Bad experiences of moving to spain?

One of the last comments on my post “How to start a new life in Spain before it’s too late” particularly caught my eye:

“What a ridiculous and naive take on moving to a new country??!!
In the first instance Spain is in fact one of the worst countries for relocating due to the relentless red tape and beaurocracy that is involved in purchasing property. It is also notorious for many a dodgy deal happening with unscrupulous sellers (apparently the ex-pat Brit is often the culprit) selling properties with all manner of debts attached to them which automatically become your problem. Furthermore, you’ll never actually own the land that your home sits on and therefore can be moved on at any point in the future should the Spanish government decide they want to build a through road right across your land (as with friend’s of my parents).
Work is hard to come by and badly paid. As for teaching, I myself am a qualified English Language Instructor and Spain is one of the lowest paid countries to secure well payed employment (in comparison to living) and it’s not uncommon for people to be paid the same rate whilst working in a bar (again crap pay).
I have been fortunate enough to have travelled extensively and to have lived in many different countries and I have no hesitation is saying that Spain is top of my list for worst places to live (unless of course you’re happy to live in an ex-pat ‘Eldorado’ community). Whilst I do have many Spanish friends, my own personal experience of the Spanish themselves was that they are an unfriendly, unhelpful hostile bunch who do little or nothing to make the tranistion less painful. I had even arrived with a job, enrolled for refresher language classes and communicated soley in Spanish.
Yes, people do move there in there droves but many come back to British shores with only the shirts on their back due to rushed, hurried decision making and lack of a comprehensive plan.
I almost sold up before my last trip there having had many an enjoyable holiday and I’m so glad that I held on to my investment across here instead. As far as Spain is concerned the days of an easy buck in the sun are well and truly over!!”

Evidently I strongly disagree with most of this statement – the government only ‘grabs’ people’s land in Valencia, for example – and I replied to the comment in full over at the original post. But this certainly got me thinking. I am aware that I am always more than encouraging to anyone that wishes to move to Spain, because frankly it has worked out very well for me, and many of my ex-pat friends here, but that can make this website a little one-sided. So I would really like to hear from anyone else that has had similar experiences to the commenter in question, or just simply didn’t find Spain that great. Leave a comment below or email me if you want to tell your story.

30 thoughts on “Bad experiences of moving to spain?

  1. Frank

    Firstly let me say that I love visiting Spain, enjoy both the people and the language, but ……!
    I don’t agree with all he says, however, I agree with more than you. I have been reading a Spanish forums for many years now, and the tales of woe, people being fiddled and cheated is never ending. There doesn’t seem to be an honest abogado, promotor, constructor, etc in the country according to the posts there! 😉
    As for the land grab, unfortunately for the people involved, it’s happening in many places, especially Andalucia, in the form of Vias Pecuarias and Cañadas. Also there are hundreds of examples of people employing lawyers when purchasing a property, only now to find they are illegal and will be knocked down. Someone was writing from Cadiz area telling how people were illegally wiring up their houses to the mains because all the houses were classed as illegal and they would not connect them to the mains.
    There are Spanish people here describing Spain as a third world country, and bemoaning their lot because UK wages have supposedly gone up 27% and Spain’s .4%

    As I said, I love visiting Spain, and will continue to do so, but I’m not 100% convinced that I would want to live there. 😉 Mind you, if I lived in one of the large cities in UK, I’d probably have moved out years ago!

  2. Stuart

    I noticed that the person in question seems not to have read or understood the points made in "How to start a new life in Spain before it’s too late” nor has any clue about what you are doing with your promotion of Spain with this site.

    I failed to find a point in your original article, Ben, where you encouraged clueless Brits, who haven’t researched the country but taken a few holidays there, to sell everything they own, make the move, hire lawyers and sign documents in a language they know nothing of, and plonk themselves down on a “British Costa” with little in the way of jobs.

    Incoherent mumblings they certainly weren’t, but a strangely biased and misinformed interpretation.. and a pre-conceived notion of what opportunities and lives people moving to Spain are looking to create for themselves. Work being “hard to come by” for an English teacher in Madrid for example – of course not – but the writer had no notion of moving to a populous city full of jobs… and Spanish wanting to learn English (Not many Brits on the costas looking to improve their English me thinks).

