When it comes to living in Spain, some foreign buyers take to it like ducks to water whilst others end up like hopelessly lost homing pigeons. Some wish they'd made the move years earlier, while for others the dream of owning a home in the sun turns into a ghastly nightmare. Success or failure depends on a host of factors and there are no hard and fast rules that will guarantee your Spanish venture turns out as planned. Much will depend on your own personality, adaptability and determination to succeed. But there are a few sensible steps you can take that will greatly improve your chances of making a go of your new life in Spain.
One of the greatest mistakes made by foreign buyers is a failure to identify the right location at the outset. Too many buyers are in such a hurry to escape the grey skies and stressful lifestyle of northern Europe that they snap up a home in the sun without putting sufficient thought into what it will be like to live there all year round. If you're buying in a popular tourist area it's important to remember that things are likely to be very different after the last of the summer visitors has boarded the plane. Many tourist hot spots along the Spanish costas become virtual ghost towns out of season - bars, shops and restaurants close, buses stop running and those lively sangria-soaked flamenco evenings evaporate into thin air.
Many "urbanizaciones" (community developments which tend to have a high concentration of foreign owners) are practically deserted between October and March so you may find yourself feeling lonely and isolated, especially if your property is some distance from the nearest town. Ideally you should visit your chosen area at different times of the year before making that all-important decision to buy.
Be sure in your own mind whether you want to be part of a wholly ex-pat community or would you prefer to live among the Spanish? Perhaps you'd like a mixture of the two? Many people come a cropper with the romantic notion of "going native" in a remote Spanish pueblo in the hills only to find some months or years down the line that it's harder than they thought to integrate with the locals, however well they've managed to master the language.
Learning at least the basics of the language will go a long way to smoothing your path to a new life in Spain. Brits are notoriously bad at making the effort to communicate in any language other than their own despite the fact that a language barrier can cause major headaches with the authorities and understandably creates resentment among Spanish neighbours, local shopkeepers etc.
Many couples that make the move to Spain find that one of them settles in far better than the other - and more often than not it's the woman who fails to adjust due to the absence of family and friends. A failure to communicate properly and identify shared goals at the outset have been responsible for shattering the hopes of countless couples who dream of making a new life in Spain. The answer to most of these problems is to test the water first: try before you buy and rent for at least a few weeks or months in your chosen area before you make a final commitment to buying.