From British Police Officer to the Spanish Expat Life - Denise Gives Her Tips on Making a Success of a New Life in Spain

Granada landscape

A veteran British expat living in Spain gives her tips on buying a property, learning the language and why she moved away from the Costa Blanca to the Granada countryside.

  • Moved to Spain 16 years ago
  • Denise gives insights into buying a Spanish property
  • Offers a big tip to prospective expats on choosing which town to live in
  • Choosing a good solicitor is key
  • Why learning Spanish is such a good idea

Last week, on another of my days out, I visited Denise.

She now lives in Castillejar in the province of Granada, having moved there 2 years ago from Moraira situated on the Costa Blanca coast. She lives with her husband and a couple of rescue dogs in one of the cave houses.

They have been living in Spain for 16 years, and have no intention at all of returning to England, they are very happy and content with the new life they have made for themselves here.

Before she came to live in Spain, she was a Police Officer, but decided that moving to a hotter, sunnier clime was much more attractive.

Two of her main reasons for choosing Spain, was the closeness to England, her grown up children still lived there, and the access from numerous airports. Which obviously makes visiting family much simpler.


When she lived in Moraira, she owned a catering business.  She supplied various outlets with fresh baked goods, ranging from pasties and pies to delicious home made cakes.

I asked her what brought about the changes she has made today.

Denise responds:

“After living on the coast for so many years, and running the business, I really felt I needed a complete change. It is hard work and a lot of responsibility is involved when you are in the catering industry.  

“Apart from getting up and cooking all day in some very high temperatures, you seem to be at the beck and call of everyone else. This meant that eventually it was no longer the pleasurable daily task that it had been, more of a daily chore. I had been tied to one job in the UK for many years and now I was tying myself to another.”

They began the search for another property, this time looking inland. It was time for a complete change. The already had a villa, which they would rent out and use this to finance the new property.


They hadn't previously rented, went straight into a buy, but she tells me this isn't for everyone and would definitely recommend people do choose the area they wish to live in wisely.  

She has seen people who fall in love with a pretty little village during the glorious summer, without doing any proper research. Then when the winter comes, the tourists go and half the shops close down they find it isn't so attractive.

They did actually find the buying process quite simple. The agents spoke very good English, were well informed of the area and accompanied them to see many properties.  

She did like that fact that they weren't pressured into buying the first thing they viewed, and they did see some dreadful houses.

She does advise, like most people I have spoken to, to make certain you get the best Solicitor you can.

If they are genuine they will certainly make sure you have all the proper searches done, recommend surveys if needed and will be there for you all through the buying process.

Eventually they bought a cave house in Castillejar. They are quite exclusive and quirky. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Three quarters of her house is deep in the rock. With an extended front section which leads to the garden and swimming pool.

What made you buy a cave house Denise? I know you love it but what made you choose it.

Denise answers:

“Well, we wanted something a little further out in the countryside. After living on the coast for so long we felt like a complete change. We found it by accident.

“A friend of ours, had friends near here and told us all about it. So up we came one day and that was it. Now we have been living here for 2 years and absolutely love it. We are actually selling our villa as we have no intention of ever going back to live on the coast. But at the moment there seems to be either a slow market, or just the buyers have so many properties to chose from.

Other people I have spoken too have also moved into more rural areas of Spain, do you find that you have the same sense of community living here as you did on the coast?

Denise replies:

“Yes, actually we do. We have made some very nice friends, and feel accepted by everyone. One of the nicest things is being more a part of the Spanish community. And this happens more so when you actually bother to learn the language. They then see you as an integral part of village life and not just a tourist or short term renter.  

“If you do not learn Spanish when choosing to live in these areas you will find it hard to settle into daily life. Very little English is used in the shops, post office, banks etc.”

So, I know you love it here but would you advise others to relocate here too?

Denise replies:

“Well, that is not too difficult to answer. It doesn't suit everyone, and it definitely will not be ideal for the Ex Pat who is looking for bingo and booze!  It is a quiet, very rural way of life. The village has it's busy moments with the fiestas and fairs, but in general it is peaceful and quiet.

“If this is what you are looking for, fine, if not it will not suit you at all. I spend my days here the same as I would in England; walk the dog, do some shopping, lunch or coffee with friends. In the afternoon I take a little siesta and make time for some of my hobbies. The advantage I have now is I am much more relaxed and the weather is so pleasant.”

You make it sound so lovely, there must be some setbacks?  People always seem to moan about the bureaucracy, what do you think?

Denise responds:

“I wouldn't call them setbacks as much as bad planning. You really do need to have an independent income to live here. There is no work available at all. Not even seasonal. Even the Spanish locals find it hard. Many have to go away to work, coming back during the winter.  You also need to have all your paperwork in order. If there are any documents needed; NIE, Resident Permits.

“They can take quite a long time to get sorted. You will need an appointment at the local Foreign department in the “Comiseria” They are a bit long winded, and sometimes even with an appointment they don't see you. No idea why! The banks can be a bit frustrating at times, they seem so long winded about everything.

“Here in the village they aren't too bad though, everyone seems to know the managers name. But they too require multiple copies of everything and a sample of your dogs DNA to get anything moving! We bank with Santander, I expect they are all basically the same.”

So Denise, not going home then?

“Hopefully we are now settled forever, and I will never have to return. If circumstances change in the future you never know what might happen, but aren't planning on going,” says Denise.