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Spanish Eyes, English Words

A blended blog - Spanish life and culture meets English freelancer who often gets mistaken for Spanish senora. It's the eyes that do it, rather than the command of the language. Anything can and probably will happen here.

How can anyone afford to live well in England these days?
11 December 2015 @ 12:20

I'm in the UK, doing the Santa Run, catching up with my lovely kids and grandchildren, and being led astray by my girlfriends. Wine o'clock has been getting earlier every day, my liver is waving the white flag already, and there are still five days to go. Fear not though - I shall just grin and bear it, for the sake of my reputation.

I am proud to be English, British or whatever we're supposed to call it these days, and I love coming back to see everyone and hit British Home Stores, Edinburgh Woolen Mill and Poundland. I've been very restrained so far this trip - just two boleros, a dressing gown and a jumper so far. Still, I haven't been to Telford yet.

As I said, I love to visit, but Spain is now my home, and one particular conversation this week has left me wondering how people who aren't earning at least £50,000 a year manage to exist - particularly if they're renting a property. A friend from my days as a mature student has now returned to Plymouth, after sojourns in Dorset and Norwich. She's renting a very nice 2 bedroom maisonette,  but it's not in a very salubrious area of Plymouth, and it's costing her £635 a month.

The landlord wanted £650, and she managed to knock him down, but that £15 extra isn't going to go very far. It won't even buy her a bottle of wine in a restaurant here, but for just €15 - less than £11 at today's exchange rate - we can have a 3 course meal with a bottle of wine at our favourite Chinese restaurant. And €18 - that's around £13 - will buy a four course lunch with wine at Alquibla, the best Spanish restaurant in Algorfa, or possibly in Spain!

My friend doesn't manage many meals out, mainly due to the costs. She headed out to a so-so Italian chain restaurant with two friends a few weeks ago, and a two course meal with two bottles of wine set them back over £100. That's about the same amount that 9 of us paid for an evening meal at Alquibla just before we came over here. And more than two bottles of wine were consumed!

Contrast that situation with another friend who has just moved over to Spain from England - mainly because she couldn't see how she could stretch her pension to cover a reasonable standard of living in England. she's not a 'Champagne lifestyle on lemonade money' kind of girl - she just wants to enjoy her retirement rather than just existing through it. Her garden apartment is roughly the same size as the maisonette, and it's in a gated community on a prestigious golf urbanisation.

She's paying around €300 a month - £217 - for the privilege. For the mathematically challenged, that's around one third of my university friend's rent. And her heating and utility bills are nowhere near the scale of bills in England. Although electricity is one of the few things that's more expensive in Spain, with temperatures of between 25 and 40 degrees for at least 9 months of the year, we use a lot less of it.

Council Tax is another thing. My friend in Plymouth is paying £100 a month, while the equivalent in Spain - IBI - is around €230 a year. I'll do the sums again to save you having to bother, shall I? Or rather, I'll let the currency converter do it for me. That's £166, or around two months' Council Tax in England, bearing in mind that the bill is divided into 10 instalments, not 12. And in Spain, IBI is usually paid by the landlord, not the tenant.

So, a tale of two ladies of similar ages and similar circumstances, living in similar properties. And now my friend in Plymouth knows what it really costs to live in the UK, compared to the cost of living in Spain, she can't wait to get over here to join us. It's the only sensible thing to do, really.

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grapow said:
12 December 2015 @ 08:16

Completely agree with these sentiments. whenever we go back to our place of birth (Wales), we have similar discussions !

ziggyblue said:
12 December 2015 @ 08:34

Cannot agree with this. I am from Devon and certainly none of my family earn anything like 50k a year. Food is now the same as in the UK you can get some great offers eating in or out M&S meal deal is £10 for two including a bottle of wine. Sunday lunch out isn't expensive. Yes alcohol is I grant you that. It's no where as cheap to live in Spain these days. I went out with my girlfriends last night to a Christmas "do" 28 euros a head one free drink and half a glass of cava. Dreadful food had to buy our own wine. Ended up paying 50 euros for chicken and chips.

rigpig said:
12 December 2015 @ 08:49

Just got back to England after 4 months in Spain. Its shocking how expensive it is here. The supermarkets are terrible! I paid £1.50 for four lemons last night. Granted their are plenty of meal deals but the food quality is generally poor and very little thats not deep fried or microwaved processed food. Only back for Christmas and it is nice to see friends and family but I have no desire to stay here.

Feeg said:
12 December 2015 @ 08:59

An interesting article indeed. I left the UK when I was 28 (55 years ago) and can't count the number of countries I have lived in. I do recall some comparative prices from when I lived there, and which seem to be the main costs of modern Britain, specifically housing, fuel, and transport.

Our rent in England was one pound twelve and six (one pound twelve & a half peewee) a week from my fathers wages of seven pounds ten, and it was never a big deal (+/- 15%). Nowadays many folk spend nearly half their income on rent/mortgage etc. Even when I was in the RAF in Somerset, the train ticket "up North" still left me enough to create havoc in Darlington with my teddy-boy civy-street mates. Our house was always nice and warm and when the coal fire needed topping up we never ever considered the cost of coal. So, these are good comparisons on how the UK inhabitants have been financially abused over the past half century, so I am here in Estepona and not going anywhere.

janw57 said:
12 December 2015 @ 09:26

I totally agree, we live half in Manchester and half in Nerja. We rarely go out for a meal and when we do we go somewhere with offers on pub grub. Either way usually at least £20 each with a drink. Can't wait to get back to Spain in a few weeks time where you can get a coffee and a cake for €4 and menu del día and a drink for €10-12. Of course utilities are cheaper too having longer and warmer days. Thanks Sandra for your interesting words.

jacobleej said:
12 December 2015 @ 09:50

Well said Sandra..I think only ppl with a bad experience could fault Spain for costs but as in all places you have to know where to eat out...many think all foreigners are tourists & some places you can get stung & that includes the world over so not just in Spain...but in general I can't fault Spain for costs & the food is far nicer to eat like the fruit & veg as it's all much fresher than what you can but in the supermarkets in the UK & taste a whole lot different & better...

