Three Years Make Or Break

Published on 19/11/2007 in Relocating to Spain

MovingThe Three Year Benchmark

I was at a party last year and I got talking to a lady who was returning to the UK having lived in Spain for three years. She went on to tell me that three years is quite a common benchmark for people deciding to stay in Spain or not. By this point I had been in Spain for two years, so was a relative newbie but I did question whether in a year’s time alarm bells would start ringing and I would feel an urge to go back. This got me wondering why three years and not two or four. I suppose the first year is spent getting organised and finding your feet, the second year is spent ‘settling’ by making home and then once you get to three years and you have given it a big chance you know whether it is for you or not.

Why Do They Go Back After Three Years?


One of the main contributory factors is money, that people tend to run out of. Spain isn’t as cheap as you would imagine, especially if you live on the coasts and are paying tourist prices for eating out etc. Because of the good weather you do tend to eat out more than you would in the UK, so eating out two or three times a week can equate to the equivalent of a week’s shopping. If you have children it can also be more expensive than in the UK.

Lots of expats for many reason choose to send their children to international schools, whereas in the UK they would be more likely to go to the local schools. At the weekends we have the beach and the pool on our doorsteps but children get bored with this too and want to do other things like visit wildlife parks etc as the good weather permits these kinds of activities. But going out for the day with a couple of children can mean spending in excess of one hundred euros by the time you have paid entrances, food etc.

The problem is pay is generally poor and in many industries commission based. This puts a lot of pressure on young families trying to earn a living when there are no fixed salaries. The truth is it can be difficult to find work in Spain and when you do the pay will not be the equivalent to the UK. Many people return after failed businesses or having not budgeted properly and run out of money.

Can’t Settle

For some people, they just never settle. The novelty of the sun wears off and they genuinely become ill with homesickness. Young families may miss the help that they had from grandparents and the general support network that they lack in Spain.

Negative Experiences

All kinds of negative experiences may make people want to return home after three years. It just takes being broken into once to want to return to the familiarity, not necessarily more safe, of one’s homeland. Even worse, people who are mugged or attacked may continue to feel vulnerable in Spain. Job instability which involves moving from one job to the next or just grabbing any job to get by is also common in the coastal areas. People are often forced back due to unpaid commissions or they have been financially cheated in someway and no longer trust people in Spain.

The list of reasons is endless but usually by three years people feel that they have given it their best shot and decide whether they are permanent or start planning to return to the UK in the near future.

Written by: Susan Pedalino

About the author:

Women In Spain

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