What does it take to move from Amsterdam to Barcelona? How difficult is it to find the right house? And how to make sure it will feel like home? We hope you will enjoy Marije’s story.
After three weeks of moving, unpacking and making our house feel like a home I would like to share some of my experiences with moving to Castelldefels-Barcelona and Mimoun’s help in the process. My name is Marije. I am born and raised in Holland and lived in Amsterdam for the last 20 years. I live with my partner, Stefan and our dog, Oscar, the black labrador. Our whole family is Dutch so we have instantly given its members a nice place for a short break or holiday.
The right time for a change
In Holland I used to be a project manager for a big contractor and I loved working in the renovation and building industry. Since I am turning 40 this September, it feels like I am starting the second half of my life. I realized that now is the time to try to make it the best half. When me and my partner talked about doing something different with our lives, we always mentioned moving to Barcelona, because of the weather, the lifestyle, the beauty of the city itself and the possibilities it gives us. We did look at other places, but naming all the good and bad qualities of them, we always ended up in Barcelona. Moving abroad gives us a chance to have a new challenge, learn another language and explore how it feels to make it somewhere else. We think that if you can make it in Amsterdam, you can make it anywhere.
When we decided that our plans will no longer be a dream, but would become a real endeavor, we made a list with all the things we had to arrange before we could pack our stuff and go. Having a dream is the easy part, but actually doing it is almost a full-time job. Luckily the internet helped a lot to find tips and tricks for moving abroad, to read stories of people who already been there and done it and learn from their mistakes. We found out that arranging the paperwork was a lot to deal with, but we could manage with much patience, the help of Google Translate and lots of e-mailing back and forth. But there was one thing that just did not work out at all… Finding a house, let alone a home.
Looking for a home
It sounds so easy. Just look for a proper housing site like Idealista, type the right search words and go. But that was a big mistake. When we selected a few houses we liked, we tried to contact the real estate broker, but since we called or e-mailed them in English, we got no answer at all. Trying to speak Spanish or make a really professional e-mail in Spanish had no other effect. We received one answer from a broker, in Spanish: that the house was already reserved for someone else. That was it. Nothing more. And the house is still on the site till this moment! After trying for almost three months we started to accept that finding a house would be the hardest part of the whole moving process and maybe even something we wouldn’t be able to arrange before going to Spain.
We had already sold our house in Amsterdam, so once we had a deadline we realized there would be a possibility that we had to move to a short-stay-home for a while and leave our stuff in Holland. Not really what we wanted, but we slowly started to accept that we have to speak Spanish and actually be in Spain to have even a slight change of getting a house.
Only having six weeks left to our deadline, everything changed for the good. We arranged our insurance with a company owned by a Dutch lady, Barbara de Swaan. After telling her our frustration of finding a house, she advised us to contact Mimoun, because they could help us. If only we knew this three months earlier!
The first contact with Penelope from Mimoun felt like coming home. After months of frustration it was such a good feeling to talk with someone who knows what it is like to move abroad, who speaks your language, who understands the process, who really listened to what we wanted and started looking for houses the day after we gave her a go. After a few days she already had some places we could consider and after two intense weeks with lots of calling, e-mailing and text messages, she found us a house we all liked. Penelope made sure we knew what we were into by making lots of pictures, movies and text. She also did the first agreements with the broker. What’s important, she did not only negotiated rental price and conditions in our favor, but also had our rental contract checked by Mimoun’s lawyer to avoid any future problems.
The week after I went to Barcelona to see the house with my own eyes and make the last agreements with the house owner and the broker. Penelope was by my side the whole time. She made sure I had a good flight, helped me find a hotel close to our new house and picked me up.
The house was just as we hoped for. It was even better seeing it myself. And when I was looking at the house, Penelope made agreements with the broker not only about the financial parts, but she made sure the house got painted, cleaned and some small malfunctions were fixed.
Coming back to Amsterdam, we could finalize all of our plans. We had a house! Finally! With only a few weeks left before our deadline, we couldn’t be happier finding a house we liked, on time and having Penelope by our side. The last weeks in Amsterdam were packed with family visits, packing our stuff, saying goodbye and arranging the last things. Penelope contacted us frequently to ask how we were doing and if she could be of any help. We had a relaxing few weeks and even the moving was going really smooth, so the 3rd of April we got in our car, packed the last stuff and our dog and went to Spain waving Holland goodbye in our rear window.
The beginning of a new life
Arriving in our new home was something we were a bit anxious about. You only get one chance for a first impression. It starts to sound a bit boring, but it was nothing less than a positive experience. Not only was the house exactly as I had seen it in March, but they did all the work they agreed on with Penelope. And of course she was there to give us a warm greeting in our new home. She welcomed us with our new keys, a nice Cava, a present for our dog and even got us some sandwiches to get us through the day.
So now it has been couple of weeks later. And it still feels like at the beginning: one positive feeling. Penelope made sure we started out right and for some reason it stayed that way. We managed to make our house a home in only a few weeks. With some hard work, unpacking all our personal stuff and buying some nice new things we created a personal home that feels familiar but sets us up for a new experience as well. Penelope left us some tips for fine restaurants, health clubs and the practical things like a doctor, so we feel like we are already having a little “black book.” And even after a few weeks she helps us by giving us tips or letting us know when there are activities nearby, which really gives us a chance to get to know people and make it even more a home.
A lot of things are new and exciting and speaking Spanish seems to be the biggest challenge right now, but a lot of things feel like home as well. You have the same type of persons at the gym, Saturday is a bad day to do your grocery shopping and waiting for our internet connection feels like a million years… Some things will never change! After couple of weeks it still feels a bit like having a holiday and I know that I am not actually an expert doing all this for the first time, but if I can give three tips already, they would be:
- meet up with Penelope sooner
- speak Spanish a lot better than I do right now
- make your start as positive as you possibly can
So now I am going to enjoy the sun, the nice city and our lovely new home. We might catch up later, but for now: Adios!
Follow Marije on Instagram for more pictures.