    I wouldn’t spend too much time reflecting on what you or he said.

  3. Ben Post author

    Thanks Stuart, it didn’t bother me, but did make me wonder about how many other horror stories there are out there…

  4. Frank

    Work being "hard to come by” for an English teacher in Madrid for example –

    He didn’t actually say Madrid, so perhaps he was looking elsewhere. We had a friend that was teaching in the International School in Almuñecar, and she said the turnover of teachers was incredible due to the poor pay and conditions, and a Spanish teacher we had from Barcelona, who was an interpreter/translator, was amazed to find she could simply walk into a sports shop here, get a job as an assistant and earn more money than she could in Spain working as a translator. Although she hated the job, she was delighted with the pay. She was here only because her boyfriend was here working, earning wages she said, he could only dream of in Spain. These are not isolated cases, have a look at a site like
    there are thousands of Spanish working in the London area alone. There’s also a webpage dedicated to Spanish nurses working here, and another for people wanting to work in Ireland.
    I was reading of cases where Spanish doctors are spending the week working here for the Health Service, and popping home every weekend! Spain has too many doctors, and some have difficulty securing employment.
    The unemployment rate in Spain is double that of UK, so that figure alone should suggest that work is harder to find there, and they seem to be arriving in UK in ever increasing numbers.
    As for the original poster, as a teacher of English, his spelling does him no favours! 😉
    “well payed employment” “beaurocracy” communicated soley in,
    people do move there in there droves . 😉

  5. Martin Stevenson

    The person that had all the negative comments comes across as being both very bitter and misinformed plus he doesn’t appear to have done any research in Spain and its culture and society before taking he plunge, hence the bitterness perhaps?
    I have travelled too working in the oil and gas industries and if he thinks that Spain is bad he really ought to sample the delights of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and Algeria before he condemns an entire country in one sweeping statement.
    True freedom in those countries is still a dream for many.

    I’ve visited Spain several times now and I’ve found the Spanish no worse than other western european nations in their own country. Yes the pay can be very low. (Didn’t he work that one out by the cost of living?)
    Try working as a catering assistant or another low paid job in the UK and see how tough it really is!
    It seems to me that this person expected an easy life in Spain in comparison to the UK perhaps and it has not worked out like that, which is sad – but avoidable. I’ve been researching Spain for a while now and I shall continue to do so until I retire and move to Spain when I intend to try my hardest to become part of the local community, and I don’t mean the Brit community.
    I spent almost two years in Algeria and you do not know poverty until you have seen it at first hand, yet these people befriended me and my co-workers and even fed us and never asked for anything in return despite being barely able to feed and clothe themselves.
    There are good and bad in every country in this world and I’ve met both, sometimes in situations that many do not believe!
    I’ve been imprisoned, framed, shot at, beaten and stabbed in several of the world’s countries but this STILL does not put me off the people or a country and it never will!

  6. Ben Post author

    Martin, if only more ex-pats were as open and forward thinking as you evidently are. It sounds like you have some pretty extraordinary stories to tell too!

  7. greytop

    The horror stories about property often go back to greed. Deals done in bars for a “cheap” property, “let’s cut out the estate agents fees” etc. There is no control over who can sell houses here. Many so-called estate agents are just in it to make a quick buck and will cut corners where they can. Caveat emptor!
    I was talking a few days ago to a couple who had agreed to buy a flat from an acquaintance but later found that he had never in fact bought it correctly in the first place as it was a VPO (subsidised housing for young buyers) that needed permission from the state to sell before a certain time had elapsed. Luckily the purchasers lawyer had picked this up before money changed hands. The seller is now calling the buyer all sorts of names for pulling out, but worse says he will sell it anyway as the “estate agent” says he can “get round” the problem.
    How do you stop this? I don’t know – but lawyers are regulated, estate agents are not – draw your own conclusions. That said I’ve bought and sold one property and bought another without problem – maybe I just got lucky but I did use a well established Spanish estate agent, local to the houses so they knew the area and properties well.

