Thousands of people every year dream of going to live in Spain and a small percentage of them do it, what is reason for dream, and how does reality live up to it?
I came to Spain in 1991, 14 years ago at time of writing, with my husband and three young children then aged 4,7 and 8. To be honest we had initially intended to go to France, having been tempted by promise of beautiful rural property going for a song, but we went wrong way when we got off ferry in Santander and have been here ever since!
Our reasons for leaving England, Lincolnshire to be exact, were not much different I imagine from anyone elses, better climate, cheaper property prices, less stressful way of life, lower crime rate, cheaper cost of living lower taxation and bureaucracy, less traffic and pollution and generally a better environment for our growing children. In all respects I should say move has lived up to our expectations.
Of course it wasn't all plain sailing. For a start none of us spoke a word of Spanish, we had been busy learning French! We fell in love with Northern Spain as scenary is so beautiful but it was impossible to find any property to buy as there were no such things as estate agents then, those halcyon days! but for all we curse them they do a least provide a meeting point between buyer and seller. So against all our original intentions we hitched up caravan and headed south, having been told by some English people we met on a campsite that it would be alot easier down there. Which indeed it was.
We didn't want to follow sun, sea and sangria route as we were looking for isolation and seclusion and after responding to an advert for a house for sale in English paper " SUR in English" we were introduced to a Spainard who after much painstaking searching managed to find us place of our dreams in mountains of Casares, just inland from Estepona. However we still weren't home and dry as all we actually bought was 10,000 sq. metres of complete isolation and a ruin without water or electricity! So now fun had just begun.
In any event we soon discovered that we had escaped bureaucracy as all we had to do was present a simple plan drawn by my husband and pay 200 pesetas and we had planning permission to more or less do as we wished. However that was easier said than done as we still barely spoke lingo and didn't even know word for brick. Still with aid of Hugo's Spanish in 3 months,( 3 years more like) we plodded on and built our own piece of paradise on sunny slopes of an Andalucian mountain. The children enrolled in village school and within a few months were virtually bi-lingual. The local people were very friendly and trusting and adored children arguing amongst themselves as to whose turn it was to invite them for merienda after school.
So 14 years down line we are still here and have no desire to return. Most of our hopes and expectations have ben realized. Certainly climate is better, property, at time was cheaper, Spanish don't know meaning of word stress, although sometimes this can be a bit stressful in itself! The crime rate in our area is virtually nil, we don't even have a lock on door, cost of living was lower but with advent of euro is steadily rising, taxation on essentials in life such as alcohol, fuel and even tobacco is less and certainly even today Spanish do try to keep bureaucracy to a minimum. Pollution is pretty minimal as there is no heavy industry in this area and although traffic has increased it obviously has done so in U.K. as well. I certainly think children had a better enviornment to grow up in as they were able to have freedom to roam and explore that you certainly could not afford children in U.K. these days. One other great benefit that I had not considered before is much healthier lifestyle. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of healthiest in world, sunshine is good for body and soul, air is fresher, longer winter days are much less depressing and if you like out door pursuits such as golf, swimming, walking etc. then it is definitely right place to be. It is little wonder that local population have a longer life span and comparitively lower rates of cancer and heart disease than in other western countries.