Myths About Life In Spain

Published on 24/08/2009 in Expat Life

SiestaSomeone said to me the other day that most Brits will return to the UK in the end, sooner or later. Although. I think that this negative comment is an exaggeration; I do believe that the novelty of Spain can wear off to the point that the good points just aren’t enough. Unfortunately, for those who watched the place in the sun programmes, their expectations would have been so high that they return with a bad taste in their mouth. The problem is there are many myths about life in Spain. These myths are based on what Spain used to be but things change and so has Spain. Here are just a few of them:

The Cost of Living is Cheaper

This was true up to about five years ago. Nowadays, when it is all balanced out, it is on par with the UK and sometimes more expensive. Food shopping may appear to be cheaper but this is only because there is less than choice than in the UK. If you were to buy the same basic products in Tesco or Asda that you buy in Mercadona, you would spend about the same maybe even less if you buy ‘value’ products. To eat out is just as expensive as the UK. In fact, eating in Beefeater and Harvester can be cheaper than a inland venta in Spain. International food is more expensive than in the UK. Standards have improved so much in the UK that to get the same level of quality and standards of service, you are expected to spend a lot of money. An example is, when I returned to the UK last month myself and two other friends ate out in a contemporary Indian restaurant with quite a sophisticated menu. The bill came to about 40 pounds in total. The same in an equivalent restaurant in Marbella would be at least double that price. 

Household bills are also on a par. During the summer you use a lot of electricity trying to keep cool with air conditioning and during the winter it can get freezing indoors and there are few cost effective methods of keeping warm.

Petrol is slightly cheaper than in the UK but you will use more petrol driving around and getting lost because of poor road signs. Car insurance is cheaper too but that is because they don’t make as many claims in the UK since scratches and knocks to your car are expected. 

People Are Friendly

If you have children then you will notice a difference as people are warmer and accommodating to children. However, in the service industry people are no different to in the UK. In fact, when I go back to the UK you can see how much customer service training pays off. Here staff are often very unprofessional in letting their moods affect them at work. Everyday, I come across surly staff who throw my shopping down the end of the counter and then stand there impatiently waiting for me to pay them. I get fed up of having to be the one that greets the sales assistant and not the other way around.

The Mañana Attitude is Better than the UK Rat Race

The mañana attitude is great when you are on holiday but living with it is a different thing. Sometimes you feel like you are wasting your life waiting in on people who never show up or stood in the so called queue at the post office whilst the counter staff just can’t seem to get their act together. And not once has anybody apologised for making me wait. Although, the sun and all the rest of it might make you feel like you are living a long healthy life, most of what you gain will be spent waiting. 
 
Good Weather for 365 Days a Year


Yes we do get plenty of sunshine but there are some days where it’s as grey and dreary as the UK.And when it rains, it can get pretty torrential for days on end. And to be honest, when the weather is bleak it really makes a difference to the look of the place.As for the sun, continuous hot weather can wear you out when you can’t get anything done after ten thirty am because it is simply too hot. The heat can be dehabilitating and after a while you do anything to escape it. 

Pensioners Are Better Cared For

Argue this one with the average Spaniard. It is the same situation as in the UK except the families have no choice but to take care of their ageing relatives. And knocking down pensioners homes as they have done in Vera is not an example of a caring government.
 
The Spanish Lead A Healthier Lifestyle

The Mediterranean diet is healthier and the Spanish do tend to get out and have a stroll at the weekend.  However, obesity is on the increase in Spain too and many children are driven unnecessarily to school. On the whole it is a healthier lifestyle than in the UK because there aren’t convenience food choices in the supermarket and children still play out.

Spain is Safer For Children

People like to believe that they are moving to Spain for the benefit their children. Of course, there are the obvious benefits but it is not the child safe haven that people like to believe. The Spanish are a child loving nation but children are at the same risks as they are in the UK. Unfortunately, many parents are naïve to think that their children can run free in Spain just like children did in the seventies in the UK. That is not the case. There is the case of the 5 year old girl that disappeared in Huelva and there have been various attempts to snatch girls along the coast this year. You still have to have your wits about you like you would do in the UK.
 
