the Olympics are over. My prediction is that there’ll be less fun for everyone.
In the meantime, I would love to see an article written by any one of the thousands of scientists who have been forced to leave Spain due to cutbacks in R+D. Or the people who are forced to work in Zara in London because they can’t find work at a Zara in their hometown.
Not everything in life can be fun, unfortunately.
Not even in Madrid, the fun capital of Europe.
P.S. I guess you could check out my posts about frequently asked questions about expat life in Madrid, and about the best Madrid blogs for more. Or check out my full Great Recession Recap over here… Have fun!