What do you do when you move to a new country and don’t know anyone? The first item on your list might be networking with other expats. Costa Women is an extraordinary group with so many options to connect and make you feel at home. Started by the dynamic and hard working Ali Meehan, who has lived in several countries, she understands the needs of expat women, and is a force in bringing women together to support one another. Amazing what women can create from their kitchen table.
1. When did Costa Women begin? How many members? Any other relevant stats?
Costa Women was created from my kitchen in 2010! We had been living in Dubai and Thailand for five years (with Spain as our holiday home) and I had joined similar expat networking sites for women in those countries. When we moved back to Spain I launched the site to see if it would work; now we have nearly 2000 members so the rest, as they say, is history!
Recently we have seen 56% of Members logging into the site from outside of the Malaga Province so our popularity over Spain is spreading. This year we were very proud to win Best of British Social Club, an International Award from The Telegraph.
And we also launched a book with contributions from 28 Costa Women members including beautiful illustrations and a wonderful book cover – Costa Women: Diversity meets Creativity
2. You have many impressive informational options on your site. Which ones are the most popular?
Choice is very important as we all move through different stages of our lives in Spain, so I have tried to come up with as many options on the site as possible. At the moment, our Job Pages are proving popular (both with opportunities for work and women looking). Also well clicked and used are Classifieds for buying, selling, swapping or renting and, for asking questions, the Forum. So far we have 715 Blog posts written by the Members and 76 Interest Groups all creating different ways for women to connect.
3. Is CW open to women just in your area? All of Spain?
Originally, the website was for women living on the Costa del Sol. However, our first member from Barcelona arrived within a month of the launch and now we have most of Spain and the Islands covered, as well as women who want to move here as part of their life goals. We have offline meet ups in 9 locations and hope to expand this over the coming year.
3. Tell us more about where you live and why you love it! What are your favorite places to travel in Spain?
My home in Spain for the last ten years is in the Malaga Province, just outside Fuengirola in Los Boliches. We are 20 minutes from Malaga centro and surrounded by sea and mountains. If you want to know more about Los Boliches have a read of http://movetomalagaspain.com/los-boliches-fuengirola-malaga/
My personal belief is that Spain offers Europeans the best place worldwide to live; what better than living in an international community, with culture at its heart offering festivos, ferias, flamenco and great food with a little bit of Rioja thrown and yet easy transport links to our family and friends in the UK and the rest of the world?
We haven’t done too much travelling in Spain yet, but so far I love Cordoba, Granada and Seville and the beach at Tarifa has breathtaking beauty. With our lack of exploring, a new group on Costa Women called Travelling Connections will hopefully help our future expeditions. The idea came following a visit to Granada last summer where we met another Costa Women member – Molly (@piccavey). Molly suggested where to stay, helped get tickets for the Alhambra and then took us on a tour of “her” city (places we wouldn’t have found without an insider).
The Group can connect local members living in the location you are travelling to and offer advice, assistance and ideas for where to visit and stay (perhaps with some networking thrown in too!).
4. When you travel, what is one thing you must have with you? (tech stuff not included)
As tech stuff includes my Kindle… it would have to be good suntan lotion. Having lived in Australia where the sun is fierce I have learnt the importance of protecting your skin.
5. What are your recommendations to newcomers to Spain?
First, do lots of homework before you even leave. Join websites and groups; Facebook is great for finding about the location you are thinking of moving to (many towns and villages now have their own pages). Ask lots of questions. The internet has made the world of the expat a much easier place.
It’s important to understand what it is really like to live here full time. Coming here on holiday and staying somewhere might be great in the summer. What’s it like longer term? What facilities are there if you need them? Schools, work, transport etc.?
Start learning Spanish as soon as possible, every little bit helps; it’s important to fit into your new community and life. If you have a small budget, check that it is enough to live on, if you have a large budget, get good tax advice.
Spain is a wonderful country and once you have taken the plunge to live here, I don’t think you will regret it; I certainly haven’t!
Ali Meehan has lived in Australia, the Middle East, and Thailand and has spent many years travelling for work. She describes herself as an expat at heart and believes it’s particularly important for women to connect, share, and build strong networks. To connect with Costa Women and find out more, register for free at http://costawomen.com/, or tweet Ali @costawomen, like Costa Women on Facebook/Costawomen or pin along pinterest/costawomen