Spanish Lead A More Simple, Less Materialistic Life

Oh, the Spanish lead a simple life within their means, without the trappings of fancy cars and extensions. This is what we ‘keep up with the the Jones’s’ Brits would like to believe. In reality the Spanish are just as materialistic as the Brits. They like nice clothes, houses and cars and can be quite envious of the successes of their neighbours and friends. Like the Brits, many young families live in debt to fund their lifestyle.
 
Towns and Villages Are Cared For By Their Residents

It is true that everywhere looks better when the sun shines. But on the grey days in Spain, reality really kicks in. I have never seen as much dog poo in my life until I came to Spain. Although, people’s apartments and houses are pristine inside many people don’t think twice about dumping their unwanted household items outside other people’s doorsteps. It can be anything from battered sofas to microwaves. In the village where we live we have to remind the cleaning department to come and clean our dirty dusty road.

Priorities Are In Order

We like to criticise the way things are done in the UK. However, a lot of things are done in Spain to keep up appearances. For example, local councils will spend money on carnivals and fireworks whilst people don’t have street lights or tarmac on the roads. 

So you see, when you take the rose tinted glasses off Spain does not offer perfection. These days’ people are more informed than they ever have been so they are better prepared. However, coming over for weekends and holidays is one thing but living it is a whole different matter.

Written by: Susan Pedalino

About the author:

Women In Spain




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Comments:

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Open said:
13 August 2013 @ 19:02

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amep75 said:
15 January 2011 @ 20:36

there seems to be only one reason people critcise sapin and the spanish is their total refusal to learn any spanish whatsoever
just learn and you will find the locals will really enjoy ypur company
otherwise return to the Useless kingdom and whinge about all the foreigners that wont learn english.
spain is the costa del sol is just the best place in europe and possibly the world to live
i for one have no desire to return to the uk



lazcaz said:
11 December 2010 @ 09:46



Erratum
The Winter Fuel Allowence is £250,not £500,per couple.I do apologise.

Have a nice Navidad.



lazcaz said:
10 December 2010 @ 14:52

Listen up guys,you either want to live in the UK,or in Spain.End of story.Easy really.
Having spent loads of time living in Spain,on and off, for quite a few years,we elected to purhase a bungalow in a charming Dickensian village in Kent.We rented an allotment (Compulsory at 60!) and bought a motorhome.
We have a National Health dental surgeon,who recently saw me on the same day,an NH hospital where my wife had a small operation within a few weeks of diagnosis,a free bus pass,a discounted railway pass,circa £500 winter fuel allowance,library,decent pension ,free prescriptions etc.We spend much of the winter in the camper in sunnier places.Choose one of the cheap as chips eating places like Wetherspoons,and you'll get 2 decent meals for eight squid,half a dozen DECENT books and a jumper will be yours for under a fiver in any number of charity shops.
What's to dislike?
Simple.Happy.Suits us.I accept that many of you feel the same about living in Spain.
We like Spain well enough,but not enough to live there.
The first property we purchased in Spain was worth 30% of our UK property.Similar villas are now "worth" twice our UK property.Go figure! You like it there,I'm happy for you.Like it here? I'm happy for you.It's not a competition!
Goodbye!
P.S Rioting in London.Just like the good old days.Bring back the 60s I say.

