August 24, 2016 No Comments

Expat Communities In Spain – Embrace or Avoid?

There are certain parts of Spain, particularly around the popular coastal resorts, that have a large expat community. These areas generally cater expansively to British tastes with regards to pubs, restaurants, shops, and social activities.

If you want to find a large expat community and spend most of your time with British people, then you will be best to look at relocating to the Mediterranean coastline, in particular the Costa Del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Dorada, or certain towns on the Costa Brava. Not all towns and villages on these coastlines will have large expat communities, but many towns along these coasts have plenty of activities going on for UK expats, with meetups and events for people to enjoy with others who speak the same language. The expat community in Javea actually exceeds the number of locals in the town, so if making friends with your fellow countrymen is important to you, this town is an ideal choice.

social-javea

In towns like Javea there are many social events organised among expats

We must not forget the Spanish islands that also hold large expat communities; these include Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza off the Mediterranean coast, and the Canary Islands; which although a part of Spain, are actually closer to North Africa and so experience a very different climate, and a somewhat different way of life.

How One Expat Learned Spanish

What Will Your Life be Like in Spain?

The Spanish people are generally friendly and helpful to strangers, but you should not expect to make lifelong friendships with the majority of, or indeed any of the Spanish acquaintances you meet. Unless you are bilingual, you are likely to experience difficulties when it comes to conversing adequately to a level that you would with your English friends. You are far more likely to become good friends with Dutch, German or Scandinavian neighbours in your new country, as they will have similar experiences to your own and you are more likely to be able to communicate well with them.

The problem with socialising with other expats

Of course it is natural to want to be around people who speak your language and have a similar background to yourself, but the downside of staying in an area with a large expat community and socialising exclusively with other foreigners is you probably will never really get to know the locals well, and learning Spanish will take a lot longer than if you live in an area where you are forced to integrate with the Spanish.

Typical British-owned bar in Spain

Children and the elderly are very important to the Spanish way of life, and if you have young or elderly family members, you can expect them to receive a lot of attention and goodwill from local Spanish people – so this is a good opportunity to try to get to know the hosts in your adopted country. Otherwise, make a point of frequenting a bar or restaurant where the majority of the clientele are locals, or join a sports club or gym which is Spanish run instead of opting for the easier option of seeking out facilities that are British owned.

Although this will take more effort, and initially probably won’t be nearly as much fun as mixing with your fellow expats, in the long term you’ll experience many gains from your efforts; you’ll learn how to communicate much faster, and will be more tolerant and accepting of the Spanish way of life. Plus, in Spain you will find the adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” to be very relevant, and getting to know the local Spanish people in your town can open a lot of doors for you as well as be extremely helpful when it comes to the endless paperwork required for just about any transaction or legal process you may engage in.

Even if you do not speak any Spanish you should not have too much trouble in Spain, with regards to the basics, particularly in the tourist areas, as most people will speak English in hotels, bars and restaurants, and the younger generation are always happy to practice their English skills. However it really is a good idea to learn Spanish, as failing to do so will make it harder for you to integrate with locals, you may have problems if you need to see a doctor, and dealing with paperwork can be difficult. The Spanish are usually very appreciative that you make an effort to learn the language – even if your early attempts are in-comprehensive!


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