Experienced relocation expert Laurence Lemoine has a lot to say.
The founder of Valencia Expat Services told us why Spain’s third-largest city is becoming so popular with expats from around the world.
She said in particular people are moving to Valencia for the same reasons that makes Spain the tourist capital of the world – good food, good weather and great beaches.
But Valencia is the home of paella, with winter temperatures sometimes hitting 20 C, and long, wide sand beaches you don’t get in all parts of the Spanish coast.
Laurence Lemoine says Valencia also has much lower crime rates than other major cities, and her she feels safe for her daughter to be out unlike in Paris of her native France.
Find out more about Valencia Expat Services here.
MumAbroad: With me today is Laurence Lemoine, she’s a French journalist who has been living abroad for over 20 years. She’s now based in Valencia and she lives there with her two teenagers. Hi Laurence.
Laurence Lemoine: Hello Jane, how are you?
MumAbroad: Very well, thank you. Thank you for joining me today.
Laurence Lemoine: You’re welcome, it’s a pleasure.
[00:26] MumAbroad: Laurence, you founded Valencia Expat Services in 2017. It’s been a great success. What do you feel makes a good relocation consultant? And why are you good at your job?
Laurence Lemoine: Thank you for this. I think that the most important is to be empathetic. and to understand that when you are a foreigner you and you arrive in a city or in a new country, you have so many things to deal with, you have so many problems, that you just want to help other people. I’ve been an expat myself in a lot of countries. I’ve arrived sometimes with my kids, I had to find a school, to understand how the administration works, what kind of paperwork I have to do, and sometimes if you don’t have someone to help you. It’s just crazy. We feel that people really need help and we want to offer them a very professional service. And that’s what are doing now for the last three years and a half. We also opened an office in Barcelona and in Javea and Denia because a lot of clients are asking for that kind of service.
[01:55] MumAbroad: I think it’s important for people when they move to another country to deal with somebody who has had the same experience as them.
Laurence Lemoine: Yes, of course, because I’m a foreigner as well. People sometimes they consider that I’m Spanish, but I’m not, and of course I’m able to help them because I know perfectly how things work here. I know lot of people, a lot of professionals, so it’s easy for me to help people. And now with the experience, it’s easier and of course because I was an expat myself, here and in other countries. I know perfectly how you feel when you you have so many things to deal with. I think that empathy is very important because I know from my own experience of relocating it’s not just the administrative task which can be difficult, but sometimes the emotional journey that you go on as well.
[02:52] MumAbroad: And with you being a woman, a mother, and you’ve had that experience yourself then people really feel that you have empathy with what they’re going through. I think that’s very important.
Laurence Lemoine: True and sometimes you even have to be like a psychologist because you have to help. I mean some people sometimes they are afraid, they are not sure what they are doing and you have to give them confidence and it’s something that they really appreciate. That’s why I always have a very good relationship with our clients. Many of them they become friends and after we love to gather all of them because we organise every month dinners or events together, expats with Spanish people, because we want to create bridges between expat people and Spanish because we want them to know each other, because it is very important for them to be integrated and to know and learn about the Spanish culture. But yes, we have a very special relationship and it’s really tailored. Each client, each family is different and we have to provide for each of them a special service. Because the actual relocation is just one part of your job, I guess, because people move to the country but then there are ongoing paperwork that needs to be done or maybe families choose one school, they’re not happy with it, then they might want to choose another school.
[04:27] MumAbroad: So, I guess that you kind of stay in their lives for a while, not just at the initial relocation?
Laurence Lemoine: It’s true, because they always need advice info and help during a few years and normally they keep asking for services, but yes it’s not only the first week sometimes it takes months and we are with them for four months, it’s true. As their needs are changing then you can continue to help them.
[05:20] MumAbroad: So, Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city. When we hear about people relocating to Spain we often think of them moving to Madrid and Barcelona. What is it exactly that people love about Valencia?
Laurence Lemoine: A lot of people living in Madrid and Barcelona have decided to come here in Valencia instead of Barcelona or Madrid. But Valencia, you’re right, is the third-largest city of Spain and now the city is very, very attractive for expat people – not only because of the climate, not only because it’s less expensive, it’s also because the size of the city is really very, very nice. You know, because everything is close, you don’t have traffic jams you don’t have any pollution problems and everything is, I would say, easier. Valencia is a nice city. Here, you have the Old Town of Valencia, and you have very, very modern other parts of Valencia and it gives to the city something very special. But I mean it’s a mix of things, you have the sea, the beaches, you have very, very good gastronomy you know that paella was born in Valencia.
[06:25] I’ve been there a couple of times with my family, so with my children. I also very much like the city. It’s just big enough to make you feel like you are a in a city but it’s small enough that you can almost walk everywhere. The beaches are amazing. After coming from Barcelona, the beaches in Valencia are very big, spacious, you have a lot of space there so it’s a great place for young children. How about the city with teenagers? Can you recommend it for families with teenagers?
