Many people dream of spending their retirement years in warmer climes than in the UK, and mainland Spain is one of the most popular destinations for us Brits, both from terms of a holiday and for full-blown retirement - but why Spain? - Why not Italy, or Portugal, or France ? What's the big attraction about Espana?
Well, there are many factors to take into consideration, especially when you're choosing a country to live out your retirement years. It's not just a question of the weather; there are many other important things to be considered too, things that can have a significant influence on your quality-of-life.
Culture and Heritage
Culture and Heritage are two of the things that many of us Brits take for granted. But it's often the way when you are used to living with things. But what we take for granted, things like historical architecture and age-old tradition, other people like the Americans or Australians for example, would give an arm and a leg to be able to enjoy in their home countries. The furthest that these new colonial type countries can go back in terms of Heritage is only about 200 years, whereas in England you're talking about centuries of culture heritage and tradition.
But that is also one of the great things about Spain , one of its main attractions; it is steeped in its own culture and Heritage, and indeed the influence of the Spanish culture is spread all around the world. Cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville , to mention but a few are paragons of historic architecture and traditional Spanish way of life. The only thing is that if you're going to get the most out of living in Spain you need to embrace the country fully, and not become an expat living in one of the many English "ghettos". As they say, when in Rome , do as the Romans do.
Escaping the rat race
One of the worst things about living in the good old UK , is the frantic pace of life. It seems to have become something that we all expect, this living life in the fast lane at 100 mph. When you're young of course it's somewhat different; you want that buzz, the hustle and bustle that comes with living life to the full at the edge. But of course as you mature, tastes change. Most of us tend to want to move out of the cities and towns centres and live on the outskirts in suburbia.
Well, Spain is already renowned for the saying "mañana", meaning tomorrow. That's not of course to say that Spaniards don't live life in the fast lane in the major towns and cities, but the pace of life is certainly much slower and more relaxed in the rural areas, and of course it's these rural areas that are the targets for retirees. Thoughts of just poodling about at your leisure, sitting by the swimming pool with a cool glass of chilled white wine, with a few prawns are sizzling away on the barbecue are many people's idea of heaven - it's part of what Spain is all about.
The Cost of Living
Even though the cost of living in Spain has risen quite dramatically in recent years, it is still cheaper to live in Spain overall than it is to live in England. The cost of food is slightly cheaper (but the quality of food is so much better - fresh Mediterranean produce, including beautiful vegetables, and wonderful fresh seafood), but when it comes to eating out, the prices in Spain are generally significantly lower than in England, and in many cases a good menu del dia also includes a glass or bottle of wine in the price which is often under 10 Euros per head.
The wonderful Mediterranean climate is almost certainly the single biggest factor for anyone. Even for me, whose self-confessed love affair with the overall ambience of Spain was my motivator, would have to agree that I'm not sure the same motivation would have taken place had the climate been wetter and colder. No, the weather is a very important influencer. All those hours of lovely bright sunshine, and the general warmth of the country help you to feel both more psychologically happy, as well as feeling physically better, due to the fact that things like rheumatism and arthritis tend to react so much better to the dryer, warmer, climate.
There's no doubt that the Spanish economy is going through a pretty tough time at the moment. Much of it has been fuelled by the country's oversubscription to the building of new Spanish properties. When the world economy took its nosedive, people just stopped buying property; however the Spanish building industry was too slow to react, the result being that there is a huge glut of property on the market, forcing prices down. This is great news for first-time buyers, especially if you have a property in the UK you are selling, or you have sufficient disposable income to spend on a new property here in Spain. The bargains that are available right now are almost unbelievable! Now is a superb time to buy, so if you are contemplating that all-important move, your timing couldn't be better.
Quality of life means different things to different people. But in general terms I think we all understand it to mean a situation whereby we are able to enjoy the best things in life; good weather, good food, good entertainment, better than average standard of living, and a general feeling of well-being. Whether you choose the national health system or the private health system, Spain actually has one of the best health systems in the world.
Pound for pound, or pound for euro as it were, Spain is one of the best value countries to living in Europe, especially now that the pound has strengthened in value of the euro has weakened. When you take all of the advantages that Spain has to offer into consideration; the wonderful weather, the great climate, the superb culture and Heritage, and the overall lifestyle and pace of life, there is no better country in which to live out your retirement.
Images courtesy of Images of Money and Philip Larson on Flickr.