Moving to Spain – Have You Considered these Important Issues?


It is only polite to learn the language of your new country but many expats live quite happily in coastal Spain with little or no ability to speak Spanish. English is spoken in most large shops and supermarkets. There are English speaking schools, banks, lawyers, dentists, doctors and even expat tradesmen to help with household repairs. The only time Spanish is necessary is if you have to go into hospital or you have to deal with the authorities.
This does not apply if you choose to buy real estate in Spain in rural areas. Only a few miles inland from the coast Spanish would be vital since very few local inhabitants would have any knowledge of English.

Cost of Living and Currency Issues

The cost of living in Spain has been rising steadily over the last few years. The weekly shopping bill is much higher and now there is very little difference between prices in Spain and prices in Northern Europe. Wine and other alcoholic drinks remain very cheap in comparison to the UK and petrol and diesel are cheaper. Utility bills are very similar to those found in other European countries. Restaurant prices have risen considerably particularly in tourist areas where the (often foreign owned) restaurants tend to set prices similar to those which the tourist would consider good value in their own country. The best value meals are to be found in typically Spanish restaurants which cater for the local population.

For the British expat local prices are also linked to the exchange rate between the Pound and the Euro. For many, particularly for retirees, income will be in sterling and conversion into Euros is necessary. Ten years ago £100 income would have been equivalent to 150 Euros. Today that is more like 120 Euros or a drop in real income of 20% over a period when prices have probably risen by more than this amount. Currency fluctuation can also have a profound long-term effect on property values. With the recent dramatic falls in Spanish property prices this is one factor which could very easily drive buyers into negative equity. This factor must be taken into account in making any decision to relocate permanently. As an expat could you afford to change your mind in the future?

Spanish Healthcare

Spanish healthcare, particularly in the coastal area is very good but unless you have paid into the Spanish Social Security system it is not available as a right to new residents. Therefore it is vital that any potential expat budgets for private healthcare contributions which for a couple over 50 but under retirement age could currently cost the Euro equivalent of £100 to £200 per month. For EU retirees Spanish state healthcare would be available paid for by their country of origin under EU reciprocity rules.

Hospital care is excellent and waiting lists are shorter than those in the UK for example but primary care at GP level is very busy with long waiting times in the GP surgery and state GPs may not speak English.
One area in which Spain is weak is in long term care of the elderly because it is a country where the local population tend to be the carers for the older members of the family and not the state.

Long Term Issues When Moving to Spain

For anyone seriously considering a permanent expat life in Spain there are other issues which must be addressed.
•    Couples must consider how a surviving partner would cope if left on their own.
•    Could a surviving partner afford to relocate back to their country of origin?
•    Could language be a long term problem?
•    Inheritance tax must be considered. Between spouses there is no problem but if property for example is ultimately willed to a non-related beneficiary inheritance tax can be very high.

Relocation to a new country can be a wonderful experience but the decision should not be taken without doing your homework very thoroughly. There is a wealth of information on the Internet and many published books on the subject of relocation to Spain.

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