The next in our ‘Expats in Malaga’ series interviews John Kramer, a local outdoor enthusiast and blogger. He’s lived in Malaga for the last 16 years but been visiting the area since he was a very small child. Like so many other expats in Malaga, he loves life here and says that Malaga has always been in his blood. Read on to find out John’s impressions of living in Malaga.
When did you arrive in Malaga?
I’ve been living in Malaga for 16 years now.
Why did you come in Malaga?
Spain, and Malaga in particular, have always played a big part in my life. Some of my earliest memories were of long and hot summers in Malaga. They were summers that were filled with late nights, long hot days, and plenty of fun.
My grandparents bought an apartment in what was then a small remote fishing village called Rincón de la Victoria in the late 1950s. They used the apartment primarily as a holiday apartment (it still is) and they were actually the first foreigners to buy in this area. My mother used to come to Spain when she was a baby, as did we. Many a family summer holiday was spent on the beaches here.
Malaga has always been in my blood. In my late teens I was travelling to Morocco and stopped off for a very short break. During this 5-day stopover, I met a local girl, Eva, and after a very brief holiday romance, I carried on travelling. Thousands of kilometres and approximately 10 years after we first met, we met again. And that was it, I stayed. 16 years and 2 children later, we’re still here. Some things were meant to be.
What were your first impressions of Malaga?
My first impressions of Malaga? That’s a tough one. We’ve been coming for so long that my first impressions are from very early childhood memories. I remember the heat, the noise, and how it felt like we’d arrived in a completely different world in just a short flight.
The airport was tiny in those days. We’d usually arrive at night with Antonio, our trusted local taxi driver, waiting for us (still a family friend today, some 40 years later). The journey to Rincón, a trip that now takes all of 30 minutes, would take almost 2 hours along a sandy, bumpy road.
What do you think has changed most about Malaga since you arrived?
The changes we have seen over the years have been nothing short of miraculous. I still remember the fishermen sleeping under their boats at night, the way the whole village would come out and help pull in the nets on the beaches, with the women and children waiting patiently with their buckets to get some of the daily catch. Things were very different. The people were very poor; they lived off the sea. Everybody in some way or another depended on it. There was nothing at all modern about the place, or the way people were living. But none of that seemed to matter. The thing that most sticks in my mind from those days is how friendly the people were. The Andalusians felt very alive to me: there was always noise and shouting, and as children we were spoilt rotten.
Malaga city is where the changes have been most evident. Most parts are completely unrecognisable. Even today, as my wife and I wander around parts of the city, we can hardly believe our eyes. The port area, Huelin, Soho, El Perchel—so many old working-class neighbourhoods have been completely transformed, especially in the last 5 years. Malaga has suddenly become very fashionable—‘the new Barcelona‘, as they say. People have begun to realise that there is so much more to the city than just the airport. It is now a destination in its own right.
What do you like most about living in Malaga?
The quality of life is amazing. The food, the weather, the fact you are blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year. It makes a big difference to wake up to blue skies and sunshine every day. You really lead an outdoor lifestyle here. You can’t help it. Everything is geared towards being outside. My boys finish school, do their homework, and then they are back outside playing until bedtime. We live in a place where they are surrounded by their friends and family and where everyone knows each other.
It’s a great place to raise a family. First and foremost, the Malagueños love children. Children are made to welcome and special wherever they are. They are always the centre of attention. They are continually being fussed over, having their cheeks pinched, and being called guapos (good looking) and guapas (pretty) at every turn. The idea of having ‘child-free’ restaurants and bars is something completely alien to us.
The Malagueños have a fantastic attitude to life, and they are proud of the kind of life they lead. When you get to understand them, when you learn the language and when you really make the effort to fully integrate yourself into the local culture, you quickly realise that many of their values are spot-on. Family comes first; there is nothing more important. They really look after one another; there’s a real sense of community.
The Malagueños are also very passionate; they really live in the moment and have a real joie de vivre. There’s a chispa (spark) to the people here. And they approach life at a different pace than elsewhere. It’s a completely different world than London, where I had lived before. They really take the time to savour every moment.
What do you like least about living in Malaga?
Well…. Spanish bureaucracy is notorious. It was something that used to drive me completely insane when I first arrived. I could never understand how you could lose a whole morning queuing up in the local bank. Queuing up for something that in London would take you all of 10 minutes.
That said, things have got a lot better and a lot more efficient; you quickly learn the ropes. Over the years, you learn where to go, when to go, and, most importantly of all here, who to speak to.
Where’s your favourite corner in Malaga and why?
We’re very into hiking and mountaineering, so I’d have to say my favourite corner in Malaga city would be the Montes de Malaga, the Malaga mountains (often known as Malaga’s lung), a replanted pine forest only 14 kilometres from the city centre. There are some great picnic spots and hiking trails, and if you’re into mountain biking, it’s a paradise.
Describe Malaga in 3 words
Vibrant. Light. Alive.
About John Kramer
John Kramer has been a Malaga local for 16 years and counting. He is a passionate mountaineer, outdoor enthusiast, and a proud father. He’s also a Google Certified Professional and specialises in online marketing.
(Editor’s note: John can really work magic on your online presence as we have discovered!)
Guide to Malaga would like to thank John very much for his time and interest in answering our questions. And most of all, for providing valuable insight into life in Malaga. Read our other expats in Malaga interviews.