I know time flies when you are having fun but I can hardly believe it but the 4th anniversary of our arrival in Spain is fast approaching. As a consequence, I have started to reflect on my Spain, the Spain I have grown to know and love.
What you don't find in the guidebooks
Most of the time it's impossible to really find out about a place until you are living there. This is part of the fun of discovering a new town, but sometimes it helps to get some pointers!
The Emerging Market
“More Britons flee for a life in the Sun” screamed the headline in the Daily Express (29.03.06). The UK daily was reporting that many highly qualified professionals, numbering at least 100,000 per year, are leaving the UK for Spain.
The national sport
fútbol), or soccer, is Spain’s national sport and easily the country’s most important participant and spectator sport. Spanish football fans are among the most dedicated and fervent in Europe and are matched in their fanaticism only by the Italians.
The Spanish monarchy
The Spanish monarchy was restored to the throne in 1975 after 44 years, following the deposition of King Alfonso XIII in 1931 and 39 years of dictatorship under General Franco, who named the current King as his ‘heir’.
Traditions and habits
All countries have their own particular social customs and Spain is no exception. As a foreigner you will probably be excused if you accidentally insult your host, but you may not be invited again.
Religious beliefs and organizations
is a Christian country where some 77 per cent of the population claims to belong to the Catholic Church and less than 1 per cent Protestant. The majority of the world’s religious and philosophical movements have religious centres or meeting places in the major cities and resort areas, including English and American churches.
Structure and organization
Spain has a high ratio of police officers to inhabitants and three police forces, often with confusing and overlapping roles, although the government plans to amalgamate the three forces to improve co-ordination and make better use of skills and resources.
The political system of Spain
Following the death of General Franco in 1975, the Spanish constitution of 31st October 1978, arguably the most liberal in western Europe, heralded a radical transformation from a dictatorship to a democratic government.
Domestic violence, drug dependecy and prisons
Spain’s crime rate is among the lowest in Europe: according to figures released by the Spanish Interior Ministry in 2006, Spain has an incidence of nearly 50 crimes per 1,000 inhabitants, the lowest in the EU apart from Portugal and Ireland. In the UK, figures are 105 crimes per 1,000 inhabitants and in Germany, 80.
The sunniest country in Europe
Hardly surprisingly, the overwhelming attraction of Spain for most foreigners is its excellent climate. Spain is the sunniest country in Europe and the climate (on the Costa Blanca) has been described by the World Health Organisation as among the healthiest in the world.
Cultural offers in Spain
The vast majority of theatres in Spain are in Madrid and Barcelona, although there has been a huge theatre building programme throughout the country in the last decade and many smaller towns now have municipal-sponsored theatres (
teatros municipales) housed in cultural centres.
How to get connected
There’s a wealth of expatriate clubs and organisations in major cities and resort areas catering for all nationalities.
Menus, wine, ratings and prices
Like most Latins, Spaniards live to eat (and drink) and one of the greatest pleasures of living in Spain is its abundant variety of inexpensive eating places. In fact, anyone who loves good food and wine is guaranteed a happy life in Spain, which boasts one of the healthiest diets in Europe.
Tips for living “la marcha”
Spain is famous for its vibrant nightlife, which extends until dawn and beyond in major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona (not for nothing are nocturnal
Madrileños known as ‘the cats’ or
Rock, pop and other genres
Music of all kinds, from flamenco to rock, jazz to classical, is extremely popular in Spain and an essential ingredient of any festival or
fiesta. Spain has a wealth of traditional folk music and dance, particularly flamenco and classical guitar, which are popular throughout the country.
What you should know about eating in Spain
The Spanish eat much later than other Europeans, with lunch (
almuerzo) usually being taken between 2 and 4pm and dinner (
cena) between 9 and 11pm. People in Barcelona tend to eat dinner around an hour earlier than those in Madrid, while in tourist resorts, dinner is usually served from 7 or 8pm.
What you should know
Spain has poor public libraries, which bear no comparison to the excellent library systems in, for example, the UK and the US. Most Spaniards don’t do a lot of reading and most homes possess few books.
A national obsession
The Spanish are a nation of gamblers and bet a higher proportion of their income than almost any other nation. It’s estimated that the Spanish gamble well over
1.9 billion a year equal to around
480 per head or some 15 per cent of the average net household income.
The Spanish music and lifestyle
Flamenco consists of a flamboyant dance accompanied by guitar music and song (
cante), the heart of the art of flamenco, which at its best is the true classical performance art of Spain. It has been referred to as the soul of Spain and, like bullfighting, is an essential part of the country’s culture and traditions.
Time to party !
fiestas are an important part of cultural and social life in Spain, where over 3,000 are celebrated each year. The Spanish are inveterate revellers and almost every village and town has its annual fair (
feria), lasting from a few days to a few weeks.
