Expats in Spain
Spain is still the second most popular destination, next to Australia, for expats wishing to relocate to a new life abroad. Fed up with high taxes, long working days, dreary weather, crime, violence and a stressful way of life, many Brits chose to move to Spain for a taste of the laid back lifestyle and sunshine without truly knowing what to expect. Living in Spain permanently is not the same as a two week holiday on one of the Costas.
Before jumping in to becoming an Expat in Spain, do as much research as you can - read books, visit the area where you intend to move to, and speak to people who have already made the move. Life in Spain is not always the idyllic existence that people expect, so find out as much as you can beforehand to avoid some of the pitfalls that are easy to fall into. There is plenty to occupy the children, such as fiestas, games such as pilotta, street football and much more. The capital of Catalonia, and one of the world's leading cities of culture, Barcelona events and activities provide entertainment for both the tourist and the resident.
The way of life is totally different when you are working and living in Spain - not only from what you are used to, but also from what you expect - Spanish people, Spanish food, Spanish culture, and if you are not a patient person, living in Spain is not for you - waiting is definitely the name of the game here. That is all very well for those who have retired to Spain, but for the working community it can be extremely frustrating.
What is the 'real Spain'? So many people use this phrase but are they aware of what it really means? Living in Spain can come in two flavours - living in the 'real' Spain, or living in the expat world. Before making the move you have to decide which is best for you. Many, myself included, decide they want to live amongst the Spanish - but do the Spanish want to live with you? Living as an expat in Spain on an urbanisation full of other expats is nothing like living in a small Spanish village.
Spain is a land of beaurocracy and paperwork - everything takes twice as long as in the UK, and queues take a long time to go down! Your patience will be sorely tested whilst applying for the various legal paperwork you will need to become a resident of Spain.
You can find facts, legalities and information on relocating to Spain almost anywhere - but nothing that can really give you a true insight on living in Spain permanently. How will your children feel when they have lost everything that is familiar? What are the local's really like? How long does it take to get over the 'culture shock'? How easy is it to find work in Spain? Speak to people who have done it, read books, research the area to which you are intending to relocate to prepare yourself as fully as you can on what Spain has to offer you.
Many people relocate to escape the uncertain climate in the UK. However, those who have never spent August in Spain will be totally unprepared for the heat which can, as last year, last for up to 3 months in the 40’s! Fantastic though this may seem to the British, to live and work here in constant heat can be extremely draining, and often not as brilliant as it sounds. For those who do have to work, life isn’t all about sunbathing and swimming. The other side of the coin is the Spanish winters which can be very cold and damp. Properties are not always built to withstand too much wet weather and damp is a huge problem. Lack of carpeting and central heating can make for a couple of pretty miserable winter months.
Another difficulty that can be encountered by expats in Spain is that often one half of a couple wants to relocate more than the other. Alternatively, one may find their new life idyllic, whereas the other is building resentment and wants to go home. It is a sad fact that here on the Costa Blanca, many couples split up after relocating. It truly has to be a joint decision to make it work.
Always make sure you arrive in Spain with enough money to see you through at least 6 months if you intend on working in Spain, as finding employment may take time As a rental agency, we often see people taking on long term rentals for an 11 month period, only to find that they are unable to find work and support themselves. Many jobs require Spanish, English and often German languages as a mimimum requirement.
If you have children of school you should research local schools in the area, both Spanish and International. Many parents want to put their children straight into Spanish school, but if the local school is small and not used to many English, they may well be picked on or bullied. With the ever increasing number of Brits moving to Spain, this is getting less likely but although not ‘the rule’, it still happens in the less cosmopolitan towns and villages. International schools follow the UK curriculum, and although fee paying, are not nearly as expensive as private schools at home. Generally, the fees are around 7,000 Euros per year.
As with any new project you may undertake in life, research fully your subject matter before making a final decision. It is a brilliant lifestyle here for those who are entirely prepared for anything that Spain may throw at them, but please bear in mind that living in Spain is not all ‘sun, sea and sangria’.
Article Expats in Spain, by D. Cooper