I am frequently asked by people thinking of moving to Spain what life in Spain is really like. This is not such a suprising question, really, as the only experience of Spanish culture that most people have is during their brief two week holidays in Spain. These, almost by definition, are usually spent in tourist destinations that have no more relevance to real life in Spain than the front at Blackpool does to normal life in the UK.
Of course, everyone's experience of permanent living in Spain is different and, to some extent it is almost impossible to adequately encapsulate the way of life in any all-encompassing way. This may seem odd but the truth is that there is little real connection between daily life in Spain lived within a rural, inland village and that encountered by those living on a high class, high density foreigner estate on the coast.
The former tend to involve a 'full-on' integration into Spanish life whilst the latter can mean that no real integration is necessary or, indeed, ever really takes place.
Certainly, it not for me to make a qualitative judgment about the merits of the two extremes (rural life or foreigner coastal estate) as everything depends upon what you - the person moving to Spain - wants. In a way, I think that one of the great strengths of Spain is that foreigners can move to Spain and live in specific areas that are extremely user-friendly.
This is certainly true of the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca where there are many estates largely composed of foreigners - some of which are overwhelmingly populated by German, Dutch or British people. Calpe (on the Costa Blanca), for example, evidently has more British people living there than Spaniards!
In effect, you can move to Spain and into an area that has an existing way of life that has little to do, in reality, with Spanish culture. Most of your neighbours may be British (or at least English speaking) and the local infrastructure will have developed to service foreigners. 'English' shops selling English goods (run by Britons) may be present and complemented by English speaking dentists, lawyers, bar owners, doctors and tradesman. Even the local native Spanish will probably speak sufficient English to service your needs. Needless to say, often a well developed English speaking social network will have developed providing a range of activities and clubs.
Meanwhile, these coastal estates have usually matured well and have all the services that you would expect in the UK. ADSL is normally available together with drinkable mains water (aqua potable), mains sewage, electricity and telephone landlines.
So, daily life in Spain in some coastal areas can, in many ways, be superficially similar to the UK - including the fact that you do not need to speak Spanish to live quite happily, long term, within this environment. Indeed, to all intents and purposes you can avoid Spanish culture in any meaningful sense - whilst enjoying a stunning climate, an al fresco life and one where the living costs are lower than that of the UK. The day to day life may be somewhat 'artificial' but it is one which is easily accessible if you do not want to be unduly challenged by moving into a linguistically different culture.
Of course, matters are different inland. Most foreigners who move to Spain, understandably, move to the coast. Accordingly, the 'infrastructure' for foreigners moving inland is far less well developed. An English speaking infrastructure is often barely present and the way of life markedly different. Certainly, learning Spanish is almost a pre-requisite together with a willingness to embrace Spanish culture wholeheartedly.
It is also true to say that in rural areas (outside of villages and towns) some of the basic services present everywhere in the UK can be distinctly lacking. Some rural properties can lack mains electricity, mains water and even landline telephone connections - let alone ADSL. Unfortunately, some of these places, for the forseeable furture, will also not receive an upgrade should they be missing these services.
Certainly, I am not, for one moment, suggesting that if you are thinking of moving to Spain that you should avoid inland areas. That would be absurd - but recognise that the move is likely to be far more committing than if you were moving onto a coastal estate. That said, any difficulties can be more than off-set by the rewards inherent in integrating properly into Spanish day to day life within a tight, nuclear culture that is fundamentally different (and arguably better) than that of the UK.
Of course, the decision of where to move to Spain is yours. However, recognise that exactly where you move - will define your daily life far more than it would in the UK. Move to a coastal estate and, by definition, your daily life will probably have little to do with Spain and the realities (for both good and bad) of Spanish culture. The demographics and lifestyle on most coastal estates quite simply have little, if anything, to do with 'normal' Spanish life. However, the reverse is true of inland areas. In terms of sheer life experience, the latter are likely to be more interesting (and fun!) albeit that that they can present greater challenges - day to day!