  8. Ben Post author

    It’s not just about getting lucky. It’s about the fact that not every Spanish estate agent is a criminal. I know you know that, but there are plenty that don’t…

  9. Martin Stevenson

    Just picking up on what greytop said and I do agree, although you can’t pin the blame on the Spanish all of the time.
    People I know had friends-of-friends who purchased a property from Brits in the Costa Blanca. All was rigorously checked by their lawyer before they parted with anything and everything seemed fine.
    Three months after they moved in, someone knocked on their door asking for the previous owners, not knowing that they’d gone, and it turned out that the previous owners had waited until the sale went through then obtained 100,000 Euros-worth of credit on the property before scarpering. Quite how they did this I do not know but the new owners were in one hell of a predicament and I don’t yet know the outcome.
    As for VPOs, there have been a number of VPO scams recently but some Brits are STILL trying to get them. Beggars belief!
    By the way Ben, I’m flattered by your comments and, yes, I’ve got stories that would make your hair stand on end. I’m no saint but perhaps I’m more tolerant than most Brits.
    I was born in Malta – Royal Navy family – perhaps that’s why!

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  11. Tali

    Wow, I haven’t visited NFS in about 3 weeks but I come back to find a virtual war! To add my two pennies worth….I’ve worked on the Costa del Sol for 5 years now. A lot of people have come and gone. And a lot of people have stayed. There really is no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it is down to bad experiences, sometimes it is down to low pay. Sometimes it is just the pull of having your family close by. I know both Spaniards who have gone to the UK and come back and Brits who have yo-yoed between the countries so much it would make your head spin. I’m helping out a lady at the moment who has lived here 12 years. She bought her house in what was at the time a deserted part of Estepona. All papers were in order at the time of purchase. Now she is a victim of the “Vias Pecuarias” problem. She has nothing else other than her little house by the beach, and she knows full well that no cattle or any such farm animal needs the land around her house but that the spanking brand new urbanisation at the end of the road DOES need an access road and that a developer will pay whomever needs to be “paid” in order to get it. This lady has written to the King of Spain, Zapatero, Chaves, Jose Chamizo (Defensor del Pueblo Andaluz) and a host of others in a last ditch attempt to stop the Town Hall forcing their way under police protection and taking her house from her. This is due to happen before Christmas. She has no family and no money. Her situation is very, very desperate. However, she still LOVES Spain and considers it her home and the most beautiful place she could possibly live in, and will only leave here if it is her only option (to go where though I have no idea!) En fin, I am trying to help her as much as possible but she would love to speak to others who are going through the same problem. If anyone can make a suggestion as to forums to visit I would be very grateful as it is a case of the blind leading the blind at the moment! Thanks!

  12. Ben Post author

    What a terrible situation. Unfortunately I don’t really know anyone who can help – she is very welcome to tell her story on the NFS forums in the hope that someone else may see the story and have experience in the area – I would point to it from the blog too. This shocking practice is common all over Spain. It happened to the mother of a Spanish guy I know recently as well – after living her whole life in the same place the local govt. has decided to compulsory purchase her home and land for the ‘valor catastral’ (much lower than what it is worth), leaving her homeless and without enough cash to move somewhere else.

  13. Adán

    I am Spanish. I found this site looking for material to help my girlfriend learn Spanish and wanted to add my two pennies. I have lived in several places in Spain and I must say that I quite agree with most of the negative things that have been said.
    I was in Madrid to visit some friends a month ago and my girlfriend, who is used to the notorious unfriendliness of Berlin’s citizens, was shock by the unfriendliness of the ever charming Madrileños. There are of course many good things about Spain and the Spaniards, but after two years living in Berlin, I can say that I will only go back for holydays and when I retire. Living there just does not pay off.

  14. Amy

    I lived in Madrid for 2 years and am moving back there in the coming months. Things were not always easy there, but the difficulties I faced were not much different than those I’ve encountered living in South Florida (still a 3-hour plane ride from “home” in Midwest USA)

    It’s no secret that the salaries are lower in Spain than in the US, Canada, and other countries in Europe. But that reminds me of the first item on the Ex-pat Manifesto. If you are moving to Spain for the money, then clearly you are in for a disappointment (bar a few special circumstances). For most people (myself included) a move to Spain is about wanting a style of life that offers more than a paycheck. My husband (a madrileño) and I are moving back to Madrid early next year for that very reason. I think I will be lucky to make 1/2 what I make in Florida as a civil engineer but I’m okay with that. I’d rather live on that reduced salary and at least have time to enjoy it than accumulate a fortune in the bank with no time for a vacation.

