Moving to Spain: Expats never had it so good

Moving to Spain: Expats never had it so good

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Having moved to Spain from the UK in 1987, Maxine Raynor takes a look back and compares how things have changed in 25 years.

Preparing to move:
In 1987 to source information about my prospective move I spent many hours in my local library reading about Spain, its history, geography and culture. I also bought guide books and maps from the local bookshop. Nowadays anyone can find information in a matter of seconds from a myriad of internet sites about every city and country in the world. And how many people carry maps when all you need is your smartphone?

Low-cost flights:
In the 80s I used to fly a couple of times a year back to the UK at a cost of around £200 per flight (and sometimes a lot higher). Now over two decades later you can get flights for half that amount, so people who’ve relocated within Europe can usually afford to visit their home country at least once a year and there’s no more need to have an “emergency fund” just in case you need to get back home quickly.

Moving to Spain: Expats never had it so good

There are plenty of free or low-cost international phone call systems available, so you’re only a Skype call away from your family. Not so many years ago the only option was your landline with expensive international calls, limiting for many the opportunity to stay in contact on a regular basis.

Add to this the fact that 25 years ago it took one full year to get a landline installed in our new flat in a town near Madrid, something totally unbelievable nowadays considering you can walk into any phone store and come out making calls on your new mobile phone.

Finding work:

Newspapers were the main source for job searches, with Sundays being the day that most job ads were published in Spain. Not having a landline for a year certainly meant trying to contact companies was a big obstacle!

Once again the internet has made job hunting so much easier, with dedicated job search websites and social media such as LinkedIn. On the negative side it’s also become easier for companies to find information about you, which may not always be information you’d like them to see!

Learning the Language:

The passing of the years hasn’t altered the main way to learn the language in your new country - hours of classes at language schools are still the firm favourite. However free online language learning tools, bilingual dictionaries at the swipe of a finger on your mobile and even instant translations for the restaurant menu breaks the language barrier all the more quicker.

Buying Gifts:

Selecting gifts to post back home with limitations on volume and weight was also coupled with high postage costs as courier services were only used by businesses. Now buying online with free or low delivery charges means you never have an excuse for not buying gifts for all your family. Even greetings cards can now be personalised online and sent.

Sharing news and photos:

Waiting for the post to come with the latest news and photos has been replaced by social media sites such as Facebook. Online photo albums keep relatives up-to-date with your activities and how their grandchildren, nieces and nephews are growing. And all this is instant with the click of a button.


Of course, there are still some areas where even technology hasn’t made much of an impact. Getting paperwork sorted in Spain may be somewhat easier than a quarter of a century ago, but it remains a time-consuming process (and frustrating!).


Although it’s definitely easier to move abroad nowadays and stay in touch, it has taken away a lot of the associated adventure and excitement. But if you ask any parents whose children are contemplating going to live in another country, they’re probably a lot happier with how things are today!

Maxine Raynor / Expatica

Maxine Raynor runs the website You can also find her on Twitter @MoneySaverSpain.






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6 Comments To This Article

  • John Coutts posted:

    on 12th June 2014, 13:23:14 - Reply

    We moved to Spain just seven years ago, and we've seen a huge difference in that time. We live in the heart of Extremadura in southwest Spain, 300 miles from the sea, so this is really the "real Spain," if such a concept exists.

    When we came here none of the stores or supermarkets could handle our UK 'chip and pin' credit card. Now they all can. We imported our car, and that was a crazy two-week headache; the local offices had never done it before for a British car.

    Getting residency was another lengthy headache that I'm still trying to forget, and to be honest, if we'd known how hard it was going to be, I'm not sure we would have bothered.

    In Extremadura, back in 2007, no one - I mean absolutely no one - spoke English that we ever met. The Extremeñan dialect is very strong and often bears little resemblance to text book Castellano. We arrived with a smattering of "perfect" Spanish, which proved to be close to worthless, much to our dismay.

    Our 11-year-old son was thrown in at the deep end. The day after we arrived, he went to the local school. He knew a few of the more obvious Spanish words, but they didn't really help at all. He learned the hard way, but learn he did. Today he is 18, bi-lingual, and speaks perfectly fluent Spanish with an accent that is indistinguishable from the locals.

    On the plus side, we have made some wonderful friends here and have been accepted into their community better than we would expect for similar communities back in the UK.

    There's next to no crime here, and apart from the ubiquitous bars on windows, no one has burglar alarms on their houses. Car alarms are also as common here as hen's teeth. It feels really safe here. We've certainly never had a single problem in that respect.

    That, coupled with beer at 25 pence a pint, if we buy it from the local supermarket, and a decent glass of wine costing just 48 pence in our local bar, makes life a lot easier.

    People from Extremadura still ask us why we came to a small village of 700 people in the middle of nowhere, as they themselves put it. But it isn't the middle of nowhere; it's the middle of one of the most wonderful places I have ever discovered. Despite all the early hardships we experienced, we are all really glad today that we made the move.

  • Baldilocks posted:

    on 8th June 2014, 16:56:20 - Reply

    I started my researches back in 2001 and eventually moved in 2008, so much of mine was poring over books and hunting for what info I could find on the internet. But I had been to South America, met and married my present wife (almost 25 years now) so I had really had to do grass-roots research then (pre-internet). It may not have been easier but we were able to be more thorough basing our researches on our needs not on what somebody else had done to meet their own needs.
  • Elle posted:

    on 20th February 2013, 11:05:38 - Reply

    Great article. We've seen so many changes in just 7 years... so can appreciate how much more thngs have changed in a longer period. [Edited by moderator] Elle xx
  • Maya posted:

    on 15th February 2013, 13:22:09 - Reply

    The research phase must have been excruciating without the social media we now take for granted. Even 5 years ago when we were doing it it was very different, all forums and newsgroups etc... now people can just pop on Facebook and find the right group to get all their questions answered. It's amazing how fast things change!
  • alex posted:

    on 12th February 2013, 20:41:07 - Reply

    You also have much better access to UK television and information thanks to the internet. As a kid living ion the Canary Islands wwe used to get videos mailed out by the BBC :-D
  • Matthew Hirtes posted:

    on 12th February 2013, 20:11:15 - Reply

    Great read, Maxine. Although I didn't move to Spain until the 21st century, there are certainly a lot more resources nowadays then back in 2004 when we did relocate. Could have done with reading something along the lines of Going Local in Gran Canaria before the move. As it was, I had to write the thing to hopefully smooth the process for future expats.