It's not only the cost & the food it's the whole package deal in Spain...walking around in Spain the ppl are pretty nice & the difference between walking around here & in places like Leeds for instance is here I can look up at where I am going without the risk of someone asking me what the F am I looking at?...not that I would be looking at anyone just looking around in general & I have heard that phrase so many times in the UK that it is not funny & I am not the only one to have said the same...

I am to visit the UK in March to see my oncologist who dealt with me throughout my treatment so I want to visit in hope to get the all clear & it means a visit to Leeds so I will have to remember to look down & not up just in case I run into one of the morons that seem to on many street corners & falling out of pubs...glad we don't see the drunks here in Spain like you see in the UK so very much...I really hated that about the UK, drunks begging & being abusive....I don't miss it...

LiloLil said:
12 December 2015 @ 10:13

Totally agree with Sandra. Not only food, drink and rents etc that are cheaper here in Spain....Dentistry - I had to have a broken tooth reconstructed this week at a (painful) cost of 50 euros. But a friend in England told that she recently had one filling done at a cost of 125 quid! At the present exchange rate, that's more than 3 times the cost.

roburg said:
12 December 2015 @ 14:02

Well once again Sandra we are totally on the same page, now in my long-term rental in mazarron and loving it so far, as a reluctant single it's the only way I could keep a good standard of life and accommodation, if I was in a couple then things would be even better (maybe one day ) back in Devon my monthly outgoings just to exist were £900 😳 That's a joke so Spain has to be the way

KeyserSoze said:
13 December 2015 @ 10:21

Simple answer really,those of us who own property here,have accumulated massive equity in the last few few years and can release that equity if we wish to do so,via many means,including downtrading.Moving from the South to up North into "the badlands" for instance.(remind me again why we need HS2!) Mind you,when the next property meltdown happens here,I predict it will be huge.Or of course,people might simply be "well off".The recent pension rise and winter fuel allowance of course assists,as has being able to get at ones pension pot.(I dont have one!)
Millions of us adore having our primary residence here in the UK,whatever the financial implications.We are perhaps not so obsessed about the day to day cost of living or what the weather is doing.We have what we consider a great life (you may not agree.That's democracy folks),and of course.........Oh listen,life is just too short to explain it to you'all......have a lovely Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

I may well be down after the festive season on my way to Portugal.I'm sure you are all thrilled!

As ever,feel free to correct "me gramma"

SandrainAlgorfa said:
13 December 2015 @ 11:21

Thanks everyone for the lovely comments, and comparative costings and examples. I have to agree with Jake, about not being able to look at some people for fear of abuse. Here, it's the opposite - strangers pounce on you and you get the 'dos besos' bit, with a hug thrown in and often a 'me encanta' too. I met some people last night, and when I went in for the dos besos, they backed away in alarm and offered a hand to shake. I've obviously been in Spain too long!

Rialto said:
20 December 2015 @ 17:55

I can partially agree with what you say. However 50k is not what is needed in Britain. Like anywhere there is a baseline figure - but 50k it is not. I would suggest 30k.

I spend 3 months in Spain and 9 in UK and am comfortable and can easily afford both. I find Spain about 30% cheaper overall on day to day things. If I could have the quality and variety there of not just goods - but customer service and modern approached to common sense things - then Spain would be perfect!

I do feel sorry for those, and there are many thousands, who have effectively burned their bridges and cannot afford to even think of returning to the UK. I meet many who want to (even though they love Spain). They simply cannot afford to though. Many bought too highly in Spain and have caught a cold. They miss many things about the UK - but simply cannot afford housing there. Let's be fair - if the UK and Spain had exactly the same climate - how many would choose to remain in a country with poor quality housing and frustrating practices?

SandrainAlgorfa said:
20 December 2015 @ 19:39

@Rialto - Yes, you make a good point there. The 60 year old house we sold in the UK was better than our new place here, and yes, the bureaucracy is so frustrating. You're probably right on the figures too. We kept a place in England, but it's a static caravan with fairly low running costs. I think it's a mistake to totally burn your bridges, either side of the Channel, unless you have the money to start over. But there are other things than the climate and the prices that make Spain my home. Thanks for broadening the debate.

Sanchez1 said:
30 December 2015 @ 23:58

There's a reason why things are cheaper in Spain. Salaries in Spain are much lower than the UK. I can earn 2-3 times what I would earn in Spain...

roburg said:
31 December 2015 @ 11:45

Sanchez1 , yes some people can earn more in uk but not everyone, it's the massive cost of housing that drove me abroad, as a pensioner who unfortunately lost my owned house due to divorce the cost of renting and associated expenses exceeded my income so Spain offered me a climate I can be healthy in and a standard of living I can afford . I would rather be warm,accommodated and happy than cold,wet and broke .

SandrainAlgorfa said:
31 December 2015 @ 12:33

@Roburg - you're spot on as usual. Love that last sentence x

graemeh said:
28 January 2017 @ 14:25

To live well in Britain you have to shop at Lidl and Aldi. You have to eat at pub chains i.e., Toby Inns, Sizzle, Harvesters.If you are a Senior you have your bus pass so no need for a car. Also you have to sign up with as many web sites that you know will make you regular offers particularly if it is your birthday coming up. For clothes just wander around the charity shops particularly those in the more affluent areas as the cast offs there are tremendous. Finally take your holidays in Spain and stay as long as you can!

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