Expats are happier in Spain

Sun, sea, sand and unemployment

With it’s year round sun, lower cost of living and generally healthier lifestyle it comes as no surprise that British expats living in Spain are happier.

This is the finding of research carried out by Lloyds TSB International who asked over 1,000 British citizens in the 10 most popular expat destinations to rate their lives abroad based on factors including quality of life and cost of living.

Of those interviewed 68% said they were happier in their new country than they had been in Britain. Of those living in Spain 75.9% were happier.

What was a surprise though was that people were not necessarily happier in countries with higher quality of life or with better financial prospects. For example in New Zealand the survey showed residents rated their quality of life the highest yet the country ranked bottom for happiness, while in the UAE expats said they were better off but only ranked fourth for happiness.

John Kramer, a British expat who lives in Andalucia, is not surprised by the findings because its “outdoor lifestyle, traditional family values, and positive outlook on life” made it a very comfortable place to live.

Despite Spain’s economic problems, 71.3% of expats living there 80% agreed that the cost of living was lower – a higher percentage than in any other country. However, salaries are also lower in Spain so this is a bit of a red-herring.

Not everyone agreed though. With unemployment at 23% (probably more like 30%) jobs are in short supply and for those who do not speak Spanish finding work can be daunting and stressful. Finding work is hard enough for those that do speak Spanish so those who don’t should learn or they’ll find themselves at the bottom of the pile.

Sarah Drane, who used to live on the Costa del Sol but now runs a marketing company in Majorca, agreed that there are many positives to living in Spain but added that  “if any expat says it’s paradise, they’re lying – it’s a front that we feel compelled to project.

“It is undoubtedly true that going to a land of sand and sun, a place of cheap wine and siestas, does put a smile on many a face, but living in Iberia is not without its problems. The bureaucracy is a nightmare, when it rains it pours, the property market is in the mire, and people get into real financial strife when they take their eyes off their ball.”

And my opinion, based on eight years on the coast:

  • the weather is great
  • the cost of living is low
  • salaries are low
  • the food is great
  • the banks are awful
  • not a single Spanish company has ever heard of “customer service” with the banking sector being particularly useless when it comes to dealing with complaints
  • quite a lot of police and government officials are corrupt – How many Spanish government officials are now doing time? How many more are currently going through the courts?
  • help is not forthcoming and tied up in a mire of paperwork
  • the health service is better than the NHS (quicker, more efficient, cheaper)
  • the road network is better – allowing for smoother traffic flow, less jams and shorter travel times
  • the winters are cold, wet and miserable (pretty similar to the UK but without the snow and ice)
  • Spanish drivers are a nightmare (not all of them!) – no idea at roundabouts and seemingly unaware of indicators and their purpose, no use of mirrors, no adherence to traffic laws, speed limits, parking restrictions etc
  • the property market is dying a slow, painful, public death
  • more people left Spain than arrived in 2011
So I think it’s generally better here but I still miss the UK. I miss family and friends, a system that works, customer service and career prospects – there aren’t many here – you’ll be lucky to get a permanent contract!
The question I have to ask myself is this – would I rather be poor in Spain or in England?