Did you know that there are some 5/5.5 million Britons living abroad (approx. 8% of the entire UK population!) – and that Spain is the country in the world that hosts the second most Britons?
In first place is Australia where around 1.4 million Britons live full time and then Spain, followed by the US (some 794,000 live there).
The exact number of Britons living in Spain permanently is actually rather hard to know and could be anywhere between 1 million to 391,000 people, depending upon who you believe. In a recent interview, Giles Paxman, British Ambassador to Spain, stated that there were some eight hundred thousand British people living in Spain, whilst the INE (Spain’s Institute of National Statistics states (if I have read the statistics correctly!) that there are 391,194.
Either way, Spain is, and has been, a major destination for Britons wishing to leave the UK to start a new life abroad. Certainly, it is far more popular than France – which may surprise you.
Equally, a survey earlier this year by Lloyds TSB International surveyed 1,000 people living abroad with some 75% in Spain saying that they were happier now than when they were in the UK. 80% also agreed that their cost of living in Spain was low, despite the current economic crisis.
I state this because the past few weeks have seen a tidal wave of negative press about Spain, as worries about the Eurozone have resurfaced.
Certainly, in economic terms Spain is taking some huge ‘body blows’. Bankia (Spain’s fourth largest bank) has just suspended its shares, unemployment in Spain is at a horrendous 24.4% and the economy appears close to meltdown. Meanwhile, prices of property in Spain continue their decline with the number of sales the worst for years, with the vital construction industry deep in the doldrums.
The press in the UK and elsewhere, of course, seem never short of stories illustrating some tragedy or other that has befallen someone living in Spain – who has had to return to their home country due to property problems, the collapse of their business or the reduction in spending value of their pension. In fact, the media paint a very ‘black’ picture of Spain that is making it look like somewhere out of Dante’s Inferno.
Well, of course, there are tragedies in Spain, just as there are everywhere in the world, and each one is devastating to the person concerned and their family.
However, it is somewhat exasperating to see the ‘feeding frenzy’ that has descended on Spain, particularly as the vast (silent) majority of foreigners living in Spain are content here. Indeed, for anyone with a secure income, such as a pension, Spain still offers a terrific quality of life and one that is as attractive as ever – with property now as cheap as it was some eight or nine years ago.
Certainly, as I have written before, in a way nothing much has changed to make Spain any less alluring than it has been in the past. After all, the climate is as good as ever, the proximity to Northern Europe as convenient as always and the way of life just as seductive. The great culture of Spain is intact and the cost of living extremely reasonable by comparison to any other First World country. Meanwhile the good nature, fortitude and calmness of the Spanish people (as a whole) remains remarkable given the savagery of their problems. Somehow they are as welcoming to foreigners as ever and their nuclear society is as enchanting as it has always been
And, to some extent, that is the point – however selfish.
By this, I mean that no-one in their right minds would suggest that the Spanish people are not having a dreadful time or that the economic crisis is not ferocious and adversely affecting virtually every Spaniard.
However, most of the foreigners living in Spain and those intending living here for the long term are financially secure and are unlikely to be greatly touched by the economic crisis. Life for most continues as it always has – and that is clearly a life that works.
Buy carefully (there are amazing bargains around now), bank wisely and you can enjoy this wonderful country without getting involved in the heart ache of the present crisis.
I say all of this with as much sensitivity as I can muster, as I am an integral part of Spanish life and encounter the pain of the Spanish daily. But, frankly, this is not something that you need to flagellate yourself about as a foreigner coming to Spain. You can live your own life here (and a pretty good one too) without getting involved in native problems.
My point, of course, is that Spain has not suddenly changed for the worse and become a country that you should not come to (either to holiday or live permanently). It is suffering the after effects of a lunatic boom, it will continue to suffer for some years to come – but it will, in due course, rise from the ashes of its self-inflicted crisis and ‘right’ itself.
Meanwhile, it remains a glorious place to live – with a quality of life sufficient to delight you for years…