The other day I was chatting to a guy I had not met before, he had lived in Spain longer than us, about 20 years, and he was telling me how hard it was. We were stood by the ocean, it was a beautiful November day and we had no jacket or cardigans on, but I had to agree.
The thing is, life in Spain is amazing, but it is not easy. For the record, I pinch myself every day about how lucky I am to live in Estepona, Spain. But like with everything, you cannot experience great gifts without experiencing a few bumps in the road.
The first tricky thing is the language, now I know everyone should learn, it is rude not to, and god help me I try every day. My spanish is ok, but unless you are either a natural linguist or you have been lucky enough to be already fluent, the language path is hard. My first lesson was how far removed being able to get by and fluent really is, I have accepted that I will never be fluent, my children are fluent because they are natives, they went to school here, they can speak slang spanish and they know the culture. I will never have that experience, I have spanish friends, but I will never be absorbed in the same way. I know people who speak English very well, and would probably consider themselves fluent in English, but they do not know the little phrases and words that we use from our childhoods living in England. They miss bits of conversations understandably.
Conversations with neighbours are not impossible but they are tricky, they talk so fast! To the point, where even my fluent children struggle, I get despondent and wonder if I´ll ever understand, but me and lots of my friends struggle on, determined not to give up and call it a day.
The second tricky thing is work, and what to do? If you have a trade, then rest assured if you put yourself in the right area, you will find work fairly easily, whether you speak spanish or not.
It won’t be easy if you can’t speak the language and you will not earn what you probably once did but you will make a living. But if you do not have a trade, then most people find themselves falling into either cleaning, becoming an estate agent or working in an English speaking bar or restaurant. If you become self employed which most people are, as contracts are hard to come by, then it is expensive. The monthly fee is around 300 euros, and that covers your health care and pension if you do enough years. With accountants fees on top of that, you have to make a decent living to pay for your monthly fees.
Many people in Spain find themselves working harder and longer. Like the gentleman I met the other day, he had found himself heading towards retirement age with no hope of stopping. But that said, there are other things that make the life much easier, apart from the obvious like sun and the beach. The community in Spain is amazing, both the spanish community and the expat community, in my area of Estepona, there are so many single people who have found their tribe here or families who have found friends for life. It’s fantastic how groups absorb new members, and I have spoken to numerous people who say that they do not experience the loneliness that they experienced in their home country.
The way I have come to think of it, is that a lower wage or higher tax is the price we pay for living somewhere so incredible. I watch the news and it is like watching another world, Estepona has crime but I´m lucky that I have never seen it. The police patrol the streets and are constantly visible and I feel safe walking at night on my own.
If you want to make Spain your home, think carefully and then do it! But always remember that the path is probably not easier, just a lot more enjoyable.
If you want to move to Spain, especially the Costa del Sol I am always happy to chat about your options.