Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory to the south of Spain on the Iberian Peninsula, often simply called ‘the rock’ by those who are familiar with it. The nickname comes from the Rock of Gibraltar, the 1398-foot high limestone formation that is Gibraltar’s most iconic natural structure.
This small territory is only 6.8 square kilometers in area, much smaller than most modern cities, and is also among the most densely populated and multicultural regions in the world.The British and Spanish influences are only to be expected, but in addition, Gibraltar has always been home to residents, traders, and businesspeople from other parts of the globe – other European countries, northern Africa, and Asia. Today, the combination of this fact with the great weather and the tax breaks means that Gibraltar is one of the most popular expat spots around.
Of course every place has its own problems – or at least potential ones – that you need to be aware of before you move. Here are ten common expat mistakes to avoid.
Not learning Spanish: Many expats expect that since it’s a British territory, English is all they need to know to get around in Gibraltar. The truth is that although most people here do speak English, there are a considerable number of people who prefer Spanish. Many also speak Llanito, a local form of Spanish with elements of English and several other languages.
Having a budget that’s too optimistic: Gibraltar is small and crowded, and as a result, it’s extremely expensive to live in. Rents are high, and even groceries and other goods are expensive. The absence of VAT doesn’t translate into cheap goods, and not having to pay taxes (if this applies to you) doesn’t quite balance the high cost of living. Many people find that it’s cheaper to live across the border in Spain, and commute to Gibraltar for work.
Expecting a lot of space: Again, because Gibraltar is small and so densely populated, there are crowds almost everywhere you go, and it’s difficult to find a quiet, peaceful spot. Living spaces are also likely to be cramped compared to what you’re used to – the demand is high, and the supply is extremely limited.
Planning your taxes carelessly: This includes doing your taxes yourself, unless you’re really an expert in these matters. Making use of a tax haven is complicated, and many are surprised to find that they’re not eligible to do so. Finding out too late that you owe taxes somewhere can be expensive and dangerous. It’s best to consult a professional right from the start.
Not being prepared for a cross-border commute: This of course applies to those who work in Gibraltar but live across the border in Spain, or who live on the rock but have to frequently travel to Spain for work. Either way, this can be complicated and annoying – the dispute between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar means that Spanish border officials sometimes make it difficult for people to enter Gibraltar.
Being careless with/around the monkeys: Gibraltar is home to around 230 monkeys – that’s a lot of monkeys for such a small area of land that already has so many humans. Sooner or later, you will encounter your furry neighbors, and they are often not very pleasant. The monkeys are known to steal from and even attack people, so don’t go trying to befriend them, and be careful with your belongings at all times.
Expecting lots of job opportunities: Gibraltar has limited job opportunities, in spite of the booming online gaming industry, and most of the jobs that do exist go to locals. Don’t go to Gibraltar with a short-term plan, expecting to change jobs easily.
Hoping for an exciting cultural scene: Gibraltar is small, but even for a small place, the cultural scene is surprisingly limited. You can see all the sights of Gibraltar within a day, and for anyone who’s seriously into the arts, what’s on offer may seem inadequate.
Owning a car: Importing a car into Gibraltar can be expensive and is largely pointless. The place is so small you can walk everywhere (or use the efficient bus service), and crossing the border by car can seriously slow you down.
Buying a ticket to cross the border: This is mostly a mistake that tourists make, but some expats do it too, the first time they cross the border – they get scammed into buying “tickets” from unauthorized but official-looking con artists.