Adriana Páramo (34 years old) left her native Vigo a decade ago and moved to London “because of the need to improve”. In all this time, she has studied film, has worked in the audiovisual sector, has made friends, has fallen in love … But Adriana still doesn’t feel like she is there. Nor does she feel that Galicia is her place when she returns to visit. Her feeling is always that of being “between two emotions, between two cultures, between two languages”, and this is how she explains it in the documentary Between two lands. The emotional challenges of living abroad, which she produces herself.
Along with this Galician woman, a score of Spanish emigrants, mostly millennials (born from 1980), relate their experience of living in London in this film directed by Javier Moreno Caballero and that since October 1 can be viewed online on the Vimeo On Demand platform.
Released for the first time in 2019 in London, the documentary has the participation of psychologists specialized in what is known as “migratory grief”, feelings associated with the experience of living outside your country. One of these professionals is Celia Arroyo, who already explained in this article for Verne the emotional stages that Spanish emigrants normally go through, whom he has been attending by video call since 2015 with his private clinic Augest. According to the INE, 2.6 million Spaniards reside abroad, of which 150,000 are in the UK.
It was precisely this article by the psychologist that motivated Moreno to create Between two lands. “I read it and I felt so identified that I decided that we should tell it. There are not many publications that tell of the experience of living outside as it is,” he tells Verne by phone Moreno (Madrid, 38 years old) from London, where he lives since 2010. Already in 2014, the young man from Madrid, who works as an audiovisual producer, created the web series Spaniards in London, which recounted the adventures and misadventures of four Spanish emigrants in the English capital.
The experience of living abroad is summed up in “gains and losses” because, as Arroyo explains, “not everything is a fairy tale, but it is not full of miseries either.” “There are television programs that have portrayed this experience abroad with a merely triumphalist vision, generating a lot of frustration for those who left and thought that everything would be like this when they arrived in that new country. There have also been other publications that have only focused on the negative side, “he says. And he adds: “In any case, living in a country other than ours can be complicated, but it also involves great learning in many aspects.”
Between two lands tells of the emotional process that involves leaving family and friends behind, missing them, realizing that life in Spain goes on without them, adapting to a different language, climate and culture … But the ” gains “from that experience: becoming more independent and decisive, learning a new language, discovering new vocations, making new friends, or even creating your own family outside your country of origin.
All the protagonists of the documentary agree on one thing: the adventure abroad always seems to have an “expiration date”. “But it is not always easy to make the decision to return, especially if you have gotten a good job in that other country. Leaving that economic stability to return to Spain, where it will not be so easy to get a job with the same remuneration, is a dilemma that many of us experience, “says Moreno.
For some, that expiration date has already arrived and they tell in the documentary what it was like to return to Spain, “another migration in itself.” “In these cases, what is known as reverse culture shock may occur, in which the young returnee experiences a difficulty in adapting because they are no longer the same person as the one who left and their environment perhaps not either,” Arroyo explains.
Hurry to return to Spain after the pandemic
Arroyo also collaborates with We return, a platform that facilitates the return of Spanish emigrants with advice on labor and emotional matters. “We have noticed how the pandemic has accelerated the desire to return of many emigrants, the situation is being very hard”, says the psychologist. “Lack of information or not being able to catch a plane and go home at any time, as before, increases anxiety about feeling trapped. On the other hand, social life is very important when you live abroad, so isolation social, which is also occurring in other countries, is affecting them a lot; and above all, the feeling of guilt for being away from the family, which already occurred under normal conditions, but is now exacerbated by the current situation, “he adds .
Moreno had begun to rethink his return before the pandemic hit. “But now as the economic situation in Spain is, I don’t think this is the time,” he says. You have also noticed how the job opportunities offered by the UK have decreased. “Unlike 2008, which mainly affected some countries, this is a global crisis and that is why I do not think that we will see an emigration of young Spaniards to other countries like that one.”
The victory of Brexit (the decision of the United Kingdom to cease to be a member of the European Union) in 2016 made the Spaniards who reside there feel “betrayed” or disappointed “, as the protagonists of the documentary say. Not only the uncertainty about the agreed departure from the UK – which is still immersed in disputes with your former European partners-, but also racist behaviors towards citizens of other nationalities who began to climb after the referendum, have aroused the doubts of many Spaniards about their permanence in the country, as is also reflected in Between two lands.
Arroyo adds that the current health crisis and the international news about Spain are reinforcing the stigma of “being Spanish”, which psychologically affects Spanish emigrants who are abroad. “Comments of the type What happens, that in your country you don’t wash your hands? The Don’t you have a good health system?“, says the psychologist, they can create discomfort that also increases the desire to return
Director of Between two lands He confesses that the documentary has been a great therapy for him and for the Spanish emigrants who have participated. “You may think that this only happens to you, but as soon as you share it, you realize that those feelings are part of the migratory grief and are normal,” says Moreno, who hopes that this documentary can help those who live or end returning from abroad as Arroyo’s article helped him.
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