In our series of expat interviews we are grateful to have the opportunity to talk Eelko and Tammy Van Den Broek, who have made a life for themselves in the Costa Del Sol and feel right at home on the coast. Read on and find out how they have adapted to the Spanish lifestyle and business culture.
So, a bit about yourselves please!
Tammy: I was born and bred in Sydney Australia. Mum is Australian and Dad is New Zealand Maori. I have two brothers, one in Cairns who is a pilot; the other one lives in South Perth, both have two kids each and Mum’s in Perth. Grace our daughter is five in October.
Eelko: I was born and raised in Rotterdam and I have two sisters, but a massive family – I couldn’t count them all! My parents are no longer with us.
What do you do for a living?
Tammy: We are tour accountants. Basically we manage the tax arrangements and financial affairs for bands touring in Europe, the UK, South America, some parts of Asia, Australia and NZ. Our company is called OTT – On Tour Tax.
Eelko: I also do a lot on the tax side, administration and bookkeeping and I run our production company and keep the finances going while artists are on tour.
How has your business changed in a pandemic?
Tammy: Business in the live performance world has been put on hold for the moment with Covid. Next year though is all booked up with tours. Everybody that was scheduled for this year have rescheduled for next year. It’s not like the live performance industry has stopped though, it’s just how we cope with it now. We still have Dutch clients who Eelko conducts normal accountancy work for and we have some Swiss artists making enquiries who need our help with tours. We are always talking to people two seasons ahead anyway so if we start working in January with artists they are already planning Summer.
We have also diversified to look after influencers as well which is a new category for OTT. I have been working in the music industry since I was 16 and we have been running OTT since 2004. So the business hasn’t really changed, it’s just having a ‘sabbatical’. It’s an industry we have been in for a long time so it’s not something we would just leave because of a pandemic because we love what we do. So we are riding the storm!
How do you run your business in Spain?
Eelko: We are operating under an SL (Spanish limited company). We are not sure if this is the best structure for us. We are currently doing a comparison with our SL versus becoming autonomo. With a corporation tax rate of 35% and dividend tax at 21% - taxation is high here in Spain. Self-employed / autonomo may be the better option.
How did you guys meet?
Eelko: We met through work. Tammy was working in London, and a lot of my clients were in London so I was there a lot.
Tammy: I eventually moved to Holland but at one stage I was travelling to and from Amsterdam every week, out on a Tuesday, back on a Thursday, then finally made the move. We got married in May 2005.
Why did you decide to move to Spain?
Eelko: We had both been coming to Spain for over 20 years, I had for 25 years. We have taken holidays of around 2-3 weeks every year and not just in the Costa Del Sol but we have been all over Spain.
Tammy: We wouldn’t have wanted to live anywhere else after all this time. This was our choice and it mimicked the Australian lifestyle the closest, which made me feel at home and we like the family lifestyle.
When did you move to Spain?
Eelko: It was the end of December 2017. We lived in Holland - 12 years for Tammy and 52 years for me! We bought the apartment here in 2007 and did Winters in Spain and Summers in the Holland.
Where are you living currently?
Eelko: We live in Mijas Golf. We bought the apartment originally as an investment well before Grace was born, so we weren’t exactly thinking about children at the time.
Tammy: Then in 2015 we bought the apartment next door as well. It was such a good price at the time. We were toying with buying a villa but then decided the better solution was to put the two apartments together. When we bought the first apartment we were renting it out about 34 weeks of the year which in theory was great. But finally we had enough of people coming in and disrespecting the property and in the end it was upsetting to see this and the energy was poor inside the house. We had to eventually renovate the apartment every year so what money we were making was consumed in that. So we were better off just closing the door and using it when we wanted to and not having to put everything away all the time. It was like a full time job and we were in Holland at the time and we had to employ someone down here to manage it. Because they knew that we were abroad, they took advantage with a poor service. We still have two rentals in Holland but they are long term rentals.
How’s your Spanish?
Eelko: (laughs!) my Spanish is pretty bad – the wife always speaks Spanish better than the husband here!
Tammy: ¡Hablo español! Muy bien! Well I’ve got good courier Spanish, good cleaner Spanish, good restaurant Spanish. So we will never be dirty, we will never starve and we will never miss a delivery! Seriously though it’s ok. Just listening to Grace this morning at Summer School camp, when I drop her off she just switches straight into Spanish. We speak English to her at home and I also speak some Spanish with her.
What are your thoughts on Spanish culture?
Tammy: The family lifestyle for me is the big winner. The way they orientate around themselves and their children. I think that value is very strong here. Reminded me a lot of Australia and how I wanted to grow up. With some other things I feel like they are still living in Franco’s time.
What’s Covid been like for you as a family?
Tammy: Home schooling you mean? It was interesting in a lot of ways. I did the home schooling. It gave me the opportunity to learn what Grace did and didn’t know and that was interesting in itself. I also found out what she liked doing and what she was not interested in.
Eelko: She wants to become an accountant because she is interested in figures.
Tammy: Lockdown was a bit tough. However I made a routine, we get up, we go to school, we do snacks, we do lunches etc. and that worked when the heavy lockdown was on. We noticed that Grace’s social skills regressed. When we could go out the door, she didn’t want to go out. Grace said to me: No Mummy the virus is out there. No we don’t need to go out today, let’s stay in. It took probably a good couple of weeks to encourage her to go out.
We have an office at home and work from home so the difference for us being in the house wasn’t huge. We were frustrated because we wanted to go to the beach and have a coffee but compared to other people who were out every single day working and not at home, it was easy for us and must have been difficult for them.
Eelko: Yes Spanish houses are for the best part small because they don’t live inside they live outside.
Tammy: We had the space to rest from each other. But still the freedom was not there. Grace has always been pretty good though so if we tell her how her day is going to be she gets her head around it. She had her chair and desk in the office so when we went to work, she went to school. We went out one front door and in the other front door. But if I had to do home schooling in the lounge with her, that might have been a different story. Some days she was just not interested though. But she’s infantile. She’s still little. However her writing improved, we made charts around the house and I think she quite enjoyed it but she didn’t like Mummy sitting there going, no, we are not going to go and play, we are going to finish this first.
What advice would you give people moving to Spain?
Eelko: For me, I walk into a wall with working with people, especially accountants. I don’t do my own accountancy in Spain because I’m not familiar with the Spanish system and my Spanish is not good enough. And it’s difficult to get people to do what you want and they never tell you exactly what you need. You have to ask a lot of questions. If anything, read up on everything and always ask questions even if you think the question is silly, ask it anyway. That would be my biggest piece of advice.
Tammy: And photocopy everything in triplicate! Don’t leave home to an official office unless you have everything and even take things you don’t need because you might need them! Even a copy of your animal’s passport – who knows they may ask you! But a big one – relax. If you are coming from a country where you are used to a certain way of doing things, don’t expect them to be the same here. You are a new person in that country and in that culture. So relax, become part of the culture, don’t try and control things.
Eelko: Even though the Spanish have the reputation of a pretty laid back attitude to most things, when it comes to rules, it’s as if Franco was still ruling. If you are told to do something, you do it. They live by the law as it is (for the majority). They have respect for the law. If a policeman tells you to do something, you do it. It is as it should be, in comparison to the UK and Holland where they don’t have the control over their citizens.
Well that’s it from Tammy and Eelko. Thank you for your time and insight into your lives and your experiences living in Spain thus far. Good luck… although we think you two have carved out a lovely life for yourselves.