Ask a room full of people thinking of living in Spain who want to move to Spain what they’re expecting, and the result is likely to be almost uniform agreement: sun, a relaxed lifestyle, decent cost of living.
But does the reality of selling up in the UK and moving to Espania really match up to these high expectations? After all, it’s a huge decision, and one that must be taken after considerable navel-gazing (not naval gazing, unless you like ships).
Let’s look at the most common beliefs and uncover what might be closer to the truth, giving you a tongue-in-cheek assessment.
Living in Spain? It’ll be all sun and sangria
We can all agree the long, hot summers in Spain are glorious. Bet you can’t wait to throw back the curtains every morning, to be greeted by blue, warming skies, the sun shining down from first light until sunset.
And then you’ll be spending leisurely evenings down at the local bar, joining all the locals downing jugs of sangria.
But let’s also be clear, in some parts of Spain, that summer sun can be too hot. Over 40 degrees hot. And after a week or so of that, you may not be so keen. And in the winter, it often rains. Okay, it might not be snow and ice like much of the UK, but it’s not warming sunshine 12 months a year.
Oh, and sangria? Sorry to say but most Spaniards don’t drink it. It’s like every foreigner expects us to all drink Earl Grey tea. It doesn’t happen.
Verdict: The climate in Spain, although it varies from north to south, is, of course, spectacular compared with the UK. So, it might get a little too hot at times but, you know, air conditioning. And who cares that the locals hardly touch sangria? More for us!
Moving to Spain and lazing by the pool all year
We bet this is one of those images stuck in your mind right now: you’re laying back on a sun lounger by the pool, swimming for five minutes, sun-bathing for 20, repeat.
Well, in the summer you most certainly could. But you won’t find too many heated pools in Spain because you don’t need them in the summer. In the other seasons, however, the pool can get decidedly chilly, and you won’t want to swim all day. Furthermore, won’t you have a job to go to?
Verdict: Seven or eight months of swimming in the pool is much better than the seven or eight days you could do it back in England. And so, what if you have to work? Coming home and plunging straight into the pool sounds rather appealing.
The culture of eating out and drinks might be expensive
The Spanish love eating out, and not just in delightful tapas restaurants. All sorts of tastes are catered for, often very late at night because, as we’ll see, the locals like to eat much later than us. And they like to wash it down regularly with a glass or two of something splendid. All of which must put a bit of a strain on the household budget. Imagine doing that back in the UK so often?
The truth is it’s sometimes cheaper to eat out than it is to go out shopping and cook yourself! Unless you’re going to the fanciest eatery in town, you won’t be spending much on your night out.
Verdict: What’s not to like? Good food and drinks at a very reasonable price. Eating out is not a treat in Spain; it’s a (nice) way of life.
The Spanish don’t take a siesta these days
We all remember the cartoon-like image of a Spaniard, sitting down in the blazing sun, propped up against a white wall, head bowed and covered in a huge sombrero hat. Fast asleep. But the siesta no longer exists, because the pressures of modern life have overtaken the desire to take a daily extended nap.
The truth is the siesta IS alive and kicking. But not so much because everyone needs to sleep (although some do!). Most shops and businesses might close between 14:00 and 17:00. This has a knock-on effect for the rest of the working day. Hence many locals won’t eat until well after 21:00 or later!
Verdict: It will take some getting used to. People aren’t always about when you expect them to be. But let’s face it, falling in line doesn’t sound like much of a hardship, does it?
Property prices and rent are lower in Spain
This is a widely-held assumption, and in most cases it’s true. Like for like, the price of a Spanish apartment or villa is much less than back in the UK. But it depends where you intend to go. You won’t find many bargains in Marbella, for example.
However, while you might be tempted by cheaper property, you must weigh it up against other factors. Utilities can be more expensive, and that cost only rises when you install your air conditioning systems.
Verdict: Yes, it’s cheaper. Simple as that.
I’ll be speaking fluent Spanish by the end of the year
It’s quite a romantic idea to think you’ll pick up the language nice and quick. Part of the fun of moving abroad. The truth is, your feeble attempts to speak the language will be met with the locals talking perfectly good English to you. And in many cases, you’ll be socialising with Brits anyway.
Some will move to parts of the country where Brits are scarce, perhaps on the northern coast, so it’s more important to try and speak the local language as soon as you can pick it up.
Verdict: Most people moving abroad to Spain will pick up the language as they go along at a reasonable pace. For others, you might need to do so more quickly. But it’s hardly a chore, is it? It’s all part of the charm of settling into a new culture.
Conclusion, will moving to Spain be all you expect?
As we’ve seen, not everything will be exactly as you'd imagine, but that's part of the fun of the adventure! We'd recommend doing plenty of research before taking the plunge and living abroad. It's also a good idea to surf the online expat communities to get a flavour of how the Brits already living in Spain are getting on.
Is your heart already set on living in Spain? Download our guide for more tips on how to do it.