Expat Stories – Ross Fayers

Ross Fayers is the Lead Analyst of Content and Engagement for Cigna Global Wellbeing Solutions.

Ross Fayers

Ross is based in Madrid.

Ross moved from the UK to Spain in 2017. He has been living there ever since.

This is his expat story.

Tell us about your expat move.

Just over 2 years ago I decided that I wanted a change, but instead of the normal changes like buying a new car or moving home, I realised I wanted to make a really big change.

My partner in crime is Colombian Spanish so I decided to look for a new career in the UK and in Spain.

I was successful in applying to this role in Madrid and moved for 3 months without my partner to see if I liked it. Suffice to say that the rest is history.

What did you find were the best ways of making friends as an expat abroad?

I was lucky that my partner's family were desperate for me to be happy here so they made time for me and I inherited a few friends from her time here so that made it easier to meet new people here too.

I’m a bit of a talker and I like to go out and mingle so even though my Spanish is basic at best, I was able to meet tourists or locals that could speak English.

I find when you’re with likeminded people that you find a way to get along.

What have been some of the biggest highlights from your expat journey so far?

Good question, two things. One is buying a house here that we are very happy with, although it was stressful at the time, the end result after the renovation is wonderful.

Secondly, I would have to say that it is seeing specific examples of my adaption to a very different culture. The UK is quite fast-paced and the people can be a little stand-offish however here there is a real sense of connection in terms of communication and interaction in each other’s lives.

Recently, my partner's Colombian family came to visit and they are an even more extreme version of these cultural differences, they want to talk things to death and are slow to make decisions in fear or offending or making a bad decision.

I learned over this time to see the benefit of “smelling the roses” and I just accepted it as who they are and did my own thing.

What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?

The language barrier has challenging but a welcome one, it means that I have something to strive for and it’s quite interesting seeing the (lack of) progress. Whereas Britain is more cosmopolitan, the Spanish have a strong sense of cultural identity so change is slow or non-existent.

I am a bit of a foodie so finding variety in food is problematic but has encouraged me to cook more often.

What do you miss about your home country?

Normal things but surprisingly little, seeing my family and watching my nephew grow up.

Certain foods and English pubs, specifically my local The Star in Oxford. I like the quote from Viktor Frankl: “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”

How much do you enjoy your role in Cigna?

I’ve been afforded great freedom to express my ideas and grow in my role here both personally and professionally.

I crave a challenge and the opportunity to collaborate. In the Simon Sinek model, I believe that if we have the culture of trust then we are better off as a team. So, in short, the people.

What advice would you give to those who are considering making a move?

Relax and take your time and look at the good things that the new culture has to offer, even the ones that are not so obvious.

Be comfortable in your own company and try to do new things even if they make you uncomfortable. In fact, especially if they make you feel uncomfortable. Transitioning from that vulnerability gives a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

What one be the one piece of advice you wish you’d known before moving?

Spain is amazing and the different regions vary massively. The people are friendly and the food is wonderful.

The balance of the cost of life is more in favour of the people so basically: “Why didn’t you move sooner?”

Finally, how would you describe your expat journey in 10 words or less?

“De perdidos al río.”

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