No Brits please!

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12 May 2012 17:40 by luckycat Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

I really can't get my head round the number of people who post questions about living in Spain and say they don't want to live anywhere that's 'Britishified'.  Also references to 'winging' Brits (that's 'whingeing' by the way).  I assume these people are Brits themselves?  It's incredibly arrogant to assume it's OK for you to move to a certain place but not for other Brits. If they find this ideal spot, will they move out when other British nationals decide it's a nice place and move there too?

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13 May 2012 12:25 by Marksfish Star rating in Vera, Almeria. 2472 posts Send private message

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 I think that possibly they are referring to places like Benidorm and Malaga, where the English seem to outnumber the Spaniards most of the year. There are other areas where whole urbs are owned by Brits and therefore English is spoken all the time and it is a "mini Britain", so they become isolated within. Some people want to take in the Spanish culture, learn the language and integrate with the locals (how many times has a immigrant population in the UK ben criticised because they won't integrate?). It doesn't necessarily mean they don't want to meet up with other Brits, they want to live within a local community.

Our area is still very Spanish, but there are also a lot of Brits there. Spanish is still very much the spoken word, although the Spaniards are very helpful if you make the effort.


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13 May 2012 12:35 by summer70 Star rating in Granada. 92 posts Send private message

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I dont know if its the case you are simply trying to stir up a debate, Luckycat, but I have a few minutes to spare, so I'll answer you anyhow.

First, there is a difference between living in an area where there are Brits and an area which looks (at least on the surface) as if it has been taken over by Brits.

A few years ago there were parts of the Costa Del Sol where you would walk into what you thought was a Spanish bar and be greeted by 'what can I get you love?' and no member of staff spoke Spanish. The same with the proliferation of Irish pubs and pubs with 24 hour Sky TV.
There were Brit shops where you could buy all those items 'from home' you were expected to yearn for and if you walked into a supermarket, you would find many Brits buying their weekly shop (you could always tell, because of the clothes they wore and that many of them spoke louder than anyone else in the shop).
The rise of Iceland in some major Spanish resorts was also probably a result of all this.
But times have changed.
Most of the Brit shops and bars have closed and nowadays, apart from during holiday season, you don't hear many English voices in the supermarket and the prices and often the food in Iceland bear scant resemblance to food you can find at home.

However, even in so called Brit areas, Brits were always in a minority and now they are an increasingly small minority.

We do not live in a Brit area and it can be months where we never hear anyone but ourselves speaking English. And I can tell you now, this can feel very isolating, even when you do have an understanding of Spanish.

I think it is only natural that immigrants from a particular country seek out others who share their mother tongue and even understand their sense of humour.
And sharing experiences with other immigrants is helpful in many ways.  It can be extremely daunting dealing with the system here in Spanish and on your own.  It helps to talk to others who understand what you are going through. Thats why expat forums like this can act as a lifeline for some of us, even when you will find a great deal of conflicting advice.

I would have no problem at all with Brits moving into our area. I would welcome the conversation!

But to go back to your original statement.
I think that there are two types of people who come to live in Spain. Those who want to live a totally Spanish life and emerse themselves completely in their idea of what is 'local culture' (they often get it wrong), and those who are looking for their idea of 'a place in the sun', perhaps for retirement, without all the hassle of having to learn Spanish.
The first lot tend to be a little snobbish and insist on telling the others that they must learn Spanish. I often wonder how good their Spanish really is?
The second lot just want a quiet life. They are happy to spend their money in Spain, but prefer not to integrate and prefer to live with those they know and whose culture they understand.

Neither lot is right.  Just different.

No me lo puedo creer! Living in Spain as an Expat.

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13 May 2012 12:49 by luckycat Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

Thank you Markfish and summer70, nice to get sensible replies.  I'm not really trying to 'stir up' a debate but just think it sounds vaguely snobbish when people say they don't want to be where there are too many Brits, as though they see themselves as slightly superior!  My husband and I were expats for almost 40 years and lived in 14 different countries round the world.  I confess that we mostly mixed with other expatriates, be they British or whatever. The thing that held us all together was a common language (English) rather than nationality.  If we lived in Spain I know I would probably mix more with English speakers as I don't speak Spanish - other than shopping Spanish(!) learned when we lived in Central America. I know from experience how difficult it is to deal with officialdom in a foreign language and wonder whether those who wish to live the 'spanish life' really give much thought to this.

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13 May 2012 13:04 by summer70 Star rating in Granada. 92 posts Send private message

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I know from experience how difficult it is to deal with officialdom in a foreign language and wonder whether those who wish to live the 'spanish life' really give much thought to this.


