A roof terrace in Alicante spain

Ten top tips for moving abroad to a new life in Spain as an expat

If you are looking out of the window and it’s chucking it down, and everyone in the street is rushing by scowling, maybe you need a break, or even a complete change of scene?

Would you like to look out of a different window, onto a street of shiny happy people, with the sun smiling down on them? Well why not just think “sod it all” and move to Spain instead?

You don’t have to like paella, sangria or flamenco because if you look for the “real” Spain, you wont find any of that at all, in fact all that is just for tourists.

(A quick note, it’s prounounced “Pie -eya”, NOT poieller”)!


I got sick of writing about house painting this month, well you would after 10 years of writing about the same topic, so I decided to bring you a magazine article on lifestyle instead.

After all many of our clients enjoy holidays and we have got to know that fact after ten years of dealing with them! (This article is written by someone who has actually DONE the move, although not full-time.)

The recession has hit everyone in Europe, more so than in Spain with the collapse of their over heated property bubble, but out of every cloud comes a silver lining, and the fact of the matter is, you would not BELIEVE some of the utter bargains in property in Spain just now!

There are 2 bedroom flats for as little as 25,000 euros, 4 bedroom houses for only 70,000 euros and luxury villas with a pool, for a measly 150,000 Euros! Council tax is also only around 300 euros per year although that varies from region to region.

What to avoid when looking at Spanish property

First and foremost, Spain has over one and half MILLION empty properties (at least) and you should expect to go there and find a bargain easier than ordering a cup of coffee, they are everywhere!

a house with a pool in valencia spain
a house with a pool in valencia Spain for only £125,000 !

Make sure your estate agent comes with credible recommendations and references, and make sure he or she works very hard on your behalf. Living in a Spanish town is probably where you will experience the most of the “real” Spanish life, as opposed to Spanish resorts or the countryside as they are not everyone’s cup of tea.

Stay away from “off plan” or half built properties, and if buying a flat, if all the other flats in the block are empty; this is a warning sign which you should adhere to. Get a proper survey done before parting with any money, and stay around for a few weeks before you buy, so you know the area is right for you.

Top ten tips for moving to Spain.

1. Be realistic.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Moving to another country takes time, money and adjustment. Don’t just “turn up” and expect it to click into place.

It won’t. This is serious stuff and will be a complete life change.

Do your research and make sure it is really what you want. “No going back” remember?

Moving your life, your family, pets and possessions to Spain will cost several thousand, so don’t do it if you are unsure, and if you are really unsure, put your stuff into storage in the UK and go there to rent somewhere first..

2. Learn the lingo!

You don’t have to Speak Spanish like a local, you just need to learn a few basic phrases, and practice them.

You can learn Spanish at home, or in a class, but rest assured that if you want to move to Spain, even if it is just for a holiday home that you can enjoy now and again, unless you are wealthy enough to pay someone to speak on your behalf, that can become tiresome and expensive.

Have a think about your daily life back home and then imagine having sticky tape on your mouth and having to get someone else to say every word for you? Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

Your life in Spain will be much easier and fulfilling if you do, and you will gain a lot of respect and karma from the Spanish.

3. Try before you buy!

Many desperate sellers are only too happy for a seriously buyer to “road test” the house and the locality for a week, to see if it really is what they want. You don’t have to jump in “feet first”, take your time and enjoy!

Remember there are houses in Spain that have been for sale for up to FOUR YEARS!

4. Consider money as a top priority.

The newspapers have been full of negative stories of folk who have left for the dream life in Spain, only for it to turn into a nightmare.

The chances of getting a job or self-employed work when you get there, even if you do speak some Spanish, is unlikely.

Unless you have a pension, or regular work from, or in the UK, don’t move to Spain unless you have a comfortable sum of money to fall back on.

Hold on to your money

You should not cut all your financial ties with the UK, and also remember that you will not get any UK benefits at all if you live here.

This includes the fact that if you get into strife or financial problems, no one will help you, not even your fellow countrymen which is a harsh and bitter lesson to learn, I assure you from experience……

The editor of this site used to spend half the year in the UK, and half back in Spain. (we returned in December 2013)

It’s not a life everyone would want, but it is essential as there are very little work in Spain to speak of and the outlook doesn’t look great for anyone of working age.

5. A place in what sun exactly?

Get this into your head now.

Spain is NOT hot and sunny all year round, and in fact it can get very cold in the winter, although spring soon comes along.