PPS Do remember the old Oz joke: "How can you tell when a plane full of British immigrants has arrived?.ANSWER "The planes still whining when the engines are turned off"




jason said:
24 November 2010 @ 21:16

spain is boring and the people are ignorant and racist


Synned said:
19 April 2010 @ 15:56

Wow! As a spaniard -living in the USA- and looking forward to retire to my land, I need to tell this to those people who really find my country so bad: "Spain is not Cuba. You may leave at your earliest convenience, if things are so bad!" However, once this has been said, I must tell you that we humans spend so much time putting down our countries of birth, and then, when we go and live in a foreign country, we begin to realize that our land is really not as bad as we thought it was. I think that deep inside, we miss our native countries and there will never be any country in this world that will soothe our patriotic nostalgia. We are all humans and there is good and bad in everyone of us. Spain has its virtues and its faults. Just like England, the USA and any other country in the world. Eutopia does not exist. Only Heaven -and if it really exists- we know that to get there, one must die first. So, enjoy your life living in whatever country that may give you less stress. If Spain doesn't suit your needs, by all means, move to a place where you may achieve hapiness. Life is too short to be stuck in a place that you dislike. I live in the USA and I reckon its virtues and faults... Leaving in America is not as great as people tend to think, but it's neither as bad as I think it is, when something bad happened to me here in this BIG country. Am I to blame the country? I think not. There are far more great people living here than undesirable ones. And, I'd bet that the same is true with Englans, Australia, canada, Spain, or any country in the world. I decided long ago not to let negative persons destroy my goal. Since then, I take things as they come, and try to pair up negative things with positive ones. For example, as an elemetary teacher, when a rude student insults me, I do not and blame the whole school. I just say, "I feel sorry for you, youngman. You could do better than that. It's a great thing that this school has many wonderful students that may erase the bad impression I fgot from you!" And then I tell myself, "Hey, this child is not your son. You do not have to live with him and besides, vacation is coming soon!" So, although I reckon that Spain is niot Eutopia and has many deficient things, I know that the great things and people outweight the negative part. Be aware that most of the times, we put down things because we are compare our native country to the one we chose to move. Homesickness might have to do a lot with it, more than the negative aspects of the country. Also, when we are depressed, we have a tendency to put down everything. Think of it as a being divorced and marrying another person. You just can't expect that the new spouse will meet the same qualities than your previous one, and it would not be fair to compare your new spouse to the former one and viceversa. Just take one day at a time and if it is imperious to stay in Spain until you finish whatever goal you have in mind, then everytime something bad happens in my country, think that this will be over soon and that this will get you closer to returning to your land. I bet that when you return, you will go on your knees and kiss your country and from there on, you will see it with a better understanding. Nobody knows how good one had it, until we lose it. Spain might have lured you and probably during those times you were contemplating moving from your country, you had a million reasons to put down your native country to defend your move to Spain. Now that you have seen that Spain is just another country where good and bad people live, and with same and different customs than yours prevail... you may perceive that there was not such thing as greener pasture over the fence. Eutopia does not exist in this planet called Earth. Just make the best out of wherever you are and please, do not let rude, selfish, negative people affect you. Take all the good that Spain and its people have to offer...So, forgive and forget the bad, and ugly because after all, we are just humans with all the goodness and faults that any human being may have... Just be happy in the process of fulfilling your hapinnes. Yes, easier said than done, but take one stwep at the time. If that which is worrying you may be fixed, why are you worrying about? ...and... if it may not be fixed, WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT? You are the one who have the power to give yourself a Happy LIfe! ;-)


yarp said:
05 October 2009 @ 22:41

Would rather move to the dark side of the moon than to spain


fredsmith said:
24 September 2009 @ 21:02

Spain is exactly the same as the UK except that is not anywhere near as frustrating and inefficient. Crime is about the same now; Spain has very bad crime levels - many towns do not publish the data for fear of lack of tourisn. Fact is, if you want an easier stress free(er) life, stay in the UK. Spain will drive you nuts.