And it's not just the language which can be a problem. it's the whole way of doing things, which office to go to and which queue to join. All this can be a nightmare without someone who has done it before giving you advice.



No me lo puedo creer! Living in Spain as an Expat.

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13 May 2012 13:25 by midasgold Star rating in Mijas.. 91 posts Send private message

As a pensioner I  found it very hard to learn Spanish even though my French is reasionable.

However after a few years of trying I now 'get by' and understand most of what is being said 

'provided I don't get too much of an unexpected answer '  !!!

But it does annoy me at the arrogance of us Brits who just assume that the Spanish

will understand them without even trying to speak the language.I regard this as having very bad manners.

If lucky, there is another day.

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13 May 2012 14:39 by luckycat Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

You're right, Midasgold, it's only polite to try to learn enough at least to get by.  I have a hearing problem which makes it almost impossible for me to learn a foreign language (although I can read more than I can speak).  We considered moving to Spain but my inability to learn the language was one of the reasons we changed our minds.  Added to that, my husband is 'foreign language blind' apart from a few words of Arabic learned when he was in the Middle East 50 years ago! I remember travelling in Mexico years ago and faithfully learning various phrases and questions, the problem was that people answered me - at speed - and left me none the wiser.  The last time I was in Spain I spoke to an Englishman who has been there for over 30 years and runs a v. successful business. He still can't speak Spanish but relies on his daughters to work with the public as they are bilingual. We expect foreigners coming to the UK to speak English and it's a sign of the tolerance of the Spanish that they don't get more upset at the number of expats who don't learn their language.

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13 May 2012 14:53 by summer70 Star rating in Granada. 92 posts Send private message

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But it does annoy me at the arrogance of us Brits who just assume that the Spanish

will understand them without even trying to speak the language.I regard this as having very bad manners.

I agree with you there midasgold. It makes sense to try to speak Spanish and no one should expect everyone in Spain to speak English. Far from it. If we did that, we would never get anything done and we would never be able to talk to our neighbours!

However it does work both ways. Many will tell you that the Spanish welcome you more when you at least try to speak their language, but (and it may be my experience only) I have found some Spanish people who will balk at anyone speaking Spanish with an English accent, even when you go to great lengths to pronounce words correctly, and will lose their sense of hearing rather than trying to talk to you.
At first this can be amusing, but in a situation where you do need to converse, particularly in an official context, it can be very frustrating.

No me lo puedo creer! Living in Spain as an Expat.

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13 May 2012 17:38 by wend691 Star rating in Lincoln & Rojales (C.... 179 posts Send private message

I agree with you Luckycat ....

Have to say, its a sad state of affairs if having lived in Spain for thirty years, the English man cant even speak the Spanish language - or even enough to get by!!!There are a number of people we know near our Spanish holiday home who have permanent residency and they are the same.

My Spanish is poor, admittedly, but I always give it a go and generally find the Spanish people patient with my inefficiencies. I would like to think that I would gradually build up my confidence and expand my knowledge of the language if I lived in Spain permanently. In the meantime, Im doing my best to acquire a basic grasp of the language through studying my GCSE level studies book, Spanish / English dictionary and Spanish verbs books. Long way to go though ....

Just a little point about us English ... In the south of Lincolnshire, we have a high number of foreign workers (predominantly Polish) and they make a clear effort to speak our language. Perhaps they know that they just wouldnt get understood in shops, bars etc if they just spoke their home language ??? We English are really lazy when it comes to grasping / learning other languages ..... probably in part due to our schooling, but THATS another matter and not part of this particular thread!

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19 May 2012 10:19 by mollusc Star rating in Cheshire. 6 posts Send private message

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There are some well reasoned arguments on here - which makes a refreshing change from many of the threads on this theme which often degenerate into a slanging match.

I agree with much of what summer70 says although I think there is a third group of ex-pats too. The ones who try to find the balance of living in a small Spanish community and try to learn thelanguage but also take advantage of what the large ex-pat communities offer so that they can speak their mother tongue too. Like summer70 says, it can be very isolating never hearing your own language.

Like midasgold I'm in the older category and find it difficult to get the vocab to stick - possibly because like luckycat I am going deaf and find it hard to hear what everyone says. The big problem I have is that I'm told my accent is quite good so when I speak to people they rattle back at me and I don't get to hear it all!  Hmmmm

As midasgold said, it is just bad manners not to learn to speak the language of the country in which you live. The locals round here really do appreciate it when you at least try - even if you're not always perfect.