    Regarding the people, I was perhaps lucky in my encounters, but I met very few unfriendly people. It seemed to me that as long as I was open to the experience, people were open to me. And, in a lot of ways, Madrid has a small town feel – made possible by the smaller barrios where you actually do your living. The baker, banker, bus driver, grocer, etc., all welcomed me with a smile and a hello if I put in the effort to do the same.

    Without the experience of home-buying in Spain, I cannot comment on that. However, my home-buying experience here in Florida was far from ideal – with the contract threatening to fall through on numerous occassions. Apparently shady characters and underhanded dealings are prevalent everywhere.

  15. Ben Post author

    … Especially in the estate agent/real estate world! Good luck with the move, and do let us know more once you get here!

  16. Laura

    Well. I’ve been here 4 years and a half and reading that comment really made me think. It is true what was said, and although i beleive it, I still would never move back to England because when you think about it, Its probably the same. But if these people who write articles of complaints and disgust are really writing from experience, my question is, Why did they want to move from England in the first place? And truefully, if you were to do a list of all the bad things about England, it would be a hell of alot times longer than this one above about Spain (Hence the reason that they move in the first place).

  17. Kees

    hello I have a question regarding moving to Palma de Mallorca. I am from Spain, Madrid but have lived in Canada for many years now. I am a mental health care worker and am looking to move to Palma de Mallorca but would like anyone’s input.
    Thanks kindly Kees

  18. mary reidy

    i went to Torrevieja i hated evry minute of it i had locals talking about me all because i was friendly i was ment to stay for 16 days but came home in 6the appartment was horrible we were promised a sea view instead e had a local park and a morge under our flat even the irish staying over there all became real clikey we i was minding my owen bussines my friend did not he wanted to drink and get all the gossip it was like living in the film the god father people over were saying its a place were people run from the law and old people to relax i had one shop owner ask one irish girl i meet did i give back her change it was a disaster to make it worse my friend who is gay wanted to sleep until one never got dressed until six and went drinking all night never done anything with me if i went on you would never belive me all i can say is that it was a HOLIDAY FROM HELL

  19. Rinaldo Bocchio

    Nothing changes, typical british negative attitude. The first mistake you people make is not embracing the Spanish culture. You all want to relocate to Spain with all the sun, but you all want a little English colony to make you feel secure. Wake up and smell the roses, nobody asked you to impose on the Spanish, stay at home in grey, ugly England and you will save alot of money. Good Luck!!!

  20. mark

    My wife loves visiting palma and just as a thought i said why dont you move there with the kids and dog,i will continue to work in england,sell are house clear are debts and rent and i will visits at the weekend? reading this forum i think we were being hasty! What about renting for 12mths and has anyone got any views on the schools?

  21. Jay Pee

    I ve lived here on the Costa Blanca,Costa Calida for 16 years. Then it was beautifull, now its gone.All thats left is vast areas of empty houses, golf courses.That need water and get it! Since the spaniards have learned to use a felt tip marker, or a spray can, they do thier best to deface any flat surface. They call it street art!!!
    Of course the Brits add very little , now they come out with young families theres so little work, that they, the Brits become “British builders” with no more experience than a bit of DIY in UK. I leave you to judge the results. Never the less , up the bar you should hear them do Karaoke.
    Spain. Ive had enough I,m off!! cant take any more, whilst I dont drink a lot I will miss those great spanish wines. What I will miss is my Spanish neighbours, the wine, and the weather. oh! yes those free papers extolling The british barber, bars., quiz night, dart night. The life style its wondefull living abroad.

  22. Nikki

    Help. My family and I are planning to move to spain, I would love to talk to somebody who lives out there who made the same move Im going to make in the near future, just to find out how they manged it and if it was worth the bother.

  23. españolito

    “He who moves to the Costa deserves what he gets” Españolito says.

    “She who spends her holidays in Torrevieja really, really deserves everything she gets”, Españolito says.

    These two very simple Universal Truths ought to be known by everyone person by now.

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