It’s estimated that over 750,000 British nationals live in Spain along with thousands of other foreigners.
As in all countries, expats in Spain like to stick together and to do so, they form communities. Being part of one of the expat communities in Spain comes with benefits and drawbacks. Weigh these up before you decide where to live when you move to Spain.
Spain has lots of expat communities, particularly in areas popular with foreigners such as the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol.
Some parts of the southern Costa Blanca (e.g. Orihuela Costa) and the Costa del Sol (e.g. Benalmádena) house so many British that they’re known as ‘Little Britain’.
British expats, however, aren’t the only ones who stick together – you’ll also find German, Argentinian, Russian and other expat communities in Spain.
Pros of living with other expats
Living in expat communities in Spain does come with certain advantages:
Perhaps the biggest benefit to living in an expat community is its familiarity. You find yourself among people with the same background and culture, which helps if you feel lost among the Spanish.
Fellow expats do the same sort of activities (e.g. play cricket) and celebrate the same things as you (e.g. Guy Fawkes’ Night), which the Spaniards don’t.
Speaking the same language is another huge advantage of expat communities in Spain.
Even if you’ve got a good level of Spanish when you arrive, it may not be quite enough to allow you to communicate effectively. Living with people who speak your language cuts out the misunderstandings and saves you embarrassment.
When you’re finding your way at the start of your move to Spain, being surrounded by fellow expats can make things easier for you. You can ask for advice and information in your own language.
Home from home
Expat communities in Spain are also home to familiar products and services. Not only can you easily get “tea like Mother makes it” or that essential jar of Marmite, you can find people to do things the way you like them done.
If you’re moving to Spain with your children, living in an expat community can be handy for keeping their native language familiar. This is especially true if you’ve made the decision to send them to a Spanish school. Having the chance to speak to others in their native tongue will help them practise.
Cons of living with other expats
However, and an almost exact mirror images, are several important drawbacks to living in expat communities in Spain. These include:
Expat communities tend to be small, rather like little islands in the big sea of Spain. Everyone tends to know everyone else and by extension, their business.
This can make for a stifling environment, not dissimilar to living in a small village in the middle of nowhere. Lessen its effects by having a life outside the community.
A not uncommon trait among expats in Spain, particularly those who don’t speak Spanish, is a biased view of their host country.
They often have prejudiced opinions against the Spaniards, brought on more often than not by ignorance.
The chances of finding negativity increases in expat communities in Spain. Avoiding this completely can be difficult and the best way to stay positive yourself is to ignore the conversations.
Expats who don’t speak Spanish often fail to understand how things work in Spain because they base their information on erroneous facts or hearsay.
However, they will probably insist that they’re right! Take advice from such people with a pinch of salt and contrast with information from a knowledgeable source.
One of the best ways of making a success of your new life in Spain is to learn to speak Spanish as soon as possible and as fluently as you can. Living in an expat community in Spain may make this difficult.
Likewise, it may not help your children’s progress either if they only speak their native language where they live. Get round this problem by persevering with speaking Spanish – keep up those classes and take every opportunity to practise.
No enjoyment of Spain
Another drawback of expat communities in Spain is that you can end up living in a bubble.
You might physically be in Spain but in practice you’re just living at home in the sun, which surely defeats the object of moving to Spain in the first place?
Get out of the bubble every so often to visit different parts of Spain, try Spanish food and experience the culture for yourself.