One other point too - it's not just the Brits who exhibit this sort of behaviour. Near us on the Coasta Blanca there are a number of large Dutch communities. I have a number of Dutch friends who complain about "whingeing Dutch" too.


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19 May 2012 11:29 by DonLochnagar Star rating in Mazarron. 161 posts Send private message

When we decided to buy in Spain, top of our thbinking was that we didn't want to buy in an ex-pat area.  However, we did.  The main reason for that was that although we both have decent Spanish we realised that we would have to do some type of work or run a small business and it is easier to do that when you are in an ex-pat community.  Although we have moved in just yet on a permanent basis, I already have many non ex-pat friends and I am getting to know the surrounding area better each time we go across.  What is mildly infuriating with some Spaniards is that they insist on practising their English on you, culminating in the strange situation of me insisting on speaking Spanish and them in English.  Wierd!

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19 May 2012 13:57 by iangrantsinger Star rating. 12 posts Send private message

The thing that I find particularly irritating, hypocritical, but also quite amusing, is when groups of (especially older) ex-pats get together to discuss their reasons for leaving England (or whichever country they originate from) and cite their annoyance at immigrants coming into their country, forming their own communities and "not even bothering to learn the language".

When I overhear such conversations I usually ask which ones of them speak any Spanish?

More often than not, their Spanish only extends to being able to order a coffee or beer. Although, they can usually also say "por favor" and "gracias", which is something I suppose.

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19 May 2012 14:44 by DonLochnagar Star rating in Mazarron. 161 posts Send private message

I've got to admit that amuses me too.  Funny thing is that Spaniards very rarely say Gracias or por Favor in a restaurant.  It displays their immigrant status to Spaniards right away!

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19 May 2012 14:56 by summer70 Star rating in Granada. 92 posts Send private message

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that's a very good point - the third group of expats - and I would say that applies to us to a degree.
We live in a small village where there is only one more English speaker, and she is married to a Spaniard so speaks Spanish as her first language (I envy her!).
When we first moved here, our safety net was a small group of expats in nearby villages. In our first couple of years here, when we were really struggling with the language, I will admit that we wouldn't have survived without them, but most have gone back to the UK now.

I also have a hearing problem where certain tones escape me. In normal circumstances and normal Spanish conversation it hardly notices, but when trying to pick up the nuances in the type of rapid-fire Spanish conversation which goes on between other women in the local shop for example, it often leaves me at a total disadvantage. All I can do on these occasions is try to pick up the gist of the conversation and nod my head and say 'si' and hope Im doing it in the right place!
Speaking Spanish on the phone is another gotcha for me and I'll admit that I nearly always get my husband to do it, even though his Spanish is worse than mine, because my ears tend to go into 'too much information' mode and my knowledge of Spanish disappears!

I have been told that I look Spanish (or at least that I don't look English), and it must be the case as people here always start talking to me as if I will understand everything they are saying.  And when I open my mouth and speak halting Spanish with an English accent they often look shocked. When this happens, some will simply give up, perhaps because they cant be bothered to wait for me to catch up with their conversation. 

And like DonLochnagar I also sometimes find myself in the situation where I am speaking Spanish and the person I am speaking too (usually someone trying to practice their English) talks back to me in English. And conversations like this can get very mixed up!
But overall, I think a lot of the troubles expats experience with speaking Spanish is the same as any immigrant in a country where the language spoken is not their native tongue.
We get embarassed at our mistakes, sometimes we get rebuffed, sometimes we panic, and then some of us give up and go back to speaking with people we have no trouble in conversing with, even though they may have little in common with us apart from the same first language.
For immigrants to the UK this is not a choice, unless they keep within a very small community and rely upon other members of their family to deal with everything official or go everywhere with them.

But Brits in Spain came up with another solution - live within large expat communities rather than try to integrate. I understand why they would want to do this, as learning a new language, especially as you get older, is very hard and sometimes impossible. But with the exodus of expats back to their country of birth, this is nowhere as easy as it once was.


This message was last edited by summer70 on 19/05/2012.

No me lo puedo creer! Living in Spain as an Expat.

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19 May 2012 15:08 by philevans Star rating in Axminster Devon & Sa.... 187 posts Send private message

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These people do themselves a disfavour, they are missing out on so much

I went to night school to learn spanish (the fundamentals) 25 years ago, I then got an a weekend ferry to Santander to try out my new lingo. The first bar I went in, there was a man in his 50s infornt of me at the counter, he said "Coffee" at which point the barman said "Cafe con leche", the man continued "No Coffee". This went on for another 3 or 4 times, all the while the man just got louder and louder, eventually he walked out, which was probably just as well as I was beginning to lose my patience with him.

