Living in another country is a dream, but also a struggle. It is important to stay optimistic even in the ongoing pandemic situation. Positive thinking and networking have helped British expat Martin Minor in his search for jobs and new businesses on the Costa del Sol.
Martin Minor moved to Spain 13 years ago and immediately fell in love with the cheerful coastline of Benalmádena. He remembers how he could hardly believe (after living in England) that the sun was "able" to shine almost all year round. The weather improved his mood and motivation.
This new environment kick-started Martin into trying something new professionally, after previously working in construction. Considering himself as a very open person he didn't mind knocking on any door, even expecting to hear 'no' to his suggestions. His communication skills helped him acquire new contacts leading to new experiences and job opportunities.
"Living in a very new and even totally foreign place needs much more effort than in your own country. My first house in Benalmádena was in Bonanza. It is a very British spot because there are lots of places to eat, to drink and to entertain in a very British way. I started helping to arrange tribute shows in one of the clubs in the area. Later, I became a manager and brought quite well-known British tribute artists to local hotels along the Costa and to the Rock. Besides welcoming 'stars', we were also scouting talents to produce and promote," he told SUR in English.
Britons in Spain often seem to dare only to start a real estate agency, a cleaning company or a restaurant business. And following that pattern, Martin also opened a cleaning company along with his Ukrainian partner.
"Cleaning services are something in demand in any tourist resort. My existing network was also useful, because word of mouth is the best ally in terms of advertising and can lead to the success of any business. Knowing this, I didn't hesitate later to open a bar in La Carihuela, Torremolinos. It was a socialising place for expats. In Torremolinos there are lots of bars for consumers to choose from.
"Despite this competition, I was still able to make my bar successful but later I felt that I was spending too much time there which more and more limited my time and affected my flexibility," he said.
Having got rid of the bar, Martin and his partner suddenly decided to make a sharp turn towards industry, though Martin had his doubts.
"Sincerely, like other expats I also thought it is really impossible to carry out an industrial project in Spain because of the bureaucratic procedures and 'mañanas'," he said.
"But as I said, I am an optimist. Additionally, my Ukrainian partner reminded me that Britain had become 'Great' based upon skills related to being the first industrial country to establish manufacturing. In the end I was convinced and we set up a workshop to start window production in Malaga," he continued.
But why windows? "Living in different apartments on the Costa del Sol, I soon realised that the construction of some houses is a disaster. Moreover, it's a common thing not to have heating here. So in winters it literally feels warmer outside your apartment than indoors. Spanish houses are indeed built to be cool but we, northern residents, suffer from this 'coolness' in winter, he said.
Martin went on to point out that the locals on the Costa del Sol say that the cool weather only lasts a couple of week and advise you to use a "brasero", a typical heater placed under a table covered with a cloth.
"At the same time gaps in window and door frames are not 'covered', or rather 'sealed' at all as Andalusians in general don't pay much attention to insulation like we do. However, with proper insulation it is possible to keep cool in summer and warm in winter and save energy and thereby money. That's why we started producing insulating windows," he added.
It wasn't just the lack of insulation and the use of braseros that confused Martin when he came to Spain. The Spanish work routine in general first shocked him and then made him eventually understand.
"In the very beginning lunch breaks that can stretch up to two to three hours were annoying for me. Now I can also relax for an hour in the afternoon, although being in permanent movement is more natural to me. I cannot stay passive-like or idle. I must move and it doesn't matter in which direction as long as I'm doing something," he said.
Perhaps it is in those long lunch breaks that Martin finds time to think up new projects.
"I allow myself to dream a little and strive hard to fulfil [those dreams]. You know, I am an optimistic person who is sure that opportunity is all around us," he concluded.