Moving to Spain Gone Wrong: Problems & Pitfalls

Moving to Spain and relocating to Spain is a major life-changing decision and event, so why is it that many people who relocate and move to Spain very quickly end up moving back to their home country?

Within three years 30% of Brits have already moved back!

We examine why moving to Spain goes wrong for the majority of people and in doing so we help you decide if moving to Spain on a permanent basis is really right for you and your family. Knowledge is power and knowing why people fail to settle successfully in Spain could make your transition easier.

Of course, life is easier if you are retiring to Spain as you will surely have less financial worries. You won’t need to find a job which is one of the biggest problems expats face. You will have to carefully consider your finances and research the cost of living in Spain to ensure you have enough money to live on of course.

Spanish Soccer Fans

Spain – Heaven or Hell?

Why Does Relocation To Spain Go Wrong?

By Nick Snelling

Within a short time a surprising number of people return to their home countries having relocated to Spain. Some figures, for example, seem to suggest that 30% of Britons go back to the UK after only three years in Spain and it is possible that percentage continues to rise over the following years.

On the face of it, this is surprising – given that to relocate to Spain will almost certainly have represented a long term dream. So, what goes wrong and how can you ensure that your move to Spain will work?

Firstly, of course, it is helpful to look at some of the most common reasons why estate agents find that relocation to Spain does not always work for people:

Missing Family and Friends.

1. It is the experience of many estate agents that the impulsion to move back to a home country comes from the female in a relationship. Often, she was reluctant to leave her family and friends permanently in the first place and finds it hardest to tolerate any absence. With the arrival of grandchildren, her desire to be close to them becomes hard to resist and will initiate the return.

Marital Issues

2. A lack of genuine consensus about relocating between couples. Often, there is no real consensus between a couple about relocation to Spain. In many cases, it is the man that is most keen – with his partner effectively acquiescing in the move.

As soon as there are any problems, then recriminations are quick to occur with the one desiring the move being placed continually on the defensive. This can produce real friction within a relationship.

Unrealistic Expectations

3. Spain is not a paradise – nor is it some kind of elixir that will resolve existing problems, particularly if they concern an already damaged or unsteady relationship.

Spain provides a different way of life and one that can provide terrific enrichment and fulfilment within a friendly environment whilst enjoying a wonderful climate.

However, rarely will it make you wealthier or change structural faults within a partnership or marriage and it is a mistake to expect living in Spain to resolve all your problems. Indeed, the stress of moving and adjusting to a different way of life can hasten the termination of a relationship.

Cheaper Way of Life

4. Spain is certainly cheaper, on the whole than many parts of Northern Europe. But it bears no resemblance to what it was fifteen or twenty years ago. Good, legal properties on the coast are expensive and you still need a reasonable income, if you are to sustain your new life live comfortably and without financial worries.

On the whole, living in Spain is reasonably cheap and you should find that you spend greatly less, day to day, to gain much more than you could have had done in Northern Europe. But, if you have tight finances then Spain can be an unforgiving place to be and this can lead quickly to disillusionment.

Finding Work

5. Gaining employment is very difficult when you are living in Spain, unless you are completely fluent in Spanish or have a niche skill that is required in the country.

If you have to rely upon earning a regular income, preferably doing something interesting – then failure to find this can prove to be extremely stressful and quickly produce insurmountable problems.

Property Problems

6. Few things can have a more deleterious effect than having problems with your property in Spain. If your property has endless defects (or is more costly to rectify then you imagined) then this can place a horrendous, negative ‘drip-drip’ effect upon your daily life.

More damaging still is if you buy a property in Spain that is not properly legal or is ( unknowingly to you at the time) subject to a long and traumatic urbanisation process. The keys to any successful long term relocation to Spain are to:

Ensure that your chosen property in Spain is well communicated – so that it is easy, cheap and convenient to travel back to your home country to see friends and relations or for them to come and see you. Also, always ensure that the place to where you relocate has the potential for a good, accessible social life. This normally means being within close proximity to a reasonable number of like-minded natives from your own country.

Make your move completely consensual – and do not relocate unless it is. You must both agree beforehand to share equally the responsibility for the move. This way you will fight together through any and all problems – without unfair recriminations.

Keep your expectations about relocating realistic. Realise that relocating to Spain will bring joy as well as problems and that although you are moving to a country that will provide a better quality of life – it cannot give you perfection!

Make sure that you are financially secure and avoid taking on debt. Allow, conservatively, for currency variations (particularly if your native currency is not the Euro) and appreciate that Spain is no longer anything like as cheap as it was in the past. Indeed, the cost of living is rising all the time and you should make allowances within your finances for this – and any unexpected financial demands.

If you need to work then make sure that you bring to Spain a niche skill and recognise that unless you are completely fluent that you will have little likelihood of finding work easily within the Spanish marketplace. Remember that the Spanish are generally highly qualified and already possess all the skills that exist in Northern Europe.

Buy a property in Spain by exercising greatly more care and caution than you would in Northern Europe – and always compromise to buy a property in Spain that is fully legal, fully urbanised and needs the absolute minimum of renovation work.

So, always use a first-class, independent, specialist conveyancing lawyer who speaks your language fluently and have a professional survey performed on the property you want before you buy it.

Nick Snelling is the published author of three books on Spain including ‘How to Move Safely to Spain’. He is also the author of the authoritative Blog on moving to Spain and living in Spain:

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  1. Any tips for moving to Spain? We are after a property with land as I will be bringing my rescue dogs with me. Not sure what we will do for work but currently doing a TEFL course. Any advice greatly appriciated.

  2. We moved to spain 5 years ago and loving it, its a challenge and I guess we are up for that. Would not return to the UK. If moving here do your homework there are lots of surprises, paperwork, fees to pay, constant certificates to apply for, get a good lawyer and be aware and sensible. In return we have a great lifestyle, beautiful weather, no annoying inlaws, peaceful life, surrounded by beauty and find the spanish delightful. Healthy lifestyle, fantastic beaches and great mountain scenery. Would I want to change all of this for a house in wales or scotland as that is all we can afford if returning to UK, I think not. If expats believe it is a cheaper option to live in Spain it is not, and if you always see the positive you will survive. However the only thing we struggle with is urbanization communities nightmare and annoying expats!!!

    • Sounds bliss to me, unfortunately most of my family are not really into going to Spain. I however want to go.

  3. Robert Holla f says

    Moving to a foreign country is not for everyone. I have lived in Spain off and on for 50 years and have found it challenging and rewarding;the same as if I stayed in my home country. Nowhere is there the perfect life. It is what you make out of it.

  4. I hope the 30% read this. Absolute common sense to those of us that have been here 10+ years. I have seen ever single one of these…more than once. Be careful people!

    • Do you have any tips on finding accommodation in Spain whilst still living in the UK? I have had a job offer but I do not want to come over homeless.

      Thanks in advance


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