SGF1 said:
18 September 2009 @ 15:20

This is so similar to "Has Spain lost its appeal". I remember many years ago when I was a small child, so many british emigrating to Australia and Canada for the better life, and so many returned, but those who stayed, understood that they foreigners and therefore, though the lanquage may not have been a problem, things were completley different from the UK.
It's easy to vie with rose coloured glasses, but is the UK really that much better? Major job losses, people losing their homes, crime. I lived in quite an affluient area in the south East, but I wouldnt go back there and I certainly wouldnt drive around at night with out locking all my car doors.
Yes Spain is frustrating, bureaucratic, full of cowboy builders, rude people, bad drivers. dirty pavements, ghetto areas. Just change the name "Spain" to "England". See ,its the same the whole world over, Get over that and it makes a whole load of difference



SGF1 said:
18 September 2009 @ 15:20

This is so similar to "Has Spain lost its appeal". I remember many years ago when I was a small child, so many british emigrating to Australia and Canada for the better life, and so many returned, but those who stayed, understood that they foreigners and therefore, though the lanquage may not have been a problem, things were completley different from the UK.
It's easy to vie with rose coloured glasses, but is the UK really that much better? Major job losses, people losing their homes, crime. I lived in quite an affluient area in the south East, but I wouldnt go back there and I certainly wouldnt drive around at night with out locking all my car doors.
Yes Spain is frustrating, bureaucratic, full of cowboy builders, rude people, bad drivers. dirty pavements, ghetto areas. Just change the name "Spain" to "England". See ,its the same the whole world over, Get over that and it makes a whole load of difference



fredsmith said:
03 September 2009 @ 19:11

Learning the language is a must, but that won't help you get a job (no jobs for the Spanish let alone the expats!), it won't help you legalise your house if there's a problem, it won't get you better service, and it won't make the streets tidier. Jane's reply is too simplistic and not seeded in reality.


davidashbyash said:
01 September 2009 @ 09:40

spain is like any country you have good and bad everywhere, my persnonal experiance of spain is verry good i speak a little spanish but we live inland energy prices are 8% cheaper here as is petrol the pound is down at the moment but it will pick up and as a civilised let susan have her right to her views .
dr david ashby



janedidido said:
31 August 2009 @ 20:10

I have been visiting, studying and working in spain for 20 years and am fluent in Spanish. I know all the Spanish provinces very well indeed and have many Spanish friends. I say these things so you can understand where my point of view comes from.

It seems obvious, but just to reiterate, I love Spain and its people. Yet, Susan is absolutely right in all respects. I personally would never buy a place and make the decision to "live" in Spain.

I don't question Susan's attitude to Spain - she may love it, like I do, but she's right. I could add on a whole lot more of negative things and ~I could add on a whole lot more of the positive things, but that isn't the point.

To Sarah Lee I'd say that if you're going to make a big, life changing commitment, I think you're better doing it from a position of knowledge. If just reading about grumpy funcionarios puts you off living in Spain, then believe me, dealing with them, especially at times of stress, will be worse. Perhaps you aren't committed enough and you should try spending a few months here to learn more.

On the other hand, if you know all the negatives but feel that the positives outweight them, then great - go for it.

If its no big deal to set up here, and your circumstances make it easy to return should it not work out, then that's a factor too - you don't need to be so convinced - try it out.

All countries and cultures have good things and bad things. To us foreigners, the bad will always seem worse than it is, and the good will always seem better than it is. That's one of the reasons for making a culture jump - your new culture is more "in your face".

Main advice for living in Spain is to learn Spanish. I was always a duffer at school but even I managed sufficient to be able to work amongst Spanish people. If you don't, or think its not necessary, then you're not really going to enjoy the best of those positives, that we've been talking about.



fredsmith said:
30 August 2009 @ 17:05

Susan's article is so true, but actually, it doesn't go far enough and people contemplating moving to Spain should really think twice. I have lived here for five years. Real Spain, outside of fake areas like Marbella which are just designed for holidaymakers, is a dirty, messy, inefficient, and corrupt country. It is very frustrating living in Spain and they really are stuck in the 1950's still as far as facilities, choice and professional attitudes go. The Spanish do not really like the English and they just milk us like cash cows. Sure, you'll meet a few nice old grannies who will smile and say 'Hola' to you, but believe me, sunny days and lovely views are just not enough. When you have to work here and bring in a wage, it hits you just how bad Spain is to live and work. The bureaucracy is ludicrous, the laws are grossly unfair to expats, the local food is crap and very boring, and the opressive summers will just make you feel ill.