Laurence Lemoine: Yes, of course, for teenagers as well it’s perfect because they can study, you have a good offer of universities, of private schools, of public schools, and there is no problem of security or insecurity. I mean, my daughter she can be at night in the street alone and nothing will happen. And the same for us, I mean for everybody. The low rate of crime here is something that we really all appreciate. And you don’t have this for example in Paris, London or even Madrid and Barcelona. For teenagers, it’s a good city, it’s very easy for them to meet each other, to go from one place to another and yes, it’s a good place.
MumAbroad: The City of Sciences in particular is great with children and also we cycled along the old river bed, that was a lot of fun as well. There were plenty of activities to do with children.
Laurence Lemoine: The Jardin de Turia is one of my favourite parts. A lot of people doing the weekend, they go, they run, they have fun, they are in family, they bicycle, and it’s just a great, great place and it’s something very particular because you won’t find that kind of garden in a city because it was the former river. This is the bed of the former river [Turia] but they had to change the direction of the water because of the floods. And this garden is just incredible, you’re right. What would you say the main concerns are for families relocating? Is it education or are there other issues? In Valencia, the problem in education in the public schools, for example, we have the problem with Valenciano. As they had it in Barcelona, in Catalunya 20 years ago, they want to push with Valenciano in the public administration, public education, public university or school and it’s a problem. When you are American or French you just want your kids to learn Spanish, Castellano, you don’t need him to learn Valenciano. We respect, we love Valenciano, I love this language. But, I mean, for me, I don’t understand why some politicians really want to impose the Valenciano everywhere they can, but for the rest the education you have a lot of private schools and universities, then if you have money, this is not a problem.
[10:20] MumAbroad: So you have international schools from the UK with the American system as well, what other nationalities are there?
Laurence Lemoine:French, Germany, American, UK schools, yes, you have all these, yes. Many of them are full, it’s incredible, but because really the last few years Valencia has attracted a lot of expats, families, digital nomads, all kinds of expats.
[10:50] MumAbroad: Would you recommend that people thinking of relocating should look into the education side of things before they make the move to see if there are places in the schools that they want their children to go to?
Laurence Lemoine: I think, when you are a mother or a father that’s something you have to pay attention to. But, yes, it depends if they want them to go to a public school or private school, Spanish education or an international education. Most of the expats we know normally they prefer to leave their kids in the British system or the American of French system, because those family maybe in a few years they will decide to move again somewhere else or to go back to their country. They want to keep the same system for the schooling of the children.
[11:55] Do you think there’s quite a transient expat community in Valencia or are there more people that stay there for a long time?
Laurence Lemoine: I think you have both. But you have families that came for the America’s Cup more than 10 years ago and they are still here. And friends and family from those families came as well. I know people they decided to come here for only two years and they leave to another country because some families or people they don’t mind to spend two years in Spain, two other years in Italy, two others years in Finland. Wherever. Being expat today is so easy, it’s so easy and nice, I would say, because the day you are fed up, the day you have a problem, the day you go back to your country – this is not a big deal. Now it’s so easy. I tell you that because my first expatriation was I think 30 years or more than 30 years ago, it was in Lebanon, because at time with no mobile phone, with no computer, with no flights like we have now, with no phone like we have, the communication and the way to deal with distances was so different. But now everything is so easy.I mean, to move, to be expat, is became something quite simple
[13:30] MumAbroad: I lived in Cairo for many years, that was my first experience of living abroad and I went there about 30 years ago and I remember very clearly that I would call my parents once a month by telephone.
Laurence Lemoine: Only once a month.
MumAbroad: Yeah, because it was expensive to make an international call and I had to go to a kiosk to do it and it wasn’t straightforward and I remember that very clearly when I’m sitting here now in Spain and I’m doing Zoom conversations with my family or FaceTime conversations. It’s so different. Technology has changed the experience of being abroad very much.
Laurence Lemoine: The problem, and it’s a pity, it’s that this mobility we have, all the community of expat people all their administration in Europe, in general, except few countries, but they are not updated. You know, they don’t understand people like us, because for them you are from one side they can understand you’ve been there and there and you paid your taxes somewhere else and you and you have another nationality and you have a job, you invoice to England but as well to New York and the administration sometimes you have to be in their I mean, to enter, to fit in, their stuff. And people are different and this is sometimes a problem, but the administration they should have a special statute, for example, for people who have this mobility. But I mean to change the administration is a bit complicated.
[15:12] MumAbroad: That’s a huge job. So in all your experience, Laurence, have there been any unusual requests from clients?
Laurence Lemoine: Yeah, sometimes, for example now I have to to import the Lamborghini of one client, but it was funny because it’s only when I told him that it could be a bit expensive and I said ‘I don’t know’, any he said ‘OK depends, because if it’s €100,000 maybe I’ll think about it’ and I said ‘Yes, of course, I will try for a better price’. I mean I have spent part of the night in a hospital, in a psychiatric hospital. It was very special. I mean normally, I have normal things to deal with.
[16:10] MumAbroad: Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m going to put your email, your website address, along the bottom. So if people want to know more about Valencia Expat Services they can look at the website and there they will find your contact details your phone and your email address.
Laurence Lemoine: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure.