The Reality of Living in Spain
Everyone imagines living in Spain to be all sunshine and sangria, but the reality is nothing like that.
Sure the sun shines almost every day, but in the summer the heat is unbearable, and the winter is bitterly cold, especially in the shade and at nighttime. Darkness falls at 5pm and the sun doesn’t rise until after 8am so it is a long night.
Houses here do not have gas central heating, although I believe piped gas is available on some coastal towns. The houses are, in fact, designed to keep heat out which not only doesn’t work terribly well in summer, but means that in winter you will be far colder than you ever were in a temperate climate.
The houses are mostly built with an open fireplace, but this fireplace is extremely draughty and lighting an actual fire in it will result in a smoky room. I know, I tried. My white walls very quickly turned black, and now I have the added expense of repainting, which at €40 a 20L pot, is not cheap.
Most of my neighbours installed a large, glassed in wood-burner, of a type designed to fit right inside the fireplace so that its glass frontage blocks off the draughts and sends the smoke up the chimney where it belongs, but at €1000 each, it was a bit outside my budget.
Their living rooms are lovely and cosy, but the rest of the house is bitterly cold.
Wood to burn is expensive. I gave up trying to buy it. In small quantities expect to pay about €6 for a single evening’s warmth. You can buy a trailer load for about €250 but that will not keep you warm throughout the winter. I used to wander around skips and rubbish areas looking for old timber. We are surrounded here by the campo, unpopulated areas given over for agricultural use, and the campo is filled with olive and almond trees, both of which make great burnings.
But you can’t just wander over and cut down a tree. They are protected by law, supposedly (I have seen loads being cut down by the people who owned the land), and apart from that it is theft as these trees belong to someone, even the ones that never get harvested.
In recent years a lot of expats have moved here, attracted by the cheap land prices, and have bought fields of almonds and olives, but have no interest in maintaining the crops. It is a lot of work collecting the fruit and taking to the local olive press for changing into olive oil, or the almond to the almond factory, for very little return.
I also know of some expats who have tried to maintain the land they have bought, but need a tractor and plough to turn the land over once a year, and cannot for love nor money buy decent second-hand equipment, and the Spanish farmers will not lend or hire out theirs.
The only wood you are allowed to take from the campo is fallen branches, but generally these branches are insect-ridden, something to worry about as the scorpion lives here, and without a petrol-driver chainsaw is impossible to cut up into small enough portions to transport.
Electricity is not only expensive; the electricity ‘trips off’ if you overload the circuit. Running one heater, the water immerser and one ring on the electric cooker is about its limit. Forget what is running already and put the kettle on to boil, and you will ‘trip’ the meter and have to go round resetting all the digital clocks in the house.
Calor gas is relatively cheap here. Six years ago it was €6 – 7 a bottle but last year it rose to almost €15, later dropping back on some government directive to €12.50.
A bottle of gas will run the gas heater for about a week, if you use it sparingly and only use it in the evenings. There are many days when I sit at this computer bloody freezing during the day but cannot put the heater on for fear of not having heat when it turns even colder.
I have bought one of these new low wattage electric heaters, the ones that run on the cost of a light bulb, but the area they heat make them suitable for cupboard use only, if you wanted to heat a cupboard.
Youth unemployment in Spain is running at a whopping 40%. The economy has collapsed. Adult unemployment is around 20%, but that only counts those eligible to be on the unemployment register.
There are many others, like myself, who were previously self-employed in Spain, who lost their business with the recession, who are not on any register. The self-employed in Spain are NOT entitled to unemployment benefits.
Spain’s economy seems to have been built on tourism, agriculture and construction. With the fall-off in tourist trade and the collapse of the building industry, there is not much left.
This year the tomato crops were hit with a new virus which killed all plants in at least a 50 square mile area, including my own, and this is a major tomato growing area with what looks like miles and miles of giant polytunnels covering hillside after hillside.
Meanwhile, prices in the shops continue to rise. All the basics, bread, milk, cheese, butter, etc have doubled in price over the past 6 years.
I live on a modern estate where several houses have been repossessed because the owners lost their jobs and could not pay their mortgages. The sad thing is that the bank then sells the property on for whatever price they can get, and property is not selling at all well here just now, unless there is a drastic price drop, and then the ex-owner gets hounded, no matter where in Europe they have moved to, for the difference.
Many people have moved here to retire. They had the privilege of paying €1000 to the bank to pay off their mortgage, so now they are in a better financial position – though why they got charged a grand I’ll never know. But with the drop in value of the pound against the euro – it used to be €1.60 to £1, not it is less than €1.10 to £1 – they are struggling to get by on their British pension alone. Many want to sell up and return home, but can’t because the housing market is not moving.
I would like to sell up, but not to move back, not yet anyway. I’d like to sell this great big house that is too big for two people, and buy a bit of land, preferably one with a water supply. Many people living in houses on the campo have no water and have to trudge into any of the nearby villages and top up water canisters from the free public tap. Alternatively, some get huge water containers delivered by truck, but that can only happen if the truck can actually access the track. These tracks are made of just dirt and stones, have huge potholes and are extremely difficult to navigate in dry conditions and all but impossible after the rains.
Many people tell me they prefer it that way as it deters thieves. Good point. Burglaries are a problem here.
Electricity I’d like too, but there are alternatives to mains electricity in the form of diesel generators or solar panels. I’d be happy to live in a caravan like many people here do, at least until permission is granted to start building a new dwelling or permission given to renovate whatever ruin is on the parcel of land.
These permissions can take a long time to come through, and when they do, are expensive. There is great deal of corruption within local government. The town mayor gets a cut of every building work granted, and sometimes he grants permission for buildings which are illegal under Spanish Law. There are many cases just now of people who have had to stand by and watch their dream house being demolished because it was never legal in the first place, despite their having applied for and received planning permission from the local burgh. Expats especially have no chance of understanding Spanish Law, and the solicitors involved are usually just as corrupt.
Internet access in Spain is more expensive than in most other places, which is strange in a land where wages are lower, and despite some puffings from the government about increasing internet usage, there seem to be no initiatives to make it more affordable.
It is hopeful that market forces will force down prices, with the entry into Spain of several large European telephony companies over the last few years.
In conclusion, it is fair to point out that here in Spain the weather/temperature is perfect for six months out of the year (Spring/Autumn), and that if you are in work you could have a very good life here. Everything is more relaxed. Life doesn’t take on the hustle and bustle and URGENCY of life in the UK today.
But, out of work, everything is so much worse without the cushion of the welfare state to support you.
- No Smoking Law in Spain
Sunday, January the 2nd, 2011, saw Spain introducing the most severe no smoking in public places law in the whole of Europe. From this date, it is now illegal to smoke in bars, clubs and restaurants as well...
If you fancy moving to Spain, I know of a bar business for sale in Benidorm. It's a single locale situated in the centre of Benidorm, smack bang between the Old and New Town - a few minute's walk takes you to either.
With a total of 48 covers including those on the open air terrace which is sunny and ideal for smokers (smoking is no longer permitted in bars in Spain), this would make a great starter bar for those wishing to try a new way of life.
The business is currently closed but fully licensed and so may be opened again at a moment's notice. The current owners would be happy to accept only €9,000 for the traspasso and the monthly rent is in the region of €500 per month.
For further details contact Duncan or Sue on 0034 678982028 or email firstname.lastname@example.org