I can honestly say, I felt embarrased to be British. (Hope he died of thirst)

Since then I have made lots of friends in Spain, Spanish and English, and get involved in all types of conversation - its Brilliant

To anyone too embarresed to try- DONT BE, the Spanish are very patient and if you try they will help you all they can


What you see is what you get 


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19 May 2012 22:39 by jacarander Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

Ok I am guilty as charged. I am looking for somewhere else to live and I do not want to live where there is a large population of Brits, I am going to generalise here.... there are always exceptions to the rule. I live in a Spanish town with 3 urbanisations which are predominantly brits...maybe its because they are of a `certain age`I dont know but all they want to do is sit in bars and cafes gossiping and causing some people genuine distress...what they dont know they make up. If i suggest a night out they dont want to go if its a drive away as they wont be able to have a drink...or if they will be late back...altho they are happy to sit in a local bar until the early hours. I dont want to go to quiz nights, bingo, race nights, karaoke. They have no idea what fiestas are on or have any interest in attending...or maybe they went last year so dont feel the need to go again. If i join for example...a walking group.... the same people belong to that group as many others in the area and if you dont fit in then that seriously narrows down your options, or if you are happily single you may want to pinch their husband (no thank you)  I am not saying that I dont want any brits as friends in fact i have a genuine good friend here who i see regularly and of course it is easy to be isolated if you are not fluent in the language ...those verbs and tenses !!!!! but if i live amongst spanish people then I will be forced to speak the language on a daily basis and yes this will be very uncomfortable at first but going to a spanish class then speaking mostly english inbetween is getting me nowhere. I welcome friends and acquaintances of any nationality as long as they are open minded, not interested in spending their time gossiping and are interested in experiencing as much culture as possible. No I am not perfect...given the easy option I will explain in English if i can but I do try my best to communicate in Spanish and there are probably times when i like a good gossip but i dont build my whole life around it and i definitely try not to cause pain and suffering to anyone as a result...well most people anyway.

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19 May 2012 23:12 by bobaol Star rating. 2260 posts Send private message

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 Oh dear.  So people of "a certain age" are not allowed to live a life in a healthy, sunny climate amongst people they know and have grown up with?   If they move to Spain. or any other country come to that, they have to become a native of that country.  They have to learn a different language, which they will find very difficult, just to associate with other people?  They will be unable to make comments, have a decent chat, talk about things they are knowledgable about unless they immerse themselves in a totally, alien, culture.  Looks like they'll all have to relocate to Skegness, then.

Rubbish.  Some people want to be able to mix with others like themselves regardless of nationality.  We have bars in our area which are predominantly Danish, or German, or Norwegian or (heaven forbid) British.  I, personally, do not like the Brit bars.  I speak reasonable Spanish but my wife does not.  Our community consists of British, Irish, Spanish, Norwegians, Danes, Russians and loads of other countries.  We mix in well but tend to socialise more with the Brits because it is easier to converse about the kids, the grandkids, the gardens, the political side of things with which we familiar with and without struggling to find the words or concatenate the verbs correctly .  I see nothing wrong in that, nor do I see any wrong with people who wish to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of their host country.  

I hope that we have done the best of both worlds.  We have made friends with the other nationalities in our area but we have not turned our backs on the British, either.  This has been the same in every country I have lived in, Cyprus, Germany, Holland and even the USA where they are supposed to speak the same language.  I will try the cuisine of those countries but forgive me if I also like to buy a bit of Cheddar now and again or have Bisto gravy with my Sunday dinner.  We do not gossip, go to bingo, Abhor karaoke bars and quiz nights leave us cold.  But we do go to restaurants with our British, Norwegian and Spanish friends.  

Oh, and we don't shop in Iceland, either.


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19 May 2012 23:22 by jacarander Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

19 May 2012 23:43 by luckycat Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

I sense the mood is changing here. Time to leave!

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20 May 2012 01:37 by DonLochnagar Star rating in Mazarron. 161 posts Send private message

HEY, at the end of the day (!), where do you want to live?  In a country where we Brits can make a life for ouselves with plenty of interests in the sun, or at home with the continual  moans about the weather, immigrants, costs of living......etc. 


For pete's sake, do you know how lucky we are?  90% of the people in the UK would swap right away!


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