Expats: If only I’d known. . .

Expats share their top tips

Couple walking along the seashore. Credit: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com

A recent survey posed by Euro Weekly News asked expatriates: ‘If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before you moved to Spain?’

Living abroad brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Expatriates in Spain share what they wish they’d known before embarking on their new life under the Spanish sun, offering a wealth of wisdom and hindsight.

Insider tips for a smooth transition

Many expatriates emphasise the importance of thorough research and renting a property before committing to a purchase. Different regions in Spain offer varied lifestyles, and what suits one person may not be ideal for another.

Yvonne commented: ‘Do your homework, make an effort to learn some Spanish and rent first til you know where you want to be. Live where you are most content as life is short. Enjoy it! ‘

Many others echoed this sentiment, like Dolores who said: ‘As an immigrant in Spain for the last 16 years, only thing I would change is to rent before buying.’

‘Rent before you buy, we made a couple of mistakes, you want the winter sun coming into your apartment as it makes it warm, summer sun makes it so hot you have to keep the shutters down and air con on, trust me it makes a big difference, we then got the right apartment that’s warm in winter and cool in summer….16 years here and still love it,’ added Sue.

Renting allows for flexibility and a deeper understanding of the local area before making a significant investment.

Learn the language

The consensus among expats is clear, knowing Spanish is invaluable. It not only eases daily life but also helps in forming local connections and understanding the culture. Some even suggest reaching a good level of language proficiency before moving.

‘Learn the language, integrate,’ said Emily. Steve advised: ‘Learn the language before you move and be patient or you will implode.’

Meanwhile, Brenda offered some no-nonsense advice: ‘Learn that we are not expats….we are immigrants.’

Keep a base in your home country

A common regret is not maintaining a property back home. This is especially the case for those who eventually return due to personal reasons like health or family matters. Having a base can significantly reduce stress and financial burden during visits or a final move back.

‘Would never have sold up in England, love it here but get homesick,’ lamented Christine. David added: ‘Money in bricks in the UK will always be a better investment than Spain. We should have kept a small property in the UK.’

Joan advised: ‘In hindsight I wish we had kept a small flat in the UK. It would have made visits home much easier. The final return home, which a lot of us will ultimately face, due to the loss of a partner, our own advancing age and ill health, a place to return to would have made the return less expensive with much less stress.’

Money, money, money

Navigating Spain’s bureaucracy can be challenging. Expats advise seeking reliable legal advice, especially concerning property purchases, inheritance laws, and taxation. Understanding these aspects thoroughly can prevent future hardships.

Wendy posted: ‘I would say….. find out as much as possible from a trusted source or English speaking lawyer about banks /accounts / fees or charges / electricity companies / taxes etc etc. Just like the UK, everything costs money – and it’s definitely not as cheap to live here as it used to be…’

Michelle offered some strong advice to couples: ‘If you are not married to your partner, God help you if either one of you die. You will be crucified by Spanish inheritance tax and indifference to your grief and situation. They don’t take anything else into consideration. Get married if you own property in Spain.’

‘If your buying in Spain make sure you get the land registration and deeds to house apartment esqitora don’t touch it without,’ said Maureen.

Dean said: ‘If you want to make a small fortune, take a large one with you.’ On a lighter note Gordon added: ‘I’d give myself the Lotto numbers for a Euromillions jackpot!!’

Long-time expatriate Stephen posted: ‘Having left UK 38 years ago and moved around several Countys and now 64,I should have kept up with my voluntary pension payments….but when one is young..these years seem so far away!! But still don’t regret a single second of my life so far..cheers.’

The emotional journey

Moving to Spain is not just a physical but an emotional journey. Expats share that it’s important to be prepared for homesickness and cultural adjustments.

Liane and Mike gave some encouraging comments: ‘It’s always difficult moving and you do look back with rose-tinted glasses when things are difficult or frustrating. Take photos as you go along, especially if you are doing a build/refurb so you can see how far you have come.

‘Make the effort to find local friends and interests so you feel more settled and at home where you are. It’s hard but worth it.’

Ann shared her story: ‘I remember Mojacar when there was nothing along the seafront. We kept coming back for holidays and loved it even when they started building, We purchased a holiday home with the idea of retiring there one day, sold that and purchased a house with walls around (no community living).

‘Shortly after this my husband died and never experienced Spanish living. I sold up in the UK and came here to live never regretted a thing. Love the way of life, people etc and would never go back to the UK.’

Each story from the expats in Spain is unique, yet they share common threads. Their experiences offer valuable insights for those considering a similar move.

Whether it’s about practicalities like renting first and learning the language, or deeper issues of integration and maintaining connections with one’s home country, these reflections provide a roadmap for a smoother transition into expat life in Spain.

Let’s leave the final word to Susana: ‘Never looked back, am a Spanish national now, have lived here 49 happy year’s. I miss nothing about the UK, can’t remember when l last went over.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.


    • Mac

      31 January 2024 • 09:55

      To be honest this was one of EWN´d better articles, I agreed with all the comments. Spain is no longer cheap and the Spanish government give you nothing regardless of how much tax you pay to them. I was incredibly lucky to have worked in many countries for over 40 years so I saw many different way of government. I still think Spain is a facist country. The authorities genenuinely do not like to be asked questions by the little people. But one of the best pieces of advice was not to sell your UK property if you don´t need to, it is a back-up if life goes sour and it does for many. Thanks to all the comments, all sensible and I think the EWN should do more articles like this.

    • Lawrence Nolan

      31 January 2024 • 11:45

      Great advice from normal people. We are hoping to relocate later in the year or earlier next year, any advice good or bad is appreciated.

    • Alan Bowman

      31 January 2024 • 12:06

      this is a load of rubbish loaded with people’s stupidity and prejudices. Do your research thoroughly looking at the negatives as well as the positives before jumping and make sure that at least one of you has some proficiency in the local language wherever you plan on moving. Immerse yourself in the local culture, making friends amongst the natives – don’t just join the local expat bubble.

    • mac

      01 February 2024 • 05:23

      Just read Alan Bowman comments and I think he is completely out of order regarding his comment. There are quite a few Brits with similar attitudes to Alan who appear to think that they are special because they can speak Spanish. It is good if you do but actually totally unnecessary to Speak the lingo as they say. It depends where you actually live for a start. The comments in the article are all good advice, How Alan can say it is a load of rubbish loaded with people’s stupidity and prejudices truly amazes me, I genuinely believe he is the stupid one full of predjudices.

    Comments are closed.