Beyond Mañana

Real Expat Life in Spain

Zoriana Benhamou: Family Life, Marbella Style


Zoriana Benhamou and her family love life in Marbella so much, they wrote a whole website to share their experiences.  Having previously survived life in chilly Moscow, the sunshine of Andalucia was clearly a big attraction, but I wondered what particular factors drew them to the town that they have called home since 2005?

“Marbella is special because it has lots of features of a large city (cosmopolitan, infrastructure of hospitals, schools and international airports…), yet gives you all the benefits of a small city – no traffic, friendly service, knowing your butcher, mailman and shopkeeper… This big city/small city combination in a warm climate is hard to find elsewhere.

Of course for any expat considering life in Spain, the question of school is a vital one.

“When we moved to Marbella friends have recommended our children to avoid the Spanish system for when our children enter secondary, because they said the standards were not as high. That being said, I personally think the standards are just as high in a Spanish private school as in any other international school. But that’s just my opinion.

I think choosing a Spanish school is beneficial for small children, because they learn languages so quickly. It’s a great way to integrate with the local community and gives both children and their parents an introduction to Spanish culture and language. What better way to learn about the country we live in?

Older kids who don’t speak Spanish will have a harder time adjusting to a foreign system, but I think this is a very personal choice and depends not only on the character of your child, but largely on whether your child will enter a Spanish speaking university or an English speaking university….or a French one or German one, etc. By the time your child reaches secondary you are already thinking about how to prepare them for university. I know it sounds early, but, at least with my experience in the English system, it appears this way. For example, if you want your kids to ultimately study in France I would recommend entering them in the French Lycee by the time they are pre-adolescent.”

Of course every parent worries for their children’s future, but Zoriana takes a refreshingly pragmatic view on their prospects in Spain and the world at large.  As she and her husband have built successful online businesses and published books helping others achieve success, they aren’t looking to an external sources to provide work and careers for their children.

“I am not too worried about youth unemployment personally. We are a very entrepreneurial family, so if my children don’t find jobs working for someone else they will have to create their own jobs. I believe that children receive only part of their education at school. The other part comes from what we teach them at home whether that is how to have table manners or how to create your own business and be successful at it.

As a parent I hope that whatever my children do in life is that they are not only successful, but more importantly happy. They don’t have to become millionaires. I don’t necessarily think that money is a measurement of success. Being truly happy in life is the ultimate measure of success whether you are the owner of a major corporation or a simple fisherman. Haven’t you met an incredibly wealthy person before and found out they are not happy? And haven’t you met someone who could use a bit of extra cash, but seem to perfectly content? How does that happen? So I wish my children to always be happy no matter what they do with their lives”

I can’t think of any finer measure of success than that!  Find out more about Zoriana and the city she loves at, which she started as a project to do with her children as they grew… and has now evolved into a fantastically rich resource of news, information and ideas.