History and programming
has over 2,000 cinemas (
cines) nationwide and around 1,300 cinema clubs. Although it has lost a lot of its former popularity to television and many cinemas have closed in the last few decades, cinema remains reasonably popular in Spain where over 10 per cent of adults see a film each week.
History, season and tickets
A book about Spain wouldn’t be complete without a ‘few’ words about bullfighting (
la lidia), commonly referred to as the
fiesta nacional. Foreigners love or loathe bullfights and it provokes controversy even among Spaniards. To many it’s a barbaric and sadistic blood sport with no merit whatsoever and should be banned.
What you should when having a dring in Spain
One of the delights of living in Spain is the many excellent pavement cafés and bars, and in particular, their delicious coffee and inexpensive prices. Few countries can match Spain for the variety, quality, economy and number of its watering holes. Drinking habits vary considerably from region to region, although it isn’t uncommon to see Spaniards taking a brandy with their morning coffee.
General information and tips
Spain has over 800 museums ( museos) and important collections, particularly in Madrid and Barcelona, and there has been an explosion in the number of art galleries ( galerías de arte) in the last decade throughout the country, particularly for contemporary art.
Forewarned is forearmed
The aptly named ‘Xenophobe’s guide to...’ series offers insiders’ perspectives on the peculiarities of different nationalities, educating the philistines among us.
Pros and Cons
Only sometimes in life can you take real pride in the feeling that you have got it right! Moving to Spain four years ago our aim was to raise the quality of our family’s lifestyle. We enjoy working hard to achieve it and occasionally indulge ourselves with a self congratulatory pat on the back when we hear that Spain remains the number one destination for Britons buying property overseas.
How to avoid frustration
Spain has a beautiful climate (apart from when it gets too hot in the summer). Spain has amazing beaches.
The horrors of Spanish TV
The UK publication MediaWeek defines “Zapping” as “Rapid channel switching or surfing via a remote control”. Its that act you experience when the TV programme you are watching fails to hold your attention for more than a fleeting period as you click the remote control, seeking to be more “engaged”.
From "Mañana" to "Tomorrow"
A couple of weeks ago, I asked my three kids what they missed most about the UK.
Averages costs in Spain vs. the UK
As the British continue their love affair with Spain, leading the tourism figures and making up a large percentage of expats in the country, the cost of living is rising. Whether you are just visiting or intend to settle down in Spain, it pays to know the average living costs compared to home. This infographic will help you to budget for your holiday or your move abroad.
An introduction to the 'art'
Don't think bullfighting fell from the sky and landed in Spain. Iberians hunted the local wild bull since prehistoric times until they were introduced to a religious bull-ceremony, the Mythras-cult, by Roman soldiers. When the Moors invaded Spain, they brought with them an especially aggressive bull and horsemen used this animal to practice their agility in chivalrous jousts. Sometimes Spanish noblemen were invited to take part.
We spent about 2 years researching Spain in general visiting the country about 8 times, starting in the Extremadura region in central Spain. This region had a lot going for it, especially the prices, which were around £20,000 for 5 acres and a house (2000).
Languages spoken in Valencia
Many people are put off moving abroad because of the language barrier that may exist. Does this need to be a problem in Valencia?
Our Top 16 Murcia Beaches
The following beaches are amongst the most beautiful in the region:
Spanish way of life and culture differs enormously from that in the UK. There are various character and attitude traits that can seem a little blunt and even offensive to people from other cultures, particularly the British. However, it is absolutely essential to remember that this is who and how they are, they are not offending each other with their touching, barging and lack of queueing, so in moving to their country the best thing you can do is to adapt yourself to work with them.
Murcia Fiesta Finder
The Murcian enthusiasm for Fiestas rivals the Madrileños (Madrid inhabitants). Each town or village has its own Patrimonio day, which you can find by looking on a calendar.
Getting around in Valencia
With a relatively small and compact centre and wide boulevards connecting the outer areas of the city Valencia is easy to get around, boasting an efficient and effective transport system to boot.
Murcia Food Guide
The Spanish, like many Latin cultures, make the mid–day meal their biggest, stretching it out for hours. From midday to mid–afternoon, everything shuts down, except of course for the restaurants. Then, after this long, leisurely meal (and sometimes a nap) they return to their workplaces and continue into the night.
Eating Like a Spaniard
You may have noticed that Spanish restaurants seem awfully quiet… …when you go in. This is probably because you haven’t worked out how to eat like a Spaniard yet.
What to do when it’s too cold to go to the beach
Murcia has 320 days of sunshine a year. Right now, as I write this, it’s snowing here, only half an hour away from the Mar Menor.
How to save water
You probably know this already, but it’s pretty sunny here in Spain, particularly in Murcia and Almería. For gardeners on anything but the smallest scale, that’s a problem.