Bored and bitchy – The Brits who Settle for Costa living

Published on 10/11/2009 in Expat Life

The man propping up the near-deserted bar in Calpe is wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "Adrenalin Addict". He must be due for cold turkey any minute.

Calpe is dead, as if someone has quietly exploded a neutron bomb, wiping out all the people while leaving the ghastly towering apartment blocks intact. It is cold too, with a keen wind whipping off the Mediterranean. This is the Costa Blanca in winter. Britain's home from home.

A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that 5.5 million British citizens now live overseas. Spain is second only to Australia as a destination, with 790,000 Brits choosing to make it their home.

The Costa Blanca, the stretch of coast south of Valencia, is host to one of the biggest concentrations of expats, and not just pensioners seeking warmer weather. In the endless "urbanisations" that crowd the land between the mountains and the sea, Spanish is at best a second language to English, and often third after German.

Brits keep coming, driven ever further along the coast by high property prices.

But why do they arrive in such numbers? From what are they escaping, and to what are they coming?

Calpe may be in deep slumber save for the odd group of Saga commandos, but Javea, a prettier resort with less barbaric planning regulations, is relatively lively. Down at the seafront Clare Cocks and her friend Meghan Partridge are having a coffee. Clare, 31, and her husband Anthony, 36, left their home town of Uckfield, Sussex, three and a half years ago. They have no plans to return.
"We were sick of the weather, sick of the property prices, sick of the traffic, and sick of the bills," said Clare.
"Spain isn't perfect – it is difficult to get a job if you don't speak Spanish, and the wages are low compared to England – but you have the weather and a much more family-friendly society."

The couple have named their one-year-old son Tomas in recognition of their new home. But don't they sometimes get bored with life in a small, often inward-looking community?

"You have to make the effort to learn Spanish. We wanted to integrate but others don't bother."

Meghan, 24, works as a chef, earning €6 an hour. Originally from Brighton, she moved to Spain with her mother and step- father, and this is her third winter there. She is not such a convert.

"It can be very mundane," she said. "And it can be cliquey and small-minded in the bars where Brits just talk to Brits. There's a lot of bitchiness." She will probably return to Britain but not with overwhelming enthusiasm. "England is very thuggish and chavvy now."

Drink is a big and potentially dangerous part of expat life in Spain.

"It's cheap," said Meghan. "You can buy a passable bottle of wine for €1.20 and a good bottle for €2.80. If you don't have to work you can spend your life drinking, which a lot do." There is a certain irony to the lifestyle of many British people in Spain. While many cite excessive immigration and a refusal of Muslims and others to integrate into British society as reasons for quitting the UK, they are often no better when it comes to their host nation.

The self-sustaining scale of the British community, combined with ready access to British television via cable or satellite, means that life can be lived largely in isolation from Spanish culture.

Joan Critchley helps to run a newcomers' organisation on the Costa Blanca. "A lot of people come over here and try to turn it into England in the sun. The British can be very hypocritical about integrating," she said.

But why do they come?

"For the older people it's the weather and the relatively good health service – you can usually get to see a specialist here more quickly.

"And there are lots of clubs and organisations to join because people have to rely on each other.

"The ones who fail and end up going home are usually those who haven't prepared for the reality of life here."

Back in Javea at the aptly-named Try Again pub, Lara Mannion, the manager, who grew up in London and Sligo, is chatting with her friend Sheryl Pape, from Gower, south Wales.

"If you saw Eldorado, then this is the real Eldorado," said Lara, referring to the awesomely dreadful BBC soap, chronicling expat life in Spain. Javea, she said, attracts its fair share of oddities.

"People get bored. They think they want the quiet life, but when they get it they can't handle it.

"And don't come here if you're married because you won't leave married – there's a lot of affairs."

But, for her, the bad is outweighed by the good.

"There's tranquillity here – no need to lock the doors."