The typical Spanish house with have very little in the way of insulation, and houses in general are built in a very different way in Spain. Insulation is known as “Aisliamento” in Spanish

Some areas of northern Spain are covered in a blanket of snow for much of the winter. Be prepared for seasons and torrential storms in April and October when what looks like a solid wall of water will fall from the sky. This called a “gota fria” or literally “cold drop”

6. Ask the family.

If you want to move to Spain with children for example, they need to be reassured and helped as much as possible.

They will soon learn the language, but be careful if you have teenagers, they don’t assimilate so well if they are uprooted from their peer group back in the UK.

Spanish schooling is very different than the UK and you would be well advised to seek professional advice about this before you leave.

As a rule if your children are teenagers, it will be VERY hard for them to fit in and even harder if you end up coming back, and this is true from my daughters experience.

It is possible to continue your child’s GCSE curriculum and studies in Spain but this is only through private schools, which cost anything between £250 and £500 a month per child.

7. Avoid “England in the sun”

If your idea of Spain is your fortnight’s booze-fuelled holiday in Benidorm then look away now.

If all you can think of moving to Spain is living exactly the same life you live now in the UK, but under the sun, do not bother. Seriously.

You won’t find an English breakfast away from resorts!

Many expat areas on the Costas are hotbeds of bitter, bitchy gossips with lots of time on their hands, mixing only with other Brits, eating and drinking only UK food, watching UK tv, and driving a right hand drive car.

Facebook has several “Name and shame” groups which are a trolls paradise, with nasty and spiteful comments being directed at all and sundry.

Many British people who come to Spain have a lot of time on their hands so be warned. DO NOT DO IT. You will end up being very unhappy and will not experience one tiny bit of what Spain is really like.

Some British people who move to Spain like to live in some kind of insulated English bubble. It’s not a wise move.

8. Forget being on holiday.

After the honeymoon period of a few weeks, it starts to sink in that you are not going back to the UK at the end of the week and back to your normal life, because your normal life has been supplanted into Spain!

benidorm playa levante
Benidorm playa levante

You will have rent or a mortgage to pay, household bills, grocery shopping, tedious Spanish bureaucracy etc, just like everyone else.

That’s something you don’t ever have to worry about when on holiday.

Well, wakey wakey!

If you want to live in Spain you must be prepared to put the work in. YOU ARE NOT, AND WILL NOT, BE ON HOLIDAY.

9. Take the Spanish TV property show goggles off.

Many “Moving to Spain” focused TV shows are presented in a sensationalist way, and are unrealistic, for example, promising prospective holiday home homeowners of being able to rent their home out while they are not there for “up to £500 a week in peak season”.

Rubbish. It will not happen.

A place in the sun?

The show never mentions taxes, employment, illegal building and land disputes, problems with crime, issues affecting rural areas and isolation.

Forget you ever saw the show.

Many British and Irish couples have lost their life savings in dodgy property deals. Look before you leap.

10. Location, location, yes you know the rest.

If you want a country house in Spain then you can get a fantastic amount of land and property for your money. Why? Because the Spanish don’t want to live there!

The locals keep small country houses known as Chalets, for a few weeks holiday in the year and for the family to meet up on a Sunday for Paella.

Living in the countryside in Spain can be harsh, isolating, and in some cases dangerous. You will not have things you take for granted like drinking water, mains electricity, phone line and internet.

The people who live in the Spanish “campo” (countryside) full time are rare and are known as “Chalateros”.

Think wisely.

Owning 10 acres of land may make you feel like a king, but if you are not a farmer, its very hard work up keeping the land, especially if there are crops or fruit trees, and many local areas will fine you heavily for not tending to your land.

If you are realistic and put the work in, coupled with finding a good estate agent, then you can be assured of finding that bargain dream home in Spain you always wanted but never thought you could afford. Well now you can.

Hasta Luego! (Until later)

I hope you enjoyed this article and did not mind the fact that it was not about painting houses! Thanks again and remember, think before you uproot and move abroad, it is not as easy as you may think!

UPDATED 2014: Well I certainly am a man who tells the truth!

It didn’t work out for us, neither did commuting back and forth from Spain to the UK to run this company, so we moved back. It’s not worth listing the reasons why, but the harsh recession there, and the actions of some very nasty expats put paid to all of that! Oh well, it was a great (Mostly) experience.

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