Over the past four weeks I have been talking to and meeting lots of different British people who live and work here on the Costa Blanca for Siren FM and Euranet. I have really enjoyed my time and have a real understanding of what it is like to live here in Spain.
Many people in the UK dream of living in the sunshine, but the reality of living here in Spain is often quite different to the dream. It can be, for some, very hard work and often language barriers are barriers that can’t be broken through.
I have spoken to a number of people from the Anglican Church to English businesses and not to forget the English media, charities, Spanish teachers and lecturers and a local councillor. All of these people have given me a greater insight into what it is like for British people to live and work here on the Costa Blanca.
It is mostly a positive picture, but Spain is going through a very difficult time financially. On the 1st September 2012 the IVA (Spanish version of VAT) increased from 17% to 21%. That same day, Spanish law changed regarding foreign nationals entitlement to health care. Spain is having to tighten its belt in order to climb out of the slump that it is in and grown in terms of financial recovery.
What has taken me by surprise is the real sense of community that there is here on the Costa Blanca. Many of the British people here really do go that extra mile in order to help one another. The work of the many charities here on the Costa Blanca is over whelming and even though people are not giving as much financially, they are still giving a little of what they can spare. But they are also giving their time to help run organisations such as HELP and MABS.
There are several charities that support the work of expatriate councillor Sylvia Tatnell. Without their support, many British people would have no social and welfare support. The social services system is very different here and some retired Brits don’t understand that the Spanish state can’t look after them. The family is still a very central focus in Spanish culture.
The building boom of the late 90’s and early noughties saw many young families emigrate to this part of Spain. Some of those families are still living and working here and for some they are still making ends meet. They work as hard as the Spanish do in order to provide a life for their children. But there are some sad stories and many families have had to wave goodbye to this coast line and return to England in order to find work.
Other sad stories that I have uncovered is the amount of elderly people who live here on their own and are incredibly lonely. They don’t speak the language and they are quite often suffering from an illness and have reduced mobility. They don’t have families in Spain nor back in the UK. But there are now a number of voluntary organisations that try to give companionship to these people. The University of the third age is a vital organisation and allows these elderly people to meet with others in a social environment, as well as giving them some support.
I have spoken to a number of people who own businesses, for some the horrors of the Spanish red tape is and will continue to be a nightmare. There are several very successful businesses here that are owned by British people. The one piece of advice that they can’t echo enough to me is, learn the langauge and have a real understanding of what you are getting yourself into and speak to local business people and find out about all the hurdles before investing all of your money into a business adventure. Remember that if you want to own a successful business, you are in Spain to live and work, it’s incredibly easy to forget that you are here to live and work and not on holiday when the sun shines for most of the year.
I will be sad to leave the Costa Blanca behind, but this is an experience that I will never forget. I will of course not forget the people who have let me tell their stories. I would like to thank all of those people for their kind hospitality as well as their honesty.
My next job is to now make a programme that will showcase what it is like to live in Spain as an expatriate. You can listen to this on Siren FM over the Christmas period.
Until next time, hasta leugo, adios.