Sheryl has lived in Spain for five years and paints postcards. She prefers the beauty of the Gower peninsula to that of Spain.

"My husband hated the weather in Wales and so we came here. I'd go back. Even after five years I feel a little like I'm in limbo."

She likes Spain for her children, who enjoy a more friendly society and good sporting facilities, but she still feels hiraeth, the Welsh longing for home.

Lara agreed.

"There is something missing, but you can't put your finger on it."

Written by: Neil Tweedie

About the author:

This article was originally written for the Daily Telegraph.




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Jennifer said:
06 November 2012 @ 00:22

There's lot of things to do in Spain. And you can either bring your family members to Spain or leave.Sure England is pretty but so is Spain. If you don't like it you can go back to England along with your bored and bitchness. There's different life styles in different countries.


Jennifer said:
06 November 2012 @ 00:20

There's lot of things to do in Spain. And you can either bring your family members to Spain or leave.Sure England is pretty but so is Spain. If you don't like it you can go back to England. There's different life styles in different countries.


Jennifer said:
06 November 2012 @ 00:20

There's lot of things to do in Spain. And you can either bring your family members to Spain or leave.Sure England is pretty but so is Spain. If you don't like it you can go back to England along with your bored and bitchness. There's different life styles in different countries.


Jennifer said:
06 November 2012 @ 00:19

There's lot of things to do in Spain. And you can either bring your family members to Spain or leave.Sure England is pretty but so is Spain. If you don't like it you can go back to England. There's different life styles in different countries.


tiresome english people said:
08 September 2011 @ 10:02

MY mum always used to say to be "only boring people get bored". Its true. There are plenty of things to do, all over spain, but you have to find them yourself not expect them to drop into your lap. Or you could just go and be bored in England.


Chris said:
11 November 2009 @ 22:59

Surely life is about family and friends. If you leave them behind to go and live in Spain it leaves a big hole in life and can be very boring.


asturiashouse said:
11 November 2009 @ 11:34

Give up the dusty over-developed desert of southern Spain and come to the beautiful green pastures and the Costa Verde of the north! Bargain property in Asturias with views of the amazing Picos de Europa

If you're fed up with the dusty south of Spain - over-developed and over-priced - the only culture, going to the bar - come and have a look at Asturias.

We've lived in both areas and Asturias is a revelation.

Here is lush green scenery, full rushing rivers full of salmon and trout, sandy beaches where the grass comes right down to the beach, a living culture in all the villages, friendly people and a very low cost of living.

For family reasons we are returning to the UK - we are selling our restored village house with views of the Picos de Europa - click on this link to see all the details and contact us direct if you'd like too know more.

http://asturiashouseforsale.blogspot.com/2009/10/beautiful-asturias-village-house-for.html




Uranus. said:
10 November 2009 @ 15:54

True - and why not?
I don't want to integrate. I came for the weather and the then, lower cost of living.
The weather is still OK, the cost of living is nearly as high as in the UK and I'm fed up with crap Spanish customer "service" and pettifogging bureaucracy, the arcane & unfair tax system etc.
I can't wait to go home to England, where despite all its faults, most things actually work!



mike walsh said:
10 November 2009 @ 13:05

Reasonable interest comment but what is this new religion called 'Integration'? Neither I nor most of the northern Europeans I know have any wish to become Spaniards.

They, and in this I include our Scandinavian, Dutch, Belgian and Irish neighbours, are happy being what they are and mixing with their own kind. The same can be said of the Spaniards of course. Just WHERE is the problem in birds of a feather flocking together?

We don't have a great deal in common with other nationalities; not as they enjoy between themselves. How can the non-British identify with my upbringing, childhood, school years; early experiences, marriage, friends, social circle; pub culture, etc? How can I relate to theirs?
Let us have a new religion: We shall call it 'International Empathy'. In a sentence it means we get on fine together, respect each other. We are interested in each others nationhood; its culture and their personal lives. However, without becoming one of them, which we are not and never will be.


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