Henry and Andrea Anderton moved to Spain in 2002 from Yorkshire. They told me their story in an amusing and humorous way over a leisurely lunch in one of their favourite local restaurants. Henry began:
“We are here because of early retirement - when one is at a bit of a loose end in one’s mid-fifties, a reasonable challenge is to try a new life abroad.
But, where? Well the next step is a process of elimination. We tried Italy but were put off by the dishonesty and corruption, not to mention the driving - I didn't retire early to die early. Another factor was Italian men. They are so handsome and well-dressed, that I felt like Wurzel Gummidge all the time I was there. France was too quiet for us, and living in a huge holiday resort that could be in any country on the Med was unappealing.”
They spent 7 months travelling around Europe before deciding on the Costa Brava. In the first instance they contacted Coast Brave Homes through a small advertisement in The Times. Already, they were pretty sure of what they were looking for: ideally, an apartment located in the town of Palafrugell which does not close down during the winter months and is just 4km from the wonderful beaches of Calella, Tamariú and Llafranc. They were prepared to look at other places nearby if need be, but they were fortunate to find what they wanted where they wanted within two weeks of beginning their search, and decided to buy. At that time, they didn’t really consider the local amenities, but 13 years on they are delighted to find themselves within walking distance of everything they need.
They bought their new home from Catalans and the sale was straightforward, though wisely they took the precaution of engaging the lawyer who they found through their Spanish bank in Girona.
Andrea says she settled in very easily but Henry spent six months “not knowing if I wanted to be here.” They are both very sociable and Henry found the lack of a social life upon arrival quite difficult. However, a trip back to the UK made Henry realise he preferred living in Spain, and gradually through Andrea’s yoga class, and through the U3A, they met more people and their lives were enhanced. The yoga class also introduced Andrea to Spanish, and much later they both went to Spanish language classes where they made some good friends and acquaintances. “That’s another reason for joining them, other than the obvious need to communicate. Also one meets a broad section of expats rather than just British. One of the joys of being here is finding friends of many different nationalities.”
I asked Henry why he was happier in Spain than in Yorkshire, “Well, the weather of course, but also we could afford a better life in Spain, it is less stressful and Catalunya is so well placed for travelling.”
They bought a caravan after one year and began to discover their new country and even further afield. “Spain is a great country for exploring historically,” Henry says “and from here on the Costa Brava it is easy to get to France, Italy and Greece. The problem is most tourists don’t get further than 300 metres from the beach, but inland is where there joy of living here is found.”
You may have guessed that they are both interested in history, and Henry now runs the U3A Costa Brava History Group with another expat and the monthly meetings are always well attended. I know, because I am a member of the group which offers talks on anything from “the History of Air” to “London Transport during WWII.”
Henry and Andrea also offered their top tips for anyone thinking about moving to Spain:
- Research everything – especially where you want to live and what you want to get out of your new life.
- Amenities. “We didn’t really think about it when we bought all those years ago, but now they matter.”
- In Spain, check for the noise levels in your new neighbourhood.
- Use a lawyer. As Henry puts it: “An English speaking lawyer is absolutely essential. It always amazes me that people buy out here taking less care than they would in the UK and then are hurt when things go wrong.”
- Look for expat groups for social and exercise activities
- Find a bar where expats congregate. Golf clubs are of course another possibility.
- Be open minded – although you probably are if you are planning to move to Spain!
There is so much available for expats in Spain but not everything will be advertised. Expat organisations are the best place to start, but if you are prepared to learn the language and involve yourself in local activities, you can have rewarding contact with local people too. Henry and Andrea have made a good social life for themselves whilst also getting involved in U3A walking, cycling and history groups. Whatever your interests, you will find others with whom to share them and that is the best way to meet people and socialise.