My name is Gordon and I moved to Spain in July 2003 with my new wife Chris to start a new life.
We initially moved to a place inland from Alicante called Castalla but have moved several times since, mainly due to work. We had visited friends who lived in Spain in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s, and had fallen in love with “real Spain” and thought that it was for us. When searching for properties we were shown loads of places we hated, but Castalla looked beautiful.
We did not experience many problems apart from some people telling us were mad and it wouldn’t last. We still get asked from time to time, when are we coming back? The actual moving in process went very smoothly and settling in was relatively easy.How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property? what was the buying/renting process like?)
We bought our first property on an inspection trip with one of the large agents. We had done a lot of internet research beforehand and eventually made the decision to come out and look seriously for somewhere to live. Our first house was always going to be an initial foothold before we found what we really wanted. Our whole process was smooth and problem free, others seemed to have all sorts of problems but in some cases I suspect a lot of it may have been partly their fault. Lack of research can lead to many surprises, especially in a foreign country.
Are there many other expats in your area?
We now live in an area where there are a lot of expats but have lived, and still own a house in a small Spanish village. Not just UK expats but many other northern European nationalities are represented here. It is not a big sprawling housing area and hopefully never will be
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Spanish people in general have been very friendly to us, it does help that we have made the effort to integrate. Even if your Spanish is not all that good I believe it is courteous to at least try, I’m afraid many others don’t share my view.
What do you like about life where you are?
The pace of life, the climate, the cuisine and the less materialistic attitude here than in the UK. No need to “keep up with the Jones’s”. I used to spend quite a lot on clothes in the UK, it somehow seemed to be expected, nobody really judges you like that here.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Bureaucracy can sometimes be frustrating; we have struggled to find work at times but wouldn’t swap it for the UK. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Spanish people are welcoming and friendly to everyone and will usually say “Hello” as you walk down the street. It has got to the stage in the UK that nobody dares to talk to a stranger in case it is taken the wrong way. People smile a lot more here too.
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
A bigger choice of shops in the UK but food shopping is so much better here, really fresh fruit and veg in abundance. I never used to like markets in the UK but I love them here.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I love it. Tapas are a joy and menu del dia can be a fantastic value meal. Plenty of seafood available that doesn’t cost a fortune. Not a lot I don’t like but sometimes you can get a stew where you don’t really know what is in it – I still eat it anyway. I absolutely love the coffee here. On trips back to the UK we never seem to find a decent cup of coffee and usually end up leaving half of it.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
If you are a couple, both of you must be 100% certain about your decision. If you can make a go of it, Spain is a wonderful place to live. If you need to work, you may find it a huge struggle at the moment, unless of course you have a job to come to. I have seen so many people moaning about there being no work and saying they will do anything but when offered something they find an excuse not to do it. I have personal experience of this having wanted some people to work for me over the years. If you are looking for work here you may have to really be prepared to do anything, we have and we are still here. Unemployment is very high and we have heard of expats losing jobs in Spanish bars and restaurants because a family member of the owners has lost their job and needs work. Spain is a lovely place to live but you must be prepared to integrate and definitely need to learn some Spanish, the more the better but if you can learn the basics to start with you will find it easier. I make no apology for repeating one thing, if you are a couple, both of you must be 100% behind the move. We have seen people fail here and go back and we know for a fact that one party was not 100% behind the move, if you have doubts you are in trouble before you start.
What are your plans for the future?
To carry on as we are, we have no intention of moving back to the UK, but you can never say never. We are happy here and see no need to look elsewhere.
Gordon continues his story of "A Real Spanish Life" at www.arealspanishlife.com