Please write some more Susan - you tell it as it is!



MChev said:
26 August 2009 @ 12:42

Like any country Spain has its positive and negative points - and I believe it's whether the positive points fulfil your needs and you can cope or ignore the negative points. It's not paradise but I'm sure most sensible people realise that.

Slower pace of life - yes it can be frustrating - especially when you run a business with UK clients who are used to instant answers - but you learn to adapt and manage expectations - including your own. Slow down, take a book to read in the post office queue and accept that most situations are not life and death - your stress levels will thank you.

Weather & seasons- cliché maybe - but I do not miss de-icing my car at 6am, arriving back at 4pm in the dark, huddling around my central heating in August. The summer heat is hot and can be humid - so you get up early and work - realise your limitations in the heat and enjoy the luxury of a succession of warm, balmy nights. Not everywhere in Spain has cold winters and when it rains in bucketfuls be thankful it is not going to last for weeks…..

People - I've got ignorant neighbours, neighbours from hell, friendly neighbours and down right lovely neighbours....and I can guarantee that while I'm out walking the dogs here I will get many more "good mornings" and smiles than when I did in the UK.

Health - Lack of ready meals forces you to eat better - I have never been as healthy as since I moved to Spain - eating fresh food and getting more exercise. My experience of the Spanish healthcare system is on par with UK, and I get the same feedback from friends - of course there are differences - but the NHS isn't exactly perfect now is it?

Materialism - Of course the Spanish like their cars, clothes etc - I've yet to meet a nation that doesn't given the right economic circumstances....but the economic crisis here has shown me that new appliances, cars etc may be foregone and spare money will be spent having a meal with family and friends - enjoying life - even if the meal is a simple one.

Red tape – yes there is plenty of it in Spain, and it incredibly frustrating – at some point it will catch you. Be prepared to get annoyed, confused and red faced. Then remember what it is like trying to complain to your local council in the UK or claim a tax refund – in situations like that it is no more straightforward in the UK than Spain…just easier because you speak the language fluently.



kenco said:
26 August 2009 @ 12:30

I used to live in Sydney, australia and had big laugh when I read some of these comments. Some folk are never satisfied no matter where they live, they call them winging poms out in Aussey.I love Spain,Spanish people and all things Spanish.


docfran said:
26 August 2009 @ 03:53

I don't understand why people are so defensive and why it is necessary to attack Susan's motives or her love of Spain....I totally agree with everything she has written...what is there to argue about. Of course Spain has changed....it is much more expensive (few of us live on a campo like gypsies), the people are for the most part, really nice, the pace of living and quality of life are far superior to the rat race....it is a different culture after all or don't you get it! The weather, like everywhere, has its good and bad periods, so? The Spanish, except for those who insist of still smoking, lead a pretty healthy life and yes, children are loved and charished. The most negative thing I can say about Spain is the bureaucracy is a real muddle and not knowing the language is a liability...but whose fault is that? So let's level and leave Susan alone...she is simply telling it like it is.


besj said:
25 August 2009 @ 20:59

Why stay in Spain then?


Rob in Madrid said:
25 August 2009 @ 18:45

Like anywhere there are postives and negatives. The weather is generally wonderfull (but too hot during the summer) and the bureaucracy a nightmare. As well unless your retired and live in an English bubble (quite easy to do on the coast) learning Spanish is a pain in the butt. As well, just like in Britain the drunked Yobs have taken over the city centres, and in this case it's not the British but the Spanish!!

Of course if you bought your home in the last few years chances are it's probably illegal (although unlikely to be torn down) and for sure have fallen greatly in value. And let's not get into the exchange rate.

Yes Spain is nice but it's not the heaven on earth and Britian isn't the hell everyone makes it out to be.




sarah_lee001 said:
25 August 2009 @ 14:14

I would just like to say that I am very disheartened about this feature and hope more people would comment. I am a regular visitor to the forum as I am looking to make the move to Spain in a few years when everything is in order. However, after reading the article which I was going to forward to my partner who still needs a bit more convincing that Spain is the right move, I am left wondering why on earth I am considering the move myself? Please can anyone remind me of the good things about Spain before I look for another place to move............


hazros said:
25 August 2009 @ 12:30

You obviously do not live anywhere like we do!!
I fell and broke my hip the day we arrived and spent 2 weeks in hospital,excellent treatment and no MRSA!!
Our Spanish neighbours could not have been more helpful taking my husband shopping, giving us vegetables and fruit from their gardens and helping us in every way possible.
We live on the campo so we have a very cheap cost of living, no council tax, no water to pay for(we have a well) and we don't have air conditioning, a gas bottle for 12€ lasts us about 2 months. Our gas and electric in UK was £88 a month so if we use more electricity in the winter to keep warm it is still more economical here.
The village streets are cleaned daily, there is no dog poo as you do not see many dogs running free here, we have 4 dogs and always clean up after them as we did in UK.
Having said all this I think we will just treat this as a long holiday because we do not have family to look after us if, or when we become infirm and that is the only worry we have. We have tenants in our house in UK and are renting this house so will have to return sometime but not looking forward to it.



roryok said:
25 August 2009 @ 12:14

So, Susan...why DO you live in Spain? Do tell...!


Vynehound said:
25 August 2009 @ 09:21

Just read the Myths about life in Spain artical. All that said I know where I'd rather be.Ive spent my whole life wanting to move to Spain, we go as often as possible and I never want to come home. I work all hours to save up to go again. I just love it. Dont knock it, you've got what I've ALWAYS wanted. Enjoy every minute dont waste time knocking it.


grahunt said:
25 August 2009 @ 09:14

Sorry peeps but I think this article is total tosh. My suggestion to Susan would be to go back to the UK and start looking at the bad things there. One exception does not a point make and most of these points have one exception!
Try living with the glass half full and you may get a totally different perspective.
Oh and get a GPS! ;-)



Chloeinspain said:
25 August 2009 @ 09:10

This article really made me giggle - it is so true!I have lived here for 4 years and this article repeats most of what I have been thinking and very often saying during that period! Spain is a fantastic country, but having a vacation and living here are two very different concepts! And having to work for someone else here can be very stressful - you very often earn less than you would in the UK, but you are expected to work longer hours and overtime pay is a very alien concept to most Spanish employers! The people are friendlier made me laugh out loud - sometimes I feel that the Spanish "service" staff actually dread the thought of having to actually deal with people! However, it should be pointed out that Spain is a big country and city life in the likes of Barcelona, Madrid etc. is extremely different - there are excellent services (public transport is clean and efficient and costs next to nothing), people are generally very open minded and welcoming to English speaking foreigners, work environments are generally very professional and on par with what you would expect in the UK, health care is excellent (would you see a doctor for free in the UK unless you were a low income family?!), public resources are excellent (eg parks are abundant and so well looked after, beaches are clean, promenades....) . So like everywhere, it has its good points and bad one!


Chloeinspain said:
25 August 2009 @ 09:10

This article really made me giggle - it is so true!I have lived here for 4 years and this article repeats most of what I have been thinking and very often saying during that period! Spain is a fantastic country, but having a vacation and living here are two very different concepts! And having to work for someone else here can be very stressful - you very often earn less than you would in the UK, but you are expected to work longer hours and overtime pay is a very alien concept to most Spanish employers! The people are friendlier made me laugh out loud - sometimes I feel that the Spanish "service" staff actually dread the thought of having to actually deal with people! However, it should be pointed out that Spain is a big country and city life in the likes of Barcelona, Madrid etc. is extremely different - there are excellent services (public transport is clean and efficient and costs next to nothing), people are generally very open minded and welcoming to English speaking foreigners, work environments are generally very professional and on par with what you would expect in the UK, health care is excellent (would you see a doctor for free in the UK unless you were a low income family?!), public resources are excellent (eg parks are abundant and so well looked after, beaches are clean, promenades....) . So like everywhere, it has